Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Survived a Trial - Literally

For those of you who don't know, my ME is apparently only "moderate" (so they tell me), which allows me to continue to work full time in my job as a lawyer.  It's often a struggle, and I take sick days here and there, but I've haven't yet thought that I needed to quit.  However, I hadn't yet had to conduct a trial while ill...until last week.

Throughout my ten year legal career so far, I've averaged about 1.3 trials per year.  Statistically, less than 10% of cases make it to trial.  Most are settled out of court or are dismissed, either voluntarily or by the judge.  So trials are comparatively rare.  When they do occur, they are a big deal for the lawyers involved.

The preparation leading up to the trial is chaotic.  This usually involves 10 to 14 hour work days and loads of stress.  Then when the trial itself begins, the pressure increases another notch.  Often I am the only thing standing between my client and financial ruin, and the client doesn't let me forget it.

As it would happen, the longest gap between trials in my career happened to coincide with my contracting ME.  This was pure coincidence.  I did nothing to avoid trials over the last 20 months, it just worked out that way.

The hiatus came to an end last week, when I finally had to get my feet wet again.  But fortunately, this latest trial was scheduled to be a very short and simple trial.  It was scheduled to last only half a day, whereas some trials last for several weeks.  So it would be a good chance to see if I could still handle it without a major crash.

I started my preparations for the trial much earlier than I would have prior to ME.   Fourteen hour work days are no longer an option, so I knew I would have to pace myself by starting early.

As the trial date neared, I figured that as long as I was at my "baseline" or above on the day of the trial, I would be fine.  I can speak lucidly enough when I'm at my baseline and I don't have brain fog.  As I typically do, I over-prepared for the trial so that, when nerves set in, and the battle heats up, I can deliver my facts and arguments without much trouble.

The problem, however, is that I have no control over when I crash.  I knew that if I crashed on the day of the trial, I'd be in trouble.  My plan was to wake up on the morning on the trial and, if crashed, gauge just how crashed.  If I was functional enough to give my client the best representation possible--regardless of how I felt while doing it--I would go forward.  If I felt I might compromise my client's position by going through with it, I would beg the judge for a continuance. Luckily, it never came to that.

I felt fine on the morning of the trial, and continued to feel fine throughout the day.  I gave it my best and argued as well as I could.

In the end, we lost the trial.  But I don't think there's anything more than I could have done.  Sometimes your opponent simply has better facts.  No matter how good your arguments, it's difficult to overcome bad facts, and that was the case last week.   And I knew that heading into the trial.

It's now been two days since the trial ended and I haven't crashed from the exertion or the stress, so I just might have gotten away with it.  It's a relief to know that's possible.

It's not likely that the next trial, whenever that may be, will be so short and simple.  But I won't worry about it until it nears.  For all I know, by the time the next trial arrives, I might have improved enough that I won't have to worry about crashes as much.    

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