Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
OrangeMoon
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:26 pm

Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby OrangeMoon » Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:58 pm

Hey Everyone! So this is the first draft of my personal statement, and while I am incredibly nervous for anyone to read it, I wanted to start somewhere before I begin sending it to my friends to read...

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!


I watched my mother drown. Her decent wasn’t obvious in my twelve year old understanding, so I waited for her to quit pretending, until it was too late. Her first year as a practicing attorney and the lead counsel was going senile during a critical case; the pressure was making her sink. A nauseating whirl of police, ambulances, and doctors pumped the pills out of her stomach, but my original mother never resurfaced. Since being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type I, she has gone from being an attorney, to needing one. Even with doctors, medication and her disability leaving her out of the workforce, her manic episodes rush back destroying everything in their wake. Each occurrence leads to a chaotic mix of drugs, rape, violence, and suicide attempts, often resulting in my mother’s reappearance – behind bars. My mother would go missing for days, so I walked with my sister for miles in the snow to recycle cans into grocery money, I promised myself that drowning is something I would never do.

Water, however, never scared me. My freshman year at [X university] went as the rest of my life: getting straight A’s while indulging in campus activities and community service; compartmentalizing the struggles of my mother was second nature. When she was arrested for breaking and entering, I coped by managing a massive campus-wide Presidential campaign. When she was living under a bridge, I endured by helping black youth in X with their college applications.While I could not help my mother, I felt redemption through helping others. I fought to be the only person in my family, outside of my mother, to go to college and get an advanced degree. My older sister had dropped out of high school to become an exotic dancer, while my younger brother quit school after not being recruited for sports. Somehow I escaped the odds, leaving the expectations of my entire family upon my shoulders. Funneling my financial aid and scholarships between family members, left me taking out loans to support all of us, and then suddenly, silently, I started to feel the water rise.
A wave of restlessness slipped over my head gradually my second year of college, replacing sleep with anxiety and never-ending thoughts. My scribbled to-do lists felt long enough to rival Santa's, but without any helpers, my lists went unchecked for the very first time. I believed I was submerged beneath an ocean of expectation. There my family needed more money than I could provide, my mother was solely the responsibility of me and my siblings, my job and leadership positions demanded my attendance, and my classes continued without me. The combination of unpredictable sleep and spurts of uncontrollable energy, ushered in my next waves of loneliness and irritation. As a result I became immobile, struggling to move any limb, going days without contact from anyone, absorbed in my spinning thoughts and pounding failure. My transcript was unfamiliar, with poor grades and incompletes, and my only memories of courses were half completed work and large puddles of drool on my desk. I felt inadequate around my large group of friends I saw swimming, splashing, succeeding above me, I became enraged when they would question me or hint at a mocking splash of buoyancy. I spent the summer after my second year in Brazil, determined to reclaim my since of self with good grades. I obsessed over my coursework frantically trying to breathe underwater, while everyone else frolicked around the country. The water continued to rise even more rapidly into my 3rd year of school, when a hurricane of anger and depression pulled me down to the ocean floor like anchors. Anger became my most intimate friend, it was only when I was with anger that I could receive oxygen underneath. Anger would fill my lungs giving me clarity, a brilliance of articulation, power, and I used it on anyone who attempted to swim too close to where I was sinking. My boyfriend ended up having more in common with my father than their birthday, he also developed the tendency to silence my angry mouth with his fists. So after my roommate decided not to renew the lease under her name, due to my new friend, I was homeless wandering between my abusive boyfriend's and the friends I alienated. Depression flooded all of my senses. Finally after almost two years I tired of waiting for my former self to resurface. After a trip to the campus health center, I learned that my ocean was not my family, money, friends, commitments or school, I too was bipolar.
Watching someone drown does not mean you will never go under, but in my case it means you know the importance of learning how to swim. Pushing past the crippling fear of becoming my mother, I began my journey to the surface. After seeking help, I withdrew from school the semester of my diagnosis and began making my health my top priority. Being diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder was the perfect storm that motivated me to become an empowered person, and now be healthier than I ever was. I had a choice to delve into myself, or to drown in denial and rebellion as my mother has often done with the more severe type of bipolar. Participating in counseling allowed me to be vulnerable in a way my life had never allowed. I found strength in confronting the abuse of my childhood, my resentment towards my mother and her illness, and blaming her for my own. Returning to school I began to learn and engage out of excitement, and my grades consequently reflect the change in my healthy lifestyle. However, my greatest achievements are in the relationships I nurture, and the balance I have maintained under greater adversity that life has since tested me. My disability served to enable me to relate to another community outside of the black female perspective which I identify. While I maintain my desire towards pursuing public interest, my disability has ignited my passion to also explore disability law. My focus has grown from not only wanting to engage with fellow minorities and those who struggle economically, but also to empower other members of the disabled community to vehemently pursue their rights and goals. I have learned that everyone has their own ocean to swim, and the more of us that are cognizant of the warning signs of drowning, the more able we are to save each other. I’m learning what strokes keep me above the water, and moving irrespective of the undertow. Now every time the water rises I am empowered, because I know how to rise with it.

User avatar
2807
Posts: 579
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:23 pm

Re: Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby 2807 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:18 pm

Ok, the good news is: You have a solid foundation, a compelling story, and are obviously well written.

The bad news is: You need to focus and be much more direct in the delivery of your message.

In ONE sentence write down what you are trying to convey. ("Seeing the breakdown of my beloved mother when I was a child, I learned first-hand the devastating effects of disabilities on a family, and I am able to use that experience now as I deal with my own diagnosis and conquer anything that comes my way one day at a time."

Then, work on expanding the back story, the lesson learned, and the use of it in your future legal pursuits.

You have some nice analogies, and creative writing styles in there. Less is more. Do not over use them. There are comma issues, but worry about those later.

It is a very good story of overcoming adversity in the family and persevering! Link that to how you will continue to do so and be a strong legal advocate because of it. Take it easy on the water rising stuff. I get it, but it is too much for this.

It appears a little long too. Chop it down with powerful direct statements that get right to the point.

Bring me back a revision!!! I like the story. Sorry you have had to go thru all that. Ouch. Good job for you!

Also: It reads as if your mom did not drown. I was confused. I think what you mean to say is you "saw her drowning." I think "saw her drown" implies she, well.... you know.... uh, drowned?....
Last edited by 2807 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PostHawk
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:11 pm

Re: Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby PostHawk » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:26 pm

OrangeMoon wrote:Hey Everyone! So this is the first draft of my personal statement, and while I am incredibly nervous for anyone to read it, I wanted to start somewhere before I begin sending it to my friends to read...

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!


I watched my mother drown. Her decent wasn’t obvious in my twelve year old understanding, so I waited for her to quit pretending, until it was too late. Her first year as a practicing attorney and the lead counsel was going senile during a critical case; the pressure was making her sink. A nauseating whirl of police, ambulances, and doctors pumped the pills out of her stomach, but my original mother never resurfaced. Since being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type I, she has gone from being an attorney, to needing one. Even with doctors, medication and her disability leaving her out of the workforce, her manic episodes rush back destroying everything in their wake. Each occurrence leads to a chaotic mix of drugs, rape, violence, and suicide attempts, often resulting in my mother’s reappearance – behind bars. My mother would go missing for days, so I walked with my sister for miles in the snow to recycle cans into grocery money, I promised myself that drowning is something I would never do.

Water, however, never scared me. My freshman year at [X university] went as the rest of my life: getting straight A’s while indulging in campus activities and community service; compartmentalizing the struggles of my mother was second nature. When she was arrested for breaking and entering, I coped by managing a massive campus-wide Presidential campaign. When she was living under a bridge, I endured by helping black youth in X with their college applications.While I could not help my mother, I felt redemption through helping others. I fought to be the only person in my family, outside of my mother, to go to college and get an advanced degree. My older sister had dropped out of high school to become an exotic dancer, while my younger brother quit school after not being recruited for sports. Somehow I escaped the odds, leaving the expectations of my entire family upon my shoulders. Funneling my financial aid and scholarships between family members, left me taking out loans to support all of us, and then suddenly, silently, I started to feel the water rise.
A wave of restlessness slipped over my head gradually my second year of college, replacing sleep with anxiety and never-ending thoughts. My scribbled to-do lists felt long enough to rival Santa's, but without any helpers, my lists went unchecked for the very first time. I believed I was submerged beneath an ocean of expectation. There my family needed more money than I could provide, my mother was solely the responsibility of me and my siblings, my job and leadership positions demanded my attendance, and my classes continued without me. The combination of unpredictable sleep and spurts of uncontrollable energy, ushered in my next waves of loneliness and irritation. As a result I became immobile, struggling to move any limb, going days without contact from anyone, absorbed in my spinning thoughts and pounding failure. My transcript was unfamiliar, with poor grades and incompletes, and my only memories of courses were half completed work and large puddles of drool on my desk. I felt inadequate around my large group of friends I saw swimming, splashing, succeeding above me, I became enraged when they would question me or hint at a mocking splash of buoyancy. I spent the summer after my second year in Brazil, determined to reclaim my since of self with good grades. I obsessed over my coursework frantically trying to breathe underwater, while everyone else frolicked around the country. The water continued to rise even more rapidly into my 3rd year of school, when a hurricane of anger and depression pulled me down to the ocean floor like anchors. Anger became my most intimate friend, it was only when I was with anger that I could receive oxygen underneath. Anger would fill my lungs giving me clarity, a brilliance of articulation, power, and I used it on anyone who attempted to swim too close to where I was sinking. My boyfriend ended up having more in common with my father than their birthday, he also developed the tendency to silence my angry mouth with his fists. So after my roommate decided not to renew the lease under her name, due to my new friend, I was homeless wandering between my abusive boyfriend's and the friends I alienated. Depression flooded all of my senses. Finally after almost two years I tired of waiting for my former self to resurface. After a trip to the campus health center, I learned that my ocean was not my family, money, friends, commitments or school, I too was bipolar.
Watching someone drown does not mean you will never go under, but in my case it means you know the importance of learning how to swim. Pushing past the crippling fear of becoming my mother, I began my journey to the surface. After seeking help, I withdrew from school the semester of my diagnosis and began making my health my top priority. Being diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder was the perfect storm that motivated me to become an empowered person, and now be healthier than I ever was. I had a choice to delve into myself, or to drown in denial and rebellion as my mother has often done with the more severe type of bipolar. Participating in counseling allowed me to be vulnerable in a way my life had never allowed. I found strength in confronting the abuse of my childhood, my resentment towards my mother and her illness, and blaming her for my own. Returning to school I began to learn and engage out of excitement, and my grades consequently reflect the change in my healthy lifestyle. However, my greatest achievements are in the relationships I nurture, and the balance I have maintained under greater adversity that life has since tested me. My disability served to enable me to relate to another community outside of the black female perspective which I identify. While I maintain my desire towards pursuing public interest, my disability has ignited my passion to also explore disability law. My focus has grown from not only wanting to engage with fellow minorities and those who struggle economically, but also to empower other members of the disabled community to vehemently pursue their rights and goals. I have learned that everyone has their own ocean to swim, and the more of us that are cognizant of the warning signs of drowning, the more able we are to save each other. I’m learning what strokes keep me above the water, and moving irrespective of the undertow. Now every time the water rises I am empowered, because I know how to rise with it.


You have a good story that gives a good reason why you want to practice law which is a good start. However, I felt that you used the water & weather metaphors too much throughout the statement. Some is okay especially if you start out the story with the water metaphor and then tie it back in near the end.

If I were reading this in your application I would want you to assure me that your disability is not going to hinder your ability to make it through law school and practice law.

And I think the word you're looking for in the first sentence is Descent not Decent.

Hope this helps!

OrangeMoon
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:26 pm

Re: Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby OrangeMoon » Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:48 am

Thank you guys so much for the applicable feedback! I am putting those suggestions to use today.

User avatar
Marionberry
Posts: 1302
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 9:24 pm

Re: Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby Marionberry » Sat Aug 28, 2010 1:29 pm

The explicit nature of the first 2/3 of your statement made it uncomfortable to me to read, and I work in the mental health treatment field. I can only imagine that it would be equally if not more uncomfortable for admissions people. I understamd that its kind of redeeming at the end, but the depressing part is a lot more substantive that the part about getting better. Also, the part about you getting well is mostly you telling that you're better, without effectively demonstrating that that's the case. This kind of PS can work (though it might be better subject matter for an addendum or DS), but the balance needs fall way more on the positive, success side than the "how bad it was" side.

OrangeMoon
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:26 pm

Re: Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby OrangeMoon » Sat Aug 28, 2010 1:50 pm

Thank you that is definitely helpful feedback. I have been worried about making others feel uncomfortable to read aspects of my experience, but I am having a hard time figuring out the correct way to demonstrate how I have been impacted. There is a clear lack of me discussing my tangible successes. My transcript demonstrates a return to a steady 3.8 GPA after my diagnosis, so I do see a need to explicitly state those aspects as well.

Additionally, I am already writing a diversity statement, as I am half black and white and feel that my race has been a very formative experience in my life. Most of my activities, study abroad, as well as one of my majors, focused upon the black community, racial identity, cross-cultural communication, etc. However, I have been advised to use this as my diversity statement, instead of my disability, as I am interested in disability civil rights law. Any differing perspectives on this?

User avatar
Marionberry
Posts: 1302
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 9:24 pm

Re: Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby Marionberry » Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:03 pm

Well, I think the race stuff makes for a better diversity statement. I would still adress the specifics of your bipolar, diagnosis, treatment, grades before and after, in an addendum. Don't waste space in your ps talking about gpa numbers and the like. Focus more on tangible evidence of your recovery and success, and just less so on the obstacles you faced. You can talk about it, and give soem explicit examples, but I wouldn't spend more than 1/4 of your statement on it before getting to the happy part. Its a difficult task to discuss these topics in a way that is powerful but doesn't turn people away.

User avatar
ShuckingNotJiving
Posts: 266
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:24 am

Re: Personal Statement- Discusses Disability

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Sat Aug 28, 2010 5:16 pm

I think 2807 spoke to this, but I'll second it: you use metaphorical comparisons and analogies too much. You have the water one, which only needs to be referenced 2-3 times, but it shows up essentially in every other sentence. Then you have others, Santa's list, storm of depression, carrying your family's problems on your shoulders...all these metaphors take away from the story you're attempting to tell. "A to-do list to rival Santas" is extremely misplaced. You are speaking of a very grave subject, and you make a reference to holiday figure that brings about feelings of mirth.

As others have said, the story is compelling.

The ending, however, seems a bit unearned. For example this sentence:

OrangeMoon wrote:My focus has grown from not only wanting to engage with fellow minorities and those who struggle economically, but also to empower other members of the disabled community to vehemently pursue their rights and goals.


is only supported by one other sentence in the essay. Namely, the one about you helping black youth with their admissions essays. You haven't thoroughly explained how, exactly, you've worked to engage with these minorities, so I wouldn't advise just sticking it in at the end.

I would omit the part about your abusive relationship. That, along with your exploration of your mother's illness, and your own illness, is a bit overkill.




Return to “Law School Personal Statements”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.