I am a little more than half way through the first semester of my second year as an Anthropology PhD student at NYU and things are starting to get real. Since my last episode in 2019, I’ve recovered my sense of self after losing sight of who I am. I have overcome the imposter syndrome that almost made me drop out during my pandemic postpartum before the PhD program even begun. I’ve grasped my true intellectual and creative abilities outside of the grandiosity of mania. I’ve also recovered the basic cognitive abilities of reading, writing, and remembering which I temporarily lost during my recovery. As I emerged out of my last episode, I constantly reckoned with symptoms that were impacting my thoughts, my sleep, my relationships, my productivity… the list was endless. I felt like I constantly had to explain myself and my diagnosis to feel understood.
While bipolar is indeed a part of me, now I feel like it takes up less space. I’ve done the work of integrating the experiences I’ve had in altered states, the grief from broken and estranged friendships, and the losses that came with the lessons. Emerging from a place of such brokenness, I now see how the pieces are fitting together. After focusing so intently on managing my mood, calibrating my medication, and figuring out the other weekly wellness components (support group, therapy, exercise etc.), I am finally in a place where bipolar doesn’t seem to be this all-consuming aspect of my day-to-day. My doula mentors taught me that after contraction comes expansion. After a period of such intense emotion, spiritual, and existential contraction (and not to mention literal physical contractions laboring for 8 hours on Pitocin), I am now in a space of expansion.
In the past year and a half, I’ve been able to stay on top of coursework, serve as a research assistant on two ongoing projects, publish my first article online, speak at conferences, start this blog, resume my artistic practice and multimedia experimentation, facilitate support groups, and teach at mental health and doula organizations. I remember thinking before I gave birth to my daughter, “How am I going to do it all? How am I going to make this work?” Now on the other side, I have grown into my role as a MotherScholar.
Not long before my pregnancy when I embarked on a new life my husband, I couldn’t fathom being able to financially provide for a family, as I had yet to achieve financial independence for myself. It was a steep learning curve letting go of the belief in my perpetual dependency and unworthiness. I felt like a burden on my parents and could not imagine how I would be able to navigate the cost of health insurance, medication, therapy, psychiatry, not to mention food and housing. However, when (literal new) life happened, COVID hit, and changed the financial structure of my new family, I rose to the occasion and started seeing myself as a provider. I’m getting more and more comfortable in this role as unemployment ran out for my husband in September. He has continued to take care of our daughter at home while I’m at school and this situation will remain until we feel like it’s safe for her to go to daycare/school.
Secure in who I have become, I am excited at the prospect of what I am becoming. Today my advisory committee met to discuss my progress and future goals to complete my PhD and my mind is more focused on what’s ahead — the documentary film I will make, the fieldwork, my dissertation, but more importantly, what I’ll be doing once I’ve gotten my degree. I’ve been in school for most of my life with only a two year break between college and this graduate program. I’ll be in my early 30s (I’m 27) by the time I graduate and it will be the first time I truly enter the workforce with the intent to stay there.
My current academic responsibilities hinder me from giving everything I want to offer. Since starting this blog and prior, multiple people have told me that I have a lot of books in me. I’ve started taking my writing more seriously and considering myself as a writer who can reach audiences outside of academia. Given the guest teaching I have been doing at Project Lets and Birth Advocacy Doula Trainings (BADT), I feel like I have been manifesting the curriculum development and practice for running my own mental health doula training. My teaching, this blog, and the art I share on Instagram are just a fraction of what I want to put out into the world. I’m really excited!
Thank you for witnessing the journey 🙂
Image Description: A keyboard with a pink key saying “Check-In,” mouse, pen and Post-It notes lie on a wooden table.