navigating social justice oriented spaces 

in anticipation for the launch of hearts of healers i wanted to write a bit about how i, personally, navigate social justice oriented spaces. i know this can be daunting for folks who are just beginning to enter these spaces – it certainly was for me. i was afraid of saying the wrong thing or often just avoided going altogether because i didn’t want to seem ignorant but that is definitely not the move! many of us live on the intersection of many oppressions and being in these spaces can help us articulate why said systems are oppressive while also understanding how we may be complicit to the oppression of others. it’s daunting, i know, but i hope that some of my tips below will help empower you to lean into the discomfort and show up to do the work.

remember, none of us are free until all of us are free.

  • if i’m part of the privileged group (ex: being a cisgender person and trans & rights of gender nonconforming folks are raised) i, especially at first, simply listen. i try to set my ego aside and recognize that i have a lot to learn.
  • i recognize that usually the oppressed group ends up doing a lot of the emotional and intellectual labor and that this must be incredibly exhausting. i try to recall the moments it was on me to educate folks and how exhausted i was at the end of it all. i try to hold onto that empathy when i have the urge to tone police and resist doing so.
  • if i’m feeling uncomfortable, i try to grapple with why exactly that is. is it because i feel disrespected? or rather because i’m being challenged and forced to grapple with the face that i, too, hold problematic views?
  • if i have a question, i first try to google so as not to add to the labor folks are already doing
  • when i’m part of the oppressed group (ex: conversations on WOC, islam and the bigotry surrounding it, etc.) i try to share the labor of educating. i do my best to be kind about calling in/out and try to encourage folks to do the same but also recognize that it is not easy to always be polite when i’m explaining why i deserve respect, safety and sometimes to simply exist.

of course, no one has to agree/follow this. simply sharing what works for me at the moment in case others are looking for some guidance. i’m sure this will continue to change throughout my life cause this learning is lifelong!

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[image description: dr. angela davis speaking at first corinthian baptist church in harlem, new york city]

how do you navigate being in social justice oriented spaces – both in person and online? what has worked for you? what hasn’t?

future heirlooms

sitting here in my NYC apartment, listening to the rain fall outside my window and feeling so damn grateful for where life has taken me. the lighting, because of the storm, was gorgeous today so it was a great opportunity to finally do this shoot for my collaboration with east//west gem co. and filles box.

my journey to my ‘dream ring’ is honestly a hilarious one. when hubs proposed in january of 2014, i wasn’t in loooooove with the ring he proposed with but didn’t want to say anything because i was afraid of hurting his feelings or upsetting him. this story makes us, especially me, laugh so much now because of course he wouldn’t have been offended. he simply wanted me to have something that i loved. so, a lesson from early in our relationship: trust what you know about your partner.

fun fact: when hubs asked my dad permission to propose (our families had already met and we’d already decided to get married) he literally had no idea what hubs was talking about. we were all at a dinner celebrating my med school acceptance that night (yes, it really was the most incredible and life changing week of my life alhumdulilah) and my dad pulled me aside to try to clarify so i actually had a heads up on what was about to go down, for which i’m grateful because i got to do my nails lol! shout out to my old roomie nashra for the assist and her fake errands at target ha.

by the time i was finally honest with hubs about how i felt about the ring, it was too late to return it. just a couple months after our wedding i started medical school so it wasn’t really a priority anymore. most of the time i was just wearing only my wedding band anyway so it wasn’t really on my radar. then at the end of my second year, after i failed a block exam, i was devastated and needed a distraction. i started casually looking at wedding sets to pass the time and find a little joy in my life.

during the random conversations we had over the years, hubs shared his discomfort with the idea of natural and mined diamonds. once i learned of the social and economic repercussions and manipulations involved in the industry, i knew i definitely didn’t want to participate in such an industry so i started looking at simulated diamonds and moissanites. in addition to being more friendly to mother earth and her inhabitants, i loved that the styles i liked were actually affordable for us. no shade to folks who choose to spend more but it just did not make financial sense for us, especially so early in our lives together.

i had a brief two year stint with this gorgeous set (which is for sale!) but, once again, i’d settled for something that i didn’t truly love. as i started coming into my own with my style, i realized that it was too traditional for my taste. we’d also had a rough patch in our marriage during this time and i was looking for something fresh that did not bring back that hurt. of course, rings have absolutely nothing to do with the strength of a partnership. and, until recently, it felt like i had to choose between fighting for justice or indulging in the little things life has to offer but i’m learning that living fully is also an act of resistance.

while studying for finals earlier this year i started perusing instagram and was falling in love with vintage designs, especially with old cut diamonds, and that’s when i stumbled upon east//west. i quickly fell head over heels in love with their harlow setting, one that reminded me of a vintage design i’d been lusting after for years. after finding out the company worked primarily with moisannites and was owned/run by a woman, i was sold.

collaborating with them was an absolute dream. i was nervous about making this type of purchase online but i couldn’t have found a better company to work with. they checked in every step of the way and gave me something to be excited about while i was studying for step 2 ck.

during my search for my dream ring, i also stumbled upon these gorgeous vintage inspired ring boxes by filles box, another woman owned and run company! this mauve color is absolutely stunning and i love the contrast it provides.

i’ve paired my engagement ring with the a band by kay jewelers that is also vintage inspired. we finally were able to trade in the original ring hubs got me for this and another gold baguette band i wear daily as well. i wish i could’ve avoided mined diamonds altogether but that wasn’t an option with the exchange. now, every day, i get to look down at my hands and, when it feels like the rest of my world may be crumbling, remember how loved i am – that there is in one constant in a life that is always in flux.

so here’s a video of this gorgeous future heirloom that i get to wear every day. hopefully this will be the end of the ring hunting for some time. i joke with hubs that he should be glad that my commitment issues are only with jewelry and not our relationship ha.


honestly, i feel strange spending all this time writing about something seemingly frivolous like jewelry but as i mentioned earlier, sometimes self care is allowing myself to occasionally indulge in sparkly things. i realize i am privileged, to be able to spend money on something like this. i’m still grappling with the consumerism of it all and want to reiterate that the value of a partnership can never be defined by a material object. and i also don’t want anyone reading this to think that a ring, or even the partnership that comes along with it, is the only thing to aspire to because there is so much more to this life.

love and light.

 

back into focus 

as i shared in my last post, i’d unknowingly hit ‘pause’ on my life and my dreams these past couple years once a measly little exam seemingly took over my life but i’m back now reclaiming my time and my joy.

in that process i’ve made a few pretty big decisions about my future and just wanted to share with you all. thank you for your company on this journey. i used to constantly be in awe – and still am – of folks in the arts or humanities or really anything that didn’t have a set multistep plan for their careers. i used to find so much comfort in being a traditional applicant to medical school – straight out of college, no decisions to make about what to do with years off, etc. but the older i get the more i realize that no one’s life path goes in a linear fashion. we all face expected and unexpected challenges and have to roll with the punches. here’s how i’m choosing to roll with mine:

i’m going to be a psychiatrist when i grow up! i’m guessing that this does not come as a surprise to most of you. pretty sure most people knew this was where i was destined to be before i was able to fully embrace it myself. there were many things that fueled my uncertainty but most of them boiled down to giving too many effs about what other people think.once i set all that aside – worrying about ‘hanging up my stethoscope’ and not being considered a ‘real doctor’ (what does this even mean?? i’m in medical school, which contrary to the belief of people who continue to ask me if i’m going to be a nurse when i tell them that, i’m going to be a doctor!!), stigma against mental illness and providers in communities at large and within my family of origin, folks assuming that i’m only going into it to have a good lifestyle (anyone who knows me this is probably at the bottom of the list of reasons – and anyway what’s wrong with wanting balance in my life??) – i realized that by caring about what others thought i was simply holding my own happiness and passion hostage.

i came into medicine because of my passions for social justice and mental health and i can think of no better way to execute my dreams than by being a psychiatrist. i love getting to know my patients. i’m good at it.

of course i still have concerns – am i risking my own mental health? will my empath self be able to hold down the boundaries necessary to function in my own life without absorbing the struggles of others? will i regret missing the opportunity to be the patient’s first line and home base as their primary care doctor?

but there’s an underlying peace that i’ve found from leaning into this. into what feels right for me and what’s brought joy in some of the darkest days these past few years. into what i’ve always envisioned for my life.

i’m moving to NYC! i’ll be at columbia this upcoming year obtaining my MPH. my struggles with USMLE greatly robbed me of my passion for medicine. it often left no time or energy to explore my activism and advocacy. getting an MPH was always a part of my life plan but it’s something i’ve decided to pursue now (rather than later) in an effort to rekindle the flame and remind myself of my goals for my life, beyond passing an exam. i still have no idea where i’ll be living or how i’m going to balance moving several times this summer while taking shelf exams and OSCEs and step two. but for the first time in a long time, i’m truly excited about the future and it feels so damn good.

i only have a few more weeks of core rotations remaining in third year and i’m so happy and proud that i chose to advocate for myself to start rotations before retaking step one. i’m not exaggerating when i say that decision probably saved my life. in the past year i’ve learned so much about myself and the physician i aspire to be. i’m so excited to continue to move forward in my career and this life i’m building. grateful for your company through it all.

onward

it’s been a minute since i’ve blogged, mostly because it didn’t feel like i had anything to say, but i’ve realized that sometimes finding healing in writing means pushing yourself to face things when it would be much easier to just run and hide. i started sharing my journey online because i felt alone in my failures and i didn’t want anyone else to ever feel that way too.

it would be easier to share after everything has worked itself out somehow – after i can pinpoint how each failure actually led to a success i may not have had otherwise. there’s, of course, courage involved in admitting to failure at any point throughout our lives but i’m choosing to take you along through the thick of it – when it’s messy and unclear how things are going to work out. because, as much as i often wish we could, we can’t fast forward through the difficult parts like they do in the movies. so let’s all try to be a little vulnerable and walk with each other through the hard parts.

one of the biggest lessons i’ve learned from all these failures, other than how to advocate for myself, is learning how to come up with a PLAN B (or C or D or E in some cases). so today i thought i’d share my plan F with you all. if you’ve been following along for some time, you probably know that i’ve struggled a lot with USMLE step one. i’m not going to go into details about how many times i’ve taken the test or what went wrong or any of that because that’s something i’m still figuring out and simply, i don’t want to. i’m trying to live without seeking validation from the others.

after finishing my core rotations in third year, i’ll be taking a year off to complete an accelerated MPH program (and also take USMLE step one and two CS & CK during that time). when i applied in november i was, of course, hoping to take this step under different circumstances but i’ve learned that we often have to just roll with the punches. so far i’ve been accepted to columbia (still pinching myself about this!!!) and am waiting to hear back from a few other schools. so excited to take this next step in my career!

my passion for public health began pretty much began with my passion for medicine because, to me, they go hand in hand. public health is the marriage of medicine and social justice and i love that. i actually applied to dual degree MD-MPH programs when applying to med school back in 2013. i’d planned on getting my MPH at some point during med school but kept putting it off because of my struggles with step one. and then i realized that i’d hit ‘pause’ on my life because of this test and that had turned it into an even bigger monster in my mind. i started putting everything off until after. but that’s not how life works. or at least not how my life works.

so i’m reclaiming my time from this dragon (i.e. step one) that took over my life there for a minute. it’s a battle i’ll have to face again. but instead of allowing it to pause my life, i’m choosing to keep living and instead hit pause – no, stop –  on all the stress and anxiety and negative self talk and depression and darkness.

i’m sure this plan doesn’t make sense to many of you. ‘how is she going to study for and pass this test while doing an accelerated master’s program when she couldn’t even do it during a year off without anything else to worry about?’ that’s a great question. one i’m choosing not to answer because i’ve decided it’s time to stop seeking approval and do what feels right for me. instead of telling y’all why this is the best way forward for me, i’m simply going to show you – by living it. and to clarify – this does not mean i’m giving up on medical school by any means. i’ll be back to finish my fourth year rotations and apply to residency in 2019 after completing the accelerated MPH program!

so ahealersheart may be heading to NYC or Cambridge or Berkeley oooooor who knows!? but first, we’re going to get through peds and obgyn and psych and OSCEs and step two CS and CK. one step (pun definitely not intended) at a time. deep breaths. one foot in front of the other. we got this.

roaming the deserts

I’ve been spending a lot more time exploring the treasures of southern California after realizing that I’m surrounded by such incredible beauty and don’t explore it nearly as often as I should. I’ve also been getting over my irrational fear of ‘finding parking’ and thus, venturing out more.

This past week I went to check out the super bloom in Lake Elsinore and to Desert X in Coachella Valley. Both were incredible experiences that I’m so grateful to have had. I’ve included some of my favorite shots taken on my DSLR from both locations below. Looking through my lens at works of art and the art that is our world truly brings peace to my heart. Grateful for the means to go on these adventures and the joy they bring my soul.

 

dainty sparkle

I get asked a lot about where I purchase my jewelry and I pick up most of my pieces along my travels. I’m a huge fan of ‘wearable’ souvenirs because they don’t just sit on a shelf and I love when fond memories of whatever trip I was on come rushing back whenever I wear them.

But when I stumbled upon Favor Jewelry on Instagram, I knew that it was a company I wanted to work with. In addition to having some of the cutest and daintiest pieces of jewelry I’ve come across, the Portland based company is so mindful about how they source their materials and recycle all scraps. You can read about their process here.

In addition to that, they donate part of their proceeds to organizations like UNICEF, women’s shelters and the Natural Resources Defense Council. I can definitely get behind a company that puts its money where its mouth is.

I’ve had three of their pieces for a few months now and am absolutely loving them. When I was choosing from their collection, I was the least excited about the necklace but it ended up being my favorite piece. I don’t think I’ve taken it off since I received it.

I don’t always find the dainty and simple pieces in my travels that I can wear daily. But because of their high ethical standards and their contributions to their community, I still feel that my pieces by Favor are meaningful. I hope you check them out!

All pieces pictured are c/o Favor Jewelry.

these are my confessions

Anyone else’s mind jump straight to the Usher track whenever they hear the word confession? No, just me? That’s cool. I’ve come to terms with my embarrassing and unwavering love for Usher during my junior high years. It’s fine.

But on the real – I thought it was time for a life update since it’s been a minute. I started sharing my journey through medicine, and life in general, on here and Instagram because I wanted people to feel less alone in their struggles. In this age of social media, it’s easy to fall into the mentality that everyone has their life together except you. But that’s obviously not the case – we just choose to present our best selves to the world. And on the surface there isn’t anything wrong with that as long as we can remember that there is so much else going on that is not being shared. But in the past couple months, since finding out I failed step one again, I’ve started to feel like I’m folding into myself and only presenting the highlights of my life. And while I don’t owe anything to strangers on the internet, I feel it’s important for me that I continue to present myself honestly.

Since December I’ve hit one of the most severe bouts of depression I’ve had in my life. I’m pretty sure I’ve struggled with both depression and anxiety for most of my life but wasn’t clinically diagnosed until starting medical school. Stress has always been a huge trigger for me and obviously failure, and step one in general, is stressful. Having been through similar, but less severe, episodes in the past I tackled my depression head on with the things that have usually helped me. I continued taking my medications, working with my therapist, etc. I put away my books and I traveled. I spent time with loved ones and my kitten. And I convinced myself that I was feeling better and dove back into studying as the new year began in January.

But I wasn’t okay. I was struggling badly. I couldn’t focus. I was irritable. I had so much trouble sleeping. I was nauseous all the time. I hand anxiety attacks weekly that were almost as bad as the ones that initially drove me to seek help. So I sought council from those I trust and one of the deans at the SOM recommended that I get tested for learning disabilities in case that there was something making it harder for me to succeed and adding to my stress. I realized that it was important for me to set my ego and internalized stigma towards disabilities aside and truly find out if there were accommodations out there that would help me with both my studying and in my exam taking. It took months before I was able to find someone who accepted my insurance and saw adult patients but I finally got an appointment about a month and a half out. Those of you becoming psychologists, thank you, you are so needed.

Around this time, 45 also started his presidency in the United States. I think it’s pretty clear from my previous posts where I stand politically. The US has always had a dark history when it comes to marginalized peoples but something about the blatant disregard/outright support of the xenophobic rhetoric during the elections made the inauguration sting so much more than I had anticipated. Every executive order and tweet and confirmation has truly felt like a personal assault. It’s taken weeks for me to be okay with the fact that my resistance, at this moment in my life, is almost always in pursuit of my career. I will continue to do my best to be aware. To understand the struggles of those who look and live differently than I. To educate and have the difficult conversations. To organize. To put my body on the line as often as possible when my sisters’ and brothers’ human rights are at risk. But for the most part – my resistance is hours and hours of studying to pass an exam so that I may advocate and care for my patients. And for now, that has to be enough.

Meanwhile, I did my best to continue studying. I searched online for tutoring programs for medical students that worked through video chat. I wasn’t ready to pick my whole life up and move to another state again, as I did when attending Wolfpacc in the summer. It was clear that I had made the most progress in my studying in the months after I had returned home and worked hard on my own. I’m certain that the most helpful aspect of being at Wolfpacc was being in a supportive environment surrounded by people who truly understood the struggle but I did also miss the tutors and the structure they provided. I also missed having someone to run my study schedule by to ensure that I was as effective as I could be in my studying. I missed doing questions with a tutor and running through my thought process with them so that I could identify holes in my knowledge. And that’s when I stumbled across Med School Tutors and was immediately intrigued. I had the opportunity to do one-on-one tutoring from home with someone who would also help me create a schedule that worked for me. It sounded perfect!

Now, I don’t think that this is something that necessarily everyone studying for USMLE needs. But having been at this for so long, I knew I needed more encouragement and reassurance this time around and I’ve found exactly that in working with a tutor through MST. Their entire team has been so incredibly supportive of my goals. The thing that I love most about MST is that they share my values. When I opened up to them about how much I had been struggling, they immediately reassured me that taking care of my health, both physical and mental, is the priority. They helped me rearrange my tutoring schedule at no additional cost to work best for my needs. Having a group of people who’ve essentially been cheering me on through the struggle of doing this for a third time has been such a blessing. If you do decide to check out MST, please cite me as your referral. This post isn’t at all sponsored by Med School Tutors but I do want to disclose that I will get a free hour of tutoring if you decide to work with them.

While struggling through all this I started falling victim to some really serious negative self talk and began to struggle with so many of the things I often warn you all about: feeling shame in the face of failure, constantly comparing myself to others, etc. and it started to take a serious toll. Part of the ugliness of depression is that it’s hard to separate when your thoughts are due to the illness versus when you’re actually right in your introspection and reflection. It’s taken me some time to be able to separate those two things and journaling daily has really helped me with that. I’ve been drowning myself in self care & self love and really doing my best to replace the negative self talk with positive affirmations.

I’ve taken the last couple weeks off from studying and really focused on getting back to feeling like myself. In my appointments with the neuropsychologist, we ruled out any learning disabilities but in talking to him about everything I’ve been through and am going through the past couple years, I realized that my depression and anxiety haven’t been managed as aggressively as they should’ve been. My primary care physician had been treating me until now and she isn’t the greatest when it comes to mental illness. (Another reason why I continually come back to a career in family medicine. We so badly need primary physicians who can provide holistic care. Shout out to all my future FM docs! I’ve got so much love for y’all). While talking to a close friend about this, she asked me why I hadn’t sought care from a psychiatrist over the past couple years that I had been dealing with my undertreated depression and anxiety. And I had no real answer. I later realized that it was because I, someone who constantly advocates against mental illness not being a true disease, had been downplaying my own mental illness for years. I hadn’t sought care from a psychiatrist, knowing that my PCP wasn’t doing a great job treating me, because I didn’t think it was that bad. I expected myself to pick myself up and just brush it off. I didn’t want to be someone who had a psychiatrist, and thus, label myself crazy. Why is it so much easier to show others compassion than ourselves? If I’d sought treatment for my mental illness as I’d encourage my patients and loved ones to do, the past couple years would have been so much easier.

So in the past few weeks I’ve talked to therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists and finally feel like I’m getting the care that I need. And while I’m still not feeling 100% like myself again, I’m finally caring for myself as I’d want my patients to care for themselves. I’ve spent a lot of time protecting my heart from those who try to dismiss my experience when I share my struggles and recognizing how strong I’ve been for so many years. I’m spending the rest of this week doing things that truly bring me joy, surrounding myself with the incredible people who have held me up in these difficult times often without even knowing it and simply finding gratitude in the little things.

I found out last week that the NBME accepted my appeal to expunge my score from my second attempt – you can read about my test day experience here. That news really helped restore my faith in ‘the system’ because I’ve recently been feeling like I’ve dedicated so much of my life to a field that doesn’t truly care about its people. I also found out that I was accepted to WISE’s Muslim Women’s Summit later this year, which will help me become a more effective activist and advocate. I’m still figuring out the details of my trip to the east coast but give me a shout if you’ll also be at the conference!

I know that I have what it takes to pass this exam and have an extraordinary career in medicine. But I’m still learning and unlearning what it takes to truly care for myself and be my best self. Thank you for your company on this journey.