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Beyond Expectations: Mental Health, Marriage, and Harvard Medical School

cartoon of woman with brown hair wearing an orange V-neck, long sleeve dress. She hold a tube of red lipstick aloft.
drawing by Liz Zonarich

Graduating from Harvard Medical School is an achievement in itself, but when you add in being a first-generation student, struggling with mental health, working multiple jobs, getting married, publishing a book, and advocating for the bisexual+ community all in the same 12 months, the journey becomes a question of sanity. This post isn't meant to be a pat on the back. This post is a warning to manage your expectations. This post is to remind you that you are not superhuman, even if you think you are. This post is to remind you why the Greeks considered hubris a fatal flaw.

Let's start with the truth: this year wasn't easy. Balancing the demands of academia, my personal life, work, and advocacy took an incredible toll on my mental health. There were a lot of dark, scary moments that pushed me into emotional places I hadn't been in for a long time. I didn't miss those feelings. I forgot how heavy they are. My husband told me a lot about how hard I was working, how full my plate was, but I felt like I was the laziest version of myself. That thought process is so toxic, but it seems a more universal experience than I thought. Fortunately, my support system kept me together even when I wanted to fall apart.

Working a full-time job and running side hustles while also going to school full-time didn't help, though I will say that my color-coordinated Google calendar kept the shops sailing. There were crying jags, countless cups of coffee, and sacrifices made along the way. I hate the phrase "success comes at a price" because it suggests that relationships are commodities, so I'll say I had to sacrifice a better version of myself to pull through this year. I was not a good friend or good wife or good daughter. I hope to be back to normal soon, though everyone who loves me deserves better than that.

This journey had highlights, though, and I will say that becoming more interested in advocacy and engaging in the bisexual community is not something I ever thought I'd do. As my research showed me, bisexuals face a surprising number of health inequities, despite representing the majority of the sexual minority. These facts have become an integral part of my journey. As someone who identifies as bisexual, I understand the importance of being a voice for the underrepresented and marginalized. I used my platform at Harvard to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, and promote inclusivity. But let me emphasize that advocacy is not a one-person job. It requires the collective effort of a supportive community to create lasting change. I was fortunate to have the support of fellow advocates who stood by me and amplified our message.

It's crucial to remember that my journey is not meant to be a blueprint for others. The dangers of hubris are real. I learned I am not superhuman, even if I thought I could be. We must acknowledge our limitations and set realistic expectations. Pursuing our passions and goals is important, but not at the expense of our mental and physical well-being. It's okay to take breaks, reassess priorities, and make adjustments along the way.

So, as I stand here on the precipice of graduation, I reflect on the journey that brought me to this point. It's not a story of triumph; it's a tale of perseverance, sacrifice, and humility. I hope that by sharing my experiences, others can learn from the challenges I faced and approach their journeys with a balanced perspective.

Graduating from Harvard Medical School as a master's student in the first cohort of the Media, Medicine, and Health program has been an extraordinary accomplishment. It is a testament to the power of resilience, support, and a drive to make a difference. But let it also serve as a reminder that we are human and can truly thrive when we acknowledge our limitations.


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