Before applying to my PhD program, I was working a new job as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. I took a solo trip to celebrate and was raped by a powerful man in the first 48 hours that I was in Washington D.C. In a city built on power, I was powerless. At this time, I decided that I was going to apply for my PhD in nursing to research sexual assault and inform health policy. I also set a goal that I would go back to the city that broke my heart, reclaim my power and use it for the greater good. After receiving my acceptance letter, I was determined to make this happen.
I entered academia and immediately noticed that I was the only brown person there. I was the only queer person, the only one with a mental illness, the only single mother and the only one still in poverty. I felt my mental stability being chipped away, piece by piece, day by day and ignored all of the signs. I later had a full-fledged panic attack, failed a portion of my PhD competency exam and was called in to speak with faculty. I explained that I suffer from anxiety and have complex trauma. I showed them the little moon-shaped scars that I have on the insides of my palms from digging my nails into them until they bleed. I explained that I am simply learning how to exist in an environment that is a direct opposite from my own and asked them to be patient with me. No one cared. They told me that I needed to do better.
I didn’t drop out of my program, but I have stopped seeking solidarity amongst colleagues. I have learned that I am responsible for my own happiness and that I require love and patience from myself. I’m not as accomplished as my peers, but I am more accomplished than I ever thought that I would be, and at the end of the day that’s what matters. And I never gave up. I will be relocating to D.C. permanently this fall with the same agenda, just stronger, smarter and more resilient.