KR OnlineNonfiction

Even If You Can’t See It: Invisible Disability and Neurodiversity

“Yet why not say what happened?” —Robert Lowell

I was in my midtwenties and studying in an MFA program when my mind began to slip. That fall, I survived my first full-blown manic episode. I’ve written about this period obliquely in fiction: everything at a slant. My stories’ narrators are in some part me, and I am in some part them. But I could never admit this. I had a public self who appeared to be well. I had students. I intended to work in academia. I am (relatively) high functioning. I am Indian. I attended a selective college. Somehow, I thought these facts would protect me, keep me safe from anything other than depression, which seemed to me to be both fairly common and mostly manageable. I was right. And I was also wrong.

I was not even twenty-five. What did I know then of the way things break down? Of the way I would and one day did. [1]

Zoloft kicked off that manic episode when I was twenty-five. Manic depression typically presents at this age. That October, I racked up my phone bill talking to a friend in Belize. I walked into a bookstore and bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of books just based on the title and cover. Parking ticket after parking ticket piled up: I had no sense of time or money. Worried, my friends banded together and called my brother. I had to give up the class I was teaching, had to drop the courses I was taking. I could not hold a thought in my mind, could not follow the sequence of one thought to another. My notes from that time—across my class notebooks, in my journal, in my datebook calendar spiral outward—mind maps, swirls, arrows, no discernible order—even if (somewhat) attractive to look at. It looked artistic and hard to follow. There was something frightening in the chaos, beautiful and disturbing. The outlines, “POW!” as though a comic book, a superhero. I did, for a time, feel powerful before crashing.

During that manic period, a professor in my MFA program propositioned me and began to harass me. His behavior shocked me. I was naïve. I was sick enough to have to withdraw from my classes, to have to begin taking antipsychotic medications, and to have to hand over the class I was teaching. But that’s just when they strike—predators: when they sense you are unsteady, ill-equipped, unable to fight back. Having been a professor myself for over a decade, it seems even more egregious to me that a teacher made advances toward a student who was unwell, who was out of her mind.

You stop being able to swallow. On your meals of orange juice and coffee and shitty Merlot, you drop to 97 pounds. Boys comment on the lovely articulation of your clavicle bone, on the hollows of your face. Their glance lingers lovingly at your waist—you know they want to gather you in their meaty palms and braille their fingers over the relief of your ribs. You can’t seem to get warm and you can’t remember things people tell you anymore.[2]

I spent much of my time in graduate school figuring out how I could complete my MFA in a program in which I had to fend off a key person in my department and field. The rest of my energy—a larger part—went toward trying to understand how to live with my brain and mood every day. I could avoid taking a class with the Famous Male Novelist, but I had to live with my brain. The medications I took then, Olanzapine, an antipsychotic, and Depakote, a mood stabilizer, slowed me down but also made it impossible for me to finish a sentence, to have any sort of fluency of speech.

Depakote caused cognitive dampening—it felt as though my head were filled with cotton and the synapses could not reach, fire, connect, respond. And aphasia—my sentences would trail off because I could not locate the right words. My ambition to be a writer and professor seemed impossible. (So, I was depressed.) I was prescribed Neurontin (an antiseizure medication then thought to be effective as an antidepressant) and Lamictal, another mood stabilizer, which I still take. On Lamictal and off the rest, my brain began to right itself. I adjusted to the medication, could see the outline of who I had been before. Some cognitive deficits persisted. Still, my words began to surface.

• •

Since I had been an undergraduate, I had known I wanted to become a professor and teach creative writing. With manic depressive illness, it was a struggle to complete a sixty-credit, four-year program, but I took an extra semester and finished my MFA. While I was at school, after that first manic episode, my friend Karina mailed me Kay Redfield Jamison’s memoir, An Unquiet Mind, about living with manic depression. Jamison works in academia and writes books as well; she found ways to function. Granted, she is brilliant, but maybe the career I wanted wasn’t entirely out of reach for me after all.

I applied for academic jobs. The first and second years I was awarded post-MFA fellowships/visiting professor positions at small liberal arts colleges in western Massachusetts and Iowa. I moved from Brooklyn to western Massachusetts, then from Massachusetts to Iowa. My third year of applying to creative writing positions, I was offered a tenure-track job in New York City (beating out what I am told was 200–300 applicants—there are not enough jobs in this field).

• •

It’s no one’s fault. They said take this pill. This one or that one, two before sleep. Take four: in the morning or at night. It’s best to avoid alcohol. May cause drowsiness, nausea, lack of appetite, lack of useful secretions, the presence of useful inhibitions. These things, they said, happen sometimes. There is no relief. [3]

Each year I had to assemble my annual review—listing in bullet points what I had accomplished and comparing it to what I said I would do. I worried about my teaching—four classes every semester pushed me beyond what I could handle. I knew things slipped.

I never accepted my diagnosis. I believed doctors over-diagnosed bipolar disorder. Pill-pushing incentives from pharmaceutical companies: that’s western medicine. I had only that one manic episode in 1998. I told myself it was a one-time thing. In 2001, a very close friend whom we suspected had manic depressive illness, took her own life. The pain of losing her made me decide I wouldn’t risk it―so I resolved to continue taking the meds as prescribed.  I was still in graduate school and still teaching then. I both didn’t believe the diagnosis and also knew that I couldn’t handle going through a manic episode again—having to drop out of school, maybe move in with my parents. I wanted to stay independent, so I decided that of the two options, taking the meds was the better one. Even if it turned out I wasn’t bipolar.

In 2010, nine years after my friend’s death and a few months before my final annual review, my supervisor met with me, and we discussed what I needed to improve in my teaching: organization and structure. He then asked me to be on a major search committee for three full-time positions, necessitating me to be on campus every weekday. No one else in my department was. I felt I could not say no. The same semester I served on a smaller search committee in the Education Department. The dean insisted there be a faculty member of color on every search committee; I was one of fewer than ten faculty out of one hundred who was marked as “diverse,” and the only one in my department.

That semester, when I should have been focusing on teaching (it was a teaching-first, tuition-driven institution; publications and service counted less toward tenure than I realized), I served on two search committees and helped hire four new professors. For the dean’s Diversity Council (on which I also served) I was tasked with organizing two events bringing in speakers of color. Toward the end of the semester, my supervisor sent me an official letter highlighting my lower student evaluations in a few classes against averages for all faculty in my division. Prior to this, he had never mentioned nor shared numerical averages for our division. I could see he was building a case. Research shows female professors and faculty of color score lower in student evaluations across the board. That did not matter.

The letter informing me of my contract nonrenewal arrived during the summer after my fifth year, right before I would have applied for tenure, had I applied. The news shocked my colleagues; most called or e-mailed, asking me what had happened. I wasn’t surprised, though my colleagues were; I had struggled in silence for a long time. The senior members of my department (other than my supervisor) apologized for their lack of mentoring, for not being apprised of the situation. One was in tears; the other had me over for dinner. The year after I left, the college created a center for teaching and faculty development, perhaps in response to my case. Since I left, the number of faculty of color in my former department remains zero.

Maybe things would have turned out differently had I requested accommodations, had I known about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), had I understood my “situation,” as my aunt calls it, counted as a disability. The ADA law was amended in 2008 to include bipolar disorder. I began my job in 2005 and finished in 2011. It would have been helpful to know about the law and my rights under it.

I didn’t know the laws then; I didn’t know them until writing this essay.  I looked normal; I passed. Would my career have turned out differently had I been willing to come out (for that’s what it felt like, an emergence into a world that might not accept me)? I was certain the stigma of having a major mood disorder would have hurt me professionally. Even had I disclosed my disorder, HR and my supervisors may not have agreed to modifications in my work responsibilities. I would still have needed to advocate for myself—would still have needed the energy to provide documentation and persist. For years, I had been ashamed, alarmed, and exhausted from trying to keep my head above water.

I watched from my couch, alone, to see if the configurations of the roots had changed (I could see the pine tree from there, and I knew it was you; you had already visited me in a dream). Checked the pinecones, the acorns, any realignment of feathers. I buried the small mouse left in the night and placed three stones to mark the grave. You had appeared and I knew I had to be vigilant or I might miss what you were trying to say. [4]

At the time, I didn’t know how to do anything other than perform wellness—although I knew I was having a harder time at work than my friends and colleagues. I was always overwhelmed. Since leaving academia and working part-time, I have written and published far more than I did while a full-time creative writing professor. This is somewhat of a consolation.

Still, it is with trepidation that I write about my disability. Years ago, my diagnosis was bipolar II; last spring, after my second manic episode, it was changed to bipolar I, the more severe of the two. I have accepted it. It seems more apparent to me now that I have at least some form of the disorder.

• •

Through these years, writing and teaching and books have been the most important parts of my life other than family and friends. I know for different people different things bring us back to ourselves. For some it’s religion, for others it’s music, and for me it was words: the music in words and the orchestration within the composition of a class and the community that develops in creative writing workshops. The poets and the writers save us.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) falls under this definition. So, it’s not only me—of course, it cannot only be me. However, my experience of this disease is of isolation, the feeling of having to hide, the pressure to display a wellness I did not entirely possess.

What is essential to who I am? I can’t imagine being someone other than South Asian American and the writer I am—but what has taken most of my time and energy is navigating work situations (specifically academia, but also secondary schools where I taught). I did not feel I could be out about a chronic mental health condition, especially since I looked (and was) young and appeared to be healthy and able-bodied. And yet this disorder has affected everything in my life for the last twenty years.

Thinking about high school students’ accommodations now, I wonder if my experience in higher education would have been different had I been able to articulate my cognitive deficiencies. I don’t know. Before I could ask for accommodation, I would have had to accept my illness and find a way to talk about it.

But in 2009, I had no language with which to talk about this condition that required me to spend a hundred dollars and the better part of a day once a month just to see a psychiatrist, Dr. P, in New Jersey. Had I tried to see one in New York, where most psychiatrists don’t take insurance, I would have spent even more. To get to Dr. P, I took a cab to Port Authority, a bus to New Jersey, and then, from the side of the road, waited for a car service to take me to Dr. P’s office. For one medication, I had to have paper prescriptions, which required trekking out to New Jersey every month. And why this doctor? She is South Asian—so I knew she got the cultural part, unlike the white guy, Alan Something, I saw on the Upper West Side. He just wanted to talk about why I was late to my appointments.

I wound my arms around trees and held on; could hear the keening rising, the wailing, the storm.[5]

What was clear at my former workplace: my value had in part to do with my appearance—a brown body in a white campus. I had been marked “diverse” and therefore “requested” to serve on a diversity council—essentially another committee (I didn’t think pretenure faculty could afford to say no). When I vented about my schedule and having to be on campus every day, a tenured colleague and friend (white) mentioned she did not serve on committees that met on Fridays—she told people it was her research day. I had no idea one could say no for such a reason.

I began that job thirteen years ago. If I had had an accommodation, I imagine it might have involved teaching fewer classes a semester (three instead of four) and less committee work, perhaps at lower pay. Such a move would have acknowledged neurodivergence and supported neurodiversity in the faculty. This, too, is diversity—even if you can’t see it. It is my most relevant diversity and my invisible disability.

I wanted to return to the ocean, I wanted to get cooked. I wrote on the walls in charcoal because all of the other surfaces could move and then I wouldn’t find them. I might not find you.[6]

And I did write in charcoal on the wall. This made sense to me then. My mother, who came to take care of me, later helped me to paint over it; I still remember the paint can, the cream color of the walls, the wide brush. It’s important to write about these experiences: mental illness, a race-only definition of diversity, and sexual harassment in the academy. For as much as I resented the culture of my graduate program, a larger problem ended up being trying to find my way through the sexual harassment there, particularly while manic. Everyone deferred to the Famous Male Novelist in the program, the only fiction faculty member of color. The Famous Male Novelist first hit on me when I went to his reading to ask why he had not been more available to the students of color in the program. (He taught only one class a year.) I was manic and didn’t understand what he meant when he said we could go to the fancy inn nearby, where he kept a suite. He put his hand on my knee. You’re married, I said. I’m the same age as your kids. I had come to see him seeking advice.

Still, for all my anger at him and the female professor who knew what he did and stayed quiet because it was in her best interest to, this was also the same department that allowed me to teach again once I was more stable—and found me another class to teach when I needed to take an extra semester. They had seen me acting crazy (manic) and had not closed the door.

A relief now to tell a few people. One is my writing partner who lives across the country and another my former colleague-close friend-accountability partner-writer comrade from my old job, who still lives in New York. We stay in touch through e-mail. So they would not have observed my speech and actions. A relief to tell them, I will not be myself. I have not been myself. This past spring, I had to start in on lithium. I had resisted it for a long time. Not only would it be an admission of having this illness, I knew lithium required regular bloodwork to test lithium levels: one more thing to manage. When I finally started on the medication, my husband and mother helped me keep track of how many on each day and what time, the titration. I asked my psychiatrist to also e-mail me directions, because I knew I might not keep it straight or lose a loose piece of paper. She wrote:

To start lithium, take one at night tonight, Tuesday night and Wednesday night, then take 2 starting this Thursday night the 19th of April. Take 2 lithiums at night (9-10 pm) until next Thursday night (26th of April) at which time, you start taking 3 lithiums at night. Go to the lab ten days or more after you start 3 lithiums every night…go to the lab May 7th or after May 7th.  Does not need to be fasting. We’re shooting for a therapeutic blood level of 0.6-1.0 of lithium.

I reread the directions now, and it confirms why I never attempted lithium earlier. I didn’t trust that I would remember to follow the directions and get my blood tested while teaching four classes, serving on three committees, and the writing and conference-going I already juggled. I already didn’t have enough spoons.[7]

• •

In 2016, The Asian American Literary Review’s special issue on Asian American health arrived in a box with a red tape across it, reading “Open in Emergency.” It includes a journal titled DSM: Asian American Edition. The editors described it as a “hacked” DSM. The editors had invited me to be one of the writers who would annotate the stories and essays within the book—to provide a kind of counterpoint text and conversation. The issue includes one of my stories, which I also annotated.  I wrote this story while in graduate school and drew from almost entirely autobiographical material:

I kept your Nehru cap by my desk, drank only orange juice…The bark beneath my face pressed unlikely letters, previously known patterns into my cheek. I took six baths in one day, filled the tub with leaves and rocks and Epsom salts and spices.[8]

I’m grateful I wrote this story a couple of years after my manic episode, because I don’t remember it all.  I had forgotten until reading this story that I had written “six baths in one day.” Whether exaggerated or accurate to my experience didn’t matter to me. I wanted to capture the feeling of mania, being inside it. And also the visitation: that is, Asian / Indian. A western doctor would call it psychosis or hallucination. In fact, they do. But there are other ways to read these things. I asked my father (it was his father who came to see me) if that could happen. My father said yes, and I believed it. It is the only time in my life I thought I might not make it, and I felt my grandfather come to talk to me. He appeared. Did he even say anything? I don’t know. What I knew by his presence was that he was telling me to stay strong, telling me everything would be OK.

I annotated my own story:

They called it mania, unmasking a predisposition for __________, but it was a visitation. Ancestors descend when needed, when called upon: my grandfather appeared when I was in trouble. It was the only time [in my life when] I thought I might not survive. I take concoctions to tamp down the visions, to be able to work, to function. What is lost by participation in this system? Eighteen years. Which words? I wonder. I don’t know. I suspect. [9]

The last sentence of my story is “I know this is not the story you would want me to tell.”

It is never one story, but only one story is allowed. I fight to resuscitate, uncover, recover. DSM [the unhacked one] requires giving up one story to return to “health,” and the insurance to take meds to stay there. It was my grandfather, come down to protect me. There is no resolution between what someone else tells and what I will. No one saves anyone.(Except my grandfather did help save me.) This is why I write.[10]

When I was in my twenties, my father, a physician, said: Don’t mention seeing a psychiatrist to your doctor because it will be in your permanent record. This was so long ago now—I see the label on MyChart, my electronic record—and every one of my doctors knows—the rheumatologist, the allergist, the OB/GYN.  How does a diagnosis change who you are? How others perceive you? How you perceive yourself? I had this conversation with my husband before we decided to get married. I told my husband, “So . . .,” in case it was a deal breaker. It wasn’t. And then he told me about his diagnosis: the same. He also has bipolar disorder. It surprised me, maybe concerned me (both of us: that’s more to handle) but didn’t break any deals for me, either.

I annotated other writers’ work in that same special issue of the Asian American Literary Review. One of the other writers whose work I annotated is Kai Cheng Thom; her essay is called “The Myth of Mental Health.” This annotation mentions my husband. (He said yes, you can write about it.) As in:

Red: My husband framed four of the drawings and watercolors he made while at an inpatient facility, years before I met him. Orange: These are the only pictures he has ever hung in his parents’ house. Yellow: I am moved by this—the simple acceptance of what he went through—by himself, by his parents. Blue: Just because something is difficult does not mean it is also not beautiful.[11]

A few years ago, I wrote about another previous psychiatrist who did not seem to understand anything about my life or Indian culture. Following every visit, I came home furious. My husband would say, every time: Find someone else. After three years, I finally left this psychiatrist. It took my husband helping me type up the medications and dosages, then getting the phone number and calling the concierge person at the hospital, whose name and number we got from a family friend. I called and then called again after the concierge person didn’t call back. I also had to call my new psychiatrist twice before my call was returned. It took so many steps to a find a new doctor. It took a persistence and focus I didn’t have at that time. There is a shortage of shrinks in western New York; even the ones who don’t take insurance have no openings. Without someone else helping—my husband or another family member or close friend—I would not have been able to get the names of a few doctors who might be taking patients. I might not have called my new psychiatrist again. I might have misplaced her number or just given up, because she didn’t call back. It felt too hard to follow up. You have to be able to follow through, though. You can’t afford to give up.

I tried to fit us together like a child takes the continents, pushes South America into Africa. You said, I’m no good for you. What looks like it should fit and doesn’t. I did not account for pulls. Fits and pulls are different forces altogether.[12]

I thought that part of what made me a writer was my mind, the way I saw things, described them, wanted to create something with words. After the doctors, after my mom came and stayed with me; after the medication began to make its way through my bloodstream, I slept and slept.

You give Blue Train away, along with several clothes and coffee cups. Everything you listen to is “Best of” and on repeat. Your mother is the only one who says: If I could eat for you, I would. Eat, little daughter, eat. . . . Tell her that you will be fine. (This is never what you say.) She gets on the next bus to Massachusetts. She goes to the movie store, and she makes you soup: potatoes and tomatoes and cumin. She goes to the pharmacy and to the store. You take the five pills she gives you and finally you sleep and sleep. You stop talking so much, and you are not so cold, and you sleep.[13]

Next semester, I ventured out, began to move again, to go to class. The aphasia. The dullness in my head, a kind of blankness. A problem if you are a writer. One of my graduate school classmates said to me, I / we didn’t think you had suffered at all before this. They didn’t know what had happened to me exactly (they were not my friends), but they observed the state it left me in: playing a song on repeat at someone’s house at a party in Northampton in a yellow living room, listening to Liz Phair.

I am trying not to look back at my academic career with anger and instead move forward. Last year, I applied to several scholarships to attend a creative writing conference in Boston. The scholarships included ones earmarked for Writers of Color, ones for a Literary Citizen (promoting other writers and creating community), and ones for a Visiting Writer (had to live outside of New England). I applied to all three.

And then, for the first time, I applied to this category: Scholarship for a Writer Living with a Disability (physical, intellectual, or emotional). I was awarded the disability scholarship named in memory of Mani Iyer, a writer. The South Asian name attached to a disability award impressed me. I had been most afraid of the opinion of the voiceless chorus of the “Indian community”—family friends I had grown up with.

Earlier this year when I was manic, I talked to my close friend Sarah on the phone. I said to her: I can’t be bipolar—I’m Indian. (How does this make sense? There is no logic). Sarah, who’s known me since college, years before I had my first episode and during that time, too, said—Stop it! It doesn’t matter to me what you are or have. I love you, and you need to get help. You need to take the right meds. No one has to know what your diagnosis is or what medication you are taking. It’s your business. And I could hear my friend who loved me talking. I heard her and I listened.

I did not account for getting stuck. Or the pills that I take every day to steady me, to keep not exalted and not below. I want to take it back.[14]

For the last four years, my aunt has been living with stage IV breast cancer. She laughs and smiles a lot (she always has), and her eyes sparkle. People admire her brightly colored dresses and dangling, intricate earrings. She doesn’t look sick, but she is. I’ve learned from watching her. She tells everyone about her condition. She sets and manages expectations; she lets people know what she needs.

No one has to know your diagnosis—it’s true. But everyone deserves to be seen and known.[15] And to get any support, you have to be willing to say it, claim it. Disclosures of cancer elicit sympathy, gifts of casseroles, rides to the hospital, or other support. Disclose a mental illness and observe the response. Our culture finds mental illness distasteful, unfortunate, a moral failing. Managing a mood disorder is exhausting—a taxing second job. It’s also a job invisible to most people in my work and personal life. Would I rather be neurotypical? Maybe; it would be easier. But would I be me? Who would I be? They say creativity arises in part from brain chemistry. Living with manic depressive illness has shaped me, created the contours of my adult life. I don’t tell everyone, but I am telling more.[16]

 

Notes
[1] Lines from my lyric essay / flash fiction: “Curriculum,” published in Conjunctions.

[2] From “How to Make Your Mother Cry,” a short story published in the Indiana Review; it appeared two years after I graduated in a special issue titled “Between Cultures.”

[3] Taken from “Climate, Man, Vegetation,” a story published in Drunken Boat. I wrote this story while in graduate school.

[4] From my story “Watch Over Me; Turn a Blind Eye” in The Asian American Literary Review.

[5] From “Watch Over Me; Turn a Blind Eye.”

[6] From “Watch Over Me; Turn a Blind Eye.”

[7] I am referring to spoon theory here. The spoon theory is a disability metaphor used to explain the reduced energy available for activities of living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. The metaphor is attributed to “The Spoon Theory,” an essay by Christine Miserandino.

[8]Also from “Watch Over Me; Turn a Blind Eye.”

[9] One of my annotations for “Watch Over Me; Turn a Blind Eye.” I wrote the story in 2000; it was published in 2017. I annotated in 2016.

[10] Another annotation, same story.

[11] I look at these pictures every time I walk up the stairs at my in-laws’ house.

[12] From my short story, “Skeleton, Rock, Shell,” which I started in 2001 at Blue Mountain Center, an artist residency in the Adirondack Mountains. The epigraph to this story comes from an old geology textbook I found at BMC. I later revised my story and set it aside; it felt risky and potentially revealing. I finally sent it out, and it was published in 2017, sixteen years after I began the story.

[13] From “How to Make Your Mother Cry.” There is so much that’s true in this story, and some things that happened, but I never would have been able to write this as nonfiction. I didn’t write essays then and even if I had, I don’t think I could have approached this material directly then. These subjects: mental health, mania. Fiction gave me a way in.

[14] From “Skeleton, Rock, Shell.”

[15] Amy Crocker Geoffrey, a former college classmate whose daughter has Down’s syndrome, wrote a version of this sentence on Facebook in her “intro,” after “Disability is natural.”

[16] I am indebted to Wendy Call and Geeta Kothari for reading multiple drafts of this essay and for their incisive comments. Margaret Price’s essential book, Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life, and conversations with her helped me to see my story in a larger context. Thanks to Jennifer A. Ho and Jim Lee for their call for papers on Asian Americans and Illness and Disability. Without it, this essay would not exist.

Thank you to Mimi Khúc, guest editor of The Asian American Literary Review’s issue on mental health. Thank you to Sonya Huber for her essay collection, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys; her essays showed me a way to approach writing about illness and work other people cannot see. Abeer Hoque’s beautiful memoir, Olive Witch, demonstrated to me that it is possible to write about both South Asian culture and mental health; I am grateful for our e-mail exchanges on this subject. Thank you to Carley Moore, whose book 16 Pills is filled with smart, personal, searing essays, far-ranging in subject, which include academia and psychotropic meds. My deepest thanks to my students (Sally, Nadia, Donna, Kristin, Julie, and Pete)—whose writing challenged me to be braver. I am ever grateful to Raj for encouraging me to write about what is true in the first place.

 

Works Cited:
McCullough, Lynda. PsychCentral. “Bipolar Disorder and the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Accessed 19 September 2018.

Shah, Sejal. “Climate, Man, Vegetation.” Drunken Boat: An Online Literary Journal of the Arts. Executive Director: Ravi Shankar. Accessed 19 September 2019.

—. “Curriculum.” Conjunctions, 26 February 2013. Accessed 19 September 2018.

—. “How to Make Your Mother Cry.” Indiana Review, Vol. 26, No. 1., 2004, pp. 163–66.

—. “Skeleton, Rock, Shell.” Conjunctions 69: Being Bodies. Accessed 19 September 2018.

—. “Watch Over Me; Turn a Blind Eye” and annotations. DSM: Asian American Edition.  The Asian American Literary Review’s special issue on Asian American health titled Open in Emergency. Volume 7, issue 2: Fall / Winter 2016, pp. 11–12 and 59–64.

Wikipedia entry for Spoon Theory. Accessed on 23 October 2018.

World Health Organization website page (dated 18 March 2018).

Sejal Shah
Sejal Shah is a writer, interdisciplinary artist, and teacher of writing. Her debut essay collection, This Is One Way to Dance, was an NPR Best Book of 2020 and included in over thirty most-anticipated lists including those from Electric Literature, Lit Hub, the Los Angeles Times, The Millions, Ms. Magazine, and PEN America. The recipient of fellowships from Blue Mountain Center, the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, Kundiman, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, Sejal is also the author of the forthcoming story collection, How to Make Your Mother Cry: fictions. Find her online at www.sejal-shah.com and @SejalShahWrites on Instagram and Twitter.