Inspired by The Carter Center Mental Health Program and Fellowship, Foreign Bodies is an email newsletter centering immigrant and refugee experiences with a mission to de-stigmatize mental illness through storytelling.

Why subscribe?

Immigrants and members of various minority groups have long been conditioned to keep our innermost troubles to ourselves, leaving us trapped in a web of cultural stigma with unreasonable pressures to appear outwardly resilient, submissive, diligent and forever grateful. For those of us with diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illnesses, those pressures are likely to keep us from getting the help we deserve and need.

Here at Foreign Bodies, we believe shedding generations of stigmas and stereotypes starts with dialogue—dialogue within our homes, at the dinner table, at our respective houses of worship and, perhaps most importantly, dialogue we offer our reflections in the mirror.

Through the stories we share here and at, we hope to make you feel seen. We want to reassure you that you’re not alone and help is available. Let’s normalize the bearing of our untold narratives, one experience at a time.

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Who’s behind all this?

Hey there! I’m Fiza, founder of Foreign Bodies.

This all started out as a way for me to try and make sense of my own sh*t. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2017 after months of lingering too long in a darkness I convinced myself would go away on its own.

Since then, I've realized there's a lot to say, share, learn and unlearn about my relationship with mental health and how my foggy identity as a South Asian Muslim immigrant living in the American South might play a role.

My fellowship with The Carter Center (more on that here) + talking to fellow immigrant friends made me highly aware of our shared experiences.

There's something unique about growing physically and emotionally disconnected from your homeland. And having to prove to a new country that you're worth keeping around. Something about wanting to assimilate enough to seem relatable, but not so much as to alienate your parents and their plight. 

I've been craving a digital space to dig into it all.

In this newsletter, I hope to share stories about how foreign bodies cope or struggle to cope with their mental health, whether that's related to a diagnosed illness, stigmas or larger issues of sexuality, globalization, identity, colorism, discrimination, faith and so on.

Depression really amplified my underlying issues with identity and belonging. I struggled to find stories I could relate to. And there's nothing more painful than feeling alone or misunderstood while fighting a war with your own brain.

Maybe this'll help someone like me out, make them feel less alone and better understood. Maybe it'll just become another newsletter to lose in your inbox.

Want to get in touch with me directly? I’m @fizapirani on Twitter.

Hanaa' is our lovely copy-editing, fact-checking top dog. She’s a multimedia journalist from New Jersey and holds an M.A. from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in bilingual journalism. Give her a follow on Twitter: @HTameez!

See that fun, animated logo up top? That’s the work of Carter Fellow and friend, Rory! She’s a gem of a human and talented journalist for USA Today. Find her on Twitter as @RoryLinnane <3

How much does it cost?

This newsletter is free for everyone through December 31, 2019, thanks to a yearlong fellowship grant from The Carter Center. But to realistically sustain a thoughtful, quality product for readers from then on, I’ll need some help covering research, writing and domain costs. In 2020, subscribers will be asked to give $1-$5 a month to support Foreign Bodies. But why wait? Become a paying subscriber today! :-) And if you’re open to giving a little more, we won’t say no.

To recap:

  • Free sign-ups get the full experience through Dec. 31, 2019. After that, non-paying users may have limited access. (#sadface)

  • Paying subscribers get the full experience for 12 months at $3/mo or $33/yr.

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Give a little more

All that being said, this newsletter was created to help fellow immigrants navigate their mental illness and feel a little less alone in this big bad world. So if you're a student, or if you find the cost in any way prohibitive, email and we’ll figure something out.

What do I get when I subscribe?

  • You get every post (not just the occasional free ones).

  • You have access to all surprise giveaways.

  • You can peruse all issues in the archives.

  • You have the ability to participate in subscriber-only comments.

  • You’ll be supporting us, our team and helping us touch a life or two through storytelling.

In detail: The main monthly newsletter issue is topped off with a personal essay on a particular immigrant experience, followed by research on its connection to mental health and well-being. You’ll get resources and insight, a compilation of additional #relatable stories, plus fun lil add-ons, such as expert Q&As and music videos. In addition to our monthly issue, we have a public weekly Monday Matter letter and host paying subscriber-only freebies and giveaways.

But most importantly, you’ll also get dog pics of Lady, Fiza’s sassy pointer-bulldog rescue.

I really like this. Can I donate a little more?

We’re blushing, omg. YES!

Give a one-time donation. Any amount exceeding a minimal annual subscription of $33 will automatically grant you a year of subscriber status. Just shoot us an email and let us know you’ve sent us a gift.

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And of course, you can buy some goodies from our new lil store!

So, like, do I have to be an immigrant to read this?

Lol, what! No. Foreign Bodies may be geared toward immigrant experiences, but we’re sure non-immigrants will connect to the diverse subject matter, too. Check out the archive first if you’re still on the fence! ;-)

What’s in a name?

This is a great question. defines a “foreign body” as an object or entity in the physical body that’s been introduced from outside. The medical dictionary defines it as a mass of material that is not normal to the place where it is found. Our name considers this physical capsule or place in a much more figurative sense.

We are entities (never objects!) And the physical capsules we’re being introduced to, willingly or not, might represent a variety of masses of matter distinct from other masses: a different country or region, a new colonizing culture, a new socioeconomic standard, a new industry.

At the core of migration and assimilation is a desire to belong, to feel at home again. This loose definition of “foreign bodies” allows us to include anyone from any background—migrant, indigenous or not—who may be struggling to feel acknowledged and understood.

As we iterated in the previous point, Foreign Bodies was certainly created to address the unique experiences of immigrants or refugees living with mental illness, but if you’ve ever felt like an outsider within your community, we hope this newsletter will connect with you, too.

We also want to address the potentially offensive nature of being called a “foreigner” or “alien,” both terms we tend to use often here. Considering context, being called a foreigner or alien by natives in everyday life would probably rub some of us the wrong way—especially if you’re, um, a native yourself! This is (obviously) not our intention. In a sense, we’re reclaiming the labels as a sense of pride. Yeah, we might look different from you. Or we might sound different, wear different clothing and eat different cuisines. So what?

How can I contribute or get involved?

Eee! We’re so glad you asked. To share your personal story, your thoughts, your complaints or to find out how you can help us grow Foreign Bodies, send an email to or fill out the share form on our website!

Here’s how we’ve worked with contributors in the past:

  • Initial connection made via email or social media

  • Over email, we ask you to briefly tell us what’s on your mind. Why did you reach out? Did you see a callout for a specific topic that interests you? What’s the story you’re itching to share?

  • Once an upcoming issue topic is finalized, we’ll respond to you to learn more. We’ll give you a better idea of what to expect from the issue and send along a list of questions that allow us to really get to know you and your story.

  • Depending on your level of comfort, you can type up your answers and we’ll circle back with additional questions or you can send us audio files answering the questions in a more casual manner if you don’t feel like typing things out. And of course, we’re open to phone calls, too.

  • Your contributions will usually be morphed in essay form (or Q&As) by Fiza. We understand the vulnerable nature of many of these topics, so we’ll send along a draft of the story before we go live in case you need to address any glaring issues.


Can I forward the emails?

Occasionally forwarding emails is just fine, but we do want you to encourage your friends and family to subscribe themselves!

What’s Substack?

To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit

If you're thinking about suicide or worried about someone who might be, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741741 to connect to a crisis counselor. You can also find a wealth of culture- or language-specific recommended resources on our site,