Featured

listen to your body and not what you want to embody

Content Warning: psychosis, delusions, mental health, mental illness, eating disorder, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, toxic, insanity, depression, hospital, bipolar disorder

I am safe and stable now, this recollects past experiences along with with my present situation.

Image description: From first page of my “Words I Held: An Autobiographical Tale of Intrigue” ushered by Elisabeth Faye Stranathan/Eden/Me from the 444bidden Fructus project. An immersive show with an amazing, elaborate package. Highly recommend!

Surrounding the composition notebook are a black gel pen that Elisabeth sent me and a green paint marker, all on top of a wooden tray table.

The lined notebook paper is partially tea stained, a light tan color. In the middle is a long rectangular metal sticker, silver and black. The frame is silver and the inner rectangle is black, in the center is a drawing of a woman in a dress above her knees with a short curved outwards hairdo. Reminiscent of the 1950s. No facial expression. Written in blue green paint marker is the text above the woman’s head and below her feet:

“LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

AND NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO EMBODY”

Surrounding the sticker is handwritten in black gel pen, a branching mind map of things my body and mind want me to do which I tend to ignore when serving capitalism and expectations:

Release > Clarity > Progress > Scream > Laugh > Make Jokes > Kindness > Encourage > Support > Make Up (End Argument)

Be Present > Kiss > Daydream > Cuddles > Uphold > Intimacy > Hugs > Reveal > Open Up

Move > (On) > (Forward) > Leave > Resolve > Let Go > Dance > Include > Explain > Renew > Develop > Transform > Guide

Eat Well > Exercise > Clean > Hope > Have Goals > Succeed On Own Terms > Love Yourself > Explore > Ask Questions > Find Answers > Recenter > Community

Create > Draft > Feedback > Submit > Read > Diverge > On Time > Apologize > Sing > Reconnect > Pray > Forgive > (Self) > Charity > Build Future > Build Foundation > Strengthen > Resources > Ask For Help > Therapy > Shadow Work > Share > Voice > Break Stigma > Research ((connects with Clarify as a full circle))

I learned something about myself recently:

I don’t leave toxic situations out of my own volition. The one time I did, it already got to the point where I had extreme anxiety, especially right when I came in, to the point it badly affected my work. It ruined my self-esteem and self-confidence and I felt like I deserved the yelling and maltreatment. It took another co-worker to tell me it was wrong and that no one should go through it for me to finally realize I had to stand up for myself, which took more time to finally implement.

All the other times, the guys either ended it, or I had psychotic breaks. Both situations vastly differ though I do think one ex did exacerbate my mental health greatly. He was the first one I tried to tell my issues, and he told me:

STOP MAKING MY EYE TWITCH. YOU DON’T HAVE PROBLEMS. YOU HAVE NO ISSUES. I DO! NOT YOU!

He even pointed to his eye. And I just suppressed until I had delusions of assassins, celebrities tweeting about me, and snow days thrown in my honor. This was my senior year of college and I was admitted into the hospital as an emergency as I tried to kill myself.

This is all to say that I let situations degrade and spiral into near disaster and fatality, in a number of ways, but most prominently my mental and physical health would collapse. Usually those experiences would end if my body forces it out or the perpetrators leave.

My psychoses are the most obvious exits. Though I would never wish them on anyone. They’re horrifying, traumatizing, and beyond damaging. No one deserves to go insane. It’s making me cry right now to think back on them and how much pain I felt believing they were all real.

Over and over again.

But one thing my father told me, on the ride home from the hospital after a month away, gave me so much comfort:

The psychosis was your mind’s way of protecting you. You had so much stress, troubles, and pressure, that it was guarding you, for your well-being.

It brought me a lot of clarity that no psychiatrist had gave me, then and since. I had a scholarship, a job as a radio station office manager that made me happy, courses I adored and classmates & professors I admired, a guy I liked and who actually liked me back, friends I cherished dearly, a high GPA. So much going for me on paper.

But I was severely depressed and suicidal. For many years, even before college. Extremely anxious from pressure and stress. My self-confidence was so shot that I couldn’t even start an one page resume. Despite being in the honors program, my professors asking for copies of my papers, A’s in my courses, extracurricular clubs and that job, and how I definitely would’ve received recommendation letters if I just asked. Even though I knew—for four years—-that I needed an internship to graduate, which of course requires a resume.

I didn’t think anyone would accept nor want me at all. I didn’t even try to write a few lines in that resume, felt too much of a failure and a loser to summarize a honestly stellar college career.

I was so fogged by my depression and self-loathing, I couldn’t see how amazing I was.

Sometimes I still can’t.

I wouldn’t have realized this terrible tendency if it wasn’t for a recent exit. Now I want to emphasize that not all situations are inherently toxic. Like college for instance. We all know that’s generally accepted as beneficial for upward mobility, self-development, and to contribute to society. But I developed a very unhealthy relationship to my studies due to familial expectations (who wanted me to be a nurse and not study writing like I chose), the insidious model minority myth, and my severe depression.

I wanted to stay, but if I did, my mental and physical health would greatly worsen. I developed an eating disorder where I wouldn’t eat until I accomplished something. Performed bedtime revenge because I wanted those hours back. Hyper focused on my failures which caused me to make additional errors and removed me from my present.

I thought things were okay, despite how badly off I was. That it was worth trying to do these things as long as I succeeded. It doesn’t help that I had loved ones tell me how great this was and how I must keep it. And they were right, it was good, but it wasn’t the best path for me, no matter how much I wanted it. So I took it as “at all costs” especially my health.

Some of this I already knew but a few I definitely didn’t, especially my predilection to remain in somewhere bad for me. It wasn’t the right environment for me, as much as I wished I performed better. But I will say that I did work hard and was well-versed. I just wish I was more consistent and organized.

I also wanna mention, that your physical health will indicate to you if you’re under too much stress and duress. I’m not really aware of my body as I should be, but it’s when I realized how little I was eating and when I actually allowed myself, that I knew I needed to get help.

But somehow, I’m not as devastated as I thought I would be. Despite it being so fresh. I think I’m moving on, which I NEVER do this early lol. I usually languish, and spiral, and stagnate, and focus on how badly I fucked up. I still do some of that haha but it’s not nearly as constant as it usually is. I bear no ill will either, which I can’t even say for other past situations. They did what they believe was best and I’ll have to accept it and move forward.

I want to see a therapist. For many years. At the moment, I can’t, but I think I’ll at least do some research so that I have a roster ready when I do reach that point.

God I miss writing blogs. Facebook statuses are still fun. But trying to place allll thatttt TL;DR as nested comments on instagram is annoying. Last post had 12 lol ugh. I think I’ll make a more committed return to this form and hopefully update this site more. I have to clean it up and overhaul for an application due soon, but I wanted to write something here first. It feels good to let it all out and I feel more content plus my perspective is more optimistic.

I believe that any situation can turn toxic if you’re not careful with your obsessions, your health, and especially your boundaries. I have never been good with taking care of myself. I ate well and slept well while I was at the hospital over a decade ago, and I have yet to return to that point again. But it’s not too late, I can start now. Exercise more, sleep earlier, eat more consistent meals, reach out to people. I’m not good at asking for help or talking about my issues unless prompted. But lately I have been open about my predicaments even about my eating with my parents and titas. Which is a MAJOR step forward.

If I didn’t think I changed during the pandemic, this reaction and initial steps have proven otherwise. I’ll be alright.

And I honestly believe it.

May you cherish your next mouthful in every way.

eileen

The Life I Crave

I spoke with a close friend the other day about dreams and how my choices aren’t actively contributing to them. She is absolutely right and it stings to realize how many hours were devoted to mobile games versus daydreams I hold close. It feels like an 8:1 ratio, if you also include the endless scroll and switching accounts to avoid life and my emotions haha ugh.

So what do my dreams look like? What decisions can I make today and commit to that will allow for their fruition?

This blog is a start. I dream of consistently updating my namesake, every week or at least fortnightly. Adding new projects I finished with explications and expansions on old ones. Approaching previous concepts with a newly adopted perspective. Less divulging on social media and placing it primarily here. The way I write must use multiple story slides and further comments to hold it all and Instagram isn’t the best vessel, and neither is Facebook. They’re good for contextualizing my life, but it’s not enough.

My words can breathe more easily here, more room to ruminate and connect. I like the idea of having a central home for all my projects that isn’t hosted somewhere else. I completed my ATC set for a swap and was posting them on Instagram, but I didn’t post up the rest.

I decided to put them all here, where you can more easily read image descriptions beneath each card. Not so haphazard and with more consideration and care. Not in this post but someplace soon.

I hope this isn’t another burst that fades. I’ve made these sort of posts way too often over the years, telling how I would revamp my site and what I would do. Then never carry it out. I don’t like that part of me, where I don’t fulfill what I promise. Fear, laziness, self-defeat, self-sabotage, anxiety, imposter syndrome—they all play a role and I let them.

I can easily end all that though by just making the effort. Consistent small steps each day. I see blooming possibilities in my reach but they can only happen if my actions grasp my words.

I’ve reached a level of internal discomfort and disgust that’s affecting my friendships. I don’t want to let people down but I am. The choices I make are hurting those I care about and that actively pains me. I don’t want them to think I love them any less because my decisions are hurtful but that’s what they show. All they can see are the consequences and I hate who I became because of all that.

But she wouldn’t want me to hate myself over this, just use that same energy to actively choose her and not let myself down. I want to be present but I can’t be if I’m stuck on self-hatred mode, not getting enough sleep, or thinking about the past so obsessively. All those hours of resentment spent on people who no longer exist in my life. And if they are, they’ve definitely changed and I need to let go. Not for them, but for me. It can’t be healthy to hold onto all this burdensome weight and hurt. I just realized that I spend more time thinking of those I despise than my loved ones which is tragic and never necessary. The only one who is being harmed is me and I need to heal already.

The following is the life I crave:

Besides regular updates to this website and an overhaul. I wish for a consistent writing routine. Each day, every day, I segment at least a hour of writing. Devoted to current projects, sketching them out, and/or editing them. If I’m lucky, editing and critiquing another person’s work. Is it weird how doing so makes me feel the most alive? lol I’m laughing at myself right now, I need to go on a date haha.

I took Esmé Weijun Wang’s workshop “Accessing and Writing Emotions in Personal Nonfiction” and I learned how to establish firm boundaries prior, during, and after writing. I bought a Black Datura lipstick and other colors, perfume samples, and candles from Studio TANAÏS so I’d put on the lipstick, light a candle, and smell or place a scent right before writing. I also put on a special pin for a particular project that’s a lot more involved emotionally and writing wise. It feels good to establish a routine and demarcations this way.

I don’t want to spend time waiting by my phone for a notification from someone I’m crushing on. No more eyeing my phone every five minutes, yearning for them. Either I reach out or get busy with my own passions and endeavors. Do things I’ll be excited to share whenever we finally talk. No pining nor hoping nor obsessing, just be so focused on my own that I get a nice surprise when they’re calling or texting me.

Build a life so good that I don’t need attention like that unless I find someone fitting. I wasted so much time on those who didn’t deserve any of it. But I think I’ll find someone eventually. Just need to bide my time and nurture myself.

I’d like to work on projects that experiment. Something different than just a poem or a short story. Something additional. Like a game I invent told in a poem. Or an interactive zine. Or an immersive theater event. Something playful and pushes me out of my comfort zone. Something that’ll enlarge the audience’s eyes.

Going for open calls that involve the above. And if the deadline has passed, if I love them, work on those concepts anyway. Chances are, I can submit them to something else or even publish it on my own. I have daydreams of hosting twine games on my website. Or cool slideshows and photo essays. I really want this to be a place full of open secrets and entrances. A sweet oasis to host reveries I hold dear. The digital life lol.

I’d like to host an open call of my own. I have one in mind, though I think it would be good to strengthen it by going for calls for exhibitions. This could be—and deserves to be—grander and I don’t have the resources and know how currently. I’ll get there, just need to self believe.

I will say that I would love to host a mail art call. It would be amazing. Find a place I could exhibit the postcards and artworks. Post a photo of every single one online. Each having a cohesive but not limiting theme or prompt. I love this one for postcards that are made with letters, books, or reading in mind. They were hung on the Letters Bookshop storefront window and then placed in books for their future readers. So sweet and beautiful and way cooler than an archive hehe.

I want to take walks during the golden hour. I’ve done sunrise a few times and it’s pretty lovely. Even came across deer grazing on a neighbor’s lawn. I like watching the sky transform. It’d be cool to walk to my nearest little free library to see what’s there. Better to bring a beloved book with a note and bookmark for someone to take. Children’s books and diverse offerings. Then walk back to get a yummy iced latte that’s way too sugary haha.

I’d love to take pictures of clouds too and the sky. I want to venture into film photography. I bought from b and h a film camera that comes with two rolls of black and white film. I’ve said I’d focus my money on receiving therapy but I think that’s fine because this is a long held passion. I’ve daydreamed about taking a film photography class where I develop my works in a darkroom. I really wish I went for it during college. But it’s not too late. I’ll find a way. And I’ll start with this access point and see where we go from there.

I also bought CR2 rechargeable batteries and charger, fujifilm instax square film, zink photo paper for my sprocket 2 in 1, and a converter for a 2.5mm headphone plug. I want to use my lomo’instant square glass camera again and sprocket photo printer. I’d love to create stories & photo essays using instant film. Send them to friends and leave them behind for strangers to keep. Tuck them in library books and among the fruit. Photography can be an expensive hobby but I believe in abundance. I’ll try not to get too out of hand though lol.

Make a two page spread everyday in my journal. I want the diary to be thick and overwhelming, overflowing. Sometimes I’d be too tired to write so I’m going to try to write down some notes of what I want to write (which can apply to projects) and start some collaging throughout the day. It’ll be more organic that way and not a lot to deal with.

I’d love to use ephemera from that day, papers and cardstock from my collection, different inks, and many stickers and labels. Make it colorful but cohesive.

Sleep at a healthy hour. My friend told me how staying up late and sleeping in a lot isn’t good sleep at all, even if you rest many hours. It ruins the circadian rhythm and it makes sense how erratic I feel emotionally and snap at people over the years. I’m going to try to sleep earlier than usual and be more productive. God willing lol

Besides walks, I want to exercise more. Build up my arm strength and work out my stress & anxiety away. I’ve been doing yoga, strength exercises, and meditations on the FitOn app and it has helped me feel better. I definitely want to incorporate and try more.

I took a workshop with Kamau Ware on meditations and walking and it was amazing. I want to start meditating every day in the way he taught us. It’ll be hard but well worth it.

I want to read at least 20 minutes daily. I bought a reading tracking log book from e. l. hymns and it’s really cool. Comes with bookmarks, places to write down book recommendations, and filling out a grid & noting what you read and when. I’m also tracking how often I exercise, journal, write, and submit in this handy notebook. Check out more stuff here.

I’d like to try something new every day, specifically what I’m scared of. Driving, swimming, joining a group, cooking, frying, investing, trying a new genre, art form, maybe record myself dancing, or video blogging. Something novel and I’m highly interested in, or at least know I need it to thrive. Maybe I’ll even enjoy it haha

It’d be cool if I could submit to something every day. Literary magazine, risograph zine, contest, job, volunteer role, exhibition, mail art call, website, blog, etc. I want to see how far I can reach as well as challenge myself consistently.

Write a letter each day. Postcard, email, care package. Use up the stamps I’ve been amassing. They need to be seen haha. I’m being weird with not fulfilling my promised packages but I do want to work on it.

Update my goals Taste Victory notebook. I want it to be immense and unable to close haha. It’s getting there. Check out my latest timelapse flip through video. I’d love to add a new goal each day or at least add a postcard, cardstock, ephemera as a future base.

Besides my diary, I want to fill up notebooks each day slowly. The mini one I got from the smoke shop for future library books. At least one notebook containing an ongoing project. My sketchbook for planning out ideas. One where I store notes for online classes and their assignments. Not one day will pass without my pen touching paper dammit haha.

Experience something immersive, whether it’s a twine game, choose your own path, remote zoom show, RPG, audio walk, etc. It should be never attempted plus the same genre not done twice in a row. There’s apps, interactive books, cool websites, and more. It’s spectacular and heartbreaking how much the internet holds. What we’ll never get to see despite how perfectly happy we would be trying it out because there’s way too much to access. Hopefully, one day I’ll make something that will fall under that category.

Use the supplies I have. I have an one time use camera from Psych Blues with beautiful, experimental film. A diana mini that’s collecting dust. Rolls of film. Many empty notebooks. Barely touched crayons, gel pens, and markers. Stickers galore. Rubber stamps used at most twice. I want to chip away at my hoard and give them away. And I just bought even more stationery and art supplies. There’s also the mini open etching press I bought from Germany, a 3D printed printer you can make small intaglio and other etched prints. I haven’t even take a class on how to do that sort of printing. I was definitely manic haha.

I’d like to take a class often, like intaglio, bookbinding, risograph, collage, mail art, technical writing, marbling, handmade paper, etc. Pre-record, asynchronous, live, in person. I wanna discover new hobbies and ways to express myself. To improve my writing and art making.

I wanna make long term projects. Start a document for a book, perhaps poetry or essay collection. I want to hold in my hands my own books and see what comes out as I create it.

Make public art. Whether it’s using extreme post it notes, writing in chalk, origami on bushes, letters on park benches. Something magical to add some joy to a stranger’s day. I just swoon sighed over it haha

Read a book from my personal library or local library, but have a connection to the previous and the next. This applies to movies, podcasts, albums, immersive shows, video games, etc. I can definitely read and consume other stuff, but I’d love to maintain a long chain. A location mentioned in the book, that a play takes place in. The autobiography of an artist that was an obsession of the protagonist. The profession of the love interest the central subject of a short story collection. Something like that. I wanted to do that on my instagram account, @booksiheld but haven’t updated it in a very long time.

Time to try again.

I’d love to visit my library at least once a fortnight. Keep it frequent and always have something to return and something to pick up. Keep it moving hehe. It’s really nice to write there and I’m more productive when I’m out too.

I think that about covers it haha. I’m somewhat lost but I believe doing any and all of these will guide me to where I should be.

I hope wherever you are, you adore it, and if not, you’ll find a way towards where you will.

Take care,

eileen

These Dreams Will Not Wither Inside of Me

It’s 5:29 in the morning yet I’m at my most alert, despite being awake the entire night. An internal fire has begun and I’m tending to it now through the words you’re reading.

Lately the thing I hate about myself the most is how I talk and write about these honestly wonderful ideas, but have made no movement forward beyond some minor note taking. For months now, perhaps many. When I try to start, I get overwhelmed and tear up, mostly over foolish men, and other moments where I feel like no one will ever romantically love me. Or even want to.

It’s hard to see yourself as lovable when you don’t love yourself in the first place.

I’m beginning to, at least giving credence to the idea that I deserve to. I try to be good to others and loving, being affectionate and giving gifts. I’m totally shit at accepting it though. Kind, sweet, overflowing encouragement makes me want to run for some insecure reason. I think it’s because it’s rough for me to believe I deserve it. Even a sincere two line compliment keeps me silent. I don’t think they’re lying and this is how they perceive me. But something prevents me from saying thank you immediately. They all get read, but no reply.

It’s cold I know, but it’s also overwhelming. It’s really hard to justify my self-loathing when I see something real sweet that I know deep down inside I deserve it. I struggle with maintaining a kind self-portrait so maybe that’s why I’m quiet and just don’t acknowledge it to them. I really need to see a therapist lol ugh.

Anyway, I have a bunch of ideas I want to see through to fruition. Open calls I want to submit to, experimental essays, newsletter, book reviews, this damn blog haha.

I’m sorely lacking in follow through, but filling out my 2017 sketchbook project that was empty for too many years, for the #SuperFilipinaChallenge has been so much fun. I slacked off hard though but I’m going to try to catch up and at least fill out one more entry this morning.

It’s hosted by Super Filipina, whose own daily poetry writing led to her publishing her own book which I highly recommend. Really love her account, check her out.

Only posted the first three days on IG. I think I’ll eventually post them all, just want to let them ferment on the page and in my head a bit. It feels really good to write it all out and use my vintage dymo label maker. I adore using my glass dip pen and seeing the aftermath. I just hope it’s legible haha.

Filling in each page gives me some hope, some light that I can finish my projects. I hate how I get daunted by my ideas and all the effort I have to use to complete them. Even just putting down my goals and updating my Taste Victory notebook got me frozen for way too long yesterday. I didn’t even write anything, that’s the sad part.

There’s another project I’d like to do:

Art in a Box 9 – Isolation by Teetotum

Art in a Box is an exchange art box with 20 participant artists.
Each participant has to send 20 artworks, numbered and signed. The size can be up to 15x21cm.

A priority order is kept and the box closes when the 20 entries have received.

If the box is closed, the artworks that are left out, go to the next box.
Each box is numbered and each participant receives a box with 20 different artworks.

The participation fee is € 10 and covers the cost of the box and the shipping postage.

We accept all the techniques on paper (except photocopies), photographs, collages, engravings, mail art, handmade booklets, short stories, poems, short stories or anything that fits in a box!

Cool, right? There’s a deal at CVS where if you purchase a min. of 100 photo prints, you can get them at 20 cents each. Which is 20 bucks. I was thinking of making a photo of something I write through Phonto and get 30 copies for 3 different pieces. Not sure what the leftover would be, maybe I’ll push it to 33. It expires on 12/18 so I think I’ll work towards that. No deadline for the project itself though I would get the final spot if no one has mailed in anything yet. In any case it could go towards the next box.

I want to make like a booklet, connected through a brad so you can swivel the pages to reveal the next. The photos would act as bookends and a middle. The inners would be from some pretty paper I already have. Just not sure what to write.

Maybe a game you can play in isolation. Or a questionnaire you can fill out alone. Or building your own imaginary friend? Hrm.

I’ll figure it out, I just want to make it special and surprising.

My goal is not to buy anything new besides the photos. Still need to figure out where the brads are but I think I have enough.

Okay I feel better now. I’m a lot more resolute that I’ll get things done the way I want and need them to. I’m more than capable of creating my dream projects. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. Plus I have a strong support system who will help me light a fire under my ass haha.

I hope you cross off a goal before the year is through. May your outcomes amaze you in the best way.

Here for it.

eileen

How I Got Here

Selfie of the author, a light-skinned Filipina American woman, showing the full length of her very long black hair reaching the bottom of her rib cage. She’s wearing eye glasses and a big red lipped smile, her right hand on her hip while wearing a dark green dress with flowers all over

Content warning: mentions of psychosis, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, mental illness, bipolar disorder, hospitalization, depression, self-loathing, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, anxiety, mental illness stigma.

I am safe and stable now. This talks about past experiences.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, and I am here to remind you that I’m a bipolar mental health advocate with a history of psychoses, delusions, severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and attempts. I started to have psychotic breaks when I was 19 and had an emergency hospitalization when I was 21 as a senior in college, back in 2010. Originally they thought I had schizophrenia, but later received bipolar disorder as my diagnosis during my outpatient program.

A psychosis is an abrupt disconnection from reality where I experienced hallucinations and delusions and paranoia. You can read more information here. These thoughts and experiences made no logical sense at all but I believed they were all true, even compounded on top of each other. It was the truest thing I ever felt. Some examples:

  • I was part of a secretly rich and powerful family
  • My scholarship and entire college career was an experiment and EVERYONE was in on it, like the movie Blindsided. Though to be clear, I watched that movie during my third psychosis so it was definitely warped in my mind. I also believed that the movie was about me and shot because of me.
  • The Filipino Channel’s soap opera “Legacy” was about my family, my friends, classmates, strangers, officials, and especially me. I was able to see what everyone else was doing behind my back, including how they were murdered.
  • The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal game shows had participants who knew me and my family personally, enjoying our downfall, and all those shows were giving away our vast fortune as punishment
  • I was the AntiChrist and the blood bank truck outside of my childhood church was collecting martyrs to sacrifice

I wasn’t public with my mental illness until several years later, when I decided to submit to the inboxes of tens of thousands via The Listserv. It was a flash fiction of a young filipina woman experiencing a psychosis, which you can read in full here. I didn’t know anyone who was open about their psychoses, or even seen any sharing online.

This was my one chance to state anything I desired and it was important to me to get this story out there. If only to show others they weren’t alone like I believed I was.

Its publication garnered encouragement and support, even concern to make sure I was okay which I greatly appreciated. Here’s my most favorite reply:

an email from Trevor Reed. Subject Line: you should write. Email states: “Ramos, You are a badass. No shit, I was feeling the anxiety. You drug me into your wormhole. Bravo. Stop what you are doing, write books.”

My very first fan mail and it still catches me off guard. Since then I’ve written and performed onstage three monologues, one of which had the original protagonist of the email, Regina Cordova. And a dialogue between me as The Author and her. Personal guest essays on being mentally ill. I have done a panel with Filipinx artists, hosting a space where we can both talk about being Filipinx and our traumas. Something I never had before. There I even gave a PowerPoint presentation on the components of my psychotic breaks lol, “Breaking Down My Psychotic Breaks”—from the definition of psychosis, what delusions are, what media images triggered those delusions, and how my family helped me recover. Plus what the common signs were before I had those psychoses.

You can see some of the slides on my Instagram here.

I’ve been on the Artist Gripes’ podcast on “The Dangerous Myths of Creativity’s Relationship with Mental Illness and gave an interview on the short film documentary “Born to Stay Alive” whose trailer you can watch on YouTube.

I have made so many friends, received wonderful opportunities, and been on grand adventures since the moment I decided to speak out against mental illness stigma.

The latest creation is “My Letter to My Unborn Child” which is an audio track I made for Hello America Lit. I speak about my psychoses and how my brother’s love saved me.

They actually have an open call for their Fall 2021 Compilation, for audio tracks of poetry, short stories, monologues, etc. It’s running until October 14th and I highly recommend submitting to them. More details here.

This interview I did with In Full Color as their Alumna of the Moment better captures my mental health over the years and the huge impact this wonderful organization had on me. The founder Summer gave me a platform and so much support to tell my story, to break this horrendous stigma that traps us all.

I want for us to be at a place where we can talk about our mental health openly, without any fear or shame at all. I honestly feel no guilt when I speak about my delusions, paranoia, and psychotic breaks. Not even for my suicidal ideation and attempts. I know I’m not the only one to have such dark thoughts and experiences and I want to help others be open too.

Before it’s too late.

I spent too many years believing I deserved to die and to fail. I thought that this is how my life will always be: utter self-loathing, drowning, and all-consuming fear. If I wasn’t diagnosed, if I didn’t think to speak up, I most likely would’ve continued to suffer in silence, wrongly thinking that this was my personality. I probably would’ve killed myself.

Yet now, in a few weeks I will be on a college campus for In Full Color to perform “Psychotic Break” — my first monologue for them which I did in 2017. You can read it and watch a past video here.

It’s so strange to come full circle. I will be sharing the words and advice I desperately needed over a decade ago. To students who might need to realize that their mental health is in danger.

I had everything going for me: a guy who liked me, a scholarship, high grades, a job I love, the honors program, friends I adore, courses, classmates, and professors that made me happy and vice versa, a major I dreamed of. But I was still suicidal, depressed, and could barely take care of myself.

I didn’t see how bad things were until I woke up in the hospital, believing I was in Hell.

College will always be there. Your mental health and your well-being won’t. In all honesty, that psychotic break saved my life in many ways.

One of which is me, writing to you.

I want to show people there’s a way to be honest and to live a life you only dreamed about, while being mentally ill. That taking medication does not mean it will kill your creativity and your passion. I’m living proof.

I keep on thinking of little one, me when I was 21 and recovering from a reality that told her she was the root cause of 9/11, the insurmountable national debt, and traffic accidents. It was the nickname the nurses at the mental ward gave me. I’ve always written to her and for her. Striving to do projects and enact dreams that would make her wide eye with joy and exclaim:

I GET TO DO THAT??!!?

Absolutely, my sweetest of hearts, and I will do everything I can to make our most extravagant dreams come true. Where a decade from now, the currently 33 year old me will go doe-eyed and scream to #43:

HOLY SHIT, THAT’S MINE!??!

ALL of it. Every breath, sight, site, exclamation, failure, wonder, thrill, and anxiety. All yours for the taking. You will meet and adore new friends and lovers and family members. You will witness things you only daydreamed of. Discover new possibilities that you never knew existed for you. Like now, with my current and biggest endeavor yet.

Old photo of author as a smiling baby with short black hair, a diaper and a white crop top and white bootie socks. I’m sitting on a vintage brown diagonal striped sofa chair and I’m pointing at the camera. In the upper right corner is the following text: “Always write to your younger selves, your little ones, in every medium & instance. Do all things out of love for you”

This image I used in my risograph zine made through a Taxonomy Press workshop which I highly recommend. You can watch a reading of the zine here. And I can send you a copy along with other books and things if you’re interested, just let me know.

I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for my amazing support system. And my stubbornness haha. I know that I’m extremely lucky and privileged and sadly not everyone has supportive family and friends. I acknowledge that we don’t live in a world that embraces the mentally ill and gives them the attention and care they need.

But I do want to continue to work towards that, however I can. And I have witnessed some changes, like commercials featuring folks with schizophrenia, more people being outspoken about being mentally ill, more spaces that focus on us. I believe we can get there. I believe there will be a time when I won’t be afraid to give birth to someone who is mentally ill because I will have the resources I need. And I will become someone who will raise them in the best way possible. And I believe we will live in a society that is more just, equitable, and kind.

Before writing this blog, I was unsure and felt like a failure in some ways. But I needed this as a reminder of how far i’ve come and all the good that awaits not just me, but us all. I’m becoming more optimistic and finally starting believe all the wonderful things people have always told me.

You will get there too. I hope you have someone you can be open about your mental health. Especially when it’s terrible. I hope you strive for your dreams and give support to those who need it. I hope you always write and create and thrive for your little ones, every single iteration of you. Past and future.

Wishing you sustenance of every order and realizations in every incarnation. May you fulfill your potential on your own terms and well-being.

Holding you close,

eileen

Reverse Pandora

For the Text and Image workshop I took with Simone Kearney at Brooklyn Poets, I wrote a poem titled “Reverse Pandora”. The prompt was to bring an interesting object and write about it in different voices and detailing. I enjoyed writing it and you can see a video of me reciting here

Content warning: psychosis, mention of 9/11, suicidal ideation, mental illness, trauma, self-loathing, delusions

I actually shared my poem at the Brooklyn Poets Fall Workshop Showcase this past Monday and it was really wonderful. I loved being there, and everyone is so talented and interesting. And Jason Koo read an introduction that Simone wrote that really threw me off and surprised me. She said my words cause pause & reflection and that my voice is like the horizon line. I should ask Simone the exact verbiage and thank her but I’m a little anxious haha. I had no idea she–or anyone really–thought of me that way. I was so shocked. I also got such sweet compliments from the attendees. Jason actually said my poem floored him and that made me so happy hehe. I actually screenshot them haha, just a reminder that I can move people.

Here’s a link to the poem and images so you can see and read for yourself. I’ve also included the bio I wrote for myself hehe

reverse-pandora-v2-by-eileen-ramos

I might revise it sometime later when I can look at it with fresh eyes. So any feedback you have would be invaluable. Thank you!

I’m also inserting a video of the Reverse Pandora box inspiration. Basically I bought it due to how it says 2012 which was the worst year of my life, but it truly did led to so much. Including realizing that I was a good person and not a piece of shit like I’ve believed for so long. I filled it up with mementos, reminders, and such of the life I get to lead now.

All the things I get to do because I didn’t kill myself eight years ago.

content warning: self-loathing, psychosis, mental illness, suicidal ideation

Here’s all the stuff I referenced and adored:

This is the inspiration behind my Reverse Pandora Poem. I found this for $2 at Tobacco Barn and it’s my most favorite cigar box yet. It’s 2012 by Oscar Valladares. 2012 was the worst year of my life with severe depression, suicidal ideation, and the most horrific psychotic break I ever experienced. Yet through that nadir, I realized I am a good person and I could no longer refute that. Eight years since I’m living a life I love and did so many things I never thought were possible for me. This box will store the reminders and mementos of what I want to do in the near future, what I want to hold onto. I’ve provided captions and I reveal all the contents. I’m hoping to record a quarterly update of what remains and what has been added or strike through.

Kundiman – a literary nonprofit that supports and nurtures Asian American writers

Memento Mori sticker from Free Period Press

Make Your Own Memento Mori: Befriending Death with Art, History, and the Imagination with Morbid Anatomy Founder Joanna Ebenstein

Night Sky Post Its from Flora Stationery

Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes

The instant photo I took with lomogoraphy’s lomo’instant square

The Ink Pad stationery store

Tell Your Own Story: A Zine About Writing Perzines by Dayna Moth

Keep Writing Project – postcard subscription service by Hope Amico of Gutwrench Press

#wallpaperpostcards by Jeremy Jams

I’ll be honest, I had suicidal ideations again in October after I committed a massive mistake at work. But it went away the next day. Still, I haven’t had those thoughts in years and it threw me off guard. It’s scary how my self-worth is tied to Capitalism when it shouldn’t, or at least not to such a heavy degree. But we are in the belly of the beast so it’s sadly expected. Yet I still hope we can all have a better world, one day soon.

I am writing this while procrastinating major on the final assignment due uhh yesterday lol ugh. I don’t know what to write. We can either write about a subject that’s hidden and unknown to us OR write flash fiction. The former we’d reveal different aspects and contexts coupled with an image per section. The latter we’d write at least four different versions, also pairing with an image each. I love the prompt and I do want to write a story. But I don’t know what of. There’s so many directions I can go which is why I’m freezing up.

Maybe each one can be a letter? The same person to different individuals. Or the same addressee written by a range of folks. Maybe a magical day done by different protagonists? All taken in one location? Or maybe at an indie coffee shop? A wide range of conversations and meetings. Ugh I don’t know.

Denden suggested I read stuff to get inspired and I think I will. I have a bevy of books that demand my eyes and I was thinking of imitating Catherynne M. Valente. I love how otherworldly her words are and it’s so engaging. It’s luscious and filling and stimulating. I’m reading her “Palimpsest” novel which is about four individuals and their journey to a magical city that can only be accessed through an orgasmic night. And all travelers are marked by a tattoo map of the city. It was recommended to me during my bibliotherapy session I did a number of years ago at The Center for Fiction. It was quite wonderful and encouraging and really affirming.

I never did read any of the books, though they did suggest one of my favorites ever that I already read at that point: “The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet” by Reif Larsen. It’s actually one of the first text and image books I ever loved. The protagonist is a precocious child who wins a prestigious award on mapmaking and he runs away from home to receive it, from Montana to Washington D. C. In the margins you see his drawings and diagrams dissecting animals, trains, and such. So scientific and elegant and made me wish I had a notebook just like that. I should reread it.

I just finished rereading Reif Larsen’s essay “The Generosity of a Matchstick: Orhan Pamuk, innocence museums, and the curation of literary space”. Ugh the language is so rich and good and made me miss museums. I think it’d be cool to take a picture of an object and write a small story about it. I don’t have time to create a museum label but that could be a project for another day.

I was thinking of creating a playlist of songs that are playing at that fictional coffee shop and write what happens when those songs play. Meetcutes, missed connections, something something. Though I would like to take photos at a coffeeshop to make it seem authentic. *sigh* another project for another day post-covid.

Oh my God, the class is at 2pm tomorrow and I have nothing. Ugh. I really enjoy the workshop and it’s our final class, but no idea is making me want to be on Scrivener. I think after I post this I’ll start reading and hopefully something will compel me. Shit.

I won’t beat myself up though. I did manage to write this blog and caption those two above videos. At least some sort of writing and creating happened so I’m proud of that at least.

I’m learning to breathe through it and let go all this unwarranted resentment I hold against myself. Sometimes I fail and I have to be gentle with myself, otherwise it’ll end up blocking another prospect.

The stories and images will be made, one way or another. I know I can do it and do it well. Just need an inch of inspiration.

Anyway I hope you enjoy the videos and this post. Wishing you an ever flow of inklings of wonder and the motivation to see them through.

Keep writing,

eileen

%d bloggers like this: