you’re one step braver, little one

If I want to become and be known as a mental health advocate, I’m going to need to speak honestly about ALL aspects of my mental illness. I’m bipolar and I’ve had severe depression for years and have experienced mania. Depression is relatively easy to talk about since it’s the most discussed and most publicized mental illness out there. And many people I know unfortunately have or experienced it. Anxiety is also really relatable as well.

It’s the mania that I’m fucking terrified to talk about.

But if I want to be the person I want to become. To be the individual the younger eileen desperately needed. Then I need to dig deeper and confess and share. I know the world would’ve been more bearable if I knew there was a Filipina woman out there who is willing to talk about her severe mental illness openly. Not just in private, but out loud and in public. The thoughts I had wouldn’t have been so isolating and neither would the experiences. I’m tearing at how lonely I felt in the hospital because no one else felt or saw what I did. I couldn’t fully communicate nor understand, not until way later.

Sometimes I still struggle when I write about it, because there’s a big gap between what I perceive in the delusion and what is truly going on. It all felt so real. And language isn’t enough to show what I experienced, which is why I want to write a comic book and an interactive novel at once as a dual project. Maybe that’s why I’ve been playing with so many forms and trying my hand at any medium, because there’s so much to show and conventional ink on paper sometimes isn’t enough to express it.

I hate my mania because that’s when I’m happiest. Really productive, relentless ideas coming at me in different directions, connections between seemingly disparate concepts are easily defined and illustrated, so much joy and affection, high fucking energy, and I can be so outspoken and outgoing. It’s the me I want to be all the time.

But it’s also the me that was the precursor to the worst psychosis I ever had.

And I feel like I’m in that space again.

A friend who works in the mental health field warned me that I’m bordering it. I mentioned my high sex drive to my psychiatrist and the other symptoms and she upped my meds a bit. But I think I’m handling it well enough. Thoughts aren’t running rampant. And I’m not seeing delusions at all.

Not yet anyway.

I’m bracing for the paranoia, the TV talking to me again, the media becoming too in synced with my reality, seeing messages everywhere, becoming suicidal once again,

just to make it all stop.

I think I’m okay now. It’s dark in my room and I don’t think there’s cameras in the ceiling or my alarm clock. I’ve learned to rationalize and keep on verifying my reality. There’s less magic in the world this way, less meaning, but I’ve learned to create my own.

I’ve learned how to make room in this reality for me and my growing potential.

And I want to reassure other sufferers that they can recover too.

I think I’m throwing myself into so many projects because I have no idea when another psychosis or depression will hit me. I’ve never been more stable or happy in such a long stretch of time, but it might not last. I’ve come to accept this as how my life will always be, but that doesn’t fucking mean I’m gonna cower in the corner, waiting for the delusions to hit me.

Fuck that shit. They can take me while I rip apart the stigma that forces me to be silent and compliant. I’m not having it and I won’t let it have me.

Not for long anyway.

This condition I have will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. This rational fear that I hate is part and parcel to living.

To being here, read by you.

I’ve already had three psychoses and I’m not yet 29. Death is final. But madness? It can be repeated and extended, and I’m not sure if it can be fully prevented. I can’t be guaranteed my sanity, no matter how well I keep to the dosages, exercise, and other requirements. There’s too many factors in play in terms of my environment, my genetics, my interactions, my brain chemistry, and much more. There’s no telling what could trigger it, but I think I’ll know once it’s starting. I’ve caught it before and I thankfully started seeing the psychiatrist again during the onset.

Sometimes I wish I was normal with average problems and concerns. But I was never meant to. And that means I’m gonna make sure I rise higher than people, especially me, ever thought I would.

I want to see myself taking so many chances on my own being. What I can produce for the world and for myself. What reaching out is like. I’m not wasting my sanity anymore. I don’t want to waste my time anymore either.

Especially not my love.

I’m learning how to say yes to myself and to others. My friends have been pushing me to go for things like the kundiman retreat and even a hybrid chapbook. I’m gonna learn how to become less shocked that they think I deserve it to more assured that I can fucking do it.

I want to be versatile. I want to be as brave and as brilliant as I know I can be. I want to keep on wowwing myself and my loved ones and shine a spotlight on the mentally ill, WOC, pilipinx, asian American, queer, and every aspect of my marginalized identity.

I’m not stopping for anyone. I want to get published in as many places as I can, so my words can burn brighter hope in those who look and feel like I do. This is becoming less about my ego and more about what I can do for others.

Especially the younger, terrified me.

I just want to tell “little one” (what the nurses called me in the hospital mental wing) that she will go on to do amazing, significant, and oh so necessary endeavors. That she was meant for so much fucking more than itchy hospital sheets and missing shrek puzzle pieces.

There’s so much more waiting for you, hoping for your arrival. The pain and the hurt and that terrible fear will remain with you. There’s no shaking off of those seared, disturbing images in your head. You will think about them everyday of your life.

But that doesn’t mean that’s what will make up your entire world.

It’s a part of you, but not all of you.

And you’re learning to love the difference.

You’re meant to make the world different. Be the bridge maker, the empathy builder. If others think you’re up to the task, do it. Don’t let that self-loathing come back to you. Kick it in its shitty shin and leave it behind you.

There’s nothing dirty or unremarkable about you. You may have broke down but can anyone tell you that you’re worse off than before? Fuck NO.

You’re resilient. And you’ll always be. You’re loving, vulnerable, open, and so passionate. You’re eloquent and brilliant as well. You’re sweet and strong. You have a bright smile and you’re really sincere. And you have a good heart at the end of the day.

Don’t forget. You’ve always had these qualities. It just took you too long to realize it.

I cannot wait to see what you’ll produce next. I know you’re capable of so much more. People recognize it within you, just accept and ask for help when you need to.

And help others. Give them the hope they need. That you needed. I want to lead a life that my little cousin den den would admire me for when she’s older and can understand what I do. I want to earn the love she gives me every time she looks at me or greets me when she first sees me. I’ve become a better person because of her, and because of the younger me.

I want to make our survival worth it, eileen. With every new wonderful book I read, every work I create, every delicious food I consume, every kiss I share, every song I sing, and every prayer God has answered. I want younger me to be so happy that she is alive still.

I gotta keep going. And if I get lost, for whatever reason, to you who is reading this, can you please remind me why I’m here? Why you care to read all the way to the end of this essay? Why I’m worthy to know you and to be alive like you?

I want to do all I can to prevent suicidal ideation but depression and/or mania can strike at any moment. And I’m gonna need you to remind me what I’m capable of.

So please make sure I read this, or any post that shows what I can do with what I have. I know there will be times when I lose sight of myself and this reality.

Please help me and help others find their way back.

Thank you,


First essay out of 52 for the #52essays2017 challenge! There was an earlier version of this as a status on facebook. Originally I wanted to write as my very first the lessons I learned in 2016 but this just flowed out. I’m really glad this was my pilot. Click here if you want to read more essays from the challenge.

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