And Into the Darkness, I Shall Follow You

Content warning: psychoses, bipolar, delusions, self-hatred, hallucinations, depression, mental illness, and suicidal ideation

A lot has transpired in between these past two months since I last updated. But instead of doing a recap, I’ll skip ahead to the entry. It’d be too long and unwieldy, and each segment deserves its own post. Hopefully I’ll get to them in due time.

Right now I’m taking an art class through Morbid Anatomy titled “The Archaeology of the Self” with sculptor/artist Eleanor Crook. Morbid Anatomy surveys “the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture”. They had a wonderful museum that’s unfortunately closed, but they still hold classes, events, and exhibits. Check out their Patreon for fascinating articles and video lectures on cursed gemstones, a brief history of professional mourners, and gothic queer culture. You can actually see some of it for free and it’s a wonderful treasure trove that I encourage you to support.

I’ve always wanted to attend their classes which range from taxidermy, tarot journaling, and creating your own memento mori, but either it was too pricy, too far of a commute, and/or didn’t work with my schedule. But now they’ve launched online zoom classes and I registered as soon as I knew I was free. They’re very affordable and you can get a discount if you’re their patron. Check out their courses. You’re bound to find one you love.

Anyway, the class I’m taking is called “The Archaeology of the Self” and it’s utterly wonderful. During one lecture, I smiled so hard and for so long it hurt my cheeks haha. Description:

“Picture this: Under the surface of our daily life and thoughts lies a labyrinth of treasuries of ideas, images and visions which our culture keeps hidden. If we could only excavate this and explore freely, our creative and emotional lives would expand and flourish. Our subconscious mind is full of surprises, curiosities and forgotten dreams.

This course offers creative techniques, mixed media making, readings, films, prompts and experiences which uncover the self  like an archaeological site, in the belief that under the surface our personalities are linked and a group experience of unearthing our hidden imaginations will achieve more than solitary explorations.

Your guides in this underground adventure will be Eleanor Crook, sculptor and longtime friend of Morbid Anatomy, and the spirit of Carl Jung whose theories of the Collective Unconscious, the Instincts and the Archetypes serve as rich and mysterious drivers for artistic and psychological development.”

I’ve watched surreal films, made elaborate collages, and even my own mannikin project within a jewelry box. You can see the last object here and in here on my instagram. Really proud of that one.

During class on Sunday, we were instructed to select a postcard and collage/draw/paint over it our Shadow Self. According to Carl Jung, it’s your unknown side, and it’s largely negative. Everything you dislike about yourself. Like procrastination, jealousy, rage, etc. You can read more about it in this wiki.

We had twenty minutes and I had a stash that I collected over the years. Going in, I had no idea what the postcards were for but I’m really glad I kept the one below.

Flyer from Black Sun Lit which I picked up in 2018 at a lit magazine and chapbook festival in NYC for a reading at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop for Vi Khi Nao, Moina Pam Dick, Liz Bowen, and Katy Mongeau. It was for Vi Khi Nao’s poetry book Sheep Machine.

It’s a beautiful postcard. Clean and I love the inclusion of the skull. No clue what the initials mean though. I adore diagrams.

So for twenty minutes, we used our art arsenal and produced our shadow self. Here’s my result:

Collage with red and black ink via an old make-up sponge. Washi tape frame. And the cut ups of Hello my name is ?, Anti-, Degeneration on opened book, and back. with black splotch on top of opened book are from an old issue of Good Housekeeping. A red paper heart with a black splotch of a heart. The sideways vintage daisy photo frame and british red telephone booth ephemera are from Tim Holtz I believe

I started with framing it with this beautiful, eerie washi tape I purchased from Nico Neco Zakkaya. It’s a lovely stationery site with imports from Japan. It’s always packaged wonderfully. And they have a brick and mortar shop in NYC that you should check out. It’s quite pretty and I can spend hours there browsing.

The tape is the grey one in the Chamil Garden Golden Horse Film Festival of 2017 tape set. It reminded me of the multiple voices I heard and the overlapping delusions during my psychoses. Their faces are not in complete view and they’re shadowy. Sometimes I heard them talk through the strangers who surrounded me, like at Mass when the person next to me who said “You’re going to Hell, bitch”. Or the TV news anchor who told me to take a hot shower again and again because I wasn’t clean enough and the mob will go easy on me if I was finally clean. They were hidden and seen everywhere.

I couldn’t escape.

I glued an empty daisy photo frame to showcase a hand reaching out and a gnome facing the viewer. It reminded me of how I kept on trying and trying to fix things during my psychotic break but kept on losing, no matter what I did. I could never win. The gnome shows Them directly talking to me when no one in my family could see it. It’s still unnerving to know that these hallucinations and delusions were never real and impossible for anyone else to witness.

My psychoses still feel like the realest, most honest thing to happen to me. I can’t shake that feeling at all, no matter what I know now.

I glued “Anti-“ to signify the AntiChrist, and every Anti- I delusionally believed at the time. The love I thought my family had for me that became untrue. The love I held for others that the Voices told me was a lie. Actually everything I thought was true was a scheme, a power move, manipulation masqueraded as care. I even had time traveling powers and can raise the dead who just want me dead. So I was anti-human in every sense, even an Ancient god.

It’s been a true upheaval to go through all that and arrive where I am right now eight years later. Three times I lost my sanity and three times I built it back. I know that’s a proof of my strength, but sometimes I feel unforgivably weak….

There are tears in my eyes now and JL told me that it’s medicine. To listen to why you’re crying. A lesson.

I’ve made a point out of underlining my strength in recent years, but I want to shine a light on how I felt weak. This is the digging and excavating I need to do right now. I am always struggling with feeling enough. And honestly? I was feeling really sad over the weekend and couldn’t explain why.

I thought it was because I felt so behind everybody else. A constant conflict. But I know that I’m making steps forward and shouldn’t do the comparison waltz. I don’t think that’s directly it. Though I’m sure it’s a factor, especially since I just turned 32.

Maybe it’s depression. I’ve taken meds for it for years. But I know that it can come and go, sometimes with an obvious cause, sometimes not. I was thinking of not attending The Archaeology of the Self class but I knew it would uplift my spirits. And it did. I was happy all over again, pasting this very collage, captivated by Eleanor’s lecture, seeing everyone else’s own remixed postcards.

Then I knew it wasn’t a deep depression. If it was, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the class at all. I was so relieved. I still get touches of melancholy every now and then, but it’s not as prevalent as it was on Saturday and Sunday. To the point where I was just lying down silently and my baby sister asked me I was sad. I hesitated and said no. I don’t think I was ready to call it sadness right then and there.

But at this moment of writing, I am feeling better. A bit more optimistic and looking forward to creating more for my final TAOS class. It definitely helped me develop and open myself a lot more creatively, to be more playful, to think deeper. I’m grateful to have more outlets now. To not feel as restricted as before.

Onward. The red paper heart I’m not sure where I got that. I made a black splotch of a heart in the center with a permanent marker. It displays how I feel like I have a darkness inside my own heart. My former desperation to die. No matter how much love I have for others, I feel like there’s a distrust, even a hatred deep down. Either borne out of jealousy, condescension, or pain/slight they may have unknowingly inflicted.

Especially for myself.

I’ve felt like a monster for a very long time, especially during my psychoses. A freakish abomination meant to be damned for all the suffering I caused. And I haven’t quite let that notion go. I know it’s untrue but for all the shitty representation of mental illness in the media, it’s hard not to see myself as someone who should be isolated and ostracized. Oh no I’m tearing again haha ugh.

Sometimes it’s really hard to love myself, even though I know all those hallucinations and delusions were dead wrong. I wish there was a way where I can completely let go. But I am thankful that I reached this current point of stability and happiness. Though I’m getting sad again, but maybe it’s meant to be felt and that’s how I go through and end it.

I was actually surprised by the great cut outs I got from the March 2014 Good Housekeeping magazine. I was convinced I wouldn’t find any but tried anyway and I’m really glad I did. The Hello my name is ? feels truly apt as I had no idea who or what I was during my psychoses. My mind and perception kept on changing depending on the media I consumed at the moment. Old novels, Sunday funnies, newspaper headlines, commercials, news reports, late night show monologues, even word search puzzles. With every delusion I lost my identity and it was a struggle to gain it all back during recovery. To differentiate what was a false reality versus a true one. Even now I’m still shocked at what wasn’t real because it felt so vivid and true at the time.

I got the degeneration open book and the black splotch back book from the same ad about medication for eyes. Same magazine. I’m always fearful of another regression, to return to that state of emptiness, confusion, and pure loss. Even morally degenerate, though I never really acted on those thoughts. Though it still guilts me. Damn Filipino Catholic upbringing lol

The back. book represents my constant, ever present fear that my psychotic self will return. I’m not deeply depressed or hypomanic at the moment but there’s always that possibility in the background. I’m scared of losing myself all over again. Of hurting and pushing away my loved ones. Of wanting to die.

Yet I know I can face it and prevail. I know that I can sense its onset and prepare and let my family know it’s coming. It feels weird to know that I can detect it, but I’m grateful that I can.

The old vintage British telephone booth reminds me of what’s lost, what’s dark, all that I can’t ever communicate to others because they wouldn’t understand. Not unless they have had a psychosis. It’s a dead end, even if the phone did work. It also reminds me of the changing room that Clark Kent uses to become Superman but what I transformed to is way less honorable and triumphant.

Then again, the bravest things I’ve done was while under psychosis. Those actions are permanent reminders that I am a good person through and through, no matter what They said. Currently I have a surplus of indications of goodness, but eight years ago that was my only conviction. The first time I ever felt that I was a good person deep down inside.

I used an old makeup sponge to splotch black and red ink all over. My darkness and rage. The only thing that maintained its whiteness and purity was the skull. A baring/bearing of what I am. It looks like a skull of a monster. I used a red colored pencil to outline it and color in its eye socket. The red anger and heat I radiate. I used to be a lot more filled with rage when I was younger and it’s diminished as I expressed it more to my friends now through venting. Thank God.

I decided not to paint over the words in the original flyer. It felt like a good representation of what my psychoses were like. They imprinted and overlaid of what was actual and true. It was a struggle to differentiate what was the truth and what was my paranoia. Even after taking the medication and support of my family, friends, and psychiatrist. I had to reality check with them and learn how to trust my perception again. Though I’m not sure if I fully can with the latter.

So that’s my postcard of my Shadow. I hope you liked it or at least understand me better. I feel pretty proud of it as it’s not all over the place and positioned pretty well. I also like how I kept it to a four color scheme of white, black, red, and grey. It’s quite clean compared to the obsessive artwork I’ve made in the past. I should do more of these twenty minute collages/art making, they’re deeply satisfying.

I hope you acknowledge both your truth and your hurt. It’s quite freeing to see my shadow self in a tangible form. I feel better just looking at it and getting it out of me. I highly recommend it.

I hope you give yourself the care and love you need to move forward and let go. Even if you have to peer into your own darkness, know there is always a light to guide you through.

Trust and qualia.

eileen

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