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Ruptures: a collection of poetry

Hello my amazing, and wonderful readers who have supported me through the years. Unfortunately, this will be the last post on this blog as we are now moving sites to a … more “official-looking” site (hehe) at elliseramos.com. There you will find more art projects I’ve been involved with over the years, just crafting and honing my skills.

ruptures cover (1) (1)My first debut into the published world is “Ruptures”, a collection of dark, emotional poetry that all of you may have been more than familiar with :). This was literally the sweat of my blood and tears, and the trauma I went through just trying to survive. I hope you find the same comfort and strength that I had to muster to get it written down. My only hope is in reading this, we are more understanding and are more able to stand together despite misfortune.

I would love to discuss any elements of all about the book if you are interested, and i you need alternative points of paying, please feel free to contact me at the contact form at https://elliseramos.com/contact and we will work together to make your day a little better.

BUY NOW ON AMAZON

Again, thank you so much for your continued support! I do hope I find some of you there at my new website.

Love lots,
Ellise

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Epiphanies

Healing With Others

Hope by Ryky

Hope by Ryky

A really beautiful thing just happened and I wanted to share it with you to give you hope.

After a long day of intense group sessions and meetings with psychiatrists, the other women at the ward and I were sitting in the dining room, unwinding, when I saw another patient burst into tears by the medication room. Immediately, I felt distressed seeing her break down in such a strong way, when she was usually the one who was so protective and generous with advice. She was my roommate, and just the night before, I was crying in my room, frustrated at the information they were giving me as I felt that it wasn’t helping me in any shape or form. Having been in and out of mental institutions her entire life, my roommate sat down and explained to me what it’s like to heal within a system – the language that’s expected of you, the key things nurses look for to determine whether or not you’re progressing and the realization that I cannot expect a miracle cure that would heal me forever at the end of my stay here. She reassured me that it takes a lifetime of coping to be able to deal with trauma, and that pretending you’re fine when you’re not, only deny others a chance to be in the program when they need it so much.

Talking to her felt entirely different from talking with the nurses, or my friends, because it came from a person who was in the same place as I was – and so hearing her words and stories made me feel more confident about the program and finally motivated me to start working within it. And so, seeing her so distressed, made me feel so worried. A friend of ours immediately came over and hugged her, and the same nurse I had fought with before – Nurse Ratched as we call her, told them that hugging wasn’t allowed. I could see two other concerned women milling around at a near distance, watching  my roommate break down and wanting to hug her as well, but they kept their distance as Nurse Ratched was watching.

She went back into our room and I didn’t know if I should go with her or not because I didn’t know if she wanted to be alone. She came out after a while and asked us if we could go down with her, where the nurses couldn’t see us, and pretend we were on a smoke break. Immediately four women, including me, ran to our rooms to get our jackets and as soon as we were in the elevator, we hugged her as she cried on our shoulders.

By the emergency entrance of the CAMH building, the first place we saw when we were first brought in there filled with so much pain and unhappiness, we each took turns embracing each other and comforting each other, and telling each other positive things to keep us alight.

And then, with my roommate facilitating the discussion, just like in group therapy, she said, “Let’s all say things that we’re grateful for today. Today, I’m grateful that I met you guys.”

Another woman said, “I’m grateful that disturbing emotions are temporary and don’t last forever.”

The next one said, “I’m grateful to be a mother who is on her way on getting better.”

And I said, “I’m grateful to have you as a roommate and because of our talk last night, you made me trust in the program and one of the main reasons I am working so hard in this program is because of you.”

And she looked at me with such happiness and mouthed, “Thank you.”

When we got back, we all sat down with her and ate junk food that we shared with each other – one ate a strawberry and jam sandwich, I ate chocolate cake and another one ate a freezie. When Nurse Ratched came back doing rounds, she tried to say that it wasn’t her fault, that the reason why she didn’t let us hug is because they can’t have five women in the unit breaking down, and while she said this, we all looked at each other in mutual understanding that despite their belief that we can be triggered by each other’s breakdowns, our instincts to protect each other is much stronger than they could understand.

It was an amazing thing to witness and be a part of – that incredible impulse to nurture and care for each other. Within a second, we were making each other foods and brewing teas to keep each other from breaking down. Whispering things to each other like, “Don’t judge yourself,” “You’re doing a great thing,” “You’re learning – don’t deny yourself that education”, and quickly holding each other’s hands as the nurse’s backs were turned and then staying up with each other despite the medications we were on, knowing that if we let each other go to bed too early, the nightmares could begin — these are the basic, human things we do for each other, that keeps us alive and well, and to see it come so naturally in a place where you would least expect it – is something I believe will give me hope forever.

Tonight, I’m going to stay up and keep the light on, and listen to her breathe, and make sure to wake her up once the nightmares begin. I am happy to know, that despite being here, I still have the strength to look out for those who need me.

Like she said: “If you hold a person’s hand today, someone will always hold your hand tomorrow.”

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News

Living with Bipolar Disorder at CAMH

I debated about publishing this – I didn’t want it to sound too patronizing or too awkward, and unrealistic – too Girl Interrupted. But for the longest time, I felt that this part of me has been hidden and denied from the public. Staying at the Women’s Inpatient Unit at CAMH has made me realize, as heartbreaking and as lonely as it can be – that my illness is part of who I am. It doesn’t go away, nor sleep, it’s always awake, and no substance or distraction can break it – nor cure it. So today, I decided that I won’t sleep the day away in my room at CAMH tomorrow – I will go to group therapy and meet other people who have experienced trauma in their lives so that I can learn to live with my disorder, instead of running away from it.

Obviously, writing this post has been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I can only hope that it can help others acccept themselves fully, as daunting as that task may be.

Bipolar Disorder is present your whole life, however, many of the symptoms of bipolar disorder simply look like high-enery normal behaviour in its early stages. This is why most of you know me as energetic, enthusiastic and motivated, even creative at my most manic of stages.

However, my symptoms worsened as the following occured since the beginning of September: I entered full-time at OISE while working everyday as  a program coordinator for a not-for-profit organization and then going home to tutor Korean kids from 6 pm to midnight. That left me after midnight to attend to homework and other pieces of creative writing my job entailed me to do. Within these months, especially during practicum, I ran on a 3 hour sleep schedule every day, feeling very energetic, motivated and driven, despite not having slept for an entire week. Along with juggling social events, paying bills for my house, running a house with 3 roomates and taking care of a psychotic cat, I didn’t realize how much stress this was doing to me until I stopped completely.

Enter the holidays. No school. I also took vacation days from both of my jobs. For the first time, I was doing literally nothing for a week – and it felt great. I’m not going into full detail about what went on during this week, but some of you have already been introduced into the new set of friends I discovered, which allowed me to be “excessively involved in pleasurable activities that had high potential for painful consequences” – another symptom of mania.

The next three months have been a blur of panic attacks, staying in bed all day yet not sleeping at night, watching  movies to keep myself distracted from the fact that school and work is now slowly falling apart – as well as my relationships with other people – partying recklessly, abusing alcohol and other substances excessively – anything to keep myself from myself. I became unsually violent, irritable and socializing with people who knew me became very much like cutting through thin skin – each conversation was a battle; each response from me was forced, full of denial and guilt for not being able to be more truthful to others, and shame for not being able to accept myself.

What finally set my commitment to CAMH in stone was a nervous breakdown I had at my dear friend’s condo. It was an unbelievably happy day – we went for Chinese, went to buy board games and played Little World at Castle Cloud, and then went back to Etobicoke to be together for the night. Immediately after our sharing circle I started feeling awry, so they set a bubble bath for me which made me feel calmer. However, the next thing I knew, I had snapped at a friend of mine when he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and when my other friends tried to soothe me by explaining that he didn’t mean  what I thought he meant, the breakdown began and I started hearing voices that told me that they hated me, and that they wanted me to leave. The next thing I remember is that I was in a room with black, angry faces trying to control me, and that all I wanted was to go home. When I came to, I was at the back of my friend’s car, my face buried on my friend’s shoulder, too embarrased to look up, as I held on to his thumb for dear life while he spoke to kill the incredible silence. I know I have great friends. I know they did all they could for me out of love. But all I can think of is how much of an inconvenience I was to their day, and how much they’re willing to cope with this crazy behaviour.

And so here I am, at the Woman’s Inpatient Unit, 9th floor at CAMH. I am on form for 72 hours which means I cannot leave, and my pschiatrist and social worker has informed me that they may extend this form to 3 weeks. Hopefully, in that time, I can try to see who I am, how I can deal with who I am, and how I can take care of those around me knowing the responsibility of loving me entails.

To end this post on a cheerful note, I met a wonderful girl here that we’ll call Jane. My first conversation with Jane involved her having a panic attack trying to find Rexall all within the 15 minutes she’s allowed to go outside. When she got back to the CAMH building, there was a shift change with the conceirges, and so for a full 10 minutes, she tried to find CAMH, not knowing she was already at the building the whole time.

My second conversation with her involved me asking why she was dressed so nicely. She said that she had tried to go out of the building, but upon going outside, began to have a panic attack, called the ambulance only to find out that she was still in the building she was supposed to be in anyway.

Tonight I caught her brushing her teeth and she asked me about my tattoo. All of a sudden, as I was explaining it to her, a whole new meaning began to take form. My tatoo is of a quill with a writing that says, “Find the others”. This was a quote from Timothy Leary who encouraged people to go beyond the social convention, the platitudes, and ask people who they really are, what they truly love, what scares them at night – create a conversation that is both awkward and depressing because that is how you can evolve an everyday conversation into something beautiful, into truly knowing someone for who they are. So find the “others” who are willing to participate in this kind of conversation with you, so that you may feel like you belong.

As I was telling her this, she began to get more and more excited about the concept, especially because living in a pscyh ward forces you into platitudes, while at the same time, necessecarily breaking those platitudes in order to reach out and make your stay, as well a the other person’s stay, more meaningful and enjoyable for both of you.

She said, “The other is you! And it’s also me!”

Which made me realize, in a moment of such euphoria, that I have found the others, after giving up my battle to become “normal”, and surrendering to who I truly was, disordered and bipolar, but HONEST – and that’s what makes me beautiful.

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Short Fiction

Dorothy Dances in the Land of Oz

Photography by Johnny Gordolon

Photography by Johnny Gordolon

A/N: Lovely spontaneous readers, my short fiction was published by Swept Magazine, a local mag in Toronto. Check it out here.

–and I’m holding her hand as tightly as I could, like capturing light in between clenched fists, like encapsulating a deluge in a teacup—hopeless, but I held on anyway.

In hindsight, this was the essence of our friendship—undying love and futile desperation; starvation only the half-dead could relate to, that addiction to life and omnipotence and everything in between.

At the crosswalk on the corner of Bloor and Spadina, I saw her: that slump of a walk and lucid shoulder movement couldn’t belong to anyone else. We glanced at each other—she was wearing a plaid shirt and blood-red pants, while hemp bracelets clung to her tiny wrist.

I was different. Blazer on top of a pencil skirt, eyes behind purple-rimmed glasses—could she recognize me? Despite my lack of bright colours, despite the absence of ripped jeans? I dressed carefully now; identity has now taken the backseat, while caution steered the wheel.

And yet she did. It was unmistakable. A look crossed her face like a death sentence: her lips were firm, unmoving. Dorothy, across the street, beside Second Cup, where we once entered, holding hands at three in the morning—four golden years ago—in between cars and the 510 Spadina streetcar zipping by—held back emotions so efficiently.

She recognized me, despite my un-dyed hair and clear fingernails.

The language she spoke through the stillness of her body was raw, un-edited, and Gonzo. She communicated to me unapologetically and relentlessly—as pertinacious as she was when she used to look at me with those eyes that stung of contradictions and lullabies. I quivered in response, so silently gripped by guilt and regret: I didn’t mean to leave you, but I did, and even if I knew why, the reason wouldn’t be enough to heal the scars I left permanently etched in your history.

So in the time it took for the pedestrian light to turn on, I backtracked:

We met at the twilight of our lives on our first year of university. I met her in a party made of mostly boys. I was drunk and just starting to feel unsafe, when she calmed my environment down by sitting next to me, smiling awkwardly, telling me about her sister, and how she was sick. Her next confession was whether or not we should go, but even then her vibrancy got the best of her—so we decided to stay. I learned then that I was going to live next to her for the rest of the year. Even then I knew she was the kind of girl I could fall in love with.

Our friendship grew through moments of “we have to’s”. We were seventeen when we first explored downtown Toronto, dressed up unapologetically, leather jackets and mini-skirts abound. Every bar turned us away: “If you don’t have ID’s girls, we can’t serve you beer.”

On one last act of desperation, she called her 19-year-old friend, currently frat-living. He met us, casual and cool, in his white shirt and flip flops. He led us to a dingy bar lit by candlelight, filled with other college students, and ordered a pitcher as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Heart-shaped Box filled the awkward silence in between sips of watered-down domestic beer.

Through dark streets, she led me; we danced to the light of her white sneakers—it showed us the way. She took me in her room and rolled a cigarette wrapped in tinfoil; I hugged her from behind and smelled her hair. Sweet Jane played forever.

And then a dull came into the chaos of our lives and shook everything into standstill: her sister’s funeral. I said, reassuringly, “Yes, I’ll come. Of course, I’ll come” knowing, even as I was saying it, that I wouldn’t. Was I that horrible?

When she called me the next day I didn’t pick up. Eventually, she stopped calling at all.

Two years passed before she saw me at a party again. I was drunk and was just starting to feel unsafe, when she calmed my environment down by sitting next to me, smiling awkwardly and yelling over the music, “I missed you!”

She took my hand and led me away from the bustling house, past the dancing bodies. We spilled outside, where she sat me down in the middle of the street and began a tirade of what happened to her in the years of our silence. Her confessions were heartfelt and saddening, and I tried to make the mood light by laughing. She looked at me weird for the first time. It was our first miscommunication.

We ended up inside her room, two girls on top of a bed, suddenly feeling very stretched out and exhausted. That night she told me more about her sister, and how she missed her, and asked me if it will ever be possible to get over this kind of thing. I couldn’t answer her with words so I held her in my arms in an attempt to join her. We shared each other’s tragedies.

She was driving. Her hair was in a ponytail and her fingers drummed on the steering wheel as I stared out my window and watched the blur of downtown lights. I remember her saying that after I graduate I was going to be insanely depressed, just like she was, after realizing that the world didn’t give instant feedback, like the ones we got when we turned in a good essay.  But that being insanely depressed was somehow okay, as long as we had each other. I remember feeling really good about that, and feeling confident about a future I was sure was going to happen.

A few hours later I got tired of sitting across from her in the bar so I sat beside her, and with a huge grin on her face she put her legs on top of mine and said, “I’m doing this because I love you” and it was the first time in a long time that I heard those words and actually believed them, without feeling scared, without feeling hesitant.

She looked at me, her eyes glazed over, barely open. The only thing someone could see in her face from a mile away was that giant, genuine smile.

Our lunacies and weekend benders on Queen Street became inseparable from her; she rented a tiny apartment on Stephanie Street for $1,100 a month so she could continue. This one-bedroom became the starting point of all our Friday nights: from her balcony we smoked and drank and watched the CN tower change colour. By midnight we were wandering into Sneaky Dee’s, Nocturne and Labyrinth. One night we tried to eat at Smoke’s Poutinerie and met two guys, where our conversation went from colourful nails to after-hours hangouts. Before we knew it we were descending stairs towards either heaven or infinite abyss: laser lights spewed from every corner, sticky streamers bled on the floor.

And then I went to her parent’s house and she left me inside her sister’s room while she slept . The room was green and strangely empty, despite all of the things her sister left behind. Nothing was moved or re-arranged. The only sign that told me she was gone were her ashes inside a silver cup placed on top of her desk—a vibrant green room that holds in its hands—the ashes of a girl forever twenty-one.

Despite my conscience, I sat in her sister’s chair and opened the single notebook laying there. On the first page, Dorothy had written: This year is the first year that I am older than my sister.

It hit me then—whatever it was—and a cold, sad desperation held me and wouldn’t let go. How does grief work? Does it go away as time pass? Or does losing someone just becomes more and more hauntingly familiar?

Eventually Dorothy’s calls became more frequent, at random times of the night, 3 AM, 4 AM, her panicked screams on the other line. The responsibility that came with loving Dorothy began to weigh me down. Other times it was good, like when we watched the sunlight stream through the curtains and listened to the birds sing—but they became fewer and fewer and too far in between.

The last conversation I allowed to have with her took place in the bathroom stall of another’s bar’s washroom; I was taking photos of the graffiti when she said, choked up and sniffling: “You’re my sister now, do you understand? That’s who you’ve become.”

And I said nothing.

Just stared at the wall that said in felt marker: But for now we are young. Let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see.

Dorothy: I think you may have been the closest thing to love I ever felt. But when you’re young, something in that feels too fragile, too frightening.

I could explain to you why I left, and pepper you with apologies. I could write a long reply, to make up for the e-mails I ignored, in an attempt to jot down what I thought happened, in a cogent, logical form, with a clear beginning and an even smoother end.

Or I could insert answers to where there are none, and form conclusions to the things we never addressed. I could start by saying, “Loving you came with the commitment of healing you, something I couldn’t handle at the time, but I didn’t know it.” I could give reasoning to my actions, even though I know, deeply, that my actions lacked meaning, nor thought, that I had lost control over time, and words: all that existed during those days was space, filled to the brim with emptiness, overflowing with mindlessness.

Or I could tell you that I’m okay, that I have a job now, and that I moved to Toronto. And so, what are you up to now? Maybe we can meet up for coffee sometime—and end it nicely, neatly, as civil and cautious as it could possibly be.

Or I could do nothing, because she didn’t warrant a reply, and I wouldn’t want to overwrite.

And so, when the light turned green, all I did was whisper wordlessly—

Dorothy

And hoped the half-sound would turn her into the woman she always wanted to be, the one that danced in transcendental existentiality, the girl forever young and euphoric in the confines of my mind, as she stood in the afternoon sun that peeked through the buildings of downtown Toronto.

© – Ellise Ramos 2013

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Epiphanies

A Helpful Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

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Original blog on: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/compare-less/

By Joshua Becker

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve struggled with it most of my life. Typically, I blame it on having a twin brother who is five inches taller with much broader shoulders. But if I was being truly honest, more likely, it is simply a character flaw hidden somewhere deep in my heart.

I’ve lived most of my life comparing myself to others. At first, it was school and sports. But as I got older, I began comparing other metrics: job title, income level, house size, and worldly successes.

I have discovered there is an infinite number of categories upon which we can compare ourselves and an almost infinite number of people to compare ourselves to. Once we begin down that road, we never find an end.

The tendency to compare ourselves to others is as human as any other emotion. Certainly I’m not alone in my experience. But it is a decision that only steals joy from our lives. And it is a habit with numerous shortcomings:

  1. Comparisons are always unfair. We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others.
  2. Comparisons, by definition, require metrics. But only a fool belives every good thing can be counted (or measured).
  3. Comparisons rob us of precious time. We each get 86,400 seconds each day. And using even one to compare yourself or your accomplishments to another is one second too many.
  4. You are too unique to compare fairly. Your gifts and talents and successes and contributions and value are entirely unique to you and your purpose in this world. They can never be properly compared to anyone else.
  5. You have nothing to gain, but much to lose. For example: your pride, your dignity, your drive, and your passion.
  6. There is no end to the possible number of comparisons. The habit can never be overcome by attaining success. There will also be something—or someone—else to focus on.
  7. Comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can control one life—yours. But when we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious energy focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than our own.
  8. Comparisons often result in resentment. Resentment towards others and towards ourselves.
  9. Comparisons deprive us of joy. They add no value, meaning, or fulfillment to our lives. They only distract from it.

Indeed, the negative effects of comparisons are wide and far-reaching. Likely, you have experienced (or are experiencing) many of them first-hand in your life as well.

How then, might we break free from this habit of comparison? Consider, embrace, and proceed forward with the following steps.

A Practical Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Take note of the foolish (and harmful) nature of comparison.

Take a good look at the list above. Take notice of comparison’s harmful effects in your life. And find priority to intentionally remove it from the inside-out.

Become intimately aware of your own successes.

Whether you are a writer, musician, doctor, landscaper, mother, or student, you have a unique perspective backed by unique experiences and unique gifts. You have the capacity to love, serve, and contribute. You have everything you need to accomplish good in your little section of the world. With that opportunity squarely in front of you, become intimately aware of your past successes. And find motivation in them to pursue more.

Pursue the greater things in life.

Some of the greatest treasures in this world are hidden from sight: love, humility, empathy, selflessness, generosity. Among these higher pursuits, there is no measurement. Desire them above everything else and remove yourself entirely from society’s definition of success.

Compete less. Appreciate more.

There may be times when competition is appropriate, but life is not one of them. We have all been thrown together at this exact moment on this exact planet. And the sooner we stop competing against others to “win,” the faster we can start working together to figure it out. The first and most important step in overcoming the habit of competition is to routinely appreciateand compliment the contribution of others.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

Gratitude always forces us to recognize the good things we already have in our world.

Remind yourself nobody is perfect.

While focusing on the negatives is rarely as helpful as focusing on the positivies, there is important space to be found remembering that nobody is perfect and nobody is living a painless life. Triumph requires an obstacle to be overcome. And everybody is suffering through their own, whether you are close enough to know it or not.

Take a walk.

Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, get up and change your surroundings. Go for a walk—even if only to the other side of the room. Allow the change in your surroundings to prompt change in your thinking.

Find inspiration without comparison.

Comparing our lives with others is foolish. But finding inspiration and learning from others is entirely wise. Work hard to learn the difference.

Humbly ask questions of the people you admire or read biographies as inspiration. But if comparison is a consistent tendency in your life, notice which attitudes prompt positive change and which result in negative influence.

If you need to compare, compare with yourself.

We ought to strive to be the best possible versions of ourselves—not only for our own selves, but for the benefit and contribution we can offer to others. Work hard to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Commit to growing a little bit each day. And learn to celebrate the little advancements you are making without comparing them to others.

With so many negative effects inherent in comparison, it is a shame we ever take part in it. But the struggle is real for most of us. Fortunately, it does not need to be. And the freedom found in comparing less is entirely worth the effort.

Original post can be found on Becoming Minimalist, a blog maintained by Joshua Becker.
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