a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
observe as the boys in your class bristle when you refuse to believe each and every one of their words. you are starting to have your own thoughts and opinions, as you understand the power of your voice; read their texts saying “not to publicly go against” what they say and think about playing hopscotch in the yard during recess. think about the goal as you remember the numbered squares in elementary school and the way you could just jump without falling. hesitate to have a different point of view and utter the words of dissent that they don’t want to hear. ponder the question of if you should speak or stay silent.
Between the beats of her heart
his soul crumbled to ashes;
the intangible memories
came running as glaring flashes
He stared into darkness
devil manifested her in bloodred broken frame;
she searched for the light in blackness
angel's voice a-singing, sparking his name
An old man walks into Urdaneta Village,
wide houses revealed behind their sharp gates.
The wind hums as it brushes against his skin
but his breath is sealed by a mask.
It’s a Saturday evening -
there would have been Mozart’s Sonata No. 7
wafting from the cars that used to flit
through the roads of Ayala Avenue
as water cascaded down the tabletop water fountains,
city lights glowing through the glass walls of the Fairmont.
My prostrate form lies
weak and trembling
Sleep evades my feeble grasp
my hands fall
to my sides
limp and empty
I wipe off my makeup
With a small, rough cloth.
I use no water,
My tears are enough.
I slide the fraying fabric
Down just half of my face.
Take a deep breath,
And find the disgrace
[Content warning: depression, disordered eating.]
She didn’t like paint. She didn’t like how the colored pigments stuck to her skin and dried on her ripped jeans in sticky hard lumps. It’s like another layer of skin, she would say to me and I would agree cringing at the thought. The last thing I needed was another shell suffocating me.
Perhaps it was our mutual hatred for colored resin that brought us together, or maybe the fact that both of us needed a partner to navigate the stormy waters of freshman year. Whichever it was, it didn’t matter. What mattered was she was like me.
They brought those stars with them when I was young.
They brought me luminescence and called it moonlight,
Now I know they stole it from the sun.
That scintillating veil of lies,
Those sanguine tales I heard,
Now I see the grotesque, monstrous truths behind the veil.
“If you keep swallowing watermelon seeds, one day a watermelon will grow inside your stomach.”
Her mother’s voice was stern and followed by an urging frown, her dark eyebrows arched downwards and over her eyes, her forehead covered with wrinkles. The girl was only five then, and her small hands could barely hold up the heavy watermelon slice, red juice seeping out of the fruit and dripping down her hands and onto the blanket. The beach was crowded but they had their own little spot near the rocks, far enough from the splash of the waves but close enough to hear them crashing again and again against the yellow sand.
They say I am not sane,
That I am going through some pain--
Pain, that might leave a permanent stain.
They call me attractive
(Attraction that can please them)
And I should please them, because they love me.
Do you remember the time we first met?
Was it love at first sight under fig trees and vines,
Did it roll like sweet honey off the tips of your lips?
Angels all sung to the harps of your cries
but I find my solace in all of your sounds.
[Content Warning: references to eating disorders & self harm]
wake up / brush teeth / tie hair / go to computer / open document / stare at cursor / open notebook / look at ideas / cross them all out / open linkedin / compare yourself to everyone else / apply to a job you don’t want / call this bulking self love / wait to hear back / cry at rejection / go to kitchen / open fridge / close it / call this starving self love / go to bed / stare at phone / write message to friends / delete it / call this deprivation self love / stare at ceiling / go to computer / open college apps / write essay / close computer / open it again / delete the essay / call this productivity self love / open linkedin / compare yourself to everyone else / delete linkedin / close computer / delete yourself / call it self love
For most of my life I’ve been hiding by shields
Hiding by the dream-like word of: American.
It shines like a glittering beacon off the shore
So sure, I stood by it, weary in its warmth.
It starts with my kin and the gold on their faces,
how they faded themselves into fated addresses
Year after year until they were dull.
I believe in lies. They are: aconitum, blue like my hair, creeping into my words; oleander, an innocent pink, slithering from under my tongue; dark purple belladonna flourishing in my promises. Poison blooms, all of them.
A whiff of apricots. Delicate flowers poised on the poison bush. Vibrant blossoms in palms, and passing by chapped lips.
It happens suddenly- at once. A gag reflex, last lunch passing by flushed lips. Air disappears, vanishes into thin-
What is our love worth to those mere mortals?
Is it measured like the sky is scattered with stars,
or our bodies are riddled with scars?
Is it deeper than the ocean’s ebbs and flows?
Is it coarse like the gravel beneath our feet?
Is it envied by death and all of his friends,
like the fleeting, sweet-sung poet’s breeze?
That child playing with her toys,
She wants to learn,
She wants to hold a pen and write.
She is betrothed to a man twice her age.
Hope is dangerous for her.
But she is holding onto hope.
He wakes up early
to prepare for existence;
beginnings reek fresh upon his tongue
like a wavering butterfly
Futures greet him like salespeople:
they open smiling mouths soundlessly;
when he tries to learn their secrets
he wonders if they’re meant to be heard
three ghosts inhabit this house, drifting along the concrete floors. we sway when the wind breaks in, shifting closer but never together. sometimes, i place my hand on the cracked walls of this house and feel for an absent pulse. sometimes, i wish we were a home. sometimes, i let the wind carry me along, coursing through the aged bitterness saturated in the air. my feet have never known solid ground, but i'm okay with that, just as long as i keep floating. the harshest reality only comes if i ever fall.
You will find happiness
an hour from a minute from now
and that’s it,
she tells herself.
But is now present or perpetual?
All she sees are
haphazard “routines” stacking up in front of her
like rotting pancakes
Light was the dandelion I caught today while talking to him, and he told me: dandelions are caught by people deep in love.
Deep in love reminds me of being in unrequited love. Unrequited love and rescued by love are two different feelings I always end up thinking about.
We encounter unrequited love at least once in our lifetime
It is the one that makes our stomach feel butterflies and worms all at once and the one that makes us change ourselves.
Content warning: depression, self-harm
she pulls the cigarette to her lips
liking the taste of tobacco on her tongue
the sensation of burning in her chest
and she thinks it'll heal her numb heart
as she inhales that poison that makes her feel good inside/
a barrier to your life.
an insurmountable wall.
an unbreakable shield.
like birds with their wings clipped.
like predators tamed by fear.
like art contained within a frame.
like humans without free will.
I know 'NOT ALL MEN',
I've known them,
My brothers, my friends,
I know they would never hurt me,
They cheered me up when I was sad,
They were there to encourage me.
But when I say,
I saw my elder sister being pinched by a creep
when I was eight,
You saying 'BUT NOT ALL MEN' doesn't help.
there’s a raging fire going on inside of my own head, so forgive me for not staying positive. by Anoushka Kumar (15, India)*
you are content. you can't remember the last time you were whole/it's like you break yourself into sizable bits/digestible/you tell yourself/breathe in, out/rinse, swallow & repeat/ dinner sits heavy in your stomach. it was stale chicken, sterilised under flickering tubelights of family dinners you wished were less lively. they are more often than you would like, followed by shrivelled cards, in the back back back of your wardrobe. the games wardrobe, it was called, as if they weren't stewing there, neglected and misused. do you remember that feeling?—of being elated, transfixed by the simple beauty of a board game that hadn't been played yet? they are birthday presents from companions who you have forgotten to call, still frames in your mind.
“Am I looking good?” Ma asked urgently, while examining herself in the broken, yellow mirror that was never repaired. “There’s never enough light. I’m fed up with this mirror, Gini, we have to get it repaired,” she complained and applied an extremely-red lipstick, rubbing her lips together in a nervous way.
“You’ve said that hundreds of times and you never did,” I said, trying hard not to sound sardonic.
“We’ll see, how am I looking now?” She smiled at me through the mirror, moving her hands over the yellow dress, straightening it.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.