I have struggled with moderate to severe Major Depressive Disorder since I was 13. It was extremely debilitating to my everyday life and the only word I know how to describe depression as is: miserable. An accurate representation of what living with depression was like for me can be summed up in this quote by Elizabeth Wurtzel, “Imagine only knowing that the sun is shining because you feel the ache of its awful heat and not because you know the joy of its light. Imagine always being in the dark.” It was a dark place of my life, to say the least and I did not know if I would make it out alive. For a very long time, I didn't want to make it out alive...
That led to my suicide attempt at age 15. For the months that followed, the reality of my actions still had not hit me. I was waking up everyday pretending like nothing every happened. Running away from the reality, that I wanted to die and I physically tried to end my life. In trying to cope with how I felt about my suicide attempt I watched a lot of spoken word poetry, Ted Talks, lectures, and films. However, in all the films I came across on mental illness, I never found one that 1) portrayed neuroatypicals in a positive or humane light and 2) talked about the experiences of people of color and the LGBTQ+. As someone that is East Asian-American and Queer, I was discontent with the lack of representation. I came up with a documentary concept but nothing more. Until, a close friend of mine, Adriana Valladares, told me she wanted to create a film. Thus, it was a matter of circumstance that propelled me to create "Keep in Mind".
"Keep in Mind" is an upcoming documentary that chronicles the lives of 5 youth of color living with mental illness.
Everyone is multi-dimensional but there are people that are part of more than one minority; being mentally ill while also being Black, Chicanx, Asian, queer, transgender, and/or muslim. It is important to document the experience of neuroatypicals that are at intersections.
It was conceived from the absence of cinema which portrayed neuroatypicals in a positive light. I have come across amazing documentaries and short films but never one like "Keep in Mind". Few nonfiction films exists which displays what living with mental illness is like. I want to document stories that do not strip away from the integrity of the human soul.
It is hard enough being part of a minority but being at the crossroad of several has a multitude of disadvantages. But we are here. People like us exist and our stories should not be confined to closed doors or personal statements. The narratives of people who live with mental illness every single day deserve to be listened to. Mentally ill people telling THEIR stories and what social change must be enacted to better help us.
This film will be raw and multifaceted because humans are complex. Not only will it document their commentary on mental illness but also their passions, snippets of their daily lives. Those parts are just as important as mental illness does not define one's identity.
I titled this film “Keep in Mind” because part of the film’s message is directed to those that stigmatize mental illness, who don’t experience it, and therefore don’t understand it. This film could change their perspective and that is more people that can offer support instead of ignorance. Our other audience is those struggling with mental illness, the ones that think about ending their lives. If this even helps one viewer, success has been achieved. This film is not a catalyst for ending the stigma but a part of the movement.
I truly believe that whenever something bad happens in our life that it is only pulling us back from the greatness we are soon to achieve. I could have never imagined planning out my near future and having to include film festivals, immense traveling, listening to other people's stories. This is the life I have always wanted to live and this is the impact I have only dreamed of leaving behind. Everything happens for a reason, even if we may not see it at the moment. If my film has helped even one person, then the project has fulfilled it's purpose and everything would have been worth it. This project and the past few years have not ever been easy, but I can promise you this life is worth living. Hang in there.