I am a poet and writer of personal essays. I just found out I have bipolar disorder two years ago and then realized I have been describing symptoms in many of my earlier works. AMA!
I have enjoyed reading and writing since I was small. I studied English Literature in Universitas Indonesia, Depok (2003) and received my masters in The Gothic Imagination from University of Stirling, Scotland (2005).
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in August 2015, following two breakdowns, which caused my family to rush me to the ER each time. Afterward, I intensively saw a psychologist and a psychiatrist. My family and I decided that it was best for me to take medications as well as maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
I still see my psychiatrist but we have managed to lower the dosage for my meds that I do not have to take some of them every day. I am still battling the almost always unexpected spells of mood swings and feelings like my life is without purpose, that I am unworthy and guilty of a series of things. However, through writing, I can express myself and even get to know my emotions better.
Ask me anything about my works, poetry, possible collaborations, writing as healing, living with bipolar disorder, how it affects me and my family, and everything in between!
My poetry collections are "Kota Ini Kembang Api" and "Non-Spesifik", both published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama. My recent work, "Familiar Messes and Other Essays", is published by Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia in collaboration with Comma Books. It is a part of a project called Self-Portraits, which focuses on the experiences of women of different ages and backgrounds told through the form of personal essays.
I am also into collective projects. I was one of the founders of Komunitas BungaMatahari, a mailing list-based Indonesian poetry community that has embraced many poetry enthusiasts with its catchphrase “semua bisa berpuisi” or, roughly translated, “poetry for all”. I am also involved in Selatan, an online literary journal in Bahasa Indonesia, and PaviliunPuisi, a monthly open mic event that is open to poets, poetry communities and artists to showcase their works to an open-minded audience in a casual setting.
Last year, my friends and I initiated a mini film festival called "Sayang, Sayangilah Jiwamu", which literally meant "Love, Love Your Soul", to increase awareness on mental health. Hopefully, we can do this again this year for we found out that there are still many people, even in a city as big as Jakarta, who needed information about mental health but did not know where to start. The event also enabled us as the organizers to network with communities founded to assist people with bipolar disorders, schizophrenia and other forms of mental disabilities and their caregivers.
I plan to write some more, particularly on the subjects of memory and place. I am also interested in exploring themes of day-to-day life, motherhood, and mental illness through writing in collaboration with other art forms, such as film, music, drawing, painting and dancing.
I have been chosen as one of the WrICE Indonesia/Australia Writing Fellows for 2018. The residency will take place in Yogyakarta in March and Melbourne in August. All the fellows will also participate in events at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
I currently reside in Jakarta, with my husband and daughter. I am now working on my third collection of poetry and the poetry editor of an online literary journal, InterSastra. You can find out more about me at gratiagustichananya.com and @violeteye on Instagram and Twitter.
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