Artwork Spotlight Guest Post

Guest Post: Charlotte Amelia Poe

Today The Layered Onion has a guest post from poet and author Charlotte Amelia Poe. Charlotte Amelia Poe (they/them), like many of us with mental and chronic illness, has let life inspire their work, including experience as an autistic and nonbinary person.

I write. It’s how I make sense of the world.

Charlotte Amelia Poe
A photo of the author - Charlotte Amelia Poe. Writing from a place of being autistic and living with mental health challenges and addressing mental health through the arts. Addressing mental health for the arts. In fact, writing and art for mental health. Art and mental health together to help us cope.

The author has migraines.

Without further ado, an intro from the writer:

I didn’t used to get migraines. That’s new. Well, not new, but it’s been maybe four years since all of this started and I don’t remember what it was like before. It’s strange how quickly your internal world shifts to accommodate some new horror, a pain you can’t escape from.

I write. It’s how I make sense of the world. I’ve always written, perhaps as an autistic person it always made more sense than the spoken word, writing can be precise and honest and sometimes brutal, sometimes healing. It’s a salve on a wound I don’t know how to close.

For one brilliant month, my migraine medication worked and I didn’t have migraines. But something else happened instead – a lack of sleep and a sudden overstimulation meant that I was writing all the time, poetry, prose, nonfiction, anything and everything. I stayed up for twenty four hours and wrote a book. It’s being published next year.

But the brilliant month ended, and the uncertainty returned. It’s difficult to plan for anything when you don’t know whether or not your head will be trying to kill you. The only thing I could do on the bad days was write on my phone, brightness turned way down low, tapping out every thought I had and trying to make it beautiful even as the darkness of the room seeped in and turned the air sour.

I do, completely, understand why people would drill holes into their skulls. I understand this about depression, I understand this about anxiety, and I understand this about migraines. The primal need for exorcism is something we cannot help but seek out, but it’s not the answer, as much as we would like it to be.

In the darkest room, an opening sentence that spawns a thousand words, or a line of poetry that twists into something brand new – that can be magic.

Creativity, perhaps, is. I write because I have to, because I’m possessed by all the demons of my life and I want to splurge it all onto the page and see if I can make sense of it all. In the darkest room, an opening sentence that spawns a thousand words, or a line of poetry that twists into something brand new – that can be magic.

And maybe, in lieu of medication that doesn’t work and trepanation that can’t be provided, we have to count on that instead. That magic.

So I do.

The migraines may never go away, I can’t find what causes them, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. But the creativity remains. The urge to create remains. It’s a scream into the void, loud against an aching head, but god, it might be the only real thing.

And I think it might be everything.

Charlotte Amelia Poe

Introducing this piece:

Content warning: Strong language.


So I say –

“My head hurts.”

And I grit my teeth and I fold my fingers into my hair and I tug until maybe my scalp loosens a little and I can hear myself think again. I think if I buzzed off my hair then maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much, like maybe the throbbing above my right eye would dull a little and I could finally sleep.

(It’s been thirty six hours and the caffeine in the painkillers keeps me buzzing like a moth to the light streaming through the holes in my blackout curtains and I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep, but I can’t do anything else either and time is treacle slow and my tongue sticks to the inside of my mouth and I breathe in and out and bury myself further under the duvet, legs curled up to my chest and I want to scream but noise makes it worse and – )

I understand why people would take rocks to their skulls and carve a hole into themselves to let the demons out. The pressure release valve option seems so fucking appealing. I cannot touch my own skin, can only press my fist into my eye socket and wish I could scoop everything out and let it drip through my fingers until there was no pain anymore, no nothing, just the blessed emptiness and my head would be empty, and my eyes would be empty, and do you understand?

Try cold compresses, ice from the freezer wrapped in a washcloth and pressed to the side of my head and for a moment I don’t feel anything except the chill of numb and blessed relief. My pillow soaks through and the room is warm, so warm, three days of stuffy air and I’m breathing in my own fumes and I can’t stand up to open a window and my head hurts, I am trying to tell you that it hurts, I am trying to find language to describe the fact that it feels like I’m dying and there is nothing I can do except wait it out.

I think about stepping on broken glass. At least that bleeds. This isn’t red, isn’t liquid, there’s no colour or texture to any of this, just pounding, and I’m inside of myself and outside of myself all at once and I can hear somebody begging to be let out and I think it’s me, but it might be the demons, you know? And I can understand. Because being trapped here with me is a fucking nightmare, I understand that, I hate it too, but I don’t try to self-destruct every other day just to get my own way.

Unless the demons are me, in which case, I guess I do.

I can hear my sister’s children laughing and shrieking in the garden and I’m so happy they’re alive and that they’re not in pain but I also want them to just let me lay curled up in silence. Everything is so, so loud and I am flinching against the shuffle of my sheets as I shift my body from one side of the bed to the other, burying my face into the pillow until the nausea becomes too much and I have to lift my head again, the inside out bruising of my neck an extension of it all and I have googled this and Google says meningitis, and I don’t think I get meningitis every other day, but maybe.

See, you get kind of crazy with it.

You make all kinds of deals with any deity you can think of. You don’t even believe in anything except that time is cyclical and that this will happen again. But you still beg and hope and plead that this will stop and maybe this will be the last time it happens, maybe you won’t have to cancel plans and waste away in this fucking miasma of stale breath and old t-shirts.

So I say –

“My head hurts.”

And my mum says, “go lie down.”

And I do.

And after a while, it goes away. And for a little while I can bear to be in the light again.

But it comes back. The demons eat at me again and it hurts hurts hurts.

And then I must be quiet and still and dark.

And I don’t think people understand the cost of that. I am losing time. I am losing time. I am losing time.

Can’t get enough? Follow Charlotte Amelia Poe on Twitter @charlottepoe or Instagram @smallreprieves or on their website.

Or check out one of their books – available via links on their website. Charlotte Amelia Poe published How To Be Autistic in 2019, an honest memoir that shares a personal account of autism, mental illness, gender, and sexual identity.

A photo of the author's first book, a memoir. How To Be Autistic - Charlotte Amelia Poe. 
Writing from a place of being autistic and living with mental health challenges and addressing mental health through the arts. Addressing mental health for the arts.

This is a perspective we have to read. Thank you for sharing your story!

Guest Post

Social Media and Mental Health with Maggie Bowyer

In today’s world, social media seems to dominate every area of our lives. The Layered Onion asked Maggie Bowyer how they balance social media and mental health. Maggie has penned a Guest Blog below with some tips and tricks!

Photo of the artist. Maggie, a writer, talks social media and mental health. 

Maggie Bowyer writes poetry collections.

“I don’t understand!” I cursed into my phone.

Once again, the social media aspect of marketing has gotten the better of me. After a week of well-performing Reels on Instagram, I had another video completely flop. While this seems innocuous, research has found that social media can have true adverse outcomes on mental health, as if marketing a book wasn’t stressful enough on its own. Let’s take a closer look at how likes and view counts can have severe effects on our mental state and how we can take this into account when marketing our work.

Social Media Screen Time and Mental Health

Social media is relatively new in the grand scheme of things and is growing by the day. It seems that every year now, there is a new social media platform rising to the forefront of our screens. Most recently, TikTok has begun to overtake apps like Instagram and Youtube in popularity. With constantly shifting apps and algorithms, constant news updates, and sensationalization, not to mention filters and Facetune, are we protecting our mental health by constantly “doom-scrolling?”

One large study found that increased social media use leads to worse mental health outcomes; in fact, teens who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media may be at heightened risk for mental health problems, especially internalizing. Another study found a link between social media screen time and depression and suicide rates.

I see this as a young adult in the real world. The longer I spend on social media, the more I find myself comparing my work with my contemporaries. The comparison, and occasional jealousy, are not limited to my book sales or skills; I find myself comparing my looks, my relationships, my like counts, my brand deals, my apartment, and so much more. I find myself wanting to create more content, that is better than my previous work, and at a furious pace, which only leads to burnout.

I also have found that social media marketing has changed my poetry, which snapped me back to reality. I have always written very lengthy, narrative poetry, having gotten my real start in spoken word poetry. As I spent time marketing on social media apps, I found that quick clips performed much better. I started writing a lot of micro-poetry. While there is nothing wrong with micro-poetry or its rise in popularity, it did not feel authentic or complete; I began to feel like I was selling out my work in favor of social media clout.

The big question is how do we prioritize our mental health and our unique voice when social media has become such a large part of marketing our work and making a living?

I have several ways of keeping my head in check when creating content.

1. Set Time Limits

The first tip I have is to set time limits on apps. I find myself opening Instagram absentmindedly all the time; it is completely normal as these apps are designed to be addictive and to grab your attention from your home screen. By setting time limits, I can curb the amount of accidental time on the app.

2. Intentional Use

This leads to my second tip, which is intentional use. I use social media for three explicit things and knowing my purpose on the app helps me navigate the ever-shifting landscape of view counts and engagement ratios. I use social media to market my books, draw inspiration, and keep in touch with my friends. Determining that my goal on social media was to sell myself, and my books, and fulfill my brand contracts helped with how overwhelming social media was. How would I know what to post? Instead of panicking at the endless content ideas, I was able to focus on what I was selling that day.

In line with both intentional use and finding inspiration, I began to weed out whom I was following. Not a marketing coach finding trending audio I enjoy? Unfollow. I disagree with your opinions far more than I agree? Unfollow. A poet I haven’t found inspiring for a while, or aren’t pushing me to be better at my craft? Sorry, but that’s also an unfollow.

I am unfollowing people unjudiciously, and it feels nice. I am also blocking people more often than I ever thought possible and for far smaller infractions than before, and it is more freeing than I could have imagined. I am trying to keep my little corner of the internet as safe as possible for me and my followers.

3. Don’t Let Metrics and View Counts Rule You

I am trying to focus less on like counts or being frustrated by low view counts. This one is a lot harder than the other tips, and one I am still navigating. As a business major who loves marketing, I want all the data. I want to know what is and isn’t working for my audience. I want to know who my audience is. But I was beginning to get obsessed with numbers, checking my insights daily, sometimes even multiple times in one day.

Number obsession - it is easy to obsess over KPIs and metrics.

Now, I try to only check it weekly, though sometimes I check certain metrics every few days. I would often get frustrated by low view counts but high engagement rates, wondering why the post wasn’t performing better, and more often than not, I would begin to berate my looks, my apartment, and more. Now, I am trying to reframe my thoughts about those posts. Those posts connect me to my current audience and foster a deeper relationship with people who already follow me, maybe starting a new conversation or retaining more followers. Not every post we create is going to go viral, and that is okay, maybe even better than constant viral content. Try reframing your previously low days and find the positives in your community, content, and self. No one is perfect at this, especially not me, so be gentle with yourself as you begin to reframe thoughts.

4. Be Your You, Without Filters

This next tip might seem silly and simple, but I am surprised by how much it has helped my mental health. I have completely stopped using filters. I want to like my face, or at least be neutral enough about it to feel like I can post it. I don’t want to show the world a fake version of myself. I want to show younger kids on the app what real skin looks like, or at least skin with makeup on it. I want to show that we all have some asymmetry in our faces, and that is okay! I have found that I don’t typically miss filters and only use them in my friends’ group chat on occasion.

No filters, don't be afraid to share who you are. #nofilters

The last tip has quite possibly been the best thing I have done for myself and my mental health. I have created a smaller, private Instagram to keep up with my friends and message with them, which helps with the feeling of constantly performing for an audience or slipping into my “digital self.” I can share an unfiltered opinion, not beat myself up over typos, I can share pictures of my family without fear, and above all else, I don’t have any Insights. Even without the post numbers, I find I don’t even care about the like or view counts on that page. I can be myself, and people can take it or leave it. No brand deals are pending on my perfectly polished presentation. I don’t need to retain my followers to ensure my next book launch goes better than the last. I don’t feel pressured to let creepy people follow me because they could be another client. I don’t feel like I have to create content there; I can just be.

Boundaries are good! Don't be afraid to set them to protect yourself and your mental health.

I can still market my book when doing all of these things. In fact, I have found that I market myself even better with boundaries in place. I feel I can connect more enthusiastically and genuinely with my audience when I have taken the weekend off. I am more confident online and feel like I have true direction. There are endless ways we can take care of our mental health in the digital age. These are just a few tips that have helped me in combination. We are seeing the first generation raised on social media begin to come of age. We are also seeing a mental health crisis of epic proportions, some of which can be attributed to social media (though far from exclusively). Teaching each other how to care for our mental health is going to be vitally important. I hope this begins a conversation rather than feels like the end of a lecture and that you go into your digital spaces with intention today.

Want to hear more from Maggie? Check out their Instagram @maggie.writes or website to engage with Maggie!

Artwork Spotlight

Artwork Spotlight: Éloïse Armary’s Pink Goo

In the Artwork Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights a specific work by an artist in the community. Artists with lived mental and emotional health challenges show the power of art for mental health. These works range from short stories to visual art, music, poetry, and more! This is art that explores mental health. Today, Éloïse (Loulou) Armary (she/they) will share her upcoming poetry collection, Pink Goo.

Éloïse took the time to participate in a Q+A with The Layered Onion, but before we share the dialogue, here’s a little bit more about our artist:

An image of the artist, who uses art to explore mental health. Mental health through the arts.

Art and mental health work.

Éloïse “Loulou” Armary is a French poet who writes about mental health, neurodiversity, social and climate issues, memories, queerness, and the strangeness of daily life. She is the co-host of the podcast Poetry to your Ears. Loulou is based in Brighton, UK. Pink Goo is their first poetry collection.

Éloïse participated in a Q&A with The Layered Onion, expanding further on her work:

LouLou's book uses poetry to interact with her anxiety and depression. The book shows the power of Art and mental health. Describes mental health challenges and their toll.

Pink Goo is a collection of poems that explore what mental health is to Éloïse and the reality of living life in today’s world. 

It is about a spiral down to anxiety and depression and the following journey to find peace. After trying to shed light on social injustice, sexual harassment, and the climate collapse, the poet finds herself in the darkness and explores many corners within herself, rough and soft. In the deep furrows of her mind, Éloïse finds a white canvas on which she paints with colours to lift her spirit while allowing nuances of grey to tell the depth of reality.

These poems aid the reader who wants to scream but doesn’t find the words. They are a balm to spread on trauma wounds. They care for the soul after a storm.

You are releasing a poetry collection, Pink Goo. Congratulations! My first question – how did you come up with the name?

Thank you! The title poem is a metaphor for my anxiety. I wrote it during a challenge I set for myself to write 21 poems in 21 days in December 2021. I got stuck mid-way through the challenge and started exploring unusual images. I loved that poem, people I read it to loved that poem. The name stuck with me. I knew my poetry collection would be named Pink Goo before I knew what else would be in it.

Title poem of Pink Goo - art that explores mental health, anxiety, and depression. Poetry. Describes mental health challenges and their toll. Art and mental health/ art for mental health.

What topics do you explore in Pink Goo?

Pink Goo is everything mental health. It starts as anger against social injustice, eco-anxiety, and sexual trauma, then delves into chronic anxiety and depression. It’s a quest about my neurodivergent identity, an expression of moments of sensory overload, meltdowns, and anxiety attacks. It has a pamphlet about bipolar disorder, which is close to me. Mostly, it’s about how to find acceptance and where I dig up peace. 

What first led you to poetry?

I started writing poetry as an extended form of journalling in high school. Sometimes, my emotions were so strong writing them in prosaic words didn’t feel right. I started skipping words to express myself faster and playing with images to articulate my feelings in a way that sounded true. 

Where do you gather your inspiration from?

I am inspired by the intensity of my emotions, which is what I mainly write about. I draw into images of nature, colors, and senses to express how I feel. I recently started rooting myself in a community of poets and find endless inspiration from poets I know who I find so talented.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

I write about mental health, neurodiversity, and social and climate issues. I don’t really choose to write about these topics; I feel more like I have to in order to expel the intensity of my emotions. Lately, I am enjoying delving into topics of memories and queerness, exploring alternative realities, and writing based on senses rather than thoughts.

You also have a podcast, “Poetry to Your Ears” – what kind of topics do you cover? Where can folks go if they are interested in checking it out?

My co-host Tom and I interview contemporary poets and read out poems we find that tell of something new and meaningful. Our byline is ‘We celebrate poetry the way it is done today,’ because our podcast is not a poetry course that studies the theoretical structures of poetry. We don’t read the famous dead poets studied in school.

We found out that most poets we talked with didn’t like poetry before they [started] writing poetry. We want to know who writes poetry, what they write about, and what it can tell us about more significant subjects. When I say write, I also mean perform, since we feature many spoken word artists! We platform a diversity of poets from different backgrounds, especially marginalised ones. All the links to listen are here:

You are French, but you write in English. Why is that? 

The first poems I wrote were in French, but when I met with my partner, who is British, I started writing poems in English. I loved the distance between the words and my thoughts and the easy wordplay that wasn’t constrained by the rules and rigidity in French that I inherited from school.

English being my second language, I make some mistakes that turn out to be poetic, which I can use as the base of a poem. I write a little bit of bilingual poetry, but since I moved to Brighton, UK, I found it hard to share it with an English-speaking audience. I want to explore bilingual poetry more, though.

Mental health, social topics, and the climate crisis are deep concepts that take a lot out of all of us living in 2022. “Goo” is the perfect word to describe that feeling of being stuck, of fighting your way forward.

Éloïse is selling Pink Goo on The Layered Onion shop – be sure to check it out! You can catch up with Éloïse and their work on Instagram @eloisearmary.

Artwork Spotlight

Artwork Spotlight: Calvina Morgan’s Med Compliant

In the Artwork Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights a specific work by an artist in the community. These works could range from short stories to visual art to music and more!

Today, Calvina Morgan (she/her) will be sharing her piece Med Compliant. Calvina took the time to participate in a Q+A with The Layered Onion:

How would you describe yourself or want to introduce yourself to The Layered Onion community?

I start with the phrase “a lot bipolar-a little artsy” because that is how I identify myself, an artist who struggles with Bipolar 1 Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, GAD, and ADHD. I’m extremely med compliant though. I used to go on and off my medicine but I realize now, after several times of ruining my life, that medicine is key to my stability.

I’m an artist who tries to explore my fantasy world as well as my reality. Some of my art is cutesy and cartoons while other pieces are emotionally driven and speculative. I also write nonfiction and poetry as a way to cope with my feelings and complex inner life.

I currently live in East Nashville, TN, with my wife, 2 dogs, and 3 cats. It’s definitely a zoo here but my animals help keep me grounded.

Calvina Morgan, Med Compliant. Ink and paper, March 2022.

What inspired you for this piece?

This one was inspired by my struggle to be med compliant. Even though I am, it’s still a frustrating thing to have to take medication every day. Sometimes it feels like my mental illness can be a burden but I try to deal with it in a way that is healthy.

I like the use of color and the different types of pill split lines on the different pills. What made you decide to put which pill where?

The pills are from my own experiences with medications. I’ve tried the gamut of different medicines and currently take 6 different medications to be stable. One of the larger pills reads “Self Doubt” because that is something that is the forefront of my mind. I’m always doubting my abilities as an artist and writer. The rest of the pills are labeled with other negative thoughts and feelings that I experience on a daily basis, even with being med compliant.

Is there symbolism to the tongue being stuck out and reaching for the “bitter” pills? How did you decide the composition of the page?

I wanted the tongue to extend out as a symbol of my willingness to be med compliant. I’m determined to stay on my medications and wanted to convey this. As far as composition, I wanted it to be stark and monotone. I wanted the emphasis to be on the content and not the elements, though I feel both are important in creating art.

What mediums of artwork do you like to use? Is there anything unique that you’ve particularly enjoyed out of different tools you’ve tried?

I enjoy using a wide variety of mediums. My favorite is acrylic paint, but I also heavily use ink for the details. I also enjoy incorporating various mediums in one piece to give it a dynamic appearance. Probably the most unique medium I’ve used is tattooing. It is very different drawing something versus tattooing something.

Do you have any favorite tattoos you’ve designed?

Probably my favorite tattoo I’ve done is my Wanderlust tattoo on my left hand. It’s a simple line design of a camper, trees, and the moon but the significance of it is heavy. I’m constantly feeling the urge to uproot and move so this one is to remind me that no matter where I’m at, I need to find happiness in that.

You also mention that you dabble in writing. What kind of things do you like to write? What do you find most rewarding about it?

I write poetry and nonfiction mainly. Sometimes I will also write lyrics, though I’m not musically inclined. The most rewarding thing about writing is the expression of my feelings and the ability of writing to help me process those feelings. My mental illness makes me very aware of emotions and feelings, and I feel these things to extremes. I’m particularly sensitive to others’ feelings, which have a way of affecting my own emotions.

Thanks, Calvina, for sharing this bold piece! You can check out more of Calvina’s work at the following sites:

Art is available for perusal at and if you would like to see more from Calvina.