A few months ago, an account named Knotted Altogether followed me on Instagram. I brushed it off as another bot, one of the many branded accounts that follow (and eventually unfollow) me.
But as the months went by, Knotted Altogether started to feel like a real person. She would “like” my photos randomly, so I decided to check out her profile. It’s an online shop that sells accessories. As I looked further, I noticed that the brand supports my biggest advocacy—mental health. Soon she sent me her first message. She said she’s been following my work as a mental health advocate in the Philippines, and wanted to send me a bracelet from her shop.
I said yes, of course. When my package arrived, I began sporting the muted gold bracelet with two circular charms dangling from the wire strap—one engraved with a tree of life; the other with the word “hope” in the front, and a semicolon at the back.
For the mental health community, the semicolon (;) is a symbol of hope. The movement was started by non-profit group, Semicolon Project. The symbol means that your story isn’t over yet, just like a semicolon placed at the end of a clause instead of a period ending a sentence.
The Knot That Connects Us
I wanted to know more about Knotted Altogether. I browsed the official website and saw different charms engraved with empowering words and phrases like “warrior” and “Be still.” Unlike other mental health merchandize I would often come across, this one felt different. It wasn’t just about printing the logo of a mental health group on a t-shirt or a generic souvenir that aims to collect funds for the charitable group (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This one has more depth.
As I exchanged online messages with Knotted Altogether, I slowly got to know the person behind it. For now, I’ll refer to her as Angel.
Angel grew up with an unstable childhood that led to anxiety disorder and eventually, depressive disorder. She comes from a traditional family, so it was hard for loved ones to accept her diagnosis. She kept her depression and anxiety a secret from everyone except for her mom and sister.
Throughout her struggles with depression, she turned to faith and making accessories with empowering messages not just for herself, but for her friends. “I feel happy when I give a friend one of my creations and I see them lift up,” Angel told me. “I began to feel happy again. The moment I zoomed out of my own melancholy and allowed myself to contribute to the happiness of others, I felt that I am still alive, that I am useful. I have a purpose.”
As of November 2016, she started selling her products online, with mental health advocacy as the driving force. “My goal was not to sell products, but to let people know that its okay to open up [about depression],” she said. Angel has asked to keep her identity anonymous for now. Like me, she is a survivor of depression, so I understand how things can get overwhelming and triggering. “For now, I just want people to know that there are people like me who were (or still is) suffering, but can turn the pain into plans for good.”
Kapatid, Kasama, Katulad
The name Knotted Altogether came from the Filipino prefix ka, like kapatid (brother), kasama (companion), katulad (similar), and karamay (accomplice). “Ka is a wonder prefix, and it perfectly binds us in one way or another,” Angel said. “We know we are knotted altogether.”
One thing that Angel learned through her struggles is that suffering from any mental health illness alone feels alienating. “I want to make others feel that even if society does not suffer the same way, they can support and love you no matter what, because we are all connected together. Your mental health issue is not your sole identifier. You are also someone else. You are a kapatid, kasama, katulad, etc.”
How KA Works
The bracelets range from ₱100-300. The designs reflect Angel’s religious beliefs (like “Daughter of the King”) and mental health mantras (like “Knot of Hope”). For every item you purchase online, Angel will donate one Knotted Altogether bracelet to her chosen mental health group of the month.
This month, the recipient is CEFAM (Center For Family Ministries). The bracelets will be given anonymously to CEFAM’s clients, like those seeking counseling and spiritual guidance.
The bracelets for sale aren’t just for those with mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder. It’s for anyone struggling with hopelessness and emotional pain. It’s for those who need a daily reminder that there’s a rainbow after the rain, or calm after the storm. You may buy a bracelet for yourself or give it as a gift to a friend or loved one.
My Heart On My Wrist
As I struggled with major depressive disorder (MDD) in the last five years, a number of friends have suggested that I get a tattoo, like the semicolon tatt that’s been spreading in the global mental health community.
Thing is, I’m really not a tattoo person. I never felt the urge to get inked. I use the arts as my outlet, while I express my struggles through my writings and non-profit service (like being a mental health advocate).
But I do wear my heart on my sleeve—or rather, my wrist. Through the years, I’ve collected bracelets and other accessories with words like “hope” and trinkets that symbolize the tragedy and struggles I overcame. Most were gifts from loved ones.
I now proudly wear my Knotted Altogether bracelet as a reminder of my survival story—of suicide loss and depression, and just like Angel, how I channeled my pain into something good. Just like a semicolon at the end of a clause, our stories aren’t over yet.