I almost started off this post with "hello my lovely friends" only to remind myself that this is Blog Maya speaking, not Podcast Host Maya. Oops.
I originally created this website (and this blog) as a supplement to my podcast. I envisioned churning out at least three posts a month, each filled with research-backed insight, pithy anecdotes, sharp wit.
And then came the two-month writer's block. And then The Hiatus, where I spent my days alternating between rage-posting about rape culture and lying in bed staring at the ceiling in a near-catatonic dissociative state. Yes, a very lovely vacation, thanks for asking.
Sarcasm aside, I am doing a lot better now. While writer's block and existential dread and PTSD still have me by the balls (metaphorically), I can say I've regained most of my mental stability.
And as the cycle goes, I'm slowly forgetting how bad the bad can get. How depressing depression can get.
Does anyone else get this? Like, when you're feeling down or miserable or ill, you think to yourself: "God, this suffering is unreal. I could never forget it, even if I tried."
And then when you're in a better state, it's like you gradually lose the ability to recall the lurid details: what it feels like to cry every night (read: wail like a banshee), what it feels like to have a stuffy nose, what it feels like to have your heart shattered by an ex's old letter.
Maybe it's us protecting ourselves. Maybe a return to "normalcy" isn't something worth memorializing. Like, why should I celebrate and appreciate having uncongested nostrils, that's how it's supposed to be?
But along the way, we risk losing our empathy for those who suffer similar fates.
I know I have. As much as I try my best to dig deep into my scarred past to help others feel less alone... I also don't want to. I don't want to relive the most terrifying parts of my life. It's safer to view them from a distance, with a wall of platitudes, cliches and "it gets better"s safely wedged between me and my trauma.
Sometimes, it makes me feel selfish. Like the phoniest mental health advocate/empath who ever advocated/empathized.
But sometimes, I also think that if I were to recall and share those buried details, I might just shatter into a million pieces. And then what use would I be to anyone?
So here I am, walking the tightrope of wanting to destigmatize the darkest, ugliest bits of mental illness, yet also preserving my sanity and lightness and optimism.
To be honest, I don't think I'm doing a great job.
Ok, full confession: I listen to my own podcast episodes (as much as it pains me to do so). I make mental notes of where I should've elaborated, where I should've been more sensitive, what parts might come off as "x,y,z" to certain people.
I dissect my own words over and over again until they fall apart—until I fall apart. Then I start all over again.
(Wow, I wonder why I burned out and needed a total break from podcasting? Hmmm.)
Take the most recent episode for example. All throughout, I tried to maintain a positive tone, going on and on about the wonders of self-care. I hit "post," feeling okay about what I've shared.
Then the first thing I see when I open my Facebook is a post shared by one of my mental health groups, criticizing the overly optimistic self-care advice like "journal" and "meditate more."
The post asks, "What about people who aren't high-functioning, who can barely get out of bed or even shower?"
I felt an instant twinge of guilt in my stomach, realizing that despite having hit that kind of "rock bottom" multiple times, the practical advice I gave didn't fully reflect the reality of those with mental illnesses.
And as a high-functioning mentally ill person, perhaps I was oversimplifying things in my episodes, not being fully empathetic to those who suffer deeply, every single day.
Who is my podcast for? Whose voices am I leaving out? I preach about "embracing imperfections," yet I'm always so hard on myself if I'm any less than perfect (which is really, ALL THE TIME).
I honestly don't know where I'm going with this. Questions lead to more questions. It's never-ending.
People tell me I'm too hard on myself, and while that may be true, I also know deep down it's because I know I can do better. And I want to do better.
Thank you for following me in my journey to figure out what kind of mental health advocate I want to be. I am still learning, but I'll do better.