Meet DC-area cast member Maiyu Fernandez

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

The question of where I am from is a hard one to answer. I moved around a lot growing up. I lived in many different states as well as in Brazil. I would consider myself a Californian since that is where I have spent much time and a place I visit almost every summer! I have lived in DC the last 2 years and work as a licensed nutritionist at a local community clinic. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my friends and boyfriend, exercising, trying different restaurants and taking long walks around the city especially when the sun in shining. 

How has mental illness affected your life?

Mental Illness really turned my life upside down. I have been suffering with depression since I was 14 and was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 21.  At 21, with the new diagnosis I had to begin taking various medicines, sleeping “regular” hours and in general keeping my levels of stress at a reasonable level. 

This was all difficult since I was in my last year of university and in the middle of a 5-year Master’s in Public Health program. Although it turned my life upside down it also taught me the importance of self-care and to always advocate for myself. It also reaffirmed one of my passions in life, which was to always be able to help others who may not be able to help themselves and helping others understand that you yourself are your own best advocate.

Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?

Once I found out about This Is My Brave I knew that I had to be part of the movement to end the stigma of mental illness that unfortunately is so prevalent all around the globe. I have been hiding my diagnosis from employers, co-workers and even friends for all these years. I have felt ashamed and am now learning to accept my diagnosis and to love my whole self.  I hope that This Is My Brave will continue to grow and help people to come out of hiding and not feel the same shame that I have felt over the last years. 

What inspires you to get or stay mentally healthy?

My amazing family, my career, my caring boyfriend and loyal close friends. I am also inspired to stay mentally healthy so that I may potentially be an example for those suffering with mental illness to know that it is ok to seek help. I know that once I did a whole new world was left in front of me filled with opportunities, healthy relationships and hope. 

What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?

I hope that the show leaves people leaving with a different view on people with mental illness. We are human. We are just wired a little differently. I hope that people who suffer with mental illness leave feeling less afraid to speak about their illness and that they are more likely to seek help if needed. I also hope that This Is My Brave becomes such a strong movement that eventually we can erase the ever-prevalent stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Tickets are on sale now! Grab yours for our show in Arlington on Sunday, May 15th @ 4pm to hear Maiyu's story and thirteen other brave storytellers as we bring mental illness into the spotlight to end stigma.