Recently, videos of teen star Maia Campbell have surfaced of her in a drug induced state. In one, Maia is seen begging for drugs and acting outlandishly. In another she is seen declining help from LL Cool J, her former co-star of “In The House.”
It’s been no secret that Maia has suffered from substance abuse and bipolar disorder. In 2012, Maia talked about her issues on Iyanla’s Fix My Life, and it is apparent then that although she was working to improve her situation, she was struggling. It was difficult for me to watch. There was nothing there.
There was no life in her eyes. She reiterated whatever Iyanla said as if she were being programmed. She seemed empty. She was not the Maia from TV, or the one at the gas station.
I tried to turn it off but as I watched, something kept pulling me to her. Something about the lifelessness of her speech and demeanor seemed way too familiar. She reminded me of me.
I’ve come a long way, but there was a time where I would look in the mirror and see exactly what I saw in Maia: nothing. I would stare at myself, searching for an ounce of what made me who I am, and it felt as if the more I stared the less I saw. It was terrifying for me, and I can’t help but think about how Maia felt and how hard she tried to ignore it.
There’s something about putting on airs for those around us. We want so badly to please others — we want people to see us at our best all of the time because being anything less leaves room for speculation. So we fake it.
At one point I was the queen of faking it. I could command the room, make people laugh, steal the show, listen to others and give advice worthy of my own TV show — then I would go home, empty, drained, and feeling so alone that I could not even find the tears to cry.
I’ve gotten out of that dark place, but it is evident from the latest happenings that Maia has not. And these past two weeks have forced me to question whether she and I are really any different.
The answer is no.
It may not look like it on the surface, but deep down I see so much of me in Maia that it hurts in a way you can’t imagine. Maia has a lot to live up to; she’s a former star, mother, daughter to a well-known woman, and other things. Although the actual issues are different, the feelings that they create are one in the same.
I know what it feels like to try to live up to the expectations of family members. I know what it feels like to want to do what’s best for everybody but feel so heavy that getting out of bed is difficult. I know what it’s like to let myself down. I know what it’s like to deal with a pain that is unnamable and unescapable.
I know what it feels like to be a black woman with a mental illness.
I got out — well, I’m making my way out. Maia was too, and maybe she still is, and I pray that this is the case for her and those that love her. But, seeing her reminded me of where I could have been had I not accepted help and accepted myself. Seeing her showed me a side of myself that I work daily to grow from. Seeing her reminded me of why I have to fight, and help others when they can’t help themselves.
Dear Maia, you got the weight of the world on your shoulders. Let us help you carry it.