“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Camden native Maya Fire AKA Wax on Water takes influence from acts including Marilyn Manson, David Bowie and Kate Bush. The multi-instrumentalist’s latest album ‘Procession’ explores grief and loss through an electro-industrial rock lens. We chatted to Maya about overcoming depression.
What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?
Well I’m most definitely watching the Football at the moment – I love the World Cup and with the added bonus that England is actually performing well (I hope they’re still in by the time you’re reading this…) it’s making it compelling viewing. Usually I binge watch boxsets or Horror movies otherwise. I listen to a great range of different music – for indie pop I like Christine & The Queens at the moment, I think her lyrics and delivery is unique and interesting. I’ve found so little new rock music recently, so I’m delving into a lot of early German Electronica/Industrial music (Can/Kraftwerk etc) and classic songwriting as I’m just about to start writing my second album and I’m thinking about song structure. For reading, I’ve just started Madeline Albright’s book ‘Facism’ – about seeing the signs in society when facism is on the rise. In light of what is going on across the globe politically, it feels particularly poignant…
What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?
Coping with severe depression is the hardest thing I’ve overcome. I went through a period of about two years where everyday was like wading through a thick soup of emptiness and apathy – which is the complete opposite of my normal character, as I’m actually pretty optimistic and totally driven to try new things. I think that’s what shocked me about my depression, it was changing who I was as a person. I didn’t go on anti-depressants at that time (recently I have) but did use St Johns Wort and exercised for a few hours every day and that definitely helped. I also developed a ‘game’ whereby every morning (when the depression was at it’s worst) I would make myself name five things around me, while walking, that were beautiful or interesting. That way I could coax myself into seeing that there are things worthwhile in the world, despite the fact that I felt like I didn’t want to go on most days. Meditating was also really crucial and writing my first album was key to my recovering – channelling those negative thoughts into writing was cathartic. I knew I wanted to write something that represented the ugly depressive thoughts but then turn them into something beautiful or memorable. That’s why I describe the ‘Procession’ album as ‘the sound of a soul crawling out of a tar pit’.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My brain, which is somewhat contradictory as it’s also my brain that can make me the most miserable and wretched! When I’m flowing with creativity, I love my brain and the things it comes up with – it makes the world an amazing place for me – but for every up there has to be a down…and when it’s down, it’s really down. Ultimately, having suffered from depression on and off throughout my life I very much think of a good day in the same way that the Greek philosopher Epicurus defined the word pleasure. He said ‘true pleasure is the absence of pain’. Freedom from pain (mental or otherwise) is the thing I am always most grateful for.
What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
An icing on the cake day would be one where I would be out and about and laughing with friends for part of the day and then being creative through music or writing later on. Also I love to travel and see new cultures – it expands the sense of self and is inspiring.
Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”
Retaining my sense of humour. When I can’t laugh at things and suddenly everything is upsetting to me – that’s when I know that I’m heading to the dark side…recognising that is important because if I can see that in myself, then I can put in place my coping techniques and support system before things go too far.
What do you eat to stay healthy?
I’m very focused on eating oily fish (sushi is a weakness), as I know this makes a difference to your brain (as well as your skin and joints). I love vegetables but really hate fruit, so I eat a lot of vegetables and try not to eat too many carbs. At the depths of one of my depression episodes, I had read that eating a small potato before bed helps (something to do with the tryptophan release over the blood brain barrier I think?) – it did help actually. I only have coffee once in a blue moon as it makes me anxious and I’m also very aware of ‘sugar feelings’ – heightened feelings of upset after eating too much sugar, so I don’t eat that much sugar…but I don’t think there is anything wrong with some chocolate now and then!
Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?
Oh god, it’s my downfall, I just hate exercising – there’s nothing I like about it and I need to change that attitude because sitting and working in a studio and staring at a computer screen all day is not good for the health! I like walking – that’s exercise isn’t it? Exercise definitely makes a difference when you’re depressed, so I tend to exercise more when I’m in a bad way mentally.
Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?
I used to be the ring leader that made up the games for me and my friends to play. Most of them were based on films that I’d seen – I used to love the Carry On movies that my grandma had shown to me, classic British sense of humour and just so silly and brilliant. My favourite was the horror one with Oddbod. I adapted that into a good game where I became the gothic queen. I guess nothing really changes.
What three songs lift your spirits?
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Witchita Lineman – Glen Campbell
I’ve Got the World on a String – Frank Sinatra
What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?
I guess the classic Winston Churchill quote ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’ seems to be the appropriate and inspiring.
What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
Focus on your breathing – meditate as much as you can, it does help. And take every day as it comes and if that’s too much, live moment by moment and know that it will pass.
Operating from the White Hotel, Salford’s underground haven for provocaRead More