May 03, 2023

Hope Starts With Us: Episode 20

In this episode of NAMI’s podcast, NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. speaks with NAMI Ambassador Mayan Lopez about NAMI’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Month, “More Than Enough,” and how she is using her new show “Lopez vs. Lopez” to combat stigma and have important conversations about mental health in Latinx communities and across generations. Tune in to hear important insights and anecdotes from Mayan’s own journey with mental health, combatting imposter syndrome and learning to embrace the truth that she is more than enough just as she is.

We hope this podcast encourages you, inspires you, helps you and brings you further into the collective to know: you are not alone.  

Episodes will air every other Wednesday and will be available on most major directories and apps.





Featured Guest:


Mayan Lopez

Mayan Lopez is the co-creator, writer, producer, and star of the NBC comedy series Lopez vs. Lopez, alongside George Lopez. Lopez made her television debut on none other than the “George Lopez” show in Season 6, titled "George Rocks to the Max and Gets Diss-Band-ed.” Mayan played a classmate of George's fictional son, Max Lopez.

Lopez received extensive training at the Conservatory Program at Second City as well as the Columbia College Comedy Writing and Performance Program, in Chicago. She honed her improv skills while performing with various improv troupes late at night at Second City after the Main Stage shows and did voiceover work for the local Chicago and regional Midwest market.

Just as the pandemic struck, Lopez left Chicago and returned to Los Angeles. Unable to attend auditions and in quarantine, she began to use Tik Tok as a creative outlet. She shared personal stories that were relatable to a mass audience and from which “Lopez vs. Lopez” was conceptualized.

Her additional credits include “Handsome: A Netflix Murder Mystery,” “Other People,” “Jersey,” “Mr. Troop Mom” and “George Lopez.”

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Episode Transcript:

[0:00] [background music]

Mayan Lopez: [0:02] If you are still breathing, you have survived 100 percent of the darkest moments in your life. You've gotten through. You are still here. You've survived those. If you think about that, every moment that you thought that you were going to break, you didn't. Know that you are worthy. Just by existing, you are a gift to the world.

Daniel H. Gillison Jr.: [0:23] Welcome to "Hope Starts With Us," a podcast by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I'm your host, Dan Gillison, the CEO of NAMI. We started this podcast because we believe that hope starts with us.

[0:40] Hope starts with us talking about mental health. Hope starts with us making information accessible. Hope starts with us providing resources and practical advice. Hope starts with us sharing our stories. Hope starts with us breaking the stigma.

[0:57] If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition and have been looking for hope, we made this podcast for you. Hope starts with all of us. Hope is a collective. We hope that each episode with each conversation brings you into that collective to know you are not alone.

[1:15] In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, today we're joined by Mayan Lopez, who is the co‑creator, writer, producer, and star of the NBC comedy series "Lopez vs Lopez." NAMI's theme for this month is "More Than Enough." I want to repeat that. Our theme for this month is "More Than Enough."

[1:36] In the aftermath of an incredibly stressful few years where we all experienced the collective trauma of a global pandemic, isolation, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, people have begun opening up about mental health like never before.

[1:52] We have all seen the stats, with the World Health Organization reporting a 25 percent increase in depression and anxiety in the wake of COVID‑19 and a report from the CDC released earlier this year that showed teenagers are experiencing record levels of sadness.

[2:08] We know that not all communities have been affected the same, with some of the most historically underserved populations feeling the impacts the most. Yet many feel the pressure to just move on, to keep performing at 100 percent, to excel at work, at school, at home.

[2:25] In a time of digital media, where there is an expectation to be always on, and social media, where endless amounts of competition and comparisons abound, it can be really difficult to keep up. That's why we created this Mental Health Awareness Month's campaign, More than Enough. We want to remind people of the inherent value they hold just by existing.

[2:51] No matter where you are on your journey, no matter where you are or aren't able to produce, if all you did was wake up today, you are still more than enough. You are still worthy and deserving of more than enough life healing and happiness.

[3:08] Mayan, we're so very excited to have you here to talk with us about this theme of More Than Enough today because, in many ways, you touch on this theme in your show, "Lopez versus Lopez." What comes to mind specifically is episode 14, "Lopez versus Work", where your parents in the show sing a song. "If you're sad, and you know it, get a job." Can you tell us about this?

Mayan: [3:34] Yes. No matter what…Lopez versus Lopez is a show about a Latin family, but I truly feel like no matter what color you are, it doesn't matter. Family is always family. With Latinos many older, I say older and with all the love of just different generations.

[3:54] Let's say another generation of working‑class Latinos have had to work multiple jobs in order to survive, or people get jealous of other people's success. With Lopez versus Work, it was a very unique experience to no matter what color you are, family is family. One of the themes is working.

[4:15] Sometimes that is the only thing they've had to do and it is specific to the Latino community, the working class Latino community, that you have to just always work and work to survive with your family, and you don't allow yourself to have your own pleasures or that you are enough or that you're worthy of things. There's no joy. It's just work.

[4:39] Especially since the pandemic, that has been a very big cultural shift of people working from home meant being able to categorize what has been important. People have realized that family is more important. "God, I don't have to be so stressed."

[4:58] This is the only life that you get to live, and if you live it for other people, you're not…you have to live it for yourself. That has been something that has been rediscovered and being reintroduced into our society now.

Dan: [5:13] It's such a great point. As you spoke about it, it is about quality versus quantity, and it's about family. I do remember growing up in a time where my dad was at home, he'd lived in the house with us, but we never had dinner with him and he was never there during the week.

[5:32] We only saw him on the weekends because he was a bookbinder by day and he drove a cab at night to put my brother and I through school. He was out before we woke up and he came in after we were in bed.

[5:44] That orientation has carried on in terms of breaking bread together and working hard versus quality of life. I understand exactly what you said and what's important to our community now and younger generations are exploring and understanding. Thank you.

[6:04] Mayan, as I mentioned, our theme for this month, More Than Enough, it is about affirming the inherent value every person holds, no matter where they've come from or where they're at in their journeys. I noticed that in the first episode of the show and on promotional materials, you wear a shirt that says, "Phenomenally Latina." I just love it.

[6:29] Can you speak more to why getting this message of being more than enough is particularly important for communities of color, and why things like reminding communities of color how phenomenal they are and creating more representation in the media and entertainment are really important?

Mayan: [6:46] It's already making me emotional. I remember so clearly that photo shoot for the promos of wearing a shirt that was Phenomenally Latina. I remember it so clearly because I just kept thinking so many people are going to see this. I had seen representation with Latinos, it's gotten better in the last 20 years, but still there is a lot to be desired.

[7:13] I didn't think that it was possible. Until you see yourself on screen, in a job, or whatever layer or level of work that you want to do, just seeing someone there allows you to see, "Oh, I can do it, too." Someone's there. It doesn't feel like you're going into a void.

[7:32] I remember so clearly being, hopefully, hoping that I could be a representation of the community. I'm so glad that I'm able to, say, have a love letter and certain things that are specific to the community. Especially with Latinas or Latinos, we're too loud, our voices. Those are the things that, culturally, are some of our superpowers.

[7:57] People are, "You're so confident," or this. It's been a journey. I've had to give myself a lot of grace. There have been times in my life that I have made my world so small that the only person that I could attack was myself. It created a really unhealthy version of myself for a while and then with things with my family, but now we're able to rediscover on television.

[8:20] Even filming the series sometimes was really hard on my mental health because I had to relive things that I had really gone through and haven't thought about in a long time.

[8:31] I knew that I wanted to hopefully have someone watch it and see themselves or be able to look to the person next to them, their family member or someone, or feel inspired in some way to reach out and try to mend fences or see something in themselves or feel represented and to try to light that fire that we all have within ourselves that can be dimmed no matter where you are.

[8:58] There's no judgment. Just always give yourself the greatest amount of grace for where you are.

Dan: [9:04] I love that. No judgment, giving yourself the greatest level of grace. You've shared with us a little bit of the trauma from the standpoint of this show and minimizing yourself and minimizing your world to fit in. What I would say is that thank you for your leadership.

[9:26] Leadership doesn't have to come from us older, more mature people. Leadership has to come from our young people taking the stage. You said something very profound. I've captured it and you've heard this before, but it's real. If you can see it, you can be it. That's so cool what you're doing because if other Latinas can see it in your representation, they can be it.

[9:55] Again, thank you. Your show, Lopez vs Lopez, really addresses mental health from both a cultural and generational perspective. It's really important for our fight against mental health stigma. In the show, your character is open about having anxiety and taking medication.

[10:14] Can you speak more and would you speak more to us about that and why you chose to include it in the show?

Mayan: [10:23] I've been in cognitive behavioral therapy really since I was 11 years old. I've been in therapy for 15, 16 years. I am a big believer in medication.

[10:37] There's such a stigma with medication because, I believe, especially with mental health, one, that you'll get addicted to it and that'll never leave your system because people are always afraid of what they don't understand or that it's a weakness that I have to be on medication.

[10:54] I know I believe that sometimes there have been moments some people are not always med‑compliant because I want to feel normal or there's something wrong with me, with my brain, and that allows judgment and self‑judgment when, really, that's OK and that's how you work.

[11:13] I've seen so many people in my life not get medication or be afraid because it'll go on their parents' insurance, they don't want their parents to find out, they don't want people, but they are suffering. I've realized that you can't live your life for other people, because you are the person that you live with and you have to be your own self‑parent.

[11:39] With medication and anxiety, people will not think it's real, but it's real. If it's real to you, that is valid. Your experience is valid and you deserve to be heard. You deserve to get all the help in the world. There will always be people, if you keep searching and searching, you will find someone that will help you.

[12:05] It's one of the bravest things that someone can do, is to be in therapy and to look into themselves and to see not always the healthiest things or to really look at yourself in the mirror internally. I have a great respect and I want more people, and I have with that episode more people.

[12:24] Even during that week, my therapist passed away from colon cancer when we were filming that episode that week. It was very poignant because I realized the power of one person. If I didn't meet her, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing and helping people and even taking a medication on TV. That visual was so important for me to see that it was normal.

[12:58] Her and my mom, the pillars of strength that I've been so lucky to have in my life, and my family, or if you don't have family, the chosen family of people that you create. The Latino community, sometimes especially, is with weakness and that doesn't exist.

[13:21] It's something that even my father and I have had conversations with because he turned his darkness into something light. I, in my own way, have done that as well. You don't have to be alone. You don't have to carry it alone.

Dan: [13:37] Mayan, first of all, our condolences on the passing of your therapist. Thank you for the legacy that you're continuing for your therapist in your work and in your leadership. You mentioned several things. Before I get to the next question, one of the bravest things you can do is be in therapy.

[13:59] You also talked about cognitive behavioral therapy, and you've been doing that since the age of 11 you mentioned. That's a rewiring of the thought processes and moving the negative and rewiring so you think about the positives before those negatives take over. There's so much inside of what you talked about.

[14:17] You talked about community. You also talked about trust. The other thing is there's strength in vulnerability and young people that are on their parents' insurance and that fear of their parents finding out. There's so much we need to do to address stigma and to say, "Mom, Dad…"

Mayan: [14:37] The shame. You don't need to feel the shame.

Dan: [14:40] Shame, yes.

Mayan: [14:41] Shame is still something that I deal with, but it kills the soul shame. It does.

Dan: [14:52] It really does. We need to really address that. We have a program with young people that we do call Ending the Silence. We do that in high schools. We're looking to even go to middle schools.

[15:06] If you think about the title, Ending the Silence, and it's led by a peer, one of their own. The point is, is that ending the silence, you could change that to ending the shame. There's so much we have to do here. Thank you for that word, because that's what it is in so many communities.

[15:24] We need to really step up because from the neck down, if you are on your parents' insurance and you needed to go see an orthopedic surgeon, or if there's something else going on, the parents would say, "Oh, well, OK, I'm glad," but it's from the neck up that we're challenged with and we need to address it in so many ways. This is…

[15:42] [crosstalk]

Mayan: [15:42] Mental health is health, and people do not realize that it is health. It connects to the physical. I've had traumatic experiences where my body still remembers what has happened. Sometimes you were so anxious, you can physically make yourself sick.

[16:04] To think that the mind is what controls everything, and people sometimes forget that. I can't even speak right now without my mind, and that's mental. Wouldn't I want to take care of that? Some people are like, "Oh, well, wouldn't you put it that way?"

Dan: [16:25] You're so right. The mind and the brain is an organ, just like our other organs. We think about our heart. We think about our lungs. We think about our kidneys. We need to be thinking about our mind and our brain. It is an organ. We really need to address that. Thank you. This is a wonderful conversation.

[16:45] My next question is really about you and your dad and having been pretty open about talking about how you have all gone to family therapy, and your dad has spoken about trauma therapy. To me, this is incredibly commendable and another way that you all are really combating mental health stigma, shame, and especially in the Latinx communities.

[17:06] Can you tell us about that experience? What made you all decide to go to therapy? What was it like to go to therapy with your dad?

Mayan: [17:16] My parents got divorced at 15, which is a very hard age for anyone. My situation was unique. Divorce, it's a death. A death of the life that you would have liked to live, a death of your family as you know it. In my situation, it was public to everyone.

[17:41] Even I remember going into high school and those quintessential scenes of you walk down the hall and everyone turns and looks at you. I lived that, which even I walked by my high school once and I still got chills at my arm because my body remembered what it was like to be in that moment.

[17:59] I have had moments of darkness. I have had moments where I've been very suicidal. I have had years of my life that I don't actually don't even remember, because the brain protects itself. My brain has done a very good job of doing that, which is why I've gone to therapy.

[18:18] I realized that I used to start saying the same stories over and over again, because I couldn't remember. I truly couldn't remember. That was just what my brain kept reminding me. I was, I can't keep telling these same stories. I want to do something about this.

[18:36] With my parents, I'm an only child. I was in between the both of them. We were all trying to be able to figure out how to navigate. There really is no divorce when there's a child. My parents are going to be sharing grandchildren some day. We have to figure out…I call it our nuclear family. We were our own version of what family is now.

[19:05] With trauma therapy, the first time I had trauma therapy, I did EMDR therapy. The first time that I did it I almost passed out, because it's intense. How it does it, if people don't know, you pick a memory and you keep revisiting it. You explore until what you feel about it is zero, and then you can go on.

[19:28] I even realized through that, that I always had trust issues with my dad. I thought it was because of the divorce. After one of my therapy sessions I remembered that when I was maybe three or four years old…I found my dad very intimidating.

[19:43] My dad didn't have a father. His mother left him when he was 10. His father, he never knew him. He's gotten better, I will say that. He knows this. Nothing I will say is not anything I told him or wouldn't be telling him.

[20:02] He didn't know how to be a father. Sometimes my mom had to tell my dad to hug me. He would push me off. It created things. I remember when I was about three or four years old I wanted to get my shoes tied.

[20:13] My mom was busy. My dad was doing nothing. I waited until my mom was available. I could have had my shoes tied, but I just sat there, because I was afraid to go up to him. I only thought that it was from when I was 15, but I realized that has always kind of been there from that sort of things. That was a revelation for me that helped and made me relook at things differently.

[20:42] I think to be able, I'm grateful that I was able to do family therapy with both of my parents because I know not people are so lucky. I mean, some of them my brain I would like it to forget. I'll give it the OK on that one. You can let that one aside. Let's just give a highlight reel in my head. That'd be great. I think that is what's really important.

[21:05] I think it wanes my relationship with my parents and with each other, but the big thing is that we've always chipped away and that we've always put in the work slowly. It's not instantaneous. It can take years, and still, even when it's always ongoing. It's a relationship just like you try to figure out yourself in the relationship with yourself and who you are where it's life‑long.

Dan: [21:36] It is life‑long, Mayan. You've shared your experiences with your dad and we appreciate your authenticity and you being so open. I'm going to share, as a dad, I mentioned how I grew up. You said something earlier as we talked about reflecting and looking in the mirror.

[21:55] I did that because I mentioned to you I grew up where my dad, he worked. We never knew what a vacation was growing up. My first vacation was when I was a grown adult and I was working and someone had to kind of help me understand what that was. More important than that, I repeated what I…my orientation, I repeated it.

[22:14] What I mean by that is that with my dad never being at home for dinner. I never thought being at home with the family for dinner was important. What I thought was important was working. I have reflected in my later years, why did we never sit down and break bread? There's guilt.

[22:34] I'm going through the therapy with you from the standpoint of the guilt you carry from those things you missed as a parent and your orientation feeds into that. Your dad's orientation, my orientation. That was something we never did for the children. I was always working.

Mayan: [22:54] What's so special is what you do, Dan and what my father as well, especially with men, I commend you because really it takes…not a lot of men will look at themselves and be able to look at them honestly and look at it and see what's important in their orientations.

[23:13] I remember so clearly my dad telling me, I told him how it was affecting me, a version of himself. Something just as simple as, "If I would have known that would have affected you that way, I would never have done it."

[23:26] Something just as simple as that with, "Why didn't we do those things?" or, even my dad having conversation, "Oh, isn't it so great?" Same thing with me. With my dad working, we used to eat in separate rooms. We never really had family dinners. Once we had family dinners, it was like, "Oh."

[23:44] You can't focus on what is in the past, but you can focus on it now. I hope you continued success with that in your family because in the moment, there can be time and there doesn't have to be a lot of them when the ones that you have mean the most.

Dan: [24:01] That's exactly right. I hope for all of our listeners and viewers that they hear what you and I have just shared because reflect, look in that mirror, look at your environment, and change can happen. Growth can happen. You can do things to help navigate the mental aspects of it. This is a wonderful conversation. I want to, again, thank you. I'm working through it.

[24:26] This is very good. I want to talk about healing. These conversations about healing are so important, especially for people who look like us in communities of color where healing hasn't always been a priority because there has been so much focus on surviving.

[24:41] I can't even talk to my 89‑year‑old dad about what I just talked with you about because his thing is, "Well, that's what you were supposed to do, you were supposed to work," and some other things that are from his generation. It was about surviving. Not thriving, but surviving.

[24:57] You're making such a huge and important impact through using your platform to talk about therapy, medication, mental health, and being open about your own experiences. We absolutely and truly cannot thank you enough. Again, we're so honored to have you on our platform. We know that there are many ways to find healing.

[25:17] For people who may not be ready, able, or even want to take formal steps toward things like therapy or medication, do you have any other advice or insight for how they can pursue healing? What other steps have you taken in your life to prioritize your mental health?

Mayan: [25:36] The first thing that I would have to say is something that when I heard this, it really allowed me to look at things differently, was all those moments that you didn't think that you were holding on, that you didn't think "I can't think one more moment of this," I don't know all those thoughts, but if you are still breathing, you have survived 100 percent of the darkest moments in your life.

[26:05] You've gotten through. You're still here. You've survived those. If you think about that every moment that you thought that you were going to break, you didn't. That shows strength. That shows that you are capable of growth because you got yourself in no matter way of maybe you don't have formal coping skills, you have your own system that works for you, we are all differently, but you have you have survived.

[26:38] Another one that helped me was I heard don't let your hurt child make your grown‑up decisions. That was something that I heard. Once I heard that, I was like, "Whoa," because with healing, it is a journey. There have been moments, don't get me wrong, in my life where there have been six months where I've just been in a hole and that's completely fine because I wasn't ready.

[27:06] Really, growth is painful. It is painful to grow. Sometimes you need a break, and that's OK because you are doing good work and you have to take care of you. You are your vessel. To think about my own healing journey has taken years. I was really 16. I'm 27 now.

[27:36] To think about really 10 years of, what you're saying, surviving is that there was so many years where I was always fixing something, fixing something. My attachment issues, issues with my dad, with self‑confidence, and my co‑dependence. I can go on and on and on.

[27:56] It's about thriving and not always surviving, and that you live your life for you, with the conversation that you can have with your own father of realizing that you can give yourself the love that only maybe only you can.

[28:17] There were times in my life that I thought so little of myself, that I didn't deserve any pleasure, I didn't deserve to be happy because I hated myself. I hated myself. If I could walk away from myself, I would have. No, you're stuck with you. You can have times in your life where you want to turn your back and that's OK. At the end of the day, you are stuck with this person that is you.

[28:45] You can give yourself your own healing. Even there are things with my dad in this show that I have to parent yourself. I have good things with my dad and there's things that my mom's not capable of telling me, but I tell myself that I did a good job or I give myself that.

[29:04] It's OK not speaking out loud, mindfulness, just breathing, and just trying to actively listen. Don't try to assume what people are going to say. Don't make assumptions in your head of, "Oh, everyone hates me or everyone is this," because you do that to build up the bricks like a cartoon, build up the brick wall really quickly so that you can protect yourself, protect yourself.

[29:33] With things…

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