Musician Ayla Tesler-Mabé Doesn’t Fret Over Failure Anymore
About the episode
Because anxiety presents differently for everybody, it can sometimes be easy to miss.
Ayla Tesler-Mabé grew up with parents working as psychology professionals, so she was well-versed in anxiety from a young age. However, neither Ayla nor her family realized she had been grappling with anxiety and perfectionism. Ayla had fainted as a child, but it took fainting on a flight as a young adult—and waking up to “a good hundred people staring”— to investigate further.
A note: For anyone who fears fainting from anxiety, know that it is not typical. A sudden and significant drop in blood pressure causes fainting. When you’re anxious, your blood pressure rises. So, it’s extremely unlikely that you will faint, even when you have a panic attack.
However, for Ayla, fainting was the catalyst to seek answers. She realized that beneath her outwardly calm demeanour, her nervous system felt “heightened.”
She was living with a crippling fear of failure that she admits drove her success at times but was not the most pleasant motivator.
Medication and therapy helped Ayla come to terms with and manage her anxiety. She explains that medication helped her “deal with some of the physical symptoms” that often prevented her from cementing healthy habits in place. Ayla’s episode touches on how important it is to use coping tools like therapy even when things are going well. “You have to outsmart yourself sometimes,” Ayla says, “especially when you know you have negative habits you’ve built.”
If you are interested in learning more about helpful therapies for anxiety and other mental health challenges, you can learn more about cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) using our free app, MindShift CBT. Another resource for young people and families working to support youth with their mental health is FamilySmart’s helpful ‘In the Know’ video series. Learn more at www.familysmart.ca.
About the guest
Ayla Tesler-Mabé is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist living in Vancouver, BC. Showcasing her musical talents online has earned her millions of views on her YouTube and TikTok accounts. She is an accomplished guitarist who has performed (and collaborated with) artists like Willow Smith. From 2017-2019, she was a member of the band Calpurnia with Finn Wolfhard, performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live and starring in a Weezer music video with the group. You can listen to Ayla’s latest solo single, Give Me a Sign, on your favourite music streaming service. In addition to her latest solo release, she has new music in the works with her band Ludic, whose sound blends vintage and modern soul, funk, jazz, and pop.
To see the live recording of this episode, check out our YouTube channel or preview below.
"I feel like I am so much better equipped to deal with the things that used to completely uproot my sense of self when I was younger."
Intro: This is #OurAnxietyStories, the Anxiety Canada podcast with John Bateman. This is the place where people from all walks of life share their anxiety stories to remind you that you are not alone. If you have an anxiety story you’d like to share, contact us at AnxietyCanada.com/OurAnxietyStories.
John Bateman: My name’s John Bateman. You’re listening to #OurAnxietyStories, the Anxiety Canada podcast, which can be found AnxietyCanada.com in most of your popular podcast platforms. Today, my guest is Ayla Tesler-Mabé. She’s a musician, producer, songwriter, apparently guitar aficionado from what I’ve seen. Ayla, welcome.
Ayla Tesler-Mabé: Thank you so much.
John Bateman: Wonderful to have you here.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Wonderful to be here.
John Bateman: Great. You know a bit of the drill; you know what I do and the podcast is #OurAnxietyStories. Ayla, what’s your anxiety story?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Where do I even begin? I feel like in many ways it’s been intertwined with most parts of my life, which I think is true for many, many people. But, yeah, I suppose the first thing I think of is growing up in a family with people who have just experienced too much, and as a result, I think there’s a pretty significant intergenerational kind of trauma anxiety sort of thing that’s always existed.
John Bateman: Could you elaborate a bit on, when you say experienced too much, is it too much of a … Is it too much anxiety? Is it too much trauma? We don’t have to go too deep into the details on that, but when you say too much, what does that mean?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, just the most extreme things humans can go through a lot of war and genocide and, you know, really heavy stuff where understandably that would really shape your perception of the world and the kind of messages you would impart to your children. But rightfully so, I get it.
But, yeah, [it] definitely created an environment where I never fully realized until this year when I moved out for the first time and was able to have a bit of distance and sort of reflect a little more on that. There was a lot of fear, anxiety, a lot of… still enjoying life but always having that thought at the back of your mind that whatever stability you have in the moment could change very suddenly because it’s happened to, I mean, pretty much everyone in my family other than my generation.
John Bateman: Is that right?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I’m the first generation of people in my family to have stability.
John Bateman: Without getting into specifics here, a generation of your family moved here to Canada…? I mean places—
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I’m happy to talk about that.
John Bateman: I would love to hear some about that.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: It’s an interesting story where, for the past couple of generations, most of my family was in South America—Argentina and Chile. Though my family is Jewish, so obviously that comes with, you know, a lot. My mom, being raised by a Holocaust survivor and my dad having to live through war in Argentina when the military coup came to power in 1976, and…
John Bateman: Wow.
Ayla: Yeah, he’s seen things that I can’t even imagine, and it’s only slowly over time that I’ve sort of started piecing together what that was like.
John Bateman: What that stuff that was openly shared with you, or was it just basically implied in your household?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I’d say quite open. I know there are a lot of people whose families don’t talk about those sorts of things, but I guess it just is the nature of my family where generally those things are pretty open, but at the same time…it’s because it can be such a heavy thing. Like, with my dad, I don’t just out of the blue ask him a question about what that was like; it’s usually a very particular moment where, I don’t know, I want to ask more, or he chooses to share something.
But, yeah, I’d say it’s a pretty open family. It probably helps that my dad is a psychiatrist. My mom is a psychologist.
John Bateman: Very interesting. Okay.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Obviously, in general, I’d say conversations about this sort of stuff and mental health and everything, there definitely wasn’t the kind of stigma that I know a lot of people grow up with at the very least.
John Bateman: So you, when you were growing up, your parents were practicing both these disciplines, I guess, sort of when you were born or around that time?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah.
John Bateman: What kind of indicators did you have with your own experience with anxiety? You know? Did you… I don’t want to ask too much because I want to get the real deal, but did you start feeling something? Was it behavioural? What kind of stuff that made you realize that you were having anxiety yourself?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: It’s funny, I feel like it wasn’t until extremely recently, maybe the past year or two that I kind of was able to say, “Oh, maybe…maybe there is something here I could label as anxiety. Maybe I could consider medication,” and you know, things like that. I think because my experience seemed very different from what I had seen in other people around me, for some reason, I just assumed it wasn’t something I dealt with.
But I mean, from the time I was, like, eight, for example, any time I got a needle, I would faint. I know that’s not a totally uncommon thing.
John Bateman: No. But it’s still, there’s a trigger that’s happening there, and there’s a physical reaction—probably fear happening there or something like that.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, what do they call it, vasovagal syncope type of situation? But I think when I really started realizing it was more than just, “Oh, I’m scared of needles, and I faint,” was when a couple times fainted when there were no needles present. I was like, “What’s going on?”
Then I didn’t realize until, again, just in the past two years, speaking with my therapist, “Oh, that’s an anxiety attack. Oh, I didn’t know that. I just thought I was dying.” I don’t know.
John Bateman: I mean, that’s interesting because growing up with parents that had experienced trauma, serious trauma, and who have been trained professionally, but obviously, you didn’t exhibit this in front of them.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, I suppose not. I mean, the fainting, for sure; they obviously knew about that. They were with me when I would completely pass out.
John Bateman: They would’ve had a way to rationalize around why that was happening. But they wouldn’t have necessarily said, “Oh, Ayla’s got an anxiety issue.”
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, which was just really interesting, I think. Yeah. I would actually now want to ask them exactly what they thought and how their perception of whether or not I have anxiety or how I deal with it has changed over time.
Because now, I mean, my dad is so helpful and he’s helped explain different medications to me, and he’s the guy who’s kind of helping manage like, “Oh, if you’re going to switch, you should first go down to a lower dose of the new one and then build up,” as opposed to just immediately switching to the equivalent dosage.
John Bateman: It’s funny, I always thought I’d want a father who could teach me auto mechanics or something, but that’s a pretty good one. I’ve had a lot of anxiety, depression issues myself and having … You know, that’s great to have that at your disposal.
But I guess another thing that I’d be curious to know, and maybe you don’t know, but were your parents covertly, um, you know, helping you out with anxiety, but maybe not in the same kind of language? Did they see anything happening or the environment that they created, were they able to kind of help you control it with… with the way they had life set up for you at home?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Interesting question.
John Bateman: I guess you’d have to reflect back.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. I really have to think … I think in a way, yes, because I know they have dealt with a lot of things that they choose not to share with me just because they don’t want to burden me with that. So, in a way, yeah, and maybe because I’m the younger child. I have an older brother, you know, there’s that inherent kind of sheltering that usually happens.
I’m sure that’s part of it. Though at the same time, I don’t know. I think there have been things and… no parent is perfect and they’re the first people—they always say that to me. Even when I say that I have so much gratitude for them and everything, immediately they say, “Oh, but we haven’t been perfect.” And they are always—
John Bateman: I’m still waiting for my kids to say that to me, that they have so much gratitude. We’re still waiting for that, but I’m glad you say that to them. That’s very kind coming from a parent’s perspective. Because for me, having a lot of mental health experience, I kind of covertly would talk to my children about mental health stuff without them really knowing I’m talking about mental health stuff. It still doesn’t stop things from happening.
So when you first started thinking, “Okay, this is something,” what kind of things were you experiencing? Were you experiencing, you said… you mentioned a panic attack. Do you remember having what you thought was maybe your first panic attack? What was that first experience? What that felt like physically for you?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, so I think the first major one I can remember, because I think there have been some examples of that when I was quite a bit younger… But the biggest kind of perspective-changing one was when I was on a plane, how many years ago? Three years ago. First time travelling without my parents. I was just in a very stressful situation at that time with people where the dynamics were really complicated.
John Bateman: At this point, were you into what you’re into now? Your musical career was moving along?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Absolutely. This was for music, um, that’s why I was on the plane. I remember… a bunch of factors kind of converged where I’m very sensitive in my body and my spirit. But body, I get headaches very often if I don’t get enough water, if I don’t get enough food, if I don’t get enough sleep, if I’m a little upset, if I’m a little whatever. I was just dealing with some kind of complicated interpersonal dynamics at that time…
First time travelling without my parents, way too much sun that day… And I kept asking everyone around me, “Hey, could we maybe chill and get some food?”
They’re like, “No, we got to keep walking. We got to keep going. We can’t get water. We have to keep going before it—” and I’m like, “Come on.”
And so not enough water, not enough food, not enough sleep, too much sun.
John Bateman: All just building towards this?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, but then, this—this is the kicker. I was watching Kill Bill, and there’s pretty—
John Bateman: You’re adding a lot of really visceral triggers to this anxiety attack.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yes. Absolutely, yeah.
John Bateman: This is all starting to make sense to me.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. There’s a pretty disturbing revelation quite early on into the film when one of the main characters wakes up from a coma, and she realizes what had been happening to her while she was comatized?
John Bateman: Comatose?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Comatose! Thank you.
John Bateman: There it is.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Comatized. Maybe that will become … Nevermind.
John Bateman: We’ll hashtag it.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah? There’ll be one post under that hashtag.
But yeah, I… all of a sudden, felt like I had this terrible stomachache. All of a sudden, I couldn’t even tell exactly what was happening. I just kind of felt like I was dying. I don’t know how to describe it.
John Bateman: Yeah. That’s often described that way.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Every part of my body felt like it was shutting down—
John Bateman: They’re having a heart attack. They’re dying. They’re going to faint; they’re going to die. It’s so common.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, and then before I knew it, I passed out. And…
John Bateman: Wow. You’re on the plane at this point?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yep!
John Bateman: Like 35,000 feet?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. Yeah.
John Bateman: Wow. On your own?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Mm-hmm. And… well, I was with some other people that I was working with at the time.
John Bateman: But you’re not with your trusted core?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Not with my parents. Yes.
John Bateman: Gotcha.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Exactly. Exactly. When I woke up, I was unconscious for like, quite a while.
John Bateman: People just assumed you were sleeping at this point or something.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: No, because I was holding a bottle of water, and I dropped it. And so, the people I was with were like, “Oh, Ayla, you dropped your water.” And then they’re like, “Oh, she’s unconscious.” And so, by the time I woke up, there were a good hundred people staring at me. Because they had been paging doctors, you know, “is there a doctor on the flight?” You know? I woke up. There were all these people next to me. All the flight attendants were there; all the people were looking…
John Bateman: Which on itself, coming out of an experience like that, or even experiencing a panic attack with a lot of people focusing on you… very disconcerting and discombobulating, right?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: For sure. Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve ever fainted, but the feeling of regaining consciousness is very—
John Bateman: I haven’t, and I don’t know. Well, describe it to me.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: How can I describe it? I’ve experienced this more significantly when I’ve fainted for longer periods of time. But there’s a moment where you’re regaining consciousness, where you genuinely don’t know anything. You don’t know anything. I can’t describe it. It’s like—
John Bateman: Your name, who you are?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I don’t know my name. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what anything is.
John Bateman: People wake up from dreams on occasion. It’s happened to me. I don’t know where I am. I don’t even remember my name. It was very disorienting.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, and it’s very stressful to feel that. I can’t even describe that feeling, really.
John Bateman: When you came out of this and you had had your panic attack, your proper panic attack, what were your feelings after that? Did you have anxiety right away after that? Like, I would see myself just going into cyclical fainting. Like waking up, disoriented, anxiety, faint, waking up. What was your experience? What did that feel like or how did that feel emotionally?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I fainted so many times before in my life. That was kind of like, “Ugh, this is another fainting spell,” though obviously a new type. I did have the thought that there was something to look into. And as I assumed, as soon as we landed, my parents were there at the airport, and they heard what had happened. They’re like, “We should go to the hospital and just get you checked out.” You know, take some tests, whatever.
Yeah, that being said, I think I was okay… and this is a fascinating part of my personality I’ll reveal. There was a secret part of me that loved the fact, like—it was very disconcerting, as I was regaining consciousness, then finally I realized where I am, but I can’t move. That’s also a very stressful thing to feel. But then as I was like, “Okay, almost back.”
I was like, “Oh, everyone’s watching me. I can make some jokes. And I have everyone in the palm of my hand.” That’s one thing I’ve noticed when I faint.
John Bateman: The performative part of you comes out?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Which is such a strange thing that—
John Bateman: Because that’s something else I will ask you, but not right now.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. That’s how I make light of those situations, I guess. Yeah.
John Bateman: Did you find after that situation, did you… have you ever at a point where anxiety has been more prevalent throughout your day-to-day? There’s been a level of it that you would consider to be, sort of, above what you consider to be comfortable?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Oh, absolutely. I think I had been facing it for a while, but I never fully realized until maybe… COVID. There were just some really complicated dynamics at home. I probably won’t get too much into that, but I know that was definitely making things on a day-to-day basis very, very stressful.
And then, I moved out, and this year, 2022, has probably been one of the most transformative years of my life by far.
John Bateman: As it would be by virtue of your age, period, but let alone what you’re coming out [of] … Because I have a daughter who’s 20 and her… her whole life where you’re supposed to be graduating, moving on, going to college, it just really got… wrecked. And so, you know, a lot from this generation, from that year, got kind of held back when they really didn’t want to be.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. That was certainly a big factor there. Then this year, I feel like I’ve gone through some hugely monumental changes, but it was really interesting. Finally, this Spring, this past Spring, I was thinking about it. I was like, “Maybe I’m going to try medications and see what happens.”
And… I can’t even explain the difference in how I feel.
John Bateman: So… What was the feeling before medication? Like, did you… Was your anxiety controlling you? Was it holding you back? Um…
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Well, what’s really interesting about it is I feel like it came out the most in extreme perfectionism and an extreme fear of failure, which in a way, obviously impacts your work negatively.
Though, at the same time, it can be a driving force and was a very significant driving force in me doing what I do and being as ambitious as I am and as hardworking as I can. But it’s not a pleasant experience to work hard because you’re… because you have a crippling fear of failure. That’s not a pleasant motivator.
John Bateman: No, no.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: It’s not.
John Bateman: No, of course not. You have that, but then you… so you went on medication that obviously … Can you explain to me a little bit how, you know, what subtle changes might have happened that… and how that served you?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Oh, I’d say not subtle at all.
John Bateman: Oh, really? Okay. Interesting. Yeah.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I think I’ve never realized until now how heightened my nervous system was; like all the time, I was always, like, one second from snapping. And the thing is, I don’t mean snapping really at other people, because what’s always been really interesting is people have really perceived me overwhelmingly as really calm.
John Bateman: Yeah, you… you project chill very well.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, thank you. What’s funny is in the past, there was an extreme contrast between how people perceived me, and I guess how I presented and how I truly felt inside, which was, like… vibrating with anxiety and fear of failure.
John Bateman: Tell me what that feels like. The reason is because I know that. I know perfectionism, and I also know I’m like a doer. The biggest thing I’ve had to work on is when I’m not doing stuff, physically, it feels like it’s in my chest. There’s like a vibration like anxiety. I got to do something, got to do something, got to do something. What does it feel like physically for you before you went on medication? What that feels like?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: It would just feel like, I need to do something extreme. I need to hit something. I need to throw something. Just a really, like, kind of violent physical action, which is… I mean sometimes, you’re able to restrain it, sometimes not. Obviously, I’ve never hurt another person, which is all that matters.
John Bateman: No, but there is … There is… healthy outputs… There’s nothing wrong with punching a pillow, right? You know, sometimes you got to do that. I’ve heard about a lot of people physically kind of working their way through that by being physical without harming others or themselves, obviously. So yeah, it’s interesting. But those impulses are normal that we have, yeah.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I guess the line for me … It is. But then I realized at a certain point, there was … I think I realized it was a lot more harmful to me than I really had … Now I know that the signs were there a decade ago. These were not healthy ways to deal with stress. And slowly, over time, my parents noticed, and they also were like, “You can’t do that,” and not in a punishing way but, you know, in a worried way.
And then … It’s always interesting how in those moments in the past, you don’t really realize. But then, you know, with hindsight, you’re like, it’s so obvious.
John Bateman: Yeah. It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I could’ve been on meditation a long time ago, or on some sort of religious meditation schedule. I don’t mean religious as in … But I just mean like strict meditation schedule or something like that.
John Bateman: A strict routine.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Strict routine.
John Bateman: Which people do use in dealing with that, too. But I, of course, have gone medication route, and I’m on medication, and I find the same results as you do, um, in terms of leveling that out. I think it’s absolutely—I constantly am battling against the stigma against medication, because I think it’s important, but I also think it’s important that once on medication, and once you start feeling yourself, to still maintain and work on building good practice outside of it. Right?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. Because really what it has helped me do is… deal with some of the physical symptoms that would prevent me from putting healthy habits in place. For example, exercising is such a good outlet, and I usually feel a hundred times better after I exercise. But I was so anxious I’d be getting stomach cramps or really bad headaches. It’s like, well, I can’t exercise if I’m feeling that way. I can’t meditate if I’m feeling physically like, I want to just, I don’t know, rip my hair out or something.
John Bateman: Yeah. It’s interesting. You … You’ve never had it … because anxiety and mental health affects us in such different ways, it results in such different behavior. Mine is like shut down, like don’t leave my room, blah, blah, blah, all that kind of stuff. Yours isn’t particularly like that.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I suppose not. Though there was a point, probably during COVID, where that was heightened, but I think that’s something a lot of people experienced. I’m sure that kind of, those kind of… depression-type symptoms really came out for a lot of people.
John Bateman: Yeah. You’re kind of being told to act like you’re depressed. Don’t leave your house, you know, don’t go and talk to people, don’t socialize. Like, do everything that seems like depression is kind of what they were doing.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. Maybe at a certain point, it’ll become depression.
John Bateman: For a lot of people, it did. You know, we all know mental health issues have spiked during COVID.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Oh, I know very well. My dad would bring home the statistics all the time.
John Bateman: Yeah. So, I want to talk a little bit about your discipline, because you’re obviously a very accomplished musician, a very accomplished guitar player, and you’re a teacher, and you’re a producer. What I’m interested to know is when you talk about having that feeling or that kind of excitability … how do you feel like that’s informed you or driven you to where you are?
Because, you know, often anxiety and that feeling of, I’ve got to do something, or I’ve got to do this, or I’ve got to be perfect, can result in negative things. But you also, along the way, obviously, it’s resulted in some positive things. How did that inform you, or how did that drive you, those kind of habits that some could consider to be OCD or anxious or anxiety disorder? How did that inform you?
Was it like… I’m asking too long of a question here. I guess I ought to just let you answer… But I guess I’m just wondering how much of that was therapy and how much of that served your mental health state and still does serve your mental health state?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I think it’s a factor of all those things. I mean, it is an incredible outlet, this sort of meditative practice where I would do something over and over and over again.
John Bateman: Yeah, right. I guess it’s a lot of repetitive practice, et cetera.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: It felt great to me. It felt like meditation. It felt like a release of stress and tension and everything. Though at the same time, underlying that was, “I need to be perfect, because if I’m not perfect, insert every catastrophic phrase here.” You know? And yeah, I think it would, in many ways, take away from my enjoyment of music, and it shaped and maybe controlled the way that I thought I had to approach music in a way that, overall, over time would not have been sustainable and would not have been conducive to a healthy life in any way.
I think that’s, it’s one of those paths where you play it through, and you could see it being very disastrous for someone. Like, I’m not saying this is what would’ve happened for me, but I know it’s like, you can trace certain paths and be like, oh, you see how people end up with drug addiction and how people end up with other really, you know, destructive ways to deal with extreme emotion.
John Bateman: Well, in your industry…
Ayla: Of course, yeah, it’s notoriously…
John Bateman: It’s well-undocumented. You probably name a lot of your idols, and a lot of them have probably been, you know, possess the same kind of talents, the same kind of motor skills and everything that you do, but somewhere along the line, that’s the medication route that they went, and that—obviously you’re well aware of that, and that’s something you avoid—but it’s interesting because it seems like there’s such a fine line of having these characteristics or having …
Because a lot of people with mental health issues are brilliant people, and they don’t find a good avenue to, you know, deal with those habits that they have established. And I think you’re an example of finding a good avenue of dealing with it.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I’ve been trying. Again, I’m so, so grateful to have grown up in a family where going to therapy was something we did sometimes. I’m not saying, you know, we would always just go to family therapy and whatever, because there are complicated dynamics.
John Bateman: Was it something you did as a family?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: There was a period of time where we did. Yeah.
John Bateman: So… Okay. Just to double back, I’m very curious about the logistics of this. Because … There’s like three or four of you possibly? I understand, it sounds like a four-person family, generally.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, a four-person family.
John Bateman: And so, this therapist that you’re going to see is dealing with you and your sibling, and then a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah.
John Bateman: Interesting.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: It is interesting. It didn’t last too long because I know there were some complicated things.
John Bateman: Yeah. Well, that would be difficult. There’s a lot of conflicts of interest going on there potentially, right?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. I’d say so. But then, the therapist that I see now, I really started seeing her years ago, with my mom at the time. But again, it was something that was okay and encouraged in many ways. And yeah, of course my upbringing had its issues, no doubt. But I am very lucky that, at the very least, that was something that I experienced. It wasn’t… I wasn’t afraid of having anxiety. I was just afraid of what I was experiencing.
John Bateman: Yeah. I can’t … That’s a massive statement because so many people have anxiety and then it starts to feed on itself obviously in a vicious cycle. You’re afraid of anxiety. I’ve been there before, too. And that’s why I asked about that question about coming to and coming off that airplane, a lot of people would get into a cycle at that point, and you didn’t. Definitely, you have the benefit of having very informed and enlightened parents in the mental health realm, which is great.
So, do you see, is a counsellor something you do pretty regularly?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, every couple of weeks. Even when things are going well. If anything, I feel like—
John Bateman: That’s probably the most important time to go!
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I think that’s when I have the most productive self-reflection because when I’m actually going through something and I’m actually feeling really distressed, it’s hard to think rationally.
John Bateman: Exactly right, because our minds tell us exactly … They tell us a lot of negative things, and we’re just so trained to believe our subconscious thoughts, you know, our automatic thoughts and they’re not true, hint.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: But they feel real.
John Bateman: They do. Because your brain is making them, so you think you’re making them. But this brain thing is just something that seems to work willy-nilly independent of itself. I mean, in some ways, it keeps our heart beating, it keeps us breathing, it keeps all this stuff functioning. But in many ways, it works anti to what we’re trying to accomplish.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. It’s an enormous part of your sense of self and identity, obviously. But at the same time, it’s also just an organ in your body that you need to separate your identity from sometimes. Because you can know, for example, that something is good for you, but then, in your body, you can feel otherwise. Then, sometimes you have to be like, I feel this way, but I know better. You have to outsmart yourself sometimes, especially when you know you have negative habits you’ve built.
John Bateman: It’s so hard, and you talking about that being in a state of heightened anxiety … I would always want to, whenever I was super anxious, I would like, “Okay, I got to meditate.” I can’t meditate when I’m anxious, and it’s the same thing going into therapy. I can’t communicate as well with my therapist when I’m really anxious because really, I’m dealing with a lot of emotion. My thoughts are not rational. That’s why your point about it, you know, that keep going, it’s important to keep going, even when you’re feeling good, because you can get so much more out of it.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. That’s the great paradox of all of this, where when you feel positive, you don’t think you need the things that help you deal with anxiety or depression or whatever it is.
John Bateman: Yeah. You feel good, you don’t want to address it.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah, but then you can’t use these tools when you’re in that state. It’s like all the meditation and the exercise and the therapy and whatever, like, you have to put that in place when you’re feeling more calm so that they’re there for you.
John Bateman: One more question … You’ve got medication, you have your art and your discipline, what other kind of tools do you use to deal with anxiety and deal with your mental health, with stress? Because you’re obviously, you probably have potential for a high-stress lifestyle. You’ve got a lot of ambition. You’re growing. You’re getting bigger in the world, in the musical commnity, and in public in general. What kind of things do you do to kind of help navigate you through that?
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I think medication has been incredible because it’s helped me build so many healthier mindsets about “failure” and about criticism or whatever. I feel like I am so much better equipped to deal with the things that used to completely uproot my sense of self when I was younger.
Yeah, it’s incredible now. The usual waves of anxiety that I pretty much had as a constant feeling, I don’t really feel that anymore.
John Bateman: Fabulous.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: I can’t even explain how incredible that is. This perfectionism thing, I feel like it’s barely part of my life now. I still see it come through in a few areas, but generally speaking, I’m not afraid of making mistakes anymore.
I feel like I just, because I always grew up kind of knowing a better perspective but feeling differently in my body. And… I’d have this perspective of the problems I’m facing, of course, they’re real problems, like Victor Frankl, suffering is relative. It’s not real. It’s not like it’s not real suffering but I think about how, yes, I’m going through something I find very unpleasant, but at the very least, I’m doing it with a roof over my head. There’s no war. I don’t have to worry about …
John Bateman: Perspective is very important.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Yeah. And, you know, I’d to hold that perspective, and at the same time, still feel like I was going through something so extreme in my body.
John Bateman: Which you’re allowed to, it’s all relative. But that’s a great point, you know, perspective. One thing that I’ve just gathered from talking with you here tonight is basically education, educating yourself on it.
Knowing is so much for the battle, like, knowing when your thoughts are going off the rails. That’s so much for the battle. I can’t explain how great it was talking today. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, and I can’t wait… I’m looking forward to seeing all your musical endeavors in the future because it’s going to be amazing.
Ayla Tesler-Mabe: Thank you. Aw, that means a lot.
John Bateman: Take care.
Outro: Thank you for listening to #OurAnxietyStories. If you’d like to support this podcast or Anxiety Canada, go to AnxietyCanada.com.