Mahevash Shaikh had her first depressive episode on the morning of her 13th birthday party. Rather than typical teenage angst, Shaikh recalls waking up feeling like there was no joy left in the world.

“It was overwhelming, and I didn’t know how to cope, so I told myself it would pass and kept it a secret,” Shaikh said.

She faced many other depressive episodes in the following years, but it wasn’t until a suicide attempt in 2018 that Shaikh was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

“I knew that I wasn’t being ungrateful,” Shaikh said. “I had something that wasn’t in my control: clinical depression. My therapist diagnosed me as soon as I told her of my ‘no reason’ depressive episodes over the years.”

Since her diagnosis, Shaikh has become a mental health advocate and has built a platform to share her experiences with others struggling with depression.

When she started her blog Mahevash Muses, in 2015, Shaikh says her only goal was to share her thoughts with the world. Over time, her platform grew organically, and her focus shifted to connecting with others and talking about more salient topics such as culture, society, and mental health.

Shaikh says her blog is a space “for unconventional souls who care about their mental health, live on their own terms, embrace their flaws and quirks, and find inspiration wherever they can.”

“Mental health stigma is internalized to such a degree that many people don’t know they are struggling… when they realize, they relate, some people try to get help, but most go into denial mode,” Shaikh said.

“I have learned to always be empathetic.”

In an effort to have a larger impact, Shaikh is currently pursuing an online diploma in psychology and was recently certified in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy.

If there’s one thing Shaikh wants others to know about clinical depression, it’s that there’s no shame in taking antidepressants. And her advice is to never self-medicate and to always follow the guidance of medical professionals.

Shaikh’s online presence has earned her the status of being a mental health micro influencer. With over 1,400 followers on her condition-focused Instagram account, Shaikh’s followers look to her for hope and advice.

“Working in the field of mental health is a serious responsibility. You have to practice what you preach,” she said. “I’m more aware now than ever and work on my issues actively.”