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Ask Izzy: So long, SGN — The column is coming to end, but this is not goodbye

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Ben Mack
Ben Mack

Ask Izzy is an advice column about relationships, mental health, and sexuality. Written by Isabel Mata — a Seattle-based lifestyle writer, podcast host, and mental health advocate — Ask Izzy offers tangible expert advice so all readers can have stronger relationships, better sex, and healthier mindsets.

In early June of 2022, days after my 26th birthday, I found myself sitting in a parking lot overlooking the California coast. The ocean stretched out before me, and the day was gray and stormy, mirroring the turmoil I felt inside.

It was hard to be present in that moment, I remember. The world felt heavy with bad news, making it difficult to stay grounded and find beauty. Yet that's exactly what I yearned for — to release myself from the negativity and simply exist.

I felt entangled in the emotions of others, caught in a constant push and pull that left me drained. This wasn't new. Even as a child, I believed myself to be unlovable because I felt everything so intensely. "Oh, she's just sensitive," they would say, turning their backs on my tears. Countless hours were lost ruminating over things outside my control. Anxiety and depression were my constant companions, their voices echoing in my head night after night as I clung to dreams and goals far beyond my reach. Even when I achieved professional success, a hollowness remained. Nothing felt truly aligned.

At that moment, I began to reflect on how I got there. I thought back to myself at 23, trapped in an unhealthy relationship, breaking down day after day. But instead of my usual escape tactic — chasing the next big thing to outrun my problems — I decided to turn inward. If I ever wanted to live a fulfilling life, I had to choose myself.

This meant accepting that I was worthy of love and happiness, even when my own brain told a different story. This realization led me to seek a proper diagnosis, medication, mindfulness practices, and therapy — all in pursuit of thriving, not just surviving. Through this journey, I discovered that the very sensitivity I once considered a weakness was actually my greatest strength.

As I gazed out at the vast expanse of the ocean, a question nagged at the back of my mind: what if my purpose on earth was to tell stories and be myself loudly, in the hopes of destigmatizing mental illness? It seemed too easy, too simplistic. Yet, at the same time, it resonated with a deep truth within me.

This newfound understanding fueled the creation of "Ask Izzy" in July of that year. It stemmed from a desire to help others the way I wished someone had helped me, as well as a deep yearning for Queer community. It became a safe space for sharing my experiences and the tools I gained on my path to self-discovery, with the hope that others wouldn't have to walk this road alone.

As I reflect on the journey of the past two years since launching this column, I'm filled with a profound sense of fulfillment. Those 50 essays, ranging from topics like setting boundaries to embracing pleasure and combating hustle culture, have been a labor of love, vulnerability, and authenticity, each word penned with the intention of supporting others on their path to being the best version of themselves.

However, the winds of change have swept through this publication, and regrettably, my column is no longer a priority. As the paper moves in a different direction, I find myself grappling with the reality of its absence in my life.

Despite this setback, I remain steadfast in my commitment to authenticity and growth. While the platform may change, the essence of my message remains unwavering. My aspirations to expand my reach and inspire others to live authentically persist undiminished.

Amid these challenges, I'm reminded of the power of community. It's through the support, encouragement, and shared experiences of the SGN community that I've found strength and resilience. And so, I extend my heartfelt thanks to each person who has joined me on this journey thus far.

If you've found resonance in my words and wish to continue engaging with my work, I invite you to subscribe to my Substack at https://isabelmata.substack.com. Additionally, stay connected with me on social media; you can find me on Instagram at @isabelcalkinsmata, where I share insights and snippets of my journey, and on TikTok at @icalkins, where I offer lighthearted moments and laughter.

Together, let's navigate these changes with grace and resilience. Thank you for being part of my story.