Let's start by stating the obvious. If you've read my latest blog post From Pop Newcomer To Suicidal To Learning How To Love Myself, you'll know I've had quite a bumpy ride within the music industry. After realising everything that happened was a result of my own choices, all the disappointment and pain turned into self hatred, which led me down a slippery slope of depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies.
So based on that, it might seem pretty straight forward as to why it took me two years to release the music video, I needed to heal. Well no shit Sherlock. But I felt it necessary to share with you what happened in those two years, not just from a therapeutic perspective, but also because I know for a fact there will be someone reading this that feels stuck within themselves, that prohibits them from pursuing what they love, or they might feel so much pain surrounding the thing they love, that they question whether they even love it anymore. That someone might be you, and if so, welcome! You're not crazy, you're just going through some growing pains, and it's going to be ok.
So why did it take me two years to release a music video? Well leading up to the time I parted ways with my manager, the one who helped me record, release and film the video for "Loved & Lost", I was not in the best of shapes. Despite her best efforts to uplift me and empower me, I was filled with too much shame about my own perceived failure in the music industry and I associated myself with that failure. It became a part of my identity and ate away at me from the inside. But still I tried to push through and I convinced her that I could, but inevitably in the middle of a press tour in Athens, things fell apart and she suggested it be better for us both to part ways.
It's hard to explain the pain I was in when I got back home, the anger, the resentment, the grief, the shame, the overwhelming sense of defeat, the humiliation of it all. I remember deleting every last image off my Instagram, I logged out of every social media account, because I couldn't be confronted with my past, I couldn't deal with the pressure of algorithms and I certainly couldn't begin to think about putting together a post. Post about what? I had no desire to share anything with anyone.
I tried making film and photography my sole focus for a while, but I almost started to hate it. Don't get me wrong, I love film and photography, but in light of having spent the last 8 years trying to reshape my dreams according to someone else's opinion, I struggled with film and photography on it's own, because it's more of a service. A client has a right to an opinion because they are paying for it, their opinion deserves to be respected, and sometimes part of my job is putting myself aside to do what they want, even if I don't agree with the artistic choice. You see, during the two year contractual limbo where I was still signed to my ex label, but wasn't allowed to record or release music, I started my own film and photography company. Not over night of course, it started with me just buying a camera and doing some stuff with some friends as a way of trying to still be creative. That eventually snowballed into my first photoshoot bookings, then shooting music videos, small documentaries and a few photoshoots that were even published in magazines, some even made the cover.
As great as this was, and as proud as I am of all the work I create, I felt restricted and unfulfilled. I needed to find some way of expressing myself without anyones involvement, without anyones opinion, without anyone watching or even knowing. One day my husband asked whether I would like to paint on one of his spare blank canvases, just for fun. Within less than two hours I painted this:
It was so freeing! I remember the red and black underneath was me unleashing all my anger and frustration, the cream on top was me trying to almost give the darkness a silver lining, the large hand felt like everything trying to push my emotions down, and the hand in the eye felt like me trying to break free. That whole experience inspired me to order my own canvases and paints off the internet and I started to draw and paint, just for myself. I spent about three months in isolation just painting and drawing in all my spare time, I felt a sense of empowerment slowly come back to me and I remembered how I used to love painting in school, remembering little glimpses of who I used to be. I felt joy starting to return.
Once enough time had passed and I had accumulated enough joy and confidence, I decided to come out of isolation and share my drawings, paintings, film and photography, eventually relaunching myself as a multidisciplinary artist. I started introducing myself as such to people and I would feel a great sense of pride talking about the different mediums in which I expressed myself. I felt my self worth slowly coming back.
As time passed and I gained some distance from music, I was able to reflect with a bit more clarity, it eventually dawned on me that I had tried to push through with music for all the wrong reasons and for far longer than I should have. I was exhausted, in too much pain, and I needed a break. But I couldn't allow myself that break because I was too busy trying to prove I wasn't a failure. I didn't want to give in to the feeling that the last 8 years had been for nothing, I wanted and needed validation, reassurance that I was worth something. So there was my problem, I needed to rebuild my sense of self worth from within and not seek it in others. I had to be enough for myself, so when it came to me, my opinion had to come first.
I started only taking on projects in film and photography I genuinely believed in and felt excited by. I started saying no to projects I knew would drain me more than the money was worth and I spent most of my time doing all the things that made me feel good. How I felt came first. I started writing, small bits, but you start somewhere. I started directing rather than just filming, I started exhibiting my photography, writing poetry, and having fun with it.
The thing is I always was an artist, I just forgot about it and had to remind myself again. But through allowing myself to express myself independently from anything or anyone else, I was able to slowly find my voice again, and yes, I even started writing songs here and there, but only when I needed to, for myself.
Every now and then the pressure came back to focus on music again, feeling a sense of urgency to finish the EP and release it, but I sensed it was more from a place of what I think I should be doing rather than it actually being something I really wanted to do, and I promised myself I was only going to do what I really wanted. I remember last year I tried to release the music video in time for mental health awareness week, but I felt this need for a press publication to premiere it in order to feel validated, and as I wasn't getting responses to my emails I felt my self worth shrink again. So there it was again, my need for external validation.
I'm grateful I didn't release it because I wasn't ready, I wasn't strong enough to be vulnerable. You see the video is about exactly that, being vulnerable and honest about uncomfortable feelings, and I didn't want to be a hypocrite. I didn't want to talk about how we should look after our mental health when I still wasn't paying enough attention to my own, I didn't want to give advice on how to overcome when I was still in the thick of it myself. I didn't even know how I was going to get myself out, let alone advise someone else. And I also didn't want the release to feel like one big feel sorry for Cat pity party, I wanted it to be empowering. But in order to empower, you have to be empowered. So I knew I still had some work to do.
I had completed the fun part of my healing, the part where I do all the things I enjoy, all the things I love, that make me happy, I was surrounded by only people and projects that fulfilled me, I had successfully created a little safe haven within my own four walls and within the walls of the people I loved. But whenever I was challenged or placed in uncomfortable situations, I would easily get angry, defensive, frustrated or deeply sad and offended, I could end up having anxiety attacks and emotional breakdowns again. I realised I had grown my confidence within my abilities, my talents and gifts, but I had not grown my confidence within myself as a person. So it was time to have some tough love conversations in the mirror.
When looking at ourselves in the mirror, it's important to be gentle, but firm. Critical, but kind. Honest, but patient. We are guaranteed to see a lot of things we won't like, things we are ashamed of, which is why it's so important to be kind with ourselves, otherwise, depending on our mental state, self reflection can quickly turn to self hatred. We also can't think we'll learn everything in one go, it takes time, practice and patience, and we need to be honest enough with ourselves to know the difference between taking time to reflect and procrastination.
During this time in the mirror, I learned how much I was and am still dominated by fear and shame. In Brené Brown's book 'Daring Greatly' she perfectly articulates the difference between shame and guilt. An example of guilt is when we acknowledge we did something bad, shame is when we associate ourselves with it, believing we are bad. She expresses the importance of self talk. When we look in the mirror do we say 'you're are stupid' or do we say 'you are not stupid, but you did something stupid', which are two very different things. I spoke a lot with mental wellness coach Penny Belle, who also taught me the importance of self talk and introduced me to positive affirmations. The thing is the more we hear something, the more we believe it, so if we force ourselves to speak positivity about ourselves and our lives, as much as it feels really awkward at first, you eventually get used to it and start to believe it. Another book I found particularly helpful was Peter A. Levine's 'Walking The Tiger: Healing Trauma', as it taught me that trauma doesn't just develop from extreme events like war zones or witnessing a murder, trauma can develop from little things too, so the book not only confirmed what I had always suspected, that I genuinely was carrying a lot of trauma since childhood, but the book also provides hope of healing and helpful tools anyone can use.
Now I'm not going to pretend like my healing journey is complete, I still procrastinate with my healing, sometimes Netflix and other distractions feel a lot more convenient, and I sometimes still get anxiety attacks and emotional breakdowns. The difference is, when it happens, I recover faster because I'm able to be kind to myself. I'm able to allow myself rest without judging myself for the slip up. I'm able to dare to ask "what is this trying to teach me" and "what can I learn from this" instead of "why am I such a freak", which is something I used to ask myself a lot. Over the last year I have developed an understanding that I am enough, that I am worthy of love and belonging, that I am a great person, and that has become my narrative. Even if I still have moments I slip up and feel stuck in a cloud of self doubt and self hatred, just like the sun seems to disappear behind dark clouds, I know that my sense of love and belonging is still there, still shining, still providing light, and soon will come back out again in full force.
By learning to be kinder to myself, I started to dare to see myself in the people who rubbed me up the wrong way, because usually the traits we hate in others are traits we are ashamed of within ourselves, selfishness being a good example. You see selfishness isn't always born out of thinking you're better than or more important than, more often than not, selfishness is born out of pain. When we've experienced a lot of hardship, we can be so consumed with our own pain, that we're not actually able to be fully present with someone else. It's not malicious, it's due to a lack of capacity. So one of the hard truths I learned, was that by nature of me struggling with my own mental health and feeling so consumed by it, I wasn't as present as I maybe thought I was, in the lives of those I love. I was so consumed with my own pain, that I had the potential to overlook theirs.
I realised that people who have been abused, also have the power to become the abuser, not because we want to hurt anyone, but because we'd maybe internalised some of the abuse without realising it, maybe we attempted to normalise the abuse as a way of protecting ourselves from feeling like a victim. Maybe abuse happened so frequently, that we actually believed it was normal. Long story short I was able to understand that people are usually not bad, but rather good people who have had bad things happen to them, and are struggling to find the tools to heal. So this shifted my perspective to be a lot more patient with myself as well as those around me, so when someone treats me unkindly, I'm more likely to pray for them and less likely to be deeply affected by it. I'm able to genuinely pray for them to find healing, to find the strength to forgive themselves, and give themselves the patience and self love required for both. Lord knows I needed it too.
My healing journey is far from over, I'm still learning every day, but I am proud to say that I have found my sense of love and belonging within myself for the first time. And even when it sometimes feels stuck behind the clouds, I know it's still there. I feel it enough to know in what direction to look. So now, after two years, I finally feel like I'm ready to pursue my dreams, one step at a time, because this time I'm doing it for me.