Singer-songwriter Theia tells her story of self-harm and taking back the power by writing about it.
I break out in cold sweats a lot at the moment. I’m hit with major waves of crippling terror every time I think too intently about the fact that I’m releasing a new song. Not just any song, but a song that I wrote for myself – and only myself – to help deal with how low I was feeling at the time.
I do love my song ‘Bad Idea’. It’s my creation. I’m so proud of it. I play it loudly at home and in the car. I dance to it. I sing to it. But working through this process of releasing it has been so hard because it was never intended to be heard. And now that it is, I find myself right back in that same scary place I was in when I wrote it.
One of the downsides to being a songwriter is that you’re continually asked, ‘What’s it about?’ ‘Who’s it about?’ ‘Why did you write it?’. I hate those questions. To answer truthfully feels like reducing the already raw outpourings of my heart to an impersonal nothing. It feels like I’ve opened the most vulnerable parts of myself to the world and somehow that’s still not enough. But I get it – when you release a song about self-harm, which is essentially what ‘Bad Idea’ is, those questions are inevitable. It doesn’t make it any easier.
Self-harm is something I’ve dealt with since I was a child. It’s a subconscious way of dealing with intense pain, sadness, loneliness, rejection and trauma.
I first started writing ‘Bad Idea’ 18 months ago in a songwriting session in Sydney. I didn’t go into the session that day with the intention of writing about self-harm. It just happened. A few hours later, I came out of it with only one verse and a chorus and for months later, I agonised over finishing it on my own.
As the months went on and I started to feel stronger, I began working on it again. It started with the second verse. I remember phoning one of my managers and saying “listen to this…” We talked about the song all the time and we played the first demo a lot. It helped me. I was still reluctant to release it, but the stronger I became, the more I realised it was a song that needed to be heard. I wanted others to hear the song’s message of hope and strength.
It turned out to be one of the most difficult songs I’ve ever worked on. It was draining in every way possible. Different producers and engineers tried to help me bring it to life. Some failed. There were so many tears, so much frustration.
I’d become super defensive any time I was asked about the song. I’d get upset and cry in meetings. There were so many times when I, and my team, were so close to just pulling the plug on it. I’m pleased that we didn’t.
Yesterday, ‘Bad Idea’ was released to the world and I’ve been bracing myself, thinking about how I’ll deal with being asked ‘What’s it about?’ ‘Who’s it about?’ ‘Why did you write it?’ In the three interviews that I’ve done so far, I’ve already been asked those questions. The sassy diva inside of me has wanted to refuse to answer. But the strong and resilient part of me is trying to answer with honesty and as best as I can in that given moment.
In writing this piece, in releasing this song, I am taking back the power. I have a voice and only I can tell my story the way it should be told – with love and sensitivity.
That is the gift of choosing to release this song. It was born from pain and is a symbol of strength. When you are at your weakest you are strong.
It is, as I have realised, an extremely brave thing to tell one’s story. Everyone has a story, each is different but all display strength and resilience. After all, if you’re reading this, you’re still here. Congratulations on braving life and know that you really are never alone.
This piece (and Theia’s ‘Bad Idea’) was made possible by NZ On Air and, like all of The Spinoff’s music content, by Spark. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and carry out more investigations. Or pay $8 a month and get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel!
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.