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Of Mending Overwhelming Emotions: TheLastLetter Unpacks Mental Health Advocacy

"I Wanna Cry"

"Maybe, life happens like tides/One second you're low and feeling shallow and all of a sudden you rise/just ride the wave I say to myself" raps J. Cole on his “LEGENDARY” feature with Joey Bada$$ a critical touchpoint towards the end of the 2010s where mental health started to take center stage in the gender-neutral texture of songwriting.

Now we can debate about the responsibility and logistics of the use of an artistic license about the influence one's music has over their audience until our ears bleed. On one end, while any artist who occupies the "Stoner music" would, to some extent be correct when they say they are only sharing their life experiences in music and are not responsible for the lives they affect.

On the opposite spectrum, be remiss to deny at a fundamentally psycho-socio scale, the power they have over our emotions; our worldview, and through the fault of idol worship the most easily accessible methods of coping with the pain their music becomes a soundtrack to. Corny as it sounds, Stan Lee was onto something when he branded Spiderman with the signature “With Great power comes great responsibility” quote.

Artists themselves are the same afflicted timebombs as the rest of humanity often only capable of expressing in the vastest and most violent sounds, lyrics and visuals that they are in a constant state of suffering and inevitably must cease to be at the mercy of the circumstances that have become their muse, and effectively create the light at the end of their ongoing tunnel abyss to show not only themselves but their audience that there is a way out of the darkness.

Such is the curious case of my next guest, TheLastLetter, who has painted the town pink to conjure a spark of hope amid the angst of existing with her latest visuals for her single "Sad” shot by Codenametheo and edited by TheLastLetter herself. The solitary visuals depict a loner, removed from our overstimulated environment undergoing the most crucial part of the path to recovery in mental health discourse: Acknowledgement.

Giving herself space to soak in the weight of suicidal thoughts noted in quotes namely, "Stop my heart don't breathe again/sunshine don't come after rain", the song's pre-hook "I wanna cry" reminds me of the error in underestimating how life-saving a good cry can be. In my recovery state, I took the time out to have a brief conversation about how "Sad" has impacted her mental health journey, what drives her mental health advocacy, why more creatives should normalise therapy as part of their creative process and her future plans.

Colorbloc Magazine: What set of adverse life events inspired I'm Sad?

TheLastLetter: The brain is quite the trickster my friend, it has a way of suppressing your turmoil until the cracks unravel in your adulthood. My childhood is haunted by traumatic experiences, the ones too potent to be suppressed being my older sister passing when I was 5 and my parents splitting up.

As I grew older my unravelling, to put it mildly, started affecting me subconsciously leading to a bout with depression. l couldn't really express why I felt like this at the time but I knew I needed to articulate these feelings, get them off my chest and allow myself the privilege of acknowledging my pain without being excruciatingly bonded to it.

So I wrote "Sad" not as a means to escape, nor to cope but to turn the studio session from a typical therapy session to a grand purging, a purification and reclaim of my peace of mind.

Colorbloc Magazine: How integral is this song in your advocacy for mental health?

TheLastLetter: This song is so important because I feel like these days mental health advocacy involves a lot of "how can we cure you" and sends the afflicted into overdrive trying to "get better" but sometimes you just need to accept your feelings and sit with them Before you reflect process and manage your emotions, I think suppressing emotions is terrible for your mental health.

The day before "Sad" was meant to come out as a single I found a suicide note I wrote in 2018 where I actually do scribe the feelings I have in sad - literally felt a cloud over me. I hadn't seen it since then and it came as a shock when I read it.

The fact that “Sad” was coming out the next day felt like a full circle moment like wow this is a testimony. I wasn't supposed to end my life. I'm supposed to be here at this moment to share and make sure my story is heard so other people can express themselves through me and my music.

Also because I feel like these days mental health advocacy involves a lot of trying to “get cured” and it forces those in search of their healing to “get better, faster” but sometimes life doesn't go on, at least not until you fully address, learn and detach yourself from any and everything that made you ill in the first place.

Mental illness is largely an invisible illness, feelings are abstract and unfortunately in the heightened doubting Thomas age (John 20: 1-9), it’s only when the result of shadow suffering results in a suicide attempt, a violent act that imprisons someone or a nervous breakdown do we sit with them and acknowledge that something is wrong.

I feel, as much as wellness centres are there to help, there is something that is a stretch and dehumanising about not having the language and contextual resources to do our part in helping someone reflect, process and manage their feelings that we "seek professional help" it away.

Valid a professional who understands our complex emotions is necessary but mental health is not only mental and emotional it is also spiritual, economical, and societal and it is near impossible to heal when your environment encourages denial or escapism. I feel suppressing emotions is terrible for your mental health

Colorbloc Magazine: As silly as it sounds, I used to be against the notion of therapy claiming that my creative process will provide me with the healing from what I would write about and it turns out that not only did therapy help me articulate my emotions better it also took the negative emotions of my musings from controlling my life. How important is therapy in your creative process and being able to leave the emotions of "Sad" in the song and emotions and not take it home with you?

TheLastLetter: Therapy is important because it allows me to regulate my emotional well-being another way instead of putting them into my art all the time causing me to continually revisit them.

This curates my ability to put more positive energy into my work. There is a routine I have a divine trust in where the only consistency is the act of self-kindness, yes I have goals for each day but for whatever reason if I don't accomplish them I remind myself, "let's pray for an opportunity to try again" as opposed to beating myself up about it because our subconscious mind is easily fooled.

The more you call yourself stupid after making a mistake the more your subconscious mind at some levels programs you to do more stupid shit so the universe can affirm to you that you are stupid, words are spells hey, "I made a stupid decision but I learned" goes further in your universal empowerment than the degrading nature of shaping your identity by claiming stupidity or any negative thing as the status quo of your character.

I digress, my routine involves prayer, reading, eating well, some form of exercise, socialising with friends and family, a solo activity here and there and touching grass! Again, when you need to go to therapy, it doesn't need to be an expensive exercise.

In South Africa, there is free access to therapy by psychologists employed by government hospitals or NGO facilities to run their holistic practices. Make it a habit to be deep in your self-cav, and try your best to stay in the present as much as possible

Colorbloc Magazine: The colour pink is associated with the emotion of hope and it happens to be your signature colour, with the constant hopelessness that surrounds the journey to commercial success. How do you keep yourself grounded and steadfast in the path you have chosen?

TheLastLetter: In the beginning, I was rushing to blow up looking. Everywhere I looked, at my peers, the momentum built from their consistent releases and rollouts contributed to their success and I knew something had to change because I was putting out one song a year for 3 years.

I recently heard a scripture that talked about how the Israelites rushed across the River Jordan (Joshua 3:1-4:24) when it was split open possibly because they didn’t believe God would hold their blessing for long and it challenges just how patient and trusting in the process I thought.

I have since moved past that and I realise everything happens in divine timing and “the lord delights to see the work begin (Zechariah 4:10)” he’s already pleased even if I don't think I am where I should be.

Colorbloc Magazine: Wrapping up on a positive note, I hear 2023 is shaping up to be a busy year for you. Could you share with us what you have planned for the year?

TheLastLetter: 2023 is going to be a different year than before. Unlike my previous years of battling self-doubt and unmet expectations, I'll be releasing more constantly. I'll also be showcasing my rap side a bit more and doing more collaborations and refining my visual branding and I might even drop my first project.

I'm trying to stay grateful and focus on only the support I'm getting and use that as fuel instead of using negative feelings to drive me. It's full steam ahead for me and I appreciate everyone who's showing me support, love and mentorship may good things come to you in 2023 as well.

Watch “Sad” Here:

Ukuthula Noxolo Bafwethu (Peace and love my brothers), Ukuthulua Noxolo (Peace and love)


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