If you could write a letter to a past you, what would it say? What advice would you give to that person who was struggling 1, 2, 5 or 10 years ago? Welcome to Letter To Myself - where familiar faces share theirs.
14th December 2022
A letter to myself: Sabiyha on self-harm
Artist Sabiyha doesn’t shy away from difficult stuff in her music. Her honest, thought-provoking tracks are a celebration of her culture, while also drawing on things she’s been through.
Sabiyha pulls inspiration from a wide range of genres, spanning R&B to grunge and her British-Guyanese heritage plays a big part in her music. Her singles ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Undone’ have gathered support from the Guardian, Gal-Dem and Radio 1’s Jack Saunders.
Sabiyha’s latest track ‘Afterparty’ is a vulnerable reflection on her struggles with mental health, marking two years of her journey to recovery following a battle with self-harm. In collaboration with writers and producers Drew Jodi and Sour Sync, Sabiyha was able to distil her emotions, resulting in the cathartic and powerful single. Sabiyha says:
“Whilst Afterparty is steeped in intense pain, it’s also a track that symbolises hope for me, with guidance from the most amazing people around me and the realisation that things can get better. This song may be the most important one I’ve written so far and I hope whoever listens to it and relates, feels less alone”
Sabiyha wrote a letter to herself following the release of her moving new single.
You were a weird, wonderful kid with a vast imagination; but right now you don’t feel so wonderful. Life at home was difficult, you were bullied at school for being a small, nerdy brown kid with eczema and this resulted in a lot of darkness. You would create these stories and narratives filled with pain, beauty, angst and grief and whatever sadness you were feeling would spill out onto the page. But this wasn't always enough to cope.
As you got older, life got more complex and you didn't have the tools to express yourself. The topic of mental health wasn't a part of your language at the time and you couldn't understand why you never felt truly happy; so you developed coping mechanisms that would cast a bigger shadow than you could have anticipated. You began self-harming at the age of 14 and continued on and off until the age of 27.
You wrote this song when you were still harming, during an insular moment in your parents’ house. You felt isolated, like everything was crushing you and you didn't have the strength to stop everything from caving in. You were working in a bar, pulling back to back double shifts, drinking most nights, then coming home and self-harming. You were destructively using sex, alcohol, weed and harm to pull at the tangled knot of destructive thoughts collecting in your head.
Sat on the sofa, at your midi keyboard, tears in your eyes, you started to play. The song fell out of you in an almost desperate way, collapsing into the most honest song you’ve ever written. The reality of what you had done to yourself set in as you released everything you felt. You were addicted to feeling hurt but deserved so much more. Each wound was felt by that weird and wonderful kid that still lives inside you and needed so much more love than you were giving.
‘Afterparty’ is a narrative; the feeling of your adrenaline dying down after a night out and being caught by the grips of your depression. You’d go from the rush of nightlife to the painful silence of being alone.
Remembering finishing the song with Callum and Drew (Sour Sync and Drew Jodi); you needed a final section; an outro. Callum started to lightly pluck at his guitar and you sat opposite him and could feel the empathy in the way he was playing. You sang the words ‘I’m not okay’ and it felt almost comforting to admit that. Once you’d finished the song, you sat at Callum’s computer and cried. You all felt the weight of what you'd just created.
Now over two years in recovery and coping with your mental health in healthier ways than you ever have. I’m so damn proud of you. You have a beautiful support system and the most wonderful chosen family who make life seem so much less dark. That moth tattoo on your stomach is to celebrate two years of recovery and you look at it everyday and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
Reaching out to your loved ones and asking for help will change and save your life, and I hope that anyone else going through this finds the strength to do so too. You are valued and loved and deserve help and kindness and don’t need to turn to hurting yourself to get through the pain. There is a way out and you can get through it.
I know this song is painful and I know it hurt when you wrote it, but it’s a symbol of hope that things can get better. You’ve created something beautiful with your friends and there will be others out there that can relate and feel less alone. A part of you will always be that weird and wonderful kid writing stories in your room and I always love you for being exactly who you are.
Sabiyha has plenty of songs in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled for more music in the new year.
If you’re facing something tough the CALM Guides can offer practical information to help you understand these challenges and find a way to move forward. And if you need support, the helpline and webchat is open from 5pm until midnight every day.