I have anxiety and depression. It’s “incurable”, which can suck, but it’s just true. You have to come up with your own idea of being cured... Have you ever felt like something bad was going to happen to you even though you know you’re fine? I feel that way – every single day. Have you ever been wide awake but can’t seem to pull yourself out of bed? I feel that way – every single day. I’m a songwriter, and I’m thirteen years old. I knew that I wanted to write about things that I, and other people, could relate to.

Something I have experience with is mental illness. It’s like a creature that you’re born with, but doesn’t want to be seen until it’s comfortable. So, it can hit you badly. It can shock you, but it feels familiar. Whether I like it or not, I was born with it, and it just doesn’t go away. Tons and tons of people struggle, but only a few talk about it. Why? Maybe because they’re afraid of the stigma; they’re afraid of people saying, “you’re just faking for attention”, “you’re too young to have these types of illnesses”, or “you’re romanticizing it”. If that’s what you’re afraid of, I get it, because I’ve been told all of those things ... a lot.

When someone’s already confused with their emotional state, it hurts to be told that it’s not real. It makes you wonder what is real, or if you’re just lying to yourself. Some days I do lie to myself. I need to know that who I used to be, or identify as, is still in there. The truth is, I became who I’ve always been. I became overcome with depression and anxiety pretty fast, and everyone around me seemed shocked. I’ve always been this way; I just finally stopped hiding it.

Hiding yourself from yourself is extremely exhausting. For the longest time, I actually thought that I was supposed to pretend, and that it would make me better. Even though I’m still young, I really did spend years of my life hiding. It doesn’t make you better. Holding back tears, fighting the urge to scream - it was all too much for me. It seriously is outrageous how something that is easily made to seem so small, is really taking over your life, and eating you alive. It’s consuming you in your sleep, at school, at work, at home - yet the whole time, you just hide. You smile. You laugh. You try to act like “yourself”... when this is who you are. I was losing who I thought I was. I cut off everyone I was close to, everyone I loved. I fell deeper into depression, and I was helpless. My anxiety told me I had to be alone, and that I couldn’t trust anyone. 

Songwriting started in the middle of all of this, when I was asked to meet with a team of producers and record songs. I’d always been a singer, and I’d always been a writer, but this was just a different feeling. When I sat down with them, I guess I just knew that songwriting was a place where everything could just spill out. I talked about things that I didn’t really talk about when it came to songwriting. For example, once I had gotten two hours of sleep, because I was overthinking everything. The next day we wrote a song called “Overthinking”, and I was so entranced by how something like that could transform into art. I talked to my team, and we thought we should take things further. I’ve written a song every single day since then. I spill out the most twisted, scary, sad thoughts onto my page. Something that I hate turns into something that I love. I owe almost all of my emotional stability to songwriting; it is my secret healing power.

Jaz Valencia