Well Being Trust had a chance to talk with Stuy Dollaz, American recording artist, about his experiences with depression, finding his outlets, and what it’s like to turn it all into music.
Stuy Dollaz is a rapper, artist, and actor from Brooklyn. Before his career as a musician, Stuy Dollaz worked as a youth counselor. While he may be making music now, much of his mission remains the same: to talk about everyday struggles and real feelings, and encouraging others to open up about their struggles too.
Would you tell us more about the process of writing the song, My Depression? What drove you to make music about your depression?
I was at a point where mentally I felt I couldn’t take it anymore (life). I have a habit, when one thing goes wrong it makes me think about all the things that have gone wrong. At that point my girlfriend was cheating on me. The famous (or not so famous) DJ I took a bullet for, trying to stop him from being robbed, acted like I didn’t exist. My job was bugging me because I decided to teach the adolescent clients about their rights as a human (yes that’s correct) because they were told by the program director they forfeited their civil rights once they signed into the program. They didn’t like that I was teaching them that they did have rights.
I tend to self-medicate a lot. That day I jumped in my car and drove away from everybody, and ended up outside a library. Right before I went to roll up, something came to me: instead of smoking why not write your feelings down. It was mostly because, at the time, I smoked a blunt and basically bottled up whatever was bugging me, and this time I didn’t want to forget how my girl made me feel. Weirdly, writing started as me saying goodbye to her (and everyone for that matter) and expressing how sorry I am that my brain was always making me feel down, but somewhere in between that, it became a song. When I was done, I was like, well, maybe I should write when I’m feeling on the edge. Then I realized that I didn’t even smoke the blunt I had, but somehow, I was feeling better. Then I realized something else that, to me, was profound: I made a song about my real feelings. I had quit rapping after I got shot because I didn’t want to contribute the same negativity everybody else does. It was like I found my outlet again, not even realizing it was my outlet before.
I never even planned to put the song out, but upon my return to making music, my producer played a beat and for some reason I already heard this song on it. I recorded it, everybody loved it, the producer planned to do absolutely nothing with the beat, so it was mine. Also I felt like, in a lot of cultures, having a mental health issue is frowned upon so I wanted to say, like hey, I’m cool, I got swag, but I also deal with mental health issues, so no one is exempt.
Is music an important coping tool for you? What are the other things you do to promote your mental well-being?
Yes, a tremendous coping tool for me. And not only just writing, but listening, mostly either old school rock (Nirvana, Queen, Bon Jovi) and some new stuff, mostly whatever can get me in a good mood or whatever I feel I can relate to in regards to my mood at that moment. In fact, the late death of the XXX inspired me to start making music again because, after I got shot, I stopped listening to music and stopped doing music, which I believe was a major contribution to me always feeling down. This may sound weird, because I have a daughter—I have family, but I don’t feel entirely worthy unless I’m doing something with music. I also play video games, and I’m a huge movie buff, mostly action.
One major thing I do to promote my mental well-being is shutting out social media. I think sometimes the constant need to update can affect one negatively when they don’t have anything to update people with. Like recently, I just felt like I was being pulled in too many directions, and the constant influx of people that just didn’t seem genuine to me—it all weighed on me. So I had a social media meltdown lol and just backed away for a few days.
What’s something everyone can do to support the people close to them who may be living with mental health challenges?
I can short answer this. Empathy. Not sympathy. I always say it’s hard to understand why someone else is depressed. One of the main qualities that made me a great counselor is being empathetic, which is hard for some. Feelings aren’t facts. Facts are, we do have feelings and to minimize someone else’s is selfish. I would say if you love the person, have patience. If you don’t love the person and have no genuine concern, remove yourself because you will do more harm than good. And I can understand that, who wants to be around someone who is depressed? I think our brain naturally trains us to avoid uncomfortable situations, people, places, things, etc. I’m realizing now the negative effect I had on my ex-girlfriend, and although I don’t condone her cheating, I kinda feel wrong for not being the best person I could be for her.
What kind of support have you received from others in your own struggles with depression?
I have a few people in my life that accept me for me. I always say, deaf stupid or blind, these people I can count on. I think the best support up to this point has been anyone who just lets me vent without judgment. For example, sometimes I say—and sometimes regret when I say it—but I ask why did God bring me back to earth just to struggle. My view is different because I actually died, and didn’t know I did, and at that point, until I woke back up, I didn’t even know I existed. Now to the average person that sounds crazy and maybe it sounds like I’m ungrateful for life, which I’m totally grateful for. I love being happy to see my daughter, have fun, play video games, make music. I love that, just sometimes I’m confused about my existence. And sometimes I don’t want advice. I just want to get it out so I can either get past it or sometimes just hear how un-normal it sounds. Like recently I met a friend doing networking, and come to find out he knows my whole family, like people that no one knows are my family, and he’s the kind of person, I hear, who can make things happen. Recently on my step back from social media, everybody was questioning me and saying, oh I have to be stronger, I have music to promote stuff like that. He simply hit me up and said, “Hey if you need to vent, hit me up, and when you get back to feeling like yourself, I’ll be here.” And I thought, wow, that’s what I needed. I don’t know if he understood or not, but that thought of being empathetic helped. And his words, “Get ya mind right, don’t rush it, I’ll be here, but know we got work to do,” meant the world to me.
We heard you used to be a counselor. Could you tell us more about that experience? Do you see it feeding into your work and your career now as a musician?
Yes, it was a great experience. Learned a lot about myself in the process. The field for me is just a bit too political in my experience, but I understand because it’s a business. And yes that’s my goal, to produce a message in my music that leads one to making better decisions. I wanna be the example that you can still have fun, be yourself, but still lead a lifestyle that brings more positivity than negativity to the world. I always say it’s not what you do, but how you do it. Think of Kendrick Lamar/J Cole with a Young Thug/Lil Uzi swag lol.
Your song “My Depression” does a great job at helping listeners understand what it’s like to live with depression. What’s something that you think is important for people to know about depression?
That it can affect anyone. No one is exempt. No matter how cool or happy they may seem, it can still affect them. One of the greatest actors in the world Robin Williams suffered from depression. And just because one is depressed doesn’t mean they’re a drug addict.
Also, it’s hard to understand why someone else is feeling unworthy or unloved, and just because they are feeling down, depressed or having social issues doesn’t mean they hate those around them. That’s major for me because whenever I was in my feelings, or too much in my head, my loved ones or people around me thought I was mad, or angry with them, and they personalized it. And understand, for one to explain why they are depressed is equally as hard as dealing with it. So just have patience and be open minded.
What would you tell any fans out there living with depression themselves?
Get help. Don’t be ashamed. Millions of Americans suffer from mental health issues and are afraid to come forward. Find something, anything that brings you joy. Practice what brings you joy. I don’t care if brushing your teeth with a certain kind of toothpaste does it for you. Also, there’s no “quick fix.” It’s constant maintenance on yourself taking inventory and learning to recognize the warning signs. For me it’s haircuts. If I go more than two weeks without a haircut I have to ask myself if I’m ok.
And I also suggest reading or developing some critical communication skills. In my experience, one always feels stepped on, used, belittled, or taken advantage of because they didn’t effectively communicate their feelings, and felt like they weren’t being heard. There’s assertive and there’s aggressive; don’t be afraid to be assertive, but it takes practice and development. And also find you something positive/not harmful that’s a happy place for you. Mine is listening to music or playing video games. Certain songs I put on just to put me in a good mood, Nicki Minaj, Roman Reloaded, all the pop songs have me singing and forgetting any bad vibez. And protect your energy. I stress that because I believe once you’ve experienced a form of depression, it’s easy to get sucked right back down. Sometimes our bad vibrations don’t even be our own. Sometimes we be picking up those bad vibez around us.