(Cover art courtesy of Wonder Management)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
Bye, Sad Girl
An Interview with Hollyn on Heartbreak, Hope, and Healing
By Sarah Komisky
Exactly one year ago, I spoke to Hollyn. She was anticipating the first time she would release her new music that told her story of hope, freedom, and empowerment after leaving a toxic relationship. It was the beginnings of a resolve to say “bye, sad girl” with the release of the songs: “Everything and More,” “Isaac,” “You Won’t,” and “Horizon.” The artist candidly let others in for the first time into her pain and her process. Since we last spoke, Hollyn has continued sharing her story, releasing a six song EP that portrayed the raw emotions of heartbreak entitled, bye, sad girl. In tandem, videos visuals were released. They captured what Hollyn saw in her head as sketches of her story by artist friend Alexis Franklin. It was a new season and one Hollyn was ready to share with her fans, family, friends, and her biggest cheerleader, husband Dillon Wilson who she married last December. It was well received with her video “I Don’t Know If We Can Be Friends” reaching 1 million views on YouTube. After releasing six acoustic videos, Hollyn has just announced her release of an acoustic EP for fans to discover in her words, “A whole new view of the project.” Highlighting the color blue symbolizing hope in the album, the artist stated on her website that the story isn’t about ending with grief, but showing the beginning of joy. As a part of this special “Hope” Issue, I was grateful to catch up with Hollyn on the other side of heartache to talk about a subject dear to her heart – mental health. Here is a candid look at her thoughts on heartbreak, hope, and healing.
Sarah: I know that you’ve gone through a toxic relationship and experienced depression and those types of things, and you were able to talk about it in your music. So how has allowing yourself to feel and grieve over a process of time in community proved to be healing in your life?
Hollyn: It was my choice to get into the relationship I was in. I was’t aware how toxic it was in the beginning. I wasn’t aware how it would shape me. I wasn’t aware that it would take me eventually to a pretty low point, and then I would have to really rely on the grace of God to pull me out of that. I honestly thought, I’m going to marry this person. Like, the next relationship I’m in is going to be what God has for me, and the Enemy is really tricky with that. He will distract you and he comes after the thing you want most sometimes and disguises it as something good. And makes you believe that what your in, you can’t get out of. And for me, that’s where I was at. I just believed that where I was, I needed to stay in order to help this person. And I invited God into those spaces, but I didn’t want to believe that I had to leave. I wanted to believe that He was going to fix it. And, it was with a pure heart.
This anxiety and fighting in my mind and heart, it was my physical body and everything. I can’t really go back there because God has healed me from it. But I just remember feeling like I was going to explode, at any time. And I just felt like, man I need people around me who get it and understand what I’m going through. And God would just send, even if it was one person, like a text or a call to encourage me and just help me out. Honestly, it came down to me getting alone with God and saying, ‘OK I can’t do this anymore’ and just being tired of this situation. And I just had to release my hands from it. As soon as I did that, God gave me the people that I needed to help me on the road to healing.
Sarah: Right now, I know in the church there still is a very real stigma regarding mental health and also with abuse. We feel like it’s something we have to hide because it shouldn’t be apart of our Christian narrative somehow. So, did you feel like you ever had to hide what was happening in your life because you felt the pressure to be perfect?
Hollyn: Yes and no. The reason being, I remember this one show when I was going through the peak of everything, and I remember being at the show and acting like I had everything under control. And I would go back to my room and I never felt that severity of loneliness. And it felt like my head and my body were pulsating from walking in disobedience, but I didn’t know that that’s what it was. And I was like, ‘God I feel this is where you have me.’ And the whole time he was kindly whispering to me, ‘No, this is not where I have you, and this is not where I want you to be. I don’t want you to be suffering in this.’ And, I didn’t want to tell other people because I didn’t want to admit where I was, was wrong.
Sarah: Within the EP that you just did, bye, sad girl, I wanted to talk about how sometimes people mislabeled it as something secular and criticized you for maybe not putting the word “God” or faith into the lyrics. But you said otherwise – that God is present in every aspect of life. So talk about why as an artist, making music – why is it important for you to share hope in all aspects of life and how do you hope people would receive that when they are listening to your music?
Hollyn: Anything that I do, that I put out, I want to make sure that I’ve heard from God that He’s asking me and he wants to do it with me. There are things that He’s put in me and I trust Him. And if I make a song and it is coming from a pure place, that’s a form of worship to me. So what really hurts me personally is because I know who God is in my life and because I know He’s a comforter. My life isn’t sectioned into pieces. Everything bleeds together. And I know emotions aren’t truth, but they’ve pointed me to truth and been aids for me. And when I start talking about that stuff to God, He peels back layers and layers and layers of things that He’s been trying to do for years, but I just haven’t brought the details to him. And I feel like He wants to be involved in every aspect of my life – not just, ‘OK, get up on stage and lead worship.’ That is what everybody sees; you get up on stage and you sing these songs, but they don’t see the other 23 hours in your day. So for me I want to be able to, with every word that I say, every situation in my life, I want it to honor God.
I get creativity from living. If I can bring someone comfort from what I’m learning, from what I’m processing, whether that’s a toxic relationship and I’m stressed all the time and I just want to write a song about how stressed I am – that releases stress for me! And someone else is probably stressed! And when they listen to that song, their going to sing it, and all that stress comes out. And after they do it, they’re like, ‘Man, that feels so much better, and God, I just really need your help in this situation.’ Because, once we acknowledge how we feel, it kind of opens everything up like a flower almost. And I feel like the goal for me, the goal of my music, is to just be transparent and genuine in what God wants to do in my life. [My music is] going to sound like what I want it to sound like because I want to write songs. And I want people to feel what it feels like to be with me in my head and in my feelings because I believe God is moving in other people the same way.
Sarah: I want to go through some of these songs and talk about them. Talking about, “I Feel Bad For You,” this is kind of a song about a girl who ended up OK. She was in a bad place and she came out f it victorious. It’s a lot about letting go too. So how in the process of letting go was God able to bring you that healing as you said goodbye to something that was really dear to your heart?
Hollyn: I really felt like, “I Feel Bad for You” can be taken in such a negative term. Honestly, I was saying it like that when I was singing it – like that’s how I felt. But the layer under that is that I genuinely felt bad that this person couldn’t see that God could elevate his dreams and his purpose. I felt like I was holding him and his destiny in my hands. Like this is mine to steward and I need to make sure that your OK and that you see God for who He is. And if anybody has watched the process of my growth with God, one of the main things that I let go of and don’t live in anymore is people pleasing. I ultimately knew that where God was calling me to go, this person couldn’t come with me. I was supposed to go somewhere else and he was meant to go somewhere else. And when he finally allowed himself to let go of me, and I wanted to be let go, that’s when all the honesty could come out of my heart, my mind, and when I could finally process that. I feel like the song just gives the insecure person in you the words you need to say to remind yourself that, yeah, I’m worth more than this you know?
Sarah: Abusive relationships lead to depression because we feel that there’s no way to get out of it. And you brought that to light in this song, “I Don’t Know If We Can Be Friends.” And the most powerful thing is that you got out of it. So how do you want other people to know that saying no is an option in a relationship like that?
Hollyn: Your opinion matters. Your choice matters and your voice matters. “No” does not need an explanation sometimes. I always felt like I had to preface why and give a disclaimer for everything and at the end of the day, it’s just like, this is gone way too far. Like you’ve crossed the boundary so many times that I’ve laid out here. And it’s hard enough for me to lay out a boundary, and that was crossed so many times that the answer is “no.” When I wrote this song, I wrote it with my friend Tommy Prophet. We were in a studio and I was intending to write it for somebody else, and I was stressed out of my mind that day. And I wanted to write a song how I felt. And that’s why the chorus comes back so many times because it just felt like a loop. And when I realized I did have that power and I didn’t have to live under that, I cut it off as soon as possible. That’s probably my favorite song off the whole EP.
Sarah: You said in an Instagram post, “I couldn’t go where God wanted to take me with him on my back so I knew in order to follow hope, I had to lay it all down, even the boy I was carrying because that was not my job in the first place.” So taking on what isn’t ours can cause a lot of depression. So talk about that with this song, “Isn’t It Harmless.”
Hollyn: “Isn’t it Harmless” [the song title], it’s basically saying that I thought that love was supposed to be different than this? Like isn’t love supposed to be harmless? That was something I kept asking myself. Isn’t this supposed to be easier? In that post, I felt like, man instead of carrying each other and leaning on each other, it was more like I was supposed to figure out the mind games. I was left to kind of give an explanation for everything. I was the one that was getting questioned a lot, and I was questioning him a lot. And we really did care for each other and wanted to see each other win and grow. This whole project is not to bash this person, it’s to talk about and be therapeutic for me, to release this and to help other people. I am not in this to make someone feel bad. I want to honor them and respect them the best I can, but also, this is my story and I want to be vulnerable so I can help these women, these girls, and these men that listen to these songs.
I was doing way more than I was supposed to be doing. And not just going above and beyond to love this person – I would do that all day. I’m talking about how I was exhausting myself in every way. I had forgotten the purpose and the plan that God had for my life. God had to interrupt me several times and make me understand, ‘Hollyn this is not what I have for you.’ One time I broke up with him and we ended up getting back together, which was not a good idea. But I ended up breaking up with him because I woke up in the middle of the night and God said, ‘You need to break up with him right now. This needs to happen, you can’t keep putting yourself through this stuff.’ And I just remember doing that and then relapsing into it because the cycle was never-ending.
I knew he hadn’t been given eyes to see what God wanted for my life. I was going to have to change everything what God called me to do and I knew I couldn’t live with that. I had to recognize that and had to keep going up the staircase. And I just want to encourage people who are in that situation that there’s a difference between giving up and setting boundaries.
Sarah: “I Miss You (Interlude),” you said that that was the moment you acknowledged your hurt. But you also said that you questioned if this was right that you let go of this person and this relationship because you missed the pieces of what was good. There are so many mixed emotions when you come out of a toxic relationship and there are good pieces and there are bad pieces. So, speak to that person who is in that place, kind of stuck in the nostalgia of romanticizing a person who wasn’t good for them.
Hollyn: I think there’s a difference between infatuation and love. When I met my husband, I didn’t feel this crazy, weird, ‘I need to make him see me.’ But I felt that for every other person that I liked; that I needed to go out of my way to get their attention. And that wasn’t how it was with my husband. When I met him, he pursued me and we pursued each other together. And for me, I felt like when I ended that relationship a couple of years ago with this guy that the EP is about, I ended everything and then there was just silence. And change is hard when you go from talking to this person everyday, crossing boundaries we shouldn’t have been crossing physically, mentally, emotionally, and then all of a sudden, you’re left by yourself with your wounds to heal. You want someone to put a band aid on them, when God’s trying to heal you from the inside out, and that’s painful.
When you are going through healing, God is going to expose those places in you out of kindness and grace. Cover them and heal you in ways that you never thought were possible and set you on a trajectory that’s accelerated for your purpose. Sitting alone in my room was excruciating because all I wanted to do was text him. All I wanted to do was call him and say, ‘No, let’s go to a movie or something.’ And do not think that I did not make mistakes and I kind of went back into that – but there’s grace for that. But I think just staying alone and talking with God and having friends to say, ‘Hey, I want to do this again, and I know that it shouldn’t. Can you please pray for me? Can you please come over to my house and hang out with me so I’m not distracted.’ I think loneliness really encapsulated me at that time, but it also drew me even closer to God and I had to make a choice. He was asking me, ‘Hey, I want to help you. I want you to be the fullness of yourself that I made you to be.’ So I ended up choosing that route. But it was rough for me because when you’re alone, you forget the [past] pain all of a sudden. And the pain of missing them is worse than the pain that you were in when you were with them. And that doesn’t make any sense, but it’s just true. There were good things, but the good things were not better than the excruciating pain that I had when I was with them.
Sarah: Last one – “I Wasn’t Enough For You.” This is so powerful. And, when somebody who is toxic is gone, I think we can focus on the rejection aspect and focus on the ways we didn’t measure up. How did you begin to understand that this wasn’t true in your life?
Hollyn: I felt this overwhelming peace and this sense of everything is going to be OK a couple weeks after it was all over. I just feel like walking with God is so much easier than trying to do it by myself. When I ended this in December, 2017…I took a sabbatical and the only time I would leave would be to go get coffee or food, or every once and a while go hangout with someone I trusted and was processing with. But I was in my room, and I made it a little sanctuary for myself. I just wept and I let the light in, and I listened to music and I wrote songs and I read the Bible. Everything felt new. Like I never heard of Jesus like this before and never felt His peace like that before. All of a sudden there was an overflow of that. And suddenly, I felt like I gotta start listening what God wants me to and if people don’t like that, that’s gotta be OK with me. I have to let people start to misunderstand me. Letting people leave when they’re suppose to leave is sometimes the best thing you can do. When we set our boundaries in love, grace, and respect and honor for yourself, and for God, and for the person in it, and they ultimately choose to walk away, you can can’t make someone choose something. And if you do, they’re easily going to back out of it. So for me, I want people around me and I want be in peoples’ lives where I feel like I want to be there and partner with them. It’s learning to protect yourself in a way that is godly. So, being wise in what and who you let in and to always ask God about every decision you make and He’s never going to lead you astray in that.