Deep moments of catharsis often produce transformative work, and this is certainly the case for 24-year-old Toronto native Aunty Social, aka Daniela Gitto. The moniker comes from past insecurities and periods of isolation where she’d use music as a therapeutic aid to address toxic lifestyles and her own struggles with mental health. With a computer, mic, and MIDI in hand as her tools for recovery, along with an amalgamation of references (from her own poetry to childhood memories), her music is a strong personal statement on the inner workings of the mind.
TWLOHA had the honor of talking to Daniela about her music, mental health, and journey toward healing.
TWLOHA: For those in our audience who might not be familiar with you or your music as Aunty Social, could you offer an introduction?
Daniela: I guess it’s me trying to get a lot of things off my chest. It’s personal and uncomfortable, but honest nonetheless. It’s not very optimistic music, but also not pessimistic, I guess realistic? It can be reflective if you listen closely or it can be purely pleasure-seeking and get you to dance and sing. You can also do both at the same time which is how I tend to listen to music.
TWLOHA: Can you talk a little bit about your personal journey when it comes to mental health? What types of mental health challenges have you dealt with?
Daniela: I went undiagnosed for a majority of my life. I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder as well as depression in college but that still didn’t explain why I couldn’t control the tornado of unorganized thoughts I’d deal with daily. I got diagnosed with ADHD this year and am finally coming to terms with who I am and who I was. I think the biggest challenge when realizing your brain is wired differently, is dealing with your past.
Being undiagnosed through the peak moments of life (high school, college) can manifest a lot of self-hatred and self-esteem issues. I was really hard on myself and still kind of am. These habits don’t die quick, it takes so much unlearning and dissecting, dissecting things that you buried deep, deep beneath a bunch of crap in your brain but it is so, so worth it!
TWLOHA: In what ways does your music, specifically your new song, “Traveling Circus,” explore those themes and experiences?
Daniela: I decided that I’d focus on my anxiety in this song, especially the self-hatred aspect of it. My anxiety is loud with bulging eyes and can come off as obnoxious. It will probably speak over you or not give articulate answers because its focus is on how big of an idiot it might look. I wanted to paint that picture through stream-of-consciousness and real thoughts I tend to have in social settings.
TWLOHA: How has music helped you to navigate your struggles with mental illness and even allowed you to share that part of your journey with others?
Daniela: My disregard and lack of education with mental health manifested in toxic habits. I got sucked deep into a lifestyle that brought me to my lowest point and after a traumatic event, I had to cut ties with that life completely. I bought my first midi, mic and DAW which took up all the extra time that opened up after ditching my social life. It became the most effective form of catharsis for someone like me. It kept me focused for hours at a time, gave me a sense of purpose, even if I was crap, it didn’t matter because anything was better than spending my time craving a drink or reflecting on all the lows. I mean this in the most honest and cheesiest way, music saved my life.
TWLOHA: Outside of music and your art, how do you care for yourself and address your mental health needs?
Daniela: I tell my mom EVERYTHING. Every minuscule change or revelation I come to, I call her. I am also very open about my mental health with my friends, bosses, producer, etc. It helps people form a well-rounded view of who I am and why I do the things I do which then prevents the habit of self-hating thoughts. Honesty with myself and others, basically.
TWLOHA: If you could offer one piece of advice to someone who is currently feeling frustrated or hopeless, what would you say?
Daniela: I’d tell them to begin small, acknowledge what you’re going through, be honest with what you’re feeling and try to pin down triggers. Don’t be scared to talk about it, look for forums on Reddit or similar stories on Google and stuff. I am active on the ADHD forum and it has made me laugh, cry, and feel overall secure just reading through the posts. It puts so much into perspective and helps you feel less alone. If you want to talk to someone unbiased who understands or will try to understand, you can also message me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.