It’s been bad lately, y’all. Sorry my updates have been lackluster. I’m okay– nothing major to worry about, but it has been a bigger down than I’ve felt in a long time.
Last Thursday I met with my therapist after a few really rough days and broke down crying. I said I felt constant HATRED towards myself. It was at complete odds to the experience I’ve been having for the most part in the previous months, where I got very good at listening to myself and forgiving myself and allowing my feelings to dictate my needs, rather than smushing them down and invalidating them. But last week, it was like I reverted back to a time I don’t care to recall.
I restricted. When I did this I felt good in my body but bad in my heart.
When I forced myself to NOT restrict, I felt overwhelming guilt.
And then I binged. And felt even more guilty.
This cycle spun me completely out of control– it felt like my brain and my heart had been infiltrated by an evil demon who refused to allow me to feel good about myself or to forgive myself.
Last Wednesday, I took a steak knife from my chopping block, laid in bed, and watched TV as I ran the steak knife over my upper arm again, and again. The cuts weren’t deep– more like scratches that barely drew blood. But I felt SO much better. Which I know sounds insane, particularly because as it happened I was completely calm. I’ve only self-harmed twice before in my whole life, and this was the first time that it seemed like it was coming from me, instead of some outside notion of “this is what people do sometimes when they’re depressed and it makes them feel better.”
Obviously, I knew this was a bad thing, particularly because it left marks which are still there, and part of BOTH of my scenes in Showcase require tanks and dresses. Friday, I tried to cover the marks, but they were there. I know people saw them, and I felt flushed all day. I couldn’t stop thinking about what people were thinking. I couldn’t decide if I was embarrassed about cutting myself, or if a part of me felt a little bit better because suddenly there was an outward representation of the struggles I feel constantly internally but they NEVER see. At the end of class, a friend approached me and asked if, and I quote, “I got attacked by a cat or something.” On the spot, I improv-ed: “No– I fell in the park while running. I was in Central Park and just tripped on my own feet and slid on the gravel. It was more embarrassing than painful, really.” That story continued as people continued to mention it. What was interesting was that no one really approached me in a concerned manner. My first friend was the closest to that– from there, people only brought it up when I brought it up (for some reason I have burned and cut up my hands and wrists a lot lately, so sometimes I’ll make comments about how I look kind of destroyed).
SO, like any good psycho-nutri-psychi-trained little disciple, I told my therapist, and talked to my nutritionist, and called my psychiatrist. I met with my Dr. about perhaps getting on anxiety pills to calm me down. This was my therapist’s suggestions, as she thinks (and I agree) that an enormous part of what’s happening right now is tied into the preparation for Showcase, which is all about image and not being good enough and not being thin or pretty or talented enough, etc., and leaving the safe structure of school. I think I placed a shit-ton of pressure on myself in the last week or so to really be READY for those major things– you know, not being “fat” and not being “all over the place,” but rather looking “thin” for my Showcase and being “organized” for my future. That’s what I’ve been told for six years now:
“They need to see the BEST you at all times.”
“You have to take care of yourself and look good.”
“You have no control over whether they like you or not. They may not hire you because you look like their cousin’s ex.”
“To do this with your life, you must give up any stability.”
“You must steel yourself for failure constantly, but keep working at all costs to succeed.”
No pressure, right?! So all of this is swirling around, and I am not that Type A, perfect, well-dressed, in-control, impeccably prepared little girl that got me through anymore. I think I wished like HELL that she’d come back and take care of me, but she doesn’t exist anymore for me. I have to accept that I am just going to have to learn how to take care of myself without the part that could keep every piece in place at any given time. And I have to remember that I actually DON’T want that part to rule my life anymore– I’m a better actor, better friend, and more interesting person because of it.
So that was last week. Light stuff, eh?
This week I had a really productive session with my therapist, although I did feel a bit shaken up by it. I have a really horrific course taught by a really talented but really terrible teacher. In the session, we explored my anger towards this woman through imagination exercises. It was hard for me– I’d imagine doing something spurred by anger and then just want to stop, like “oh, that’s it! I’m done!” and my therapist kept asking me to tap into that anger again, and see if there was anything else. And there usually was! By the end, the imagination exercise had led to an (imagined) physical altercation– I described myself after as treating her like a bully would. The main emotion I felt with that was GUILT. I really felt like I’d done something AWFUL to this woman. That’s what shook me up. I can “talk” angry all day– “Ugh, I hate her, she’s the worst teacher, I can’t stand this, blah blah blah”– but I never actually let myself FEEL angry. That is a much, much scarier place.
After assuring my therapist I’d be fine for the day, no trouble sleeping or anything, I made my merry way towards work at school (I’m the assistant to the head of the department, M). That’s when things turned. One of my close friends, L, stopped into the office to talk to the head of the directing program (E, who shares M and my office). M was at a meeting, and L began to tell E about her issues with this very professor and this very class. I was obviously invited to share my thoughts. It felt GREAT to tell someone with power that something was seriously wrong. Because of my relationship to M and the fact that I’d already written up some thoughts, I brashly volunteered to write M a letter about the issues we, as a class, were having. She encouraged me to get the support of my classmates, and told me she’d support me.
Suddenly, as I moved from powerful indignation to the actual composition of the letter, and PARTICULARLY when M returned, I began to shut down. I felt anxious, distant from myself, like my brain shut down and my feelings turned off. I didn’t want to be anywhere near ANYONE, didn’t want to talk, just wanted to live in the letter and then disappear. I felt like when people spoke to me, especially M, the words took an extra few moments to reach my ears, the gears in my brain turned as though in molasses, and then my thoughts dribbled out of my mouth like water.
In a daze, I left work at my appointed time to go to a company meeting. I thought that maybe I was just hungry, so I had a snack. It didn’t help. All through the company meeting, I couldn’t rise to the occasion. I felt subtly irritated at all times, but mostly just distant and strange. My brain was not present at all, and I felt incredibly vulnerable, like there was no outside layer of protection, just the goo inside that was exposed to the brutal elements. The meeting lasted over 90 minutes, and by that point I was really done. I slithered back in all my vulnerable-goo-glory to my apartment, where I curled up in bed like a log and didn’t move again.
I felt better the next morning (i.e. today), but it was AWFUL. And I actually felt worse when I told my therapist about it, because it felt like she was judging the letter itself (which I sent out to my class to approve right after I finished it, but I have not sent to M or to anyone else) and its purpose.
WOW, I’m so glad I actually wrote all of that. I’m kind of surprised– I’ve been avoiding sitting down to do this. I mean, not that anyone actually reads this (I mean, right?), but still. Good for me. (look, I’m feeling better!)
I’ll conclude with some FUN stuff!! (well, if fun is learning about dictatorial regimes and genocide.)
On Saturday I saw Belarus Free Theatre at the Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa (ironically, where my company performed last summer). It was INCREDIBLE. They are a company of actors from Belarus, all of whom have been arrested at some point, who have been officially banned from returning home because of their political productions. I’ll just post a few quotes and some pics so you get the idea. If you’re in NYC, get down to La MaMa. Seriously.
Following their sold out performances this January as part of the Under the Radar Festival, the award-winning Belarusian company — now outlawed at home for speaking out against “Europe’s last dictatorship” — returns to New York to stage three shows in repertory.
This groundbreaking company, led by Artistic Director Natalia Koliada, narrowly escaped imprisonment in Belarus in December of 2010 and came to New York to perform BEING HAROLD PINTER to sold-out houses in our Under the Radar festival. In January of 2011 Tony Kushner joined Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis in leading a peaceful protest of the human rights violations in Belarus.
Natalia herself says of the company’s mission, “We gathered together to make drama, and to say whatever we thought, wherever and whenever we felt like, performing in front of anyone we cared to. We wanted our spectators to think – this, of course, is the most terrifying part for any dictatorship. As Vladimir Shcherban, the BFT’s director, says: ‘We speak the issues that the audience keeps silent on.’”
— THE PUBLIC THEATRE
“Under the oppressive rule of Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus is one of the world’s least free countries; ranked worse than Iran for press freedom and worse than Zimbabwe for human rights.
Belarus Free Theatre stages underground and uncensored performances to draw attention to the problems faced in Europe’s last dictatorship. Although banned in their home country where they perform in secrecy, this multi-award-winning company has established a global reputation of artistic excellence. In 2007, during a performance of Edward Bond’s Eleven Vests, Belarusian special forces burst into the theatre arresting actors and audience members. Despite being outlawed for their involvement with BFT, their members have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the realities of Belarus’ regime among artistic and political communities worldwide. The last few months have been particularly difficult for BFT with the suspicious death of their close friend and partner, respected journalist Oleg Bebenin – a case that has received widespread international attention. Members of the company have also received death threats and been imprisoned.” — ONEWORLD.NET
“In 2010, going to the theatre is a crime. People have to travel far from their homes, directed by text message to a secret spot in the countryside for a glimpse of a performance. Audiences are arrested. The actors are subject to threats and intimidation. People in the country disappear and are killed. THIS ISN’T FICTION. THIS IS BELARUS.”
“The paradox is that one emerged from the show with a strange hope for Belarus driven by the ability of its artists to confront the truths about an oppressive society. And, from a forum I chaired the next day, two particular remarks stuck with me. “It is the dictators who are the sick people,” said the company’s director, Vladimir Scherban. And, when asked if they were not running a great risk by presenting Zones of Silence, Natalia Koliada quoted a remark made to her by Vaclav Havel: “You need to talk loudly and openly if you are to keep safe.” I just pray that Havel is right and that the company does not suffer further for so brilliantly spreading information and light.” — THE GUARDIAN
From these mostly first-person accounts [in Chapter 1] there emerges a particular, fine-grained sense of a gray world of deprivation within an imprisoning infrastructure inconceivable to most Americans. Suicide, which figures in two of these stories, is an understandable choice.
The telling, though, is never merely solemn or pious. Robust satire is in evidence, particularly in the portrayal of a teacher leading her charges in the national anthem. So is a deep love of craft, never so striking as in a vignette in which a doomed little girl (the real-life subject of a widely reported attempted adoption by an Italian couple) is shaped into physical existence by the artisanal skill and empathy of four actors with four newspapers.”
“The Belarus Free Theatre should be seen by everyone who wants CONFIRMATION OF THE CONTINUING RELEVANCE AND VITALITY OF THEATER as an art form.” –Ben Brantley, The New York TimeS
A video of Chapter III can be found here: