Let’s Talk: World Mental Health Day
The ironic thing about World Mental Health Day is that it isn’t over when the clock strikes midnight like it might sound to be. The ironic thing about being an actor suffering from mental health issues is that I’ve figured out a way to at least make it semi-enjoyable.
I will always remember one of the first things my freshman year acting professor said to us: “Acting is a socially acceptable form of insanity.” I stared at him like he had two heads, at first. I was almost offended – and then it clicked. In the genuine broad spectrum of the term, we make it our livelihood to dress up and pretend to be other people. For albeit even the briefest of moments, even the briefest of scenes where we could have no more than one line, we get to not be ourselves. When you’re really dedicated to that role in that scene, you stop being yourself. That is insane.
I remember the first time I threw restraint to the wind and went 110% in a scene during that year. When it was done, my classmates were slack-jawed as my professor smiled and asked me what was different that time. I froze trying to come up with an answer because I couldn’t remember what I just did.
“I know. That was acting,” he said.
I watched peers slowly dissipate from our program with the stress being too much for them. The style and techniques we were taught were designed for the “serious” actor, so I’d get myself into a bit of trouble my junior year when as a comedic actor I couldn’t quite sink my teeth strong enough into Chekhov and Ibsen. I was told that I would never succeed as an actor unless I stopped favoring comedic acting. I was told to “take a long, hard look at myself” to see why I liked comedic acting so much.
I transferred schools my senior year because I financially couldn’t afford the burden – suddenly I had roles thrown at me left and right. I was offered to direct a show and got the role of the Clown in The Winter’s Tale (traditionally a men’s role.) It was okay to be funny again.
As it turns out, it always was.
During said “long, hard look at myself” – I figured something out, actually. I read this quote and felt like I had the wind sucked out of me.
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” – Robin Williams.
I had lived for years as someone who felt if I ignored the fact I had depression and anxiety that it didn’t exist so I was fine. This World Mental Health Day, I invite you to above all else accept yourself for what you are. Don’t try to “fix” yourself, acknowledge yourself. Like they say, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
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