Dual Entry: Therapy and Theatre

The first time I wrote about my mental health, it was November and I was very sad (etc.) and had only just made the decision to start therapy. The last time I wrote about it, it was February and I was doing better. Since then, I have learned my diagnosis: depression with anxious features. I didn’t write about it for a few reasons, most of them having to do with the fact that though this is a blog about my life, it is not a blog about my depression, even with its prevalence in my life, but there’s also the fact that it took me a really long time to accept my diagnosis. I knew that something was wrong, and I was quite sure it was depression, but I didn’t want to admit it. Besides the general stigma about mental health in the United States, to me, depression meant being suicidal, and to be so would be my worst fear. I have since been corrected about the second point (the first one, sadly, is true), but after starting therapy in December, I was sitting in my therapist’s office in April and said something along the lines of, “It’s like depression… if that’s the problem.” She looked at me and said, “Do you think you DON’T have depression?” I gave a twitchy half-shrug, half-“can we please stop talking about this even though you are paid and schooled to say things like that to me and have it be the truth?” “Because you do,” she continued. “It’s diagnosed, DSM-official depressive disorder.”

This hit me like I hadn’t known it all along, as hard as the day I knew I needed to go to therapy. I discovered all over again that I have depression (PLUS! Lucky me, I got the anxiety for the low, low price of panic attacks and social awkwardness.) It took a week or so for me to accept this, a week that led into May which led into fear and panic relating to the anniversary of my friend’s suicide, a reaction- mental and physical- that lasted for days on either side of the actual date.

Since my starting therapy, I’ve had a few what might be termed relapses, despite my improvement over the months. I kept having trouble living my life; I’d cry on the way to work every day and all I could think about while I was there was going back to bed, partly because I couldn’t bear to face my life but also because I was so tired all the time. There were a lot of other depression-related symptom that were keeping me from living my life fully, none of which were helped by the outside influences of being fired and the anniversary, to name just two.

There were a lot of would-be wake-up calls going on during those months: the increased severity of the symptoms of course, but also the way my depression was ruining some of the most important relationships that I have. I resisted responding to these, though, because even though I knew from my therapist, my significant other, and every positive treatment-related article/blog/site on the internet that a combination of therapy and medication was the most effective approach, I was scared. I don’t even like taking ibuprofen, so the idea of ingesting something that would change my brain chemistry scared me. To be honest, it still does. A lot.

But then one day, around the anniversary of my friend’s suicide, I was very sick, in every way. Besides the mental anguish I was going through, I was also feeling the grief physically. My whole body ached and I had a headache so blinding that I probably shouldn’t have been driving. But I did drive, to my therapy session, where I said nearly nothing for fear that I’d collapse into tears and ruin the small scrap of composure I had managed to keep hold of. Immediately afterward, I drove to an audition. I could hardly see, my head hurt, and I certainly was in no state to attempt to get a job. The audition itself was fine; for a non-Shakespeare actor, I performed the assigned monologue all right, and the director nodded enthusiastically as I sang a folk song a capella. If I had been watching it from the outside, I would have said the audition was good. But I knew that I wasn’t at my best. I knew that my mental state, my combined grief and depression, had negatively affected my ability to perform in what is a job interview in my profession. I had been fighting against taking medication partly because of my career; I feared it would prohibit my ability to feel the gamut of emotions. But here I was, feeling negative emotions to the point that it kept me from accessing the feelings I needed to to do my job. My argument was moot.

At the moment, I am not on medication. I asked my therapist if I could take the month of June, which I correctly assumed would be more normal in the way of overwhelmingly bad moments. to experience my mental state unmedicated. So that’s what I’ve been doing. And to be honest, it’s been hard to accept that I might still need medication because this month has gone so well. I got cast as the lead in a great show just a week before I started teaching theatre to kids, which at this point can be considered the best job I’ve had since graduating. Rehearsals are hard but rewarding, as is the teaching, and spending longer hours at a job that I enjoy has masked my depressive fatigue as the fatigue resulting from hard work, making me more willing to accept my tiredness at the end of the work day. I’m also just happier in general;  the kids I teach are a joy and it’s so rewarding to hear them proclaim that they wish theatre class could last all day, and then I go and do the work that I love in rehearsal. The other day, while discussing all of this with my therapist, she said, “I’ve never seen you smile like this, ever.” With a statement like that, and with the way I’ve been feeling lately, it’d be easy to keep saying that medication is not for me. I CAN still experience happiness, even experience it more often than sadness. That’s good to know, because it hasn’t happened in months.

But just because it’s happening now doesn’t mean that it will last forever. The show will end in early August, the job just two weeks after, and I will return to the way my life used to be. Maybe I’ll be happier, but maybe I won’t. Because I’m not cured. I still have depression and anxious features. And as afraid as I am of medication, I’m even more fearful of having this for my entire life. So I guess the question is, am I brave enough to help myself? The answer is as yet unclear.

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Children’s Theatre

A week or so ago, one of my roommates came home and said, “Hey, Rachel, do you still hate your job?” “You bet I do.” “Want a different one?”

At first, I thought he was going to tell me there was an opening at his sales job, giving product presentations in stores, something I could never do. But then he told me that he was returning to teaching summer theatre lasses and he needed an assistant. Usually, a mutual friend of ours assists him, but she’s in school this summer.

He described the job to me and it sounded great: hours that jived with my rehearsal schedule, fairly good pay, using the theatre education material we’d learned together in 2009, and, best of all, using my degree. I gave him a tentative yes.After checking with my crazy boss, I accepted the teaching job officially. It starts tomorrow and I am SCARED. It’s been about three years since I’ve taught, so I’m sure I’ll be a little (or a lot) rusty. But my roommate will lead for the first couple days and then I’ll pitch in as an equal.  Hopefully the kids will be excited to be there and willing to learn.

The Big, Scary, New Role

TSS

On Friday, I had an audition. It was not good. Despite that, I received a callback for the next day.

The callback was fun. The callback was good. I felt like I performed really well and that they were impressed with what I showed them. I had brought my significant other along to both of these events and on the way home, I told him that while I didn’t know how casting would go, I felt I had done well and that, if I got the part I was going for, it was going to be really hard and really scary. As much as I wanted the part, it would be a relief as much as a disappointment not to get it because it is TERRIFYING.

Last night, I found out that I got the part I was going for, and this part and this play scare the crap out of me.

I suppose, first, that I should explain that this play and I have a history. Late in 2010, I saw that Laura Linney was going to be on Broadway. Laura Linney is one of my favorite actors. I’ve seen almost every film she’s ever done, and I HAD to see her perform live. So two friends and I got super cheap nosebleed seats to see the show, Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies. It was AMAZING. Like, no words, amazing:  the performances, the script, everything. A few months later, I paid through the nose to sit in the third row and see the show again and found it just as moving. I vowed that one day I would play Sarah, the part Laura Linney played. That day was today, when we started rehearsals.

I’m ecstatic to have this part; I did a happy dance when I heard that I had gotten it. But seconds after I shouted to my S.O. “I GOT THE PART!!!”, I said, “I’m really scared. This is going to be really hard.” And it is. First of all, Sarah is, at the youngest, 35 years old. (The show is being directed by a college student, so he attracted people around the same age.) She’s a photojournalist who has seen wars and a lot of death and danger. The first scene of the play takes place when Sarah comes home after weeks spent in the hospital after surviving a roadside bomb explosion in a third-world country, where she was working; she’s suffering from PTSD, something I’ve never done onstage. The explosion has left her arm in a sling and her leg in a cast, so I’ll need to learn to use crutches, and will have to  act while keeping in mind that, in each scene, she’s in a different stage of physically healing. I’m afraid I won’t be able to portray her maturity well enough; besides having seen much more of life’s hardships than I have, she’s also had at least more than ten years of life, so that’s scary. And the script itself is daunting. The play is very much Sarah’s story, and the dialogue is incredibly fast and charged. We had our first read-through tonight and I was almost out of breath by the end. You can’t do anything but play this part when playing this part, because any lapse in concentration will screw up the incredibly demanding pace.

Though our rehearsal period is a tad longer than in a professional setting (about a month and a half, as opposed to a month), I expected us to have constant, perhaps every-day, rehearsals. But as our director said tonight, this play is so heavy and complex that demanding us to conquer it every day would be overloading us. We need time to digest what’s happened; even right after we finished tonight’s reading and the director asked us our initial thoughts, we all said, “Just give me a second…”

I love doing pretty much any kind of theatre, and often doing one kind makes me crave the other. Since my last show was a nice, light kids’ piece, it made me want to do a dark drama. Now I’ve got one, and I’m sure I’ll be begging for a fluffy musical come August, because this play is heavy. It deals with the complexities of ethics, the incompatibility of people’s life choices, mental health, and adult relationships. After seeing it with my friends two and a half years ago, we couldn’t stop talking about it, and the case was the same after we read through the script tonight. Each character is so layered that I’m sure I’m going to be discovering stuff about Sarah until long after the show closes, and those are the best kind of parts.

Funeral Day and Related Experiences

This past Friday, my Uncle Joe lost his battle with cancer. While his death was expected, it was still jarring and sad to get the call from my mom that morning saying that he would probably pass away that day, which he did in the afternoon. My mom and grandparents were there, with my aunt (the one who just got married) on the way.

At the beginning of the month, knowing that this was probably going to happen soon, I e-mailed both of my bosses and let them know that when it did, I wanted to be with my family. My boss at Big Famous University answered with, “Oh, absolutely, no problem, just let me know.” My boss at the tours, though, wrote, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a cover for you. This is kind of inconvenient.”

Um… I apologize if my life and, more importantly, my uncle’s death, is getting in the way of my job, which, as it happens, does not really impact society. Even when I found out the date of the funeral, my boss whined about helping me get a cover. I asked if someone was on call, since those people are there to cover in emergencies. “Well yeah,” my boss said. “But I don’t want to use him.” In the end, a different coworker cancelled her plans to cover both of my shifts. Then, as if that weren’t enough, I was asked to do a practice tour at 3:45 this afternoon. I said no.

Because most of my family were coming in from several hours a day, including my parents and sister, I told my mom that if anyone needed a place to stay, they could stay the night with me. My cousin Laura ended up taking me up on that offer. She and my uncle Merritt booked a flight from North Carolina which was scheduled to get in around 12:05. Late, but not obscene, and I offered to pick them up from the airport. But then it became so when the flight was delayed and their plane was scheduled to get in at 1:30. Now, generally, I am a night owl, but lately, I’ve been zonked out by 11, so around 10:30 last night, I took a nap so I’d be alert while driving.

I met Laura and Merritt in the airport and we hopped in my car and went to leave the parking lot… and didn’t for twenty minutes. For some reason, the gates where you paid for your parking were causing huge problems. Besides two planes from Chicago getting in at the same time, only three stations were open, making the lines really long, and the computer system must have been down or something, because two supervisors were running back and forth between stations, hitting buttons on the computer. The lines that were moving (not ours) took about five minutes per car, taking a million pictures of their license plates and seemingly interrogating them about their departure. The person in front of us was having some issues. We didn’t know what was going on except that we weren’t moving. We decided to back out and try the credit card lane, but as soon as the decision was made, a jerk decided to block us in, making moving impossible. We tried to motion for him to let us out, but he pretended to be confused. Meanwhile, the person in front of us was being handed back his credit card as he gesticulated angrily. At last, the car behind us moved when it benefited him and I pulled into the credit card lane. Merritt took my card and the pay stub and fed both into the machine. Once it was accepted and the gate went up, we gunned it out of there. It had taken twenty minutes.

Because the plane got in so much later, Laura and I had decided to book a hotel room at the same place where her mom and Merritt were staying. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gotten to my place until 3:30 am at the earliest and would’ve had to wake up earlier to get to the funeral home. So we arrived at the hotel around three, my aunt Debbie met us in the lobby to give us our key, and I was asleep about twenty minutes later.

I got up at 8:15 to find Laura already getting ready. By the time Aunt Debbie arrived to take her to go get our grandmother, I was ready to go get breakfast. I had expected to go to the dining room, gather food from the buffet, and chill in my room until I had to leave. So I went over to the breakfast room with only my meal voucher and my room key to discover that it was basically a restaurant. Like, a sit-down, give-a-tip restaurant; good thing I hadn’t shown up in my puppy dog pajamas. I didn’t know what to do. Besides the fact that I didn’t have my wallet, my wallet had no money in it. Finally, after a long internal debate, I snuck away after eating my breakfast, grabbed my wallet, visited an ATM, had the girl at the desk break my twenty, and slipped back into the dining room to put the tip on the table.

I left immediately after that, checking out of the hotel and heading to the funeral home. I was very, very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect from anyone, and it was scary. But it wasn’t too bad. It was hard to see my mom, aunt, and grandmother getting upset, but the service was nice and short and I met some relatives who had last seen me when I was knee-high. It was great to see how many people came to remember my uncle- not only family, but his friends from high school, his co-workers, the three bosses from his workplace, my grandparents’ friends, and even some of my relatives from my dad’s side. There was a lot of love in that room.

I sat in the second row with Allie, Laura, Merritt, and my dad. In front of us were my mom, my aunt, and my grandparents. There was one extra seat in their row and I kept thinking that it represented the person who was no longer able to take that seat in their family. The service, as I mentioned, was short, and Allie, Laura, and I stumbled through it, since it was a Catholic service and none of us are Catholic. Once the service was over, we hung around a little as people trickled over to the hotel where the luncheon was being held.

There were fewer people at the luncheon and it was a nice time. It felt like people had left their outward grieving at the funeral home, and as far as I experienced, normal conversation was had. My mom and aunt had made up a scrapbook of pictures of Joe and we asked people to write good memories on slips of paper to be alternated with photos.

Laura, Debbie, and I accompanied my grandparents back to their house and stayed for a little bit, but we were all exhausted. I’m very grateful to be able to sleep in tomorrow, because I was ready to go to bed around one in the afternoon. I can’t even imagine how tired my mom and aunt were, since they’d been driving back and forth for weeks, for hours on end.

My uncle’s death made us all really sad, but it’s also good that he’s not suffering anymore, as I heard my grandmother say at the funeral. Now it’s time for those who were close to him to struggle back to normal life, knowing that at least his pain has ended.

Life/Job

There have been a lot of mix-ups in my tourguiding job lately. On Tuesday, we had one too many guides for a tour (a mistake that is certainly preferable to this morning’s situation, when a group of 60 kids and teachers showed up and no guides had been assigned to them.) Also on Tuesday, I was assigned to give a 11:15 scavenger hunt to a group that had a tour before the hunt. The group was supposed to leave for the tour at 10 am. They were 25 minutes late and, upon arriving, required a bathroom stop, which always takes an extra half hour. As soon as a group is late, we tour guides instantly start axing stops, because we are required to get the tour back by the time on our sheet. However, the guide leading this tour elected to give the group the full 75-minute tour and give them a shorter scavenger hunt time, since you can’t fill out the hunt without learning about the answers, which you get on the tour.

This was a good, solid choice on the guide’s part. After we finished the hunt, I went to my boss’ apartment to drop off the hunt supplies and pick up some more uniforms. On the way up, she asked how the tour went. I explained to her the situation and she leveled me with a stare. “So you DIDN’T offer to give them extra time on their scavenger hunt?” I told her no, we kept it in its alloted slot. “Well, did the other guide have somewhere to be or something afterward?” I knew she didn’t, but I didn’t want to throw her under the bus, so I said, “Yeah, I think she did.” “Hm,” my boss said. “I’ll have to talk to her about that.” The interrogation continued and it was obvious that the other guide and I could do absolutely no right by this woman.

This morning, I caught up with the same guide, who reported that she had been chewed out over e-mail by our boss. Besides berating the guide about all the things that had been covered with me, the boss also asked the guide if she had somewhere she had to be the day of the mix-up. The guide told her no. “Well, good,” the boss said. “Because you’d need to clear that with me. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have been able to add an extra 45 minutes to your shift.”

Say what?

Now, I like this job. It’s a nice job for an actor to have because it allows me to sort of do what I love. But this is still an entry-level position. A high schooler could do this job. So what on earth makes my boss think that we need to dedicate our entire lives to this not-even-a-career? This past week, I was told (not asked) that I was being given an extra tour. I had scheduled my therapy for that time slot but, not saying a peep to my boss, rescheduled my session for Wednesday and took the extra tour. I was then asked on Tuesday to give a tour during my rescheduled therapy time slot. This time I said no.

I am very dedicated to my jobs. Besides the fact that I need the money, I’m a chronic people-pleaser, so I like to say yes to any shift that comes around. But I do have a life outside of my jobs; I learned back in March that working so much that you don’t have a life is not healthy. So after I get my monthly schedule, I plan the rest of my day around my shifts. And while I understand that there are emergencies, I don’t get why this boss expects me to have an extra 45 minutes to several hours to add to my already-present shift. I’m a tour guide, not a doctor; my job is not so important to society that I should expect to drop everything at a moment’s notice to go into work. It seems to me that she wants to be notified of every little conflict, but I have to wonder- if I am having lunch with a friend, do I need to tell her that in case she decides to give me a tour? She’s denied people going to important doctor’s appointments in the recent past, deeming the request “ridiculous.”

Having had so many jobs in the past year, I know better than most people how insane the job market is. It’s hard to get a job, but it’s just as hard to work the job you eventually get. Even at entry-level positions, they’re now expecting you to dedicate your life to these jobs. They don’t ask you to take a shift- they tell you that you’re taking it. Certainly, we’re all strapped for cash and most twenty-somethings I know are ready and willing to fill in an emergency shift. But the fact is that we’re still people. Taking a day off every few weeks to spend with friends or family shouldn’t be considered a crime, and taking a few hours to go to the doctor should be allowed to be put BEFORE the job. How can employers expect their employees to work up to the level demanded of them if they’re run ragged? For the past few weeks, I’ve worked five to six days a week, sometimes doing two jobs a day, and that is perfectly fine with me. I can handle that. But I wish that that seventh day, the one that I cherish during the rest of the week and milk when it finally arrives, wasn’t seen as me being lazy. Perhaps if these jobs paid us enough to allow us to only have one job, the story would be different. But as it is, we twenty-somethings need to have at LEAST two positions to keep our heads above water, and I think it’s only going to get worse.

USPS Makes Everything Complicated

Since I’ve moved, I needed to fill out a change of address form. My mom told me I could do it at the post office, but I don’t know where the nearest post office is to my new place. So I decided to go on USPS’ website and find out. While on the site, I saw the following sidebar: Change of Address? USPS Makes it Easy! Click Here to Fill out Your Change-of-Address Form!”

‘Easy?’ I thought. ‘I love Easy! It’s my favorite word after ‘free!” So I clicked on the link and it led me… to a dead page. Or, an error page, to be more correct. I tried a few more times, continuing to get a page telling me that my internet service obviously sucked. Meanwhile, in other windows and other tabs, my internet was trucking along just fine. I let out an exasperated sigh and decided to call them instead. The machine on the other end told me that I’d be charged for doing it over the phone. Awesome. I hung up, figuring I’d take care of it in person the next day (today.)

I fully planned to figure out where the nearest post office was, drive over there, and settle this once and for all. But then, after a day at work, I turned onto my new street by habit. And it was raining. And humid. And I had to work on my monologue. And I JUST DIDN’T WANNA.

I kind of did, though. Mail is important. I decided to try the website once more. Admittedly, my internet can sometimes be crappy. Maybe today it would be better.

Eagle, my foot. The USPS is about as helpful and swift as a rock... at least in this case.

Eagle, my foot. The USPS is about as helpful and swift as a rock… at least in this case.

Nope. Still the same result, and after already spending too much time dealing with eBay and PayPal today, I was soooo not in the mood. I picked up my phone (which does not have a pretty cover, thanks to eBay and PayPal TOTALLY SUCKING.) The machine again informed me that I would be charged, but whatever, it’s $1.00, and, as I found out, you pretty much get charged no matter what. So I stayed on the line until I reached an agent.

We worked through my old address and then she said, “By the way, the card that you’re charging has to be linked to your old address.” This was a problem. My debit card, which is the one I was planning to use, is linked to my parents’ house, since I lived there for a good year after I got said card. And even if she asked for another card, the only other one I have is a credit card, which is also linked to my parents’ house.

But this was a bridge yet to be crossed, since she didn’t seem to care when I told her this information, prompting me for my new address. I gave it to her, all was well, and then she asked me for my card number. I supplied it for her, and a few seconds later…

“Oh, that didn’t go through.”

“So what should I do?” I asked.

“Well,” she said. “We can’t change your address unless your card matches up with your old address.”

I wanted to be a smart aleck and tell her that that WAS my old address. 1994 is pretty old. But I didn’t want to anger the woman who had power over my receiving my Netflix. Oh, and you know, my paycheques. I had already had to drive to my old apartment once to pick up a paycheque that arrived two days after my leave. And unfortunately, unlike my parents, who are still at the old (old) address, there is no one left in my old apartment to intercept my mail.

But the actual, important, big question was, how was I going to change my address when I’d already moved but did not possess a card with my (newer) old address on it? Get another card with that address on it to charge it a dollar just so I could get my mail? That seemed outrageously complicated and would take a lot more time than was logical.

I was staring into my wallet when I saw another card peeping out of the side pocket: my annoying job-related debit card, which holds my payment from my job at Big Famous University. It’s the worst thing ever; instead of direct deposit, which absolutely refuses to be set up, I get my payment on a debit card. BUT guess which address it’s registered under?!

Excited, I said to the agent, “WAIT! I have this debit card from my job. Can I try that?”

“Do you get bills from it?” she asked.

“No…”

“Then it’s not going to work.”

It had to work. It was my last chance of getting my mail. “Can I try it anyway?”

She sighed, annoyed. “I guess. But it’s not going to work.”

I fed her the numbers. A silence. Then…

“Oh. That actually worked.”

HALLEMAILJAH!

Shape up, USPS. Your system is flawed.