A lot of things have been happening lately. First, I’ve been exhausted. I think it’s simply because it takes me hours to fall asleep every night and I’ve had to get up pretty early every morning. I’ve always had trouble falling asleep and I’ve managed to get through my days. But I was so tired yesterday that, though I did sell the most I’ve ever done during a work shift, I wanted to cry from exhaustion. So on my way out of the store, I bought some melatonin tablets (a.k.a sleeping pills.) I had already put in a lot of research as to whether it would react with my anti-depressants (no) and if they were safe in general (yes.) Still, I was nervous about taking them; just like anti-depressants, it was a step I didn’t want to have to take. But didn’t want to have another day like the past few exhausting weeks. So last night, I nervously took a dose of melatonin. For once, I didn’t toss and turn for hours and I feel more refreshed and well-rested today than I have in weeks.

A few months ago, my former playwriting professor and thesis mentor asked me to meet him on campus. When I did, he said he had written a new script and was thinking of me to play one of the characters. I was really excited and flattered by the idea, but months passed with no word about the project. I e-mailed him and asked if I had missed the boat, and he assured me I had not. Fast forward and I am part of the reading happening this Tuesday! It’s really exciting, but also really nerve wracking, because there will be a few people in the room that I admire very much, and the script is hard in parts. But I’m looking forward to it!

I’m also looking forward to seeing my play in Ohio in a little over a week! I’ve been getting more and more excited as time goes by. My mom and I are driving up the day before, and I just can’t wait to see a full production of my play done by the actors they chose.

Speaking of plays, I submitted a short play of mine to another Ohio theatre company for a production of one-acts in April. The form e-mail notifying me that my submission had been received said that I wouldn’t hear anything until February, so I put it in the back of my mind. But then today I got an e-mail saying that my play is has been accepted as one of three short plays being presented in a development workshop! So things are happening for my writing, which is great. Apparently they really like me in Ohio.

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Aside

I Don’t Like Surprises

It’s been a long day.

I’ve been working a lot, which is great, actually. I’ve made so much money in the past few weeks, compared to how much I used to make, that I feel like I’m swindling someone. But it’s not without its challenges, and today had a lot of them.

I got to work too late; I’ve been exhausted and kept hitting the snooze. Then I got to the store to see that I would have to go buy supplies after just one show, which wastes a lot of time, and ended up costing me over a hundred dollars (don’t worry, I get reimbursed, But still, seeing that number on the screen made me panic) and a lot of time due to a woman ahead of me in line who paid for each of her fifteen items separately.

Then I started my second show. The audience was not great: they wouldn’t answer my questions, and they just in general didn’t care. It was so bad that I almost stopped the show and told them to leave. Instead, I just got aggressive (or, aggressive for me.) I got very snarky and sarcastic, especially when they wouldn’t participate. “Who cooks here? No one? Wow, that’s unhelpful.” “What’s the worst thing to chop in the kitchen? Any ideas? No? Thanks, guys.” Et cetera. Sometimes this makes people laugh, sometimes it makes them look at me weird, but at least it gets their attention. But I noticed that one guy, in his twenties, was giving me a different kind of attention. When I would get super snarky, he’d laugh with everyone else, but in a sort of amazed, approving way. At one point, he leaned forward, snapped a picture of the box, and looked it up online, challenging me with the website price. It really annoyed me and I kind of snapped at him, throwing some sarcastic comments his way throughout the rest of the show to let him know that I didn’t want to hear anything more from him.

At the end of the show, I helped a lady with her purchase and the guy came over and asked if I could show him how to do a carrot on the shredder. I said of course, grabbed a carrot, and started to shred it. “You might want to use the safety handle,” he said. “I know,” I replied. He asked if I could show him on the machine, and as I grabbed for the clean one, he remarked, “You shouldn’t use the commercial one.” This made me stop. He held his hand out. “Hi, I’m Peter. I’m the New York manager.” “Yeah,” I sighed. “I figured.”

I usually would have panicked more, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe because I knew it was a bad show; if I had thought it was good and he said it wasn’t, that would have upset me more. So as he gave me notes, I nodded, tried hard not to make excuses. He was really constructive about it, so I didn’t feel reprimanded and everything was fine. The only thing I was worried about was his opinion on how I treated the audience (and, uh, him.) Thankfully, he said he really loved it. “I like a new agent who isn’t afraid to call people on their shit.”

He did a show for me and then asked me to practice part of my show for him. That was when I started to get frustrated, because when I don’t get something right the first time around, I feel like I have failed. I got to the point of tears, which was terrible and embarrassing and just all-around awful. He was nice about it, but that just made it worse. Eventually, though, I got past it, did more shows, got more notes, and then he left me to my work.

It’s weird because while my experience with Peter wasn’t bad, merely jolting, it made me feel awful for the rest of the day. When I got home, I exercised out my frustration (Insanity!), but then just laid on the couch feeling bad about myself. I recently recovered, due to my roommates asking me to help them in a pinch, but I’m still not feeling great.

In – Between

About a week ago, I handed in my two weeks’ to the touring company. With the colder months approaching, the tours will be slowing down. They will pick up in October because of Halloween, but with September being so bare bones, schedule wise, I figure I might as well spend that time training for the new job (live infomercials in stores) instead of waiting to get thrown a tour.

I didn’t get a response to my resignation e-mail, and I thought it was my boss being her usual passive-aggressive self. I expected to log into our scheduling system and find myself inundated with tours during the time I had declared myself done with the job. Instead, my calendar is blank for the entire month. Again, I figured this was her passive-aggression, but today, I got an e-mail from my boss basically saying, “I’m so sorry, I’ve been out of town for the past few days… Can you please work for us through October?”

I said I’d see, but I thought it was interesting how a boss who abuses her employees thinks that I would be quick to say yes to working for her more, when I had another opportunity. This is the boss who got annoyed that I had to go my uncle’s funeral, and the one who expects me to have extra hours laying around in my day to work if she demands it.

But this company is understaffed, so I am in a position of power: they need me, and I can say yes or no. My boss asked if she could fix it by giving me more hours. “Tell me how many more you need, and I’ll try to make it work.” She doesn’t seem to understand that even if I worked all day every day for them, I still wouldn’t be able to support myself, but I don’t see how that can be a surprise; she knows how much I earn and she also knows how much it takes to live. Plus, her treatment of me certainly hasn’t, until that e-mail, shown me that my time was of any worth to them.

So with my not being scheduled for September, for now it looks like this past Friday was my last tour. I was surprised not to be working over the weekend, but since I worked a few jobs for most of the week, it was nice to get to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday. Then, when I was awoken by thunder yesterday, I was more than happy to stay cozy in my bed with my laptop while the rain pounded against the window. But by midday yesterday, I was restless. The novelty of having the whole day to myself had worn off. When I have a whole day every now and then, it’s a gift. But now I’m in the position of that being the norm for possibly a week longer, and that’s kind of killing me. Thankfully, I am working at the university on Thursday, so hopefully that will make me feel useful again.

I’m also in between two beginning stages of taking anti-depressant medication. I took my first pill two Saturdays ago, got my dosage upped this past Friday, and now I’m waiting for it to actually start working. It might take another four weeks, which kind of sucks, but I’m just hoping it works at all- otherwise, I might have to start all over with another one. But it’s too soon to tell either way.

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.

The Way to Live (or Not)

It’s exactly a week (almost to the minute) that I was fired from my hostessing job. As I wrote, I was inconsolable right afterward and felt like a failure for many days afterward.

But here’s the thing: now, just a week afterward, I am so much happier. My stress level is down, I actually have some free hours (I even had  free DAY on Tuesday), and in general, life is just better. Even with the knowledge that I AM going to have to replace the job eventually, because I don’t have enough money without it, I still have a sunnier outlook than I had for the last month.

After I was fired and got over the sadness of that, I started realizing what my life had been like while having that job (and many others.) I hated my ASMing job with a passion. I didn’t have time to eat square meals; instead, I lived on granola bars, or, if I had a rare extra five minutes, a sandwich here and there. I hadn’t seen my friends in months. I was crying every day. I was, in short, miserable. As soon as I realized how much more time I had, I saw what a detriment my hostessing job had been to my schedule. Without it, I ate better. On the free Tuesday I had this past Tuesday, I did my laundry and met up with not only my former thesis mentor about a project, but with my friend Nicole, with whom I hadn’t spent more than 15 minutes with since December. And it was wonderful. I was smiling for the first time in awhile. I had hope again.

What this has taught me is that the cliche is true- money can’t buy everything. I spent a month entirely focused on earning money, and it was one of the worst months of my life. Living a life without friends and square meals, overstressed by work and commitments is not a life. It’s just misery.

So as it happens, something that seems like the worst thing in the world can be a blessing in disguise.

One Job Fewer

This past month has been one of the worst and hardest of my life. Between working so many jobs (most of which aren’t terribly fulfilling) and not seeing much of a change in my bank account, to having a lot of upsetting arguments with my parents, to being artistically frustrating, to dealing with my emotional problems on their own and relating to all those other things, it has been an awful whirlwind that left me miserable pretty much all the time.

I tried not to let my misery affect the work part of my life, and most of the time, I succeeded. Sometimes, though, it didn’t work. Twice, my anxiety showed at my hostessing job, and I could feel the managers watching me. But I wasn’t worried- people have bad days, and anyway, I didn’t need ANOTHER thing to worry about. The anxiety wasn’t just affecting me mentally, it was affecting my physically- I was dizzy, sick, and tired, sometimes to the point where I couldn’t even see straight.

Then came this week. I didn’t get my schedule for the week until Sunday night after work, and discovered that I was scheduled to work on a day that a surprise rehearsal had been scheduled for the show I was ASMing, less than two days later. That gave me about 24 hours to find a cover… and of course, no one was picking up their phones and I had a rehearsal for my children’s show, giving me no time to be on the phone all night. Finally, though, I found a cover and told her that I was sorry, but I couldn’t take her Thursday shift due to working two other jobs that day.

So I went to my ASM job feeling happy that I didn’t have to rush around. Then came Thursday. While I was still at job #1 for the day, my phone started ringing off the hook. It was on vibrate in my pocket, and it was hard to ignore the fact that someone obviously needed to talk to me while trying to pay attention to the boss right in front of me. I stepped out for a minute to call the person back, and five minutes later, I was sitting on the floor of my boss’ lobby, crying because apparently, I hadn’t shown up for my hostessing job… the one I wasn’t supposed to be working that day.

I apologized profusely and the girl who was originally supposed to work was able to go. I had to write the manager an e-mail with my conflicts anyway, so I included a lengthy apology. But even with all of that, I got a call on Friday asking me to come in for a “talk.” I’ve never been fired, but I knew what that meant. Not only did it mean I was going to lose my steadiest job, but it meant that in order to get the news, I had to miss my roommate’s thesis show. It was suckage all around.

Sure enough, at 3 pm on Saturday, I was told they were letting me go. I was pretty emotional about it in the moment, but even without my emotional instability, I think I would have reacted the same way, because my (former) manager was completely condescending. He said I had a lot on my plate, which is true, and if that were the reason I was fired, I would have understood. But he kept going. “If you need a letter of recommendation, I’d be more than happy to write you one. I’m not even supposed to do that, but you’re a really sweet girl, so just… let me know. But I do need to let you go, and all of the other managers agreed. They’ve had some problems, too.” This last part was not only hurtful, but confusing. I knew that one of the other managers had witnessed one of my bad days, but I also know that she had been genuinely sympathetic when I explained to her upon arriving at work that I had had a really bad day before arriving. And as for the other two managers… I can’t think of a single thing they’d take issue with.

But as I’ve said to the few people I’ve told, this was going to happen eventually. Even though this job was basically forced on me, they were obviously growing to hate my schedule. At the interview, they said they were happy to accommodate an actor’s schedule that might require me to basically take two months off. They also said it was fine that I had two other jobs. I tried my best to accommodate right back: though my therapy sessions are in the middle of the day, my therapist and I have worked together to schedule them as early as possible so that I could be available to work seven or eight hours as my hostessing job. But rather than taking advantage of that, every week I was scheduled for the afternoon shift, requiring me to remind them each Monday that I had to leave early, after two hours of work at the most. It was frustrating even to me to do this every week.

When I accepted my job as an ASM, I actually asked permission to take it from all of my jobs to take it. The ASM job does not pay much at all ($200 for a month of work), but it has career benefits that make it worth the small pay. But money IS important to life, so I wanted to make sure that my paying jobs were fine with me devoting a ton of time to the theatre. All of them said yes.

And yes- this show has eaten my life. I’m not a backstage person, and sometimes I wish I could devote more time to jobs that paid me more. But theatre waits for no one, and so I am working this show every day they need me. I gave my manager the show schedule weeks before the show started, and it was pronounced fine.

But then came the confusion of this past week, and it all culminated in my being terminated. I was hysterical. I was humiliated at being fired after only one month and I reached a low, low point. Hours later, though, when I had calmed down a little, I realized that I felt weird. Well, not weird, but different than I had felt for the past month. The pokey wire ball of anxiety that had been lodged in my chest was no longer there. I felt like I could breathe again. I had been afraid to check my email for weeks because there was always some new, overwhelming addition to my schedule, but now, I could look. In short, my stress level had gone down significantly.

It’s hard to believe that losing my job, after the initial mourning period, has actually made me happier. I feel terrible for feeling this way, but I think that in this case, my sanity was worth more than a job like that.

Working Girl or, The Problem With Having Too Many Jobs

I have a lot of jobs… a LOT of jobs. If you want to get really technical, I have eight. At one time. Some of them are temporary, some, less so. (It is the unfortunate truth that the job that I want and was trained for will always be temporary *dramatic sigh*) Without further ado, my jobs:

THE SEMI-PERMANENT ONES

-Singing server, which is soon to become a thing of the past. More on that in a future entry.

-Hostessing at a normal, stationary restaurant.

-Guiding historical tours.

-House managing the theatre of a Big Famous University.

-Freelance writing for Examiner.com.

and

THE TEMPORARY ONES (see also: the ones I enjoy the most)

-Actor in a children’s show

-Standardized patient (at an auditory college, at the moment)

-Assistant stage manager of an Equity musical (that’s right, folks- I’m a professional backstage person now.)

Some of them are brand new, like the ASM job I took just three days ago. Some, like my serving job, are Old Faithfuls. The problem is, however, that I absolutely, 100% cannot do all of these. I’m managing to sort of juggle seven out of eight of them right now, but not without occasional neglect of either myself or another job. I want to do all of them because I really, really need the money, but I can’t risk annoying eight different bosses. And also… I’m really, really tired. Right now, my body aches like I’ve either been exercising a lot of was beaten, and neither is the case; I’m just exhausted. This past weekend, I worked a double on Friday, went home, slept for three hours, got up at 3:45 a.m. to go shoot a film from 4:15 am to 7:30 am, went home, slept for two more hours, went to a six-hour (AMAZING) writing workshop, and then worked another double the next day. I thought I might be able to get some sleep this week, but between hostessing five days a week, training for either my house management or tourguiding job, and not being able to sleep because of stress, I am about to fall over most of the time. And I think my exhaustion is pretty palpable; today, I only asked my house managing co-worker if that job was year-round, and her response was, “If you have another job that’s stressing you out too much, quit.”

It’s what I’m going to have to do. More on that later… now, I have to go memorize a few pages of my tourguiding script.

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