Here’s the thing: I write these blogs because this is the best way I communicate about my mental and emotional struggles in an honest manner. If you talk to me about the topic in person, I will make jokes about it until you are on the floor crying from laughter. At least, that’s the hope.
Because maybe it will distract you from the reality of sitting on the couch in the dark playing Food Network shows, but not really watching them because there’s no point because life is fleeting and your insides are numb.
Or, your heart rate is going and your mind is racing because somebody said something that was erroneous to them, but to you it is a mystery that could destroy your standing with this person. What did that mean? Does she not like me? Does he think I’m stupid, but playing it like we’re cool in public? What’s wrong with me? What did I do wrong? Is it too late to say I’m sorry—I think it is, oh god!
Each of these thoughts or something like them will run through my head at least twice a month. Times vary from a few hours to a few days. It feels like a solitary existence. That’s why I have to talk about it, and I’ve discovered that there are four good reasons to share.
Instant Support Group
This is the gimme reason, but it’s still important. Having support circles during the times when your mind rules your senses is one of the most important things to have. Talking about it with your classmates and instructors will provide insight into your life and mental state. It will help your performances because you are revealing another side of yourself, and it allows you to go to deeper and darker places in your shows. More importantly, they will be there for you on a rough day. Vulnerability is tough, no lie. I struggle with being sincere as opposed to making jokes about it. But whether you want advice or pity noises, they will be there for you. Like the theme song from Friends. ‘Cause no one told you life was gonna be this way... (Clap clap clap clap!)
Your Instructors Will Benefit
With many creative fields, there’s a “just do it and it happens” sort of mentality. That’s a great sentiment, and it’s great advice that teachers give often. But for people like me that live in their heads, that’s a bit like saying that there is a 10 percent chance I will fly if I jump off the roof. It’s a wild analogy; however, this is how I think. It’s really hard to trust just doing the thing. Being honest with your instructor about how you approach improv and life make them think about the underlying gears of the process. What tools can students utilize when they freeze up during a scene? How would I approach improv if my brain couldn’t stop yelling at me? Should I suggest KC Ryan’s anxiety and depression blog posts on the DCH website? It will be easier for them to explain to other students that have similar anxiety and depression experiences.
Being Honest About How You Feel
Has someone asked how you felt today, and you responded with “fine” despite feeling the exact opposite? I always feel like I’m lying when I do that during a heavy depressive state, but there’s a fine balance of being open and not scaring your co-workers that I haven’t quite figured out yet. Instead, I openly talk about having depression and anxiety when I’m feeling OK. I feel better when I’m able to joke about it, but still tell the truth about myself.
Then when my day or week is rough, but I don’t want to burden anyone, I decide that I’m going to be honest in at least one question about my week. This is usually at improv since every instructor has a habit of asking how the students’ weeks are going. I love it because I can solemnly shake my head and say “bad” and that is acceptable. Getting the energy up to do the improv itself is a little harder, but that’s another blog.
It Allows Others to Open Up, Too
One of the best experiences I’ve had with talking openly about depression and anxiety is meeting others who identify with my struggles. They’ve done the counseling dance, they’ve taken the medication. We laugh about how our minds go to irrational places. “You thought you were getting fired for a typo? I’ve had that too! Hilarious!”
Or it could help someone realize that they have had similar experiences, thinking that something was wrong with them but that it was just something they had to work on by themselves. No, no, you are not alone even if you feel it. There are tools and steps to getting the help you need, and there is a group of people who have been through the ringer who can offer advice. Sometimes I don’t believe that myself—“nobody understands me,” “there’s no reason for anything,” “I’m never getting better,” and all that rot. Yet knowing that I can help someone just by saying that I have depression and anxiety makes me feel as if I am helping in some way.
Ugh, this has been too much sincerity for me. Let’s end this blog with a raccoon wearing a tuxedo.
KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.