My Lockdown Corona-Coaster

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Mental Health

I know I haven’t been around for a couple of months! I can only apologise! Like much of the population I have been slowly losing my mind.

I stopped watching the news in April because I couldn’t bear to learn what preposterous idea Boris and his team of terrible Tories have come up with next. Instead, I have been learning what’s going on in the world through hilarious memes shared across various different social media platforms with friends that I’m not allowed to see, all of whom are in places I’m not allowed to go to.

So, here is my Corona-coaster in action, all the way up and all the way down and round and round in bloody circles, until I have reached what will hopefully be slightly more consistent plateaux.

Weeks 1 to 3 when we were assured by our Prime Minister that we would only be in lockdown for 3 weeks I was filled with optimism. Finally, time to get my shit together. I would start ‘couch to 5k’, a new HIIT plan and a new diet to boot! By the end of lockdown, I would not only look great, but I would feel fabulous!

I would also start a new drive with The Arts Business. This was the time! Yes, I had lost 90% of my contracts due to the fact that I’m predominantly based in the arts and events industry but heck! Everyone would be in the same boat. We could get through it together. This was going to be great; I was finally going to do all the things I never got around to!

How was I to know this theory was so flawed!

I am used to travelling to different places to visit friends and colleagues up and down the country every weekend. I was just starting Am Dram season at The Core in Solihull, having just finished up Annie the Musical (with my dog Molly playing Sandy, she was amazing FYI.) I was ready to spend every other evening for the next 3 months in the wings! I went out for dinner dates, babysat friends’ children, went to rehearsals for future shows.  Even on home office days I went to coffee shops and bars to mix up the monotony of working from the same desk all day.

I would hazard a guess that not once in my life, even in my darkest periods of depression and anxiety, had I ever been more than a week without at least entering someone else’s house, let alone travelling more than a 10-mile radius to go to the supermarket and back.

And so, my initial breakdown began.

I sat in the garden and cried. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have a garden, and I’m not sure I would have lasted as long without it.

This was the longest of my meltdowns so far: I ruined my sleeping pattern; I spent countless days watching hours of easy television; I let the monotony of life take over me. The death counts and number of cases weren’t getting lower that quickly and the only news we had was that lockdown would be extended by at least 3 weeks…

At least 3 weeks? What does that even mean? To me it meant things weren’t getting better, maybe they never would.

However delightful my housemate is and however lucky we are to be living in a world where we can see anyone we want in a matter of seconds via video link, it just wasn’t the same, isn’t the same, as seeing someone in real life!

A friend who was also struggling dropped by to gift us an overspill of baking (sooo lockdown, am I right?) She ended up staying for 6 hours! At a reasonable social distance of course.

And so, our weekly sanity garden gatherings began.

I mean, one thing lockdown has had going for it is the weather. Basically unheard of for Britain, but those first few months were filled with brilliant sunshine 95% of the time.  The world may have been falling apart but at least the sun was out and I hadn’t had to fill up my car with petrol for a month.

Swings and Roundabouts right?

I had reached the (albeit slightly selfish) conclusion to ‘F**k Coronavirus’! If it was my time, I thought, then it was my time.  I’d rather be out living my life than die in between the same four walls watching bad TV with only a tan (and a pretty awesome dachshund) for company.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being stupid! My Dad, for example, is high risk, so I wasn’t about to head over to his house and lick all the door handles, but I needed something.

It was around week 8 (day 310) that my mood swings were so intense I was living like a yo-yo.

By week 12 (day 1456) I thought if I do another quiz on zoom imma lose it! And I bloody love a quiz!

Week 16 (day 32, 851) I couldn’t find any motivation to do anything at all! I mean, if I can’t motivate myself to get off the sofa and work the day through how the hell are children meant to motivate themselves to home school.

Finally, week 20 (day 1,287,345) I know I needed to get a grip. Work out the negative, focus on the positive.

I went through therapy a few years ago where I learnt that I thrive in other peoples’ company and that had been completely lost in lockdown. I love group socialising! And even though I’d probably had more contact with my friends over social media than ever, it wasn’t the same as actually seeing someone in the flesh, and not freaking out if your hands accidentally brush over a tea cup.

I decided that mental health needed to take precedent. Not just mine, but my that of my friends, my family and my colleagues.

So, we expanded our bubble, again responsibly.  I know it’s not entirely in line with government guidelines (but who can understand that bag of contradictions anyway?). My friends who had been reaching out, struggling and felt all alone were brought together to get through whatever this life is and whatever it was going to become.

I watched the ‘Dear… Lin Manuel Miranda’ documentary on Apple TV and he said that if you have an idea that won’t leave you alone, that idea that keeps tapping you on the shoulder saying: “Hey, remember me, I’m here, I’m awesome,” you’re bound to do it eventually. And chances are that’s the one that will work.

So, The Arts Business will be my Hamilton

I started to count the little things as wins. I find it very easy to listen to the negative voices in my head, the ones that tell me I’m not doing enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not healthy enough, I’ll never be enough.

Which isn’t true…

I’m pretty awesome actually.

I have started to chip away at my to do list, things that I had fully intended to do at the start of lockdown.

I bought a new laptop and phone as a kind of business loan to myself. No more blaming my laptop (which FYI was not fit for purpose).

I stopped playing games completely obsessively (major deal for me).

I give myself credit for doing short bursts of work with different activities in between.

I decided to focus on me and hopefully the rest will follow.

Anyone else struggling with lockdown?! Let me know.

 

You’re not alone.

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Last night Some Am-Dram Saved My Life

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Mental Health, Theatre

I know that this blog is primarily about how to apply business skills to your Arts Business, but I will from time to time bring mental health to the forefront of discussion because I think it should be openly discussed and it’s an important conversation.

The Arts Industry is rife with people who struggle with their mental health and (although I will admit that I have no scientific research behind this) I would argue that there are more individuals battling with invisible illnesses like anxiety and depression in this industry than in any other.

Sometimes working in the arts feels like a constant uphill climb.  We are encouraged to go out there and live our dreams, but we are never told how hard it is going to be.  The hours are long and the pay is often low.  Environments can be stressful, and experiences can bend you to complete breaking point.

 

Now please don’t get me wrong:

 

I love the arts!

 

And however much there are times I want to pack it all in and runaway forever Lady Theatre keeps dragging me back!  There is nothing like the creative industry.  The rush, the excitement and the passion!

 

A few years ago (without going into too much detail) both my personal and professional life began to crumble and I started to fall apart.  I went on long term sick leave with the diagnosis of depression and anxiety and vowed never to work in the arts industry again.

After a year of struggling I couldn’t even bring myself to open my laptop and the idea of searching for a new career made me feel physically sick but I knew I needed to do something, if only to appease my friends and family to show them that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

A neighbour had told me about a charity panto that would be taking place in February called: ‘Goldilocks and the Three Martians’.  

“They always need volunteers to help with props and set” I was told.  She passed on my details and found out the rehearsal times for me.

So one Friday, when I was having a good day, I decided to push myself to attend a rehearsal.  I was instantly introduced to the Head of Props who immediately gave me a copy of the script, talked me through all the things which needed making and invited me for a meal to meet the rest of the crew.

I went, I chatted. I was instantly enveloped into a family of different personalities who had one key thing in common: they LOVE theatre.

Now, a year later, I am the official stage manager of this year’s panto: ‘Sinbad goes Down Under’ and I have been involved in crewing, building and propping the entire amateur dramatics programme in the Solihull Area. 

More importantly, I have learnt how to manage my depression and I have remembered why I fell in love with the arts industry.

I used to be quite the cynic about amateur dramatics.  Basically, I was a bit of a snob.  I felt like there was a strong divide between “professional theatre” and “amateur theatre”.  To a point it is instilled in you at arts school that you are somehow better than that, above it.

But there is something beautiful about amateur dramatics though.  It is pure and innocent.  There is none of the economic politics.  Everyone is there because they love what there doing, whether that is onstage or off.  They have become an immediate community of likeminded friends. 

 

And they have reignited my desire for this industry and helped me find my way in this beautiful life. 

 

If ever you’re feeling lost in what is often an overwhelming world, I implore you to seek out the hobbyists in your industry!  They may not be the most professional, the most innovative or have the highest production values but none of that matters!  They are the most positive and passionate groups and they just might relight your fire.

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