Mental Illness Vs Acting: Part Three

Wow this post has been a long time coming! It’s been ages since this actually happened, I’ve just been swamped in other things that I wanted to write about so this has had to wait.

At the end of Part Two I mentioned how my teacher, Kay, had said that she was going to do a session where everyone had to reveal their deepest secrets and talk about all the things that they were ashamed about. She said that she would tell me when this was going to happen and give me the option to duck out of that session.

Well the session happened!

First Kay asked us to close our eyes and visualise on ourselves where our ‘scars’ would be, I put my mine across my arms (self harm) thighs, genitals (self harm and sexual assault), heart (bereavement and betrayal) and forehead/mind (mental illness) she then started to go around the circle and got us to talk about our scars.

There were some things that I didn’t expect, I think it’s easy when you have a mental illness or a history of something like sexual abuse to think of yourself as different to everyone else, you cut yourself off and tell yourself that no-one’s been through anything like that and no-one can possibly understand it… so it was weird and kind of comforting to go around the circle and hear that some people had had similar experiences to me.

I was pretty scared when it was my turn- a few people had asked to speak later, and I asked them if they wanted to go before them because I didn’t want to unload my van-loads of crap and have them feel that whatever they were going to say was stupid and inconsequential. They still declined to I went ahead.

I started at the beginning, I told them about growing up with my Grandma and bereavement, I then told them about my Dad and his anger problems and how that shaped my childhood- I told them about being scared and vulnerable and the things that he’d done.

I then told them about the first incidence of sexual assault when I was eleven and the second when I was thirteen. I then took a very deep breath and told them about my mental illness.

It’s hard when talking about my mentalism because the temptation is always to focus on the depression side of it in order to make people feel more comfortable, but I didn’t this time. It was kind of like ripping off a plaster and seeing as I’d talked about everything else without sugar coating it I just wanted to get it all out… so I told them about the psychosis side of my illness, I told them about the worst delusions I’d ever had and I didn’t hold back. I don’t really know what came over me, I think I was probably over eighteen years of repressing and lying finally getting to me.

And when I finished I looked around and everyone was quiet… and I felt physically sick.

Kay took over and said that it had been a big thing for me to disclose all of that and that I was nervous and frightened about how they would react, especially about the mental illness side.

She asked me what I was frightened about, and I replied ‘that no-one will ever come near me again’ and burst into tears.

Everyone got up and rushed over to hug me- I think this probably made me cry more! I was just so incredibly touched and amazed that they were all okay with me and that they were still treating me as normal.

It’s been about a month since this happened, and no-one’s been weird with me- in fact, I think we’re all much, much closer than we were before and I’m glad that the session happened.

It’s not radically changed my views on anything, but it has made me feel a little more relaxed about telling people and also broken down all the thoughts that I used to have about other people being ‘normal’ and not being able to understand what I’d been through. Everyone has their own shit; it just varies in amount and type.

’til next time,

Wren x

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For B

If you read one post on this blog I want it to be this.

I want to tell you about a close friend of mine, her name is B. She is a Pagan through and through, she loves her faith and lives it with every second of her life. She follows Wicca and has the magick and the Gods running through her veins more than any other person that I’ve ever met.

She loves life, she lives life. I look up to her so much; she’s the one person who I want to be like. I love the way she views life and the way she follows her faith. She’s one of the toughest people I’ve ever met. When she decides she’s going to do something she does it, when she wants to achieve something she’ll achieve it. She’s strong and she’s brave and she’s funny and feisty and wonderful.

She has a brilliant sense of humour, she’s great at baking, she’s always prepared, she’s a fantastic writer, she has an awesome sense of style, she’s athletic, she loves her horses and her family, she loves her faith, she is a loyal friend, she’s a brave, independent person, she’s mature, she loves nature, she loves animals, she cares for the world and she loves life.

She died one year ago today.

She killed herself, she went to the local train station and threw herself under an oncoming train.

I haven’t talked about it much at all on this blog, I mentioned it when it happened but haven’t really talked about it since

What makes me so angry is that she will never be remembered for all the things that she did in her seventeen years on this planet; she will only ever be remembered for the way she died.

I can’t talk about her, I can’t mention her- everyone clams up and goes quiet when I do like her name is taboo.

I wish I could say that I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling to do something like that- but I can’t, I’ve tried to take my own life, I know how it feels to say goodbye to everyone and stand at the edge of life… but I never tried a method like hers, I never went for anything so final. It terrifies me to think about anyone being in a place where they wpould make the decision and go through with something like that. I hate to thiknk of someone that I love feeling like that and going through that all alone.

When they told me I started shouting at everyone stood around me, I was asking them why they were all just standing there, I kept begging them to stop her, to do something… but they just stood there and stared at me.

I went through a long period of hating everyone. I hated them for just getting on with their lives when she was dead, I hated them for carrying on as normal when the world was fucked. I wanted the world to stop, but it didn’t. I wanted to scream at everyone who was happy- and sometimes I still do.

So this is for B, this is a plea that she won’t become the lonely girl who killed herself- because she was more than that, we can’t ignore her death by saying that it was ‘her decision’ people don’t decide to die. They decide to stop living- and when someone decides to stop living it’s because life is too painful… and when a young girl with everything to live for throws herself under a train we don’t chalk it up to the unpredictable nature of life and ignore it.

I refuse to walk away from B, I refuse to let her pain fade away into history. She had a life worth living, and someone or something took that away from her.

And more than anything, I refuse to be quiet any longer about suicide.

B is more than the way she died.

Why Samhain is Important

When people talk about the Victorian era they generally mention the cultural embarrassment that surrounded the subject of sex. Generally when people make this point they are trying to show how repressed we were in times past, especially when they compare it to the mostly open way that we now view sex.

However, in making this point they miss out something quite important; the people of the Victorian era weren’t more repressed than we are today, they were simply repressed about different things.

While they certainly were quiet on the subject of sex they were open about another important topic; death.

The Victorians had many elaborate customs surrounding death (one that I’m especially interested in is memento mori photography) all of which were geared to help them accept and deal with loss. For a culture with a high mortality rate being open and realistic about death was important for people to be able to accept loss and move on with their lives.

As mortality rates have dropped death has turned into a taboo subject for us, it’s replaced sex as the subject that we can’t talk about.

A while ago I was giving a talk on the Ancient Celts and their festivals, on covering the subject of Samhain someone in the audience asked me why I thought Samhain was an important festival (if not the MOST important festival.)

I replied that Samhain is a festival that celebrates death- the only thing that is truly inevitable for us all, it was important to the Ancient Celts as they lived in a fairly volatile and war centred community, as well as obviously having mortality rates that were much higher than today, so death was a huge and common part of life.

Having a festival solely about death was and is very important. It takes the fear the away from it and helps us to understand, it gives us a day when we can remember those we’ve lost and grieve for them. We live in a society that is terrified of death, we seem to think that there’s only one way to react when someone dies and no-one knows how to react around those who’ve been recently bereaved, we don’t talk about someone once they’ve died and we’re all afraid of the inevitable darkness.

We shouldn’t be.

I love Samhain and I think it’s important because it cuts away all the crap surrounding death and bereavement. It lets us grieve, it lets us think and it lets us come to terms with the fact that everything ends, everything dies if we live our lives afraid of the end then we’ll never truly enjoy them.  I hate the way that people don’t want to talk about someone who’s died- I can’t talk about my friend or my Auntie or my Grandma or anyone that I love who’s died because it instantly makes whoever I’m talking to clam up and become uncomfortable. I never even talk about how they died or any of the events surrounding that, I’ll just mention something innocuous about them- but even that seems to be too much for most people.

We can’t ignore the dead, they have a place in our lives- for better or worse. We are more than physical beings, our lives all leave footprints even when we’re gone, and ignoring the pain of bereavement won’t help anyone.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that the people of the past were ignorant- but I think in the case of the Ancient Celts and Samhain and the Victorians with their elaborate death ceremonies we’re definitely in danger of moving in the wrong direction. Death is now a less common part of our lives, and whilst that’s definitely a good thing it also feels like we’re trying to minimise and wipe it out of our lives altogether

We can’t do this, we can’t ignore death- when I say it like that it seems ridiculously obvious, but we still try don’t we? Things don’t get better by being ignored, they need to be dealt with.

And that’s why Samhain is important.

Blessings,

Wren x

When Should You Disclose Sexual Abuse?

I think I’ve touched on the issue of disclosing mental illness to friends and partners before, there’s no clear cut answer to when you should tell them that you have mental health problems. I do think the answer is different depending on your relationship with the person that you’re telling- I would say that partners, or potential partners should be told sooner than friends, just because you’re committing to a relationship with them… but then maybe you have a different opinion, I don’t know.

What I want to talk (write) about today is when in a relationship you should disclose a past of sexual abuse. I think that a history of sexual abuse comes under the same category as mental illness when is comes to disclosing it to friends, but it’s vastly different when it comes to telling a partner about it.

The problem with disclosing sexual abuse is that it affects anyone you’re having sex with (although obviously there are differing opinions on that) so in theory, shouldn’t you be telling a one night stand? This was something that I’d never thought of until I ended up having a chat with a guy who I’d had a casual relationship with and mentioned that I had been sexually assaulted- he was furious that I hadn’t told him.

In his mind I’d put him in an awful situation, even though I felt that it was none of his business and it hadn’t affected things. He was still happy to have sex with me when he knew, but he argued that it was unfair on him to have been put in that position. My cynical side says that he was just annoyed at having been ‘tricked’ into having sex with someone like me… but I did feel guilty.

I’m not sure how I’d feel if the tables were turned, I think I’d understand if it was just a casual relationship but I would feel hurt if it was my partner.

The frustrating part is that there are no clear answers, I’ve disclosed my past to men I’ve known for five minutes and had long term relationships where I’ve never said a word- I think it comes down to whether you feel the other person can handle it maturely, and sometimes it’s a lot easier to tell someone that you’re never going to see again as opposed to someone who you care about and don’t want to scare away. The fear that they’ll leave is something that always stays with me, there are hundreds of lovely girls out there without my past- why would someone choose to stay with me when they have the option of a simple, easy relationship without having to worry if their partner’s going to suddenly start crying during sex or freak out over being touched in the wrong place?

I’ve spent a lot of time putting myself in sexual situations- yes, partly because I’m young and curious- but also because I want to get rid of that fear, I don’t want this hanging over me and dictating my life. I need to know that I’m going to be okay- and I won’t know that until I’m right there in that situation. I don’t want my past to spoil my time with someone who matters; I want to be able to have sex with someone I’m in a committed relationship with without worrying that it’s going to go wrong.

Do we have a responsibility to tell everyone we have sex with? Or should we only tell those we’re in a serious relationship with? If the latter, when should we tell them? The first time we get intimate? The first time we have sex? Or when we know the relationship is solid and long term? Or, do we have the right to totally keep it to ourselves?

’til next time,

Wren x

Why I Don’t Use the Word ‘Rape’

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (or even just scanned a couple of posts) you’ll have noticed that I never use the word ‘rape’ to describe what happened to me. The reason why I don’t is simple- I wasn’t raped.

I was groped, molested, fingered, masturbated on… but not raped. Under law digital (that’s fingers ladies and gents) penetration is not rape.

I have mixed feelings about this

On one hand it demeans a little what happened to me, it also makes it difficult to explain to people- I generally use the term ‘sexual assualt’ or sometimes terms like ‘groomed’ or ‘molested’ but all of these are a long way off what happened. There is no easy definition for what happened to me, and that can make explaining it to people stressful and confusing. I don’t like to go into detail in case I upset the person that I’m talking to, but there’s no one term that gives a good idea of what exactly I’ve been through.

However, the fact that it isn’t classed as ‘rape’ has its merits. The word holds so much power and weight that when you say it you lose people- they panic and get swallowed up in the power that it holds. You become a victim, you become a rape victim rather than a person… and that’s hard.

I’m honestly glad that I don’t have to have that, I can play it down as much as I want to and make sure that whoever I’m telling takes it carefully. As well as this the word ‘rape’ carries a very particular image, it’s the stranger leaping from the bushes and violently attacking the drunken girl in the short skirt. I’m thankful that I don’t have to deal with this preconception.

There are ups and downs to the word ‘rape’, and I know that as much as I hate not being able to communicate what happened to me, I’m glad that I don’t have to say that word to the people that I love and deal with the preconceived notions that come with it.

I’m not protesting against the use of the word ‘rape’, I’m just trying to make you think (as always) about the power of words and labels, how they are a double edged sword- for every advantage they have a disadvantage, and perhaps having them is just the lesser of two evils.

’til next time, Wren x

Tarot Cards and Omens

I have two glass dishes on my altar that hold my main pillar candles, the night after Samhain I went for a quick shower and when I came back into the room I found one of the glass dishes had been smashed, it was as though someone had picked it up and smashed it down right in the middle of my altar- there was glass everywhere and I was completely shocked. I just stood and stared for ages before I cleaned it up- I couldn’t understand what had happened.

Whether the explanation for it is normal or paranormal I still think that it was some kind of warning, it was like the Gods desperately trying to get my attention… so I did a quick tarot reading.

I only picked two cards; I got the Knight of Wands reversed and the Eight of Wands. I think that the warning they were trying to give me was to relax and not push things- just to let things happen organically and to THINK before I act, both things that I need to take into consideration at the moment both in my personal and professional life. I need to stop pushing people and relax, I have to trust that they will come back to me instead of pursuing them and consequently pushing them away, the same with my career.

I love reading the tarot. I don’t do it very often, and I’m not great at remembering the meanings of the cards (I always look them up) but I find that it gives a brilliant clarity to situations. Tarot isn’t about telling the future, it’s about understanding the present. I like to do a reading when I’m confused and there’s a lot going on in my life- or when I get the feeling that I’m in the dark about something. Tarot helps me to gain clarity and perspective, you may think I’m totally bonkers (hey, I’ve got the medical record to prove it) but I’ve made major life decisions (whether or not to take a gap year, whether or not to audition for a course) based on the Tarot- maybe the cards are just a way for me to tap into my subconscious and let my inner wisdom guide me, or maybe they really are some kind of oracle, either way they work for me…

‘til next time,

Wren x

Mental Illness Vs Acting: Part Two

The other week we had to do an exercise where we sat down and slowly released the tension in different parts of our bodies, we did it limb my limb- kind of like a few meditations I’ve done before.

When we were all relaxed Kay (my principle) walked around and looked at each of us individually and told us to relaxed certain parts of our body that she felt were still holding tension. When it came to me she told me to relax my jaw- I couldn’t, and after several minutes of coaxing I found myself breaking down into hysterical but thankfully silent tears, I got hold of myself quickly and tensed my entire body as I swallowed the emotion back down.

We moved on after I declined to talk about ‘my experience’ with the group, I felt angry and emotional, something that I tend to feel a lot when I’ve been ‘weak’, I think it’s some kind of defensive reaction to having shown weakness- like I’m determined to remind people that I’m tough and defend myself.

Afterwards I was still struggling, I managed to make it through a couple of exercises but fell at the last one and had to leave the room. I just got to a point where I couldn’t do it. I ended up in my usual place; stood over a bathroom sink looking at my reflection. When I have moments like this I like to find a mirror and hold my own gaze- writing it here it seems like the epitome of narcissism (look who’s using big words today…) but it actually helps a lot. I just stare at myself and tell myself that it’s okay, and that I’m strong and loved.

Eventually Kay found me and took me into her office- we had a brief chat. She told me that what I’m going through and the way that I’m struggling with the acting technique bringing up old emotions is alright, and that it’s not affecting me- she said that the only thing that would have a negative effect on my career would be if I chose to bury my past.

We talked a little about why I was holding tension in my jaw- for me this wasn’t really a big puzzle; it comes from clenching my jaw to stop myself from crying or screaming, something that I used to have to do on a regular basis, what was weird for me was realising that it was so present… I honestly would never have guessed that I was holding any tension there.

Whilst I was in the office Kay warned me that in a few weeks she’s planning to hold a class where we explore the bad parts of ourselves and the parts of ourselves that we hide. She said that at some point I would probably have to tell the rest of the group what had happened to me in the past and about my mental illness. She did say that she’d give me a warning nearer to the time and let me duck out if I wanted to- but that feels horrible and dishonest to me. I really don’t want to tell them- but I don’t want to be the selfish girl who thinks that her problems are so much worse than everyone else’s.

Any thoughts?

’til next time,

Wren x