Last year, I went to a pamper evening held for a friend before her wedding. She is such a close friend that I armed myself with anxiety medication and went along, although being in a group that included people I don’t know, I barely said a word all evening. After a couple of hours, I was sitting next to one lady and the conversation turned to Seussical, the show that my friend had recently directed and in which I had played a lead role. The lady said she had been to see it and asked what part I’d played. When I told her, she expressed total shock, essentially asking how someone as quiet as me could have such a big stage persona.
This disconnect between my love of performing and my paralysing social and general anxiety, which prevents me from socialising and from going into a busy shopping centre, has been on my mind recently.
Tomorrow, I have to have my photo taken for publicity. My drama group are performing Guys and Dolls from 20-23rd March and, as one of the lead 4 actors, I will be photographed in costume with the others to try to increase ticket sales.
This has worried me ever since I heard about it. I think I’m concerned that people will see the photo and think “LB is clearly lying about the extent of her depression and anxiety if she can perform in a show”. Trouble is that nothing is every as simple as that.
It’s hard to explain how I’d much rather sing a song or act a scene in front of people than to speak to them. The worst part of rehearsals, for me, are the coffee breaks. If I need to talk to someone, I’d much rather email them than face speaking in person. But, when I’m pretending to be Sarah Brown or Miss Gertrude McFuzz, I will sing or speak to a whole bunch of people.
(Playing Gertrude last year)
Obviously there are exceptions. And in my two years of being in this drama group recently (it’s 25 years since it was founded and I joined but I haven’t been in it properly since before undergrad), there are more people in the group I can talk to and I don’t have to take a lorazepam in the car before entering the building for rehearsal now.
I do know that I’m not the only person in the world who uses drama to escape … and I think I need to embrace that and be glad about it, rather than being concerned that other people might judge my anxiety to be less real than it is simply because I can sing in public.