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Working Through Illness

A caveat: I'll be using the words pain and life a lot. You can count.

Here it goes.

It’s ok to have a bad day. Is it ok to have a bad decade? That is partially exaggerated, I have been exposed to an enormous amount of beauty alongside excruciating pain. The only issue is that the pain makes it hard to appreciate or work towards and for that beauty once again. Sometimes I wake up feeling like I’m inside a glass coffin, which has been encased in an enormous, invisible block of cement. I can sense my surroundings, I can see it all, but I can’t move. I can’t do anything but stay there, immobile, unflinching, like the beetle-like insect in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Isolation becomes habitual. The problem isn’t whether you can live again, but rather, will you be able to handle any type of pain that may trigger a relapse? That’s the difficult thing that you must find some new language for, to be able to articulate that to people – that you are not indifferent, you are not cruel, you’re not being rude or abrasive – you are being cautious, because they might not be able to handle feeling responsible for your emotions when you can’t handle what your emotions might be. And sometimes you snap because your mood swings and you don't know why. It is unsettling. And my illness has made it extraordinarily challenging to navigate a personal life with art, because, when I give in to the art – I feel somewhat at ease – and the moment I do not, I can’t handle it. It doesn’t have to be this way. But that is how I am coping. That is how I find motivation. The pursuit of my craft, my way. It’s not easy. For a long time, even now, not only have I found social interaction strenuous, but I’ve also found it hard to look into the camera – which is a huge part of the job I’ve set out to do. The stage and the camera are public, visual mediums. Acting is being seen. So, it’s hard that I can’t express beyond pain when I’m not acting – I can express a different situation, then I’m fine, but the moment someone says, just be you – I want no cameras on, no photographs taken, because I know I’m not well, I’m faking it, I’m mentally ill – and I also know that it’s preventing me from being fully committed to my work as well. Basically, I'm saying my artistry helps me survive but it's also impossible to separate it from overwhelming scrutiny and agony, and a desire to be truly present and not escape. It’s an impasse, a contradiction, a paradox. It sucks. That's why I'm working so hard to overcome it. That's why I'm writing about it.

On one hand, this has made the stubborn, ruthless pursuit of my craft and doing things my way, and giving fearlessly into impulses and stimuli, somewhat recklessly, acceptable. On the other hand, it has made practicality almost impossible. And whether we like it or not our artistic dreams and desires must navigate themselves within the framework of a practical world. When you bypass those rules, someone must support you, and I know exactly where my support has been coming from, and that brings me to the unexpected recovery milestones, or coping mechanisms, that have emerged from this incredibly explosive time in my life. I have known and accepted that the best thing for me to do is embrace being unwell. Until I commit wholeheartedly to being healthy again, I will continue to use acting and art as an escape, and living will still be false, bland, empty, and only a means to protect myself by choosing comfort over real effort and exertion. I can't be fully present anywhere by escaping. I have chosen recovery because I need to come back to myself; I know that. And from that multiple recovery mechanisms have emerged – the curing of the incurable – the milestones of recovery.

It is so hard to write about this. But let's do this.

First, and highly unexpectedly, I embraced all my wounds, even in the middle of a global pandemic, another episode of illness, two very demanding lawsuits, and multiple attacks, and truth be told I had decided that’s what I was going to do before the pandemic began. The part I hated then, and hate now, is the passivity that it can entail. It’s like making something raw even more raw, taking a wound and cutting deeper into it, it is harsh and self-inflicted torture, in many ways, but I know why I did it and I’m writing about it to set the record straight, to explain to you, and more to myself. I'm trying a new method of emancipation. Whenever I am faced with an obstacle, I have two approaches: I get out my armour, or I fire all my weapons. I’ve never known what it would mean to surrender because I was never given that option. So, I broke. And it taught me that patience will not come so easily to me, neither will a lot of other things in life. I’m going to have to work twice, or thrice as hard because I don’t like injustice and I don’t like being coerced. I despise authority. Yet, defying authority has sometimes been a misguided notion leading to painful, tender situations that are hard to reconcile with. Hence, the need to embrace the sensitivity. Once you’ve become attuned to numbing and loneliness then it is really tough to find a way out. I adopted the approach, you must feel to heal, and it has meant I allowed waves of emotions to rise and wash over me, repeatedly. It can be terrifying. That would happen naturally before, and I had no way to handle it aside from self-medication. I let it happen again, partially by choice, partially because I had no control over it, but this time, with a lot of time spent on really feeling my way through what was going on, I have finally chosen treatment where I work really hard. There is no finish line to recovery but embracing that and all that it comes with is less denial and more acceptance. I finally feel free.

And that feeling of freedom has been combined strongly with a sort of ascetic, nomadic, suitcase mentality towards life, which I love holding on to. The actor’s life? I don’t know, because for me it has been my entire life. In other words, I was and am willing to endure financial hardship, uncertainty, instability, and simplistic or minimalist living in order to get closer to an authentic version of myself, in order to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to my artistic pursuits. It’s the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done with my life, and I’ve done some dangerous things. I don't take this evaluation lightly. What I love these days is simple, comfortable clothes, very natural, organic make up, no partying or intoxicating, self-indulgent atmospheres – I have become a hermit and taken myself to a stark place. I don’t know if such extreme measures were necessary – that is the palatable answer, that makes me capable of seeming somewhat normal once again, but the truth is – I had to take such extreme measures because the way I was, am, have been in my skin and bones and mind – there was never going to be an alternative to treatment. There was no other way to do this. And even if there was, it’s irrelevant now, because this is what I’ve chosen. What’s the phrase? I’ve made my bed so I must lie in it. Thankfully the bed is not as unpleasant as it may seem. It’s tough, but so is life, and all things considered I still know I’m one of the incredibly lucky ones. That awareness is part of my illness, and part of my art, part of me, and how I breathe. And I am thankful. Because despite the ways that awareness has debilitated me, made me feel flawed or even guilty, it has helped me cultivate a soul, which I am starting to learn to love. And yes, that means accepting that it needs to be loved back.

Third came, what I’d like to call, long-overdue justice. I can’t even begin to explain how bizarre this part of my life has been. It was everything that was wrong with me tied with everything that was wrong with the world against a government that had no reason to do anything about it since I did break their rules, but I knew I was innocent, so I fought anyway. And, yes, I won. It cost me my sanity to prove I wasn’t insane, but I did it. I needed to taste justice. I’ve liked the idea so much for so long, but this time I felt it, and it feels great. I’m being slightly abstract, so the specifics are as follows: I got justice for what happened to me in the aftermath of sexual assault and abortion by getting the ability to exercise my rights as a dual citizen, of sorts, and I extended this justice further by moving to a different country entirely. Moving has been and will always be a huge part of who I am. I don’t like to be in one place. It feels unnatural. That’s why I would rather travel than pursue ambition. A new environment is more valuable to me than money, and yes that’s a privileged position. I’ve had that privilege since I was born. Being forcefully made to change that aspect of who I am because of anything less than genuine criminality was not acceptable to me and so I fought. I will always fight for this right. I was too young to consent to moving when I was a minor, so as an adult, I cannot be placed on trial for now adopting an attitude that clings to that way of life. And if anyone dares to say that’s self-indulgent, I will say to them: live my life for one day. Because you’d only criticise it because you want it. And I’m telling you, you might not be able to handle what you want. Everything in life has two costs: one economic, and one spiritual. At least I’m choosing to see it that way. The sheer beauty of my life is so precious that anything in its opposition is equally atrocious and monstrously ugly. That is what makes it hard to look at the camera as myself, to look at others, to just be – because the complicated truth behind my eyes is engulfed in – yes that word again, pain – and until I really work through this, I know that pain will never go away. It has taken more time than I can really afford, more than I can stand, and more than I predicted – but my support system and self-belief got me to here, where I am comfortable with you, whoever you are, reading all of this.

I am not scared of living. I am only scared of living a lie.

Being able to say – write – that, and sharing it, is itself a recovery milestone. And achieving every recovery milestone, uncovering them, understanding them, knowing them, that’s working through this illness.

I wake up, I get dressed, I show up, and I believe in myself.

I feel hopeless, I start something, I begin writing, and I tell the truth.

Repeatedly, until the loudest, most compassionate voice in my head is my own.

If you’re here for it, don’t worry, I’ll make these more concise at some point. I can't promise I'll be filtering anything out though. And you must accept that your opinions are irrelevant.

Everyone has to work through this illness in their own way.

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