Originally, I had planned on writing a blog post based on questions y’all asked. But no one asked. So then I was going to ask myself a bunch of silly questions but then after a couple of talks with friends, I realized there was something more important I wanted to say.
There are so many classes and chances to see museums and workshops happening right now. It’s really made a hard argument for how we can make the arts more accessible and why haven’t we always been doing this. Why weren’t there more chances to live stream before? In a “dying” industry, why did it take a pandemic to make us think really creatively about outreach?
I could write an entire post about that alone….but this post is for my friends, most of them who are artists, who are struggling to participate and beating themselves up over it. Who are having a hard time getting out of bed. Who are deeply, deeply depressed and feel like they have no other options.
(TLDR: Your only responsibility right now is to do everything in your power to stay alive. Not a lot is in your power right now. I know that. But there are some things that are: Don’t self-harm. Don’t relapse. Don’t die.)
As exciting as all the workshops and classes are, I haven’t been able to do a single one. Most times Zoom meetings make me more depressed and I feel less connected. Especially if it’s more than four people. Why? Because I take my social cues off of what people don’t say, off of body language. I’m used to reading a room and I can’t do that in a Zoom meeting. I can’t see if your hands are fidgeting or if you’re getting uncomfortable so I should either change the subject or try to work through that discomfort. For me, nonverbal communication has always been more important and that’s really hard to right now.
Put that on top of feeling completely isolated in a new city where I have few friends and I was already going through a MAJOR change in my personal life that was already really difficult and sad…It’s made me feel completely and utterly alone. I can’t go outside to talk to people. I can’t go back home (where is home now anyway?).
I want to talk to my friends about it but many of them aren’t really in the same situation. Many of them are partnered and settled. I am not diminishing your isolation* either, but it’s different. I WISH I had a partner I could yell at for not doing the dishes or acting like a bit of an ass. Right now, I’m just arguing with my cat.
All that said, before the age of 18, I tried to kill myself twice. Before the age of 20, it went from two attempts to four. By the time I was 21, I lost two of my dearest friends to suicide and I lost three friends who weren’t super close to me but I still knew them and cared about them. So five people, who died, all before they were 23.
I feel like suicide follows me around. I’m not suicidal now but even before the quarantine, I thought about it a lot. Maybe once a day? There were no real plans or anything but it was definitely on my mind. And now, it feels like it’s on my mind all of the time. Like, truly, I started to running just to get out of the house, just to think about something else other than my crushing depression and loneliness.
So why am I sharing this? Why am I telling you this, especially on a playwriting blog? Well, for one, part of being an artist is being human. And I strongly believe in being upfront about my mental health. But also, to say I get it. I deeply get it. When Bea (one of my close friends) died, in her note she said “I was a fuck up so this shouldn’t be a surprise.” I understand feeling deeply hurt, feeling deeply abandoned, and frankly, feeling like a fuck up.
I get it.
Here’s the thing: I’m glad to be alive. Thankful. 15 yr old me (the first time I attempted suicide) would’ve never believed that some day I’d have a play read at the Kennedy Center. That I would be an artist and find a way to make a living off that. That I didn’t have to stay in LA. That the demons I was living with then would fuel a career and give me an incredibly unique voice.
I had no idea that at 30, as bleak as all this shit is, I’d actually be living my dream life.
The way I see it is I have no right, at 30, to decide what my life will look like at 60 and that it’s not worth waiting for.
Friends, hear me: It’s worth staying alive if for no other reason than to see what you’re capable of. Stay alive for you. For the you that doesn’t exist yet.
And I understand feeling unproductive right now. I wrote 15 plays last year. This year, it took me MONTHS to edit two plays and all I’ve been able to write is a one-act. I can barely focus at work and it’s taken everything in me to just shower every morning. I actually had to trick myself. I haaate being sweaty so I walk in the morning and then when I get back I want to shower. And that’s how I’ve been able to trick myself into showering every day.
It’s really, really hard right now. I know that. Take it easy on yourself. Take a breath. Take a walk. Do whatever you need to.
But stay alive.
*Y’all I know it’s hard for couples too. I realize for some people, there are trapped in their own personal hell because their partner is abusive. I don’t mean to be dismissive of any of that. I wanted to speak from my own experience as honestly as I could but I know being partnered does not equal being happy. Or being safe. So, when I say “stay alive,” I am saying it to whoever needs to hear it.