TW: suicide, suicide ideation
What a time. It’s probably best to start with the good things. And there are so, so many good things. Y’all, I started a theatre company. And somehow the ball keeps moving forward and it feels like one of the most important and crucial things I could do in this moment, especially as I start to realize PWI’s simply aren’t willing to do the work to make their spaces more inclusive. Specifically because to do the work, they’d have to step down.
And that’s simply not going to happen so I really hope my fellow BIPOC are listening and paying attention to the white defensiveness and the white tears and really hear it this time and….walk away. If they say they can’t meet very simple demands, walk away. Nothing for us without us. Good luck trying to create inclusive spaces when we’re gone. And my biggest hope is that as we walk away, we create our own spaces. As I said in my last blog post, I’m not interested in being in the room where it happens anymore because it’s happened too long without me. Without us. Let them scramble while we rebuild what they’ve irreparably broken.
In addition to starting my own theatre company, so many other good things have followed. I was on the Kilroy’s this year! I was commissioned TWICE during the pandemic. I’ve written four full-length plays since March and am attempting to work on a new one now. I’m also looking for grants for RLTC, reaching out to donors, directing shows, creating programming.
To be honest, the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me was being partially furloughed by my job. Or “work-shared” even though I’m not sharing my work with anyone so it’s weird that it’s called that. Yes, it was terrifying, especially since I was never able to get on unemployment so my pay was cut in half and I FELT that. I had multiple breakdowns about it.
But what ended up happening felt like a…to use a word I use way too often…like a miracle, like grace. A theatre company offered me an amazing opportunity (and they continue to offer me opportunities). I had time to really sit with my dreams and think about what I wanted to be doing, what I wish I had time to do. To think about why I had stayed my job and if I needed to.
There’s something really kind of mind-blowing about being told by your job that you’re not essential. That they can cut your pay, regardless if you can get unemployment or not, because, simply, you don’t matter. And I know that bluntness is something a lot of my co-workers would disagree with. I know that everyone had some sort of pay cut. I know everyone had a sacrifice. But there’s a pretty big difference between 3 days furloughed and to have your entire paycheck cut in half for 3 months and possibly longer.
It really forced me to consider my priorities. Why was I giving my everything to a job that had no issue with cutting my livelihood? Had I not gotten the commission, at the exact moment I had gotten it, I would literally be homeless right now because I wouldn’t have been able to make rent. And that is not an exaggeration. My paycheck was already so low that I needed to supplement it with playwriting just to barely make it. And I lost $5,438 due to canceled shows. So at the time I needed my paycheck the most, they cut it.
So what I was doing this for? It went from terrifying to empowering. It meant that I could take control of my life in a way I had never previously imagined. And has challenged me to make sure I do not lose that freedom.
I will not lose this freedom again.
So that’s the good stuff. And there’s so much good stuff. But…
A lot of people have said how amazed they are at how productive I’ve been and how what I’m doing in a pandemic is incredible and they wish they had the same energy.
And, truly, no you don’t. I have bipolar type 1. A lot of my energy is manic and it’s not really something I can control. It’s just…messy. And to be incredibly frank, the only reason I’m producing as much as I am right now is because I am very, very, very aware that if I stop, if I am no longer busy, I will kill myself.
And I don’t say that to alarm anyone. (I’m okay.) And I also don’t say that lightly. I’ve had very close friends die by suicide so it’s not something I would ever say lightly (although ironically I do say “murder me” often in a joking tone).
It’s important to me to keep talking about depression and anxiety and being very honest about where I’m at. And here’s where I’m at. I moved to Madison after my relationship (and marriage) of almost 9 years fell apart. I thought I was moving in with my best friend so at least then I wouldn’t be alone. Nope. She asked me to move out in February. And then immediately after that my job exploded. And then right when things finally felt like they were calming down, the pandemic happened. Since January, my personal life has been a complete shit show.
And then putting the pandemic on top of already crushing loneliness just made everything worse. Not only did I feel completely alone, but because we can’t really leave our apartments, I was now fully 100% isolated.
You know what makes people who are already dealing with suicidal thoughts even more suicidal? Isolation.
Oh, and did I mention I haven’t been able to find a new therapist yet because everyone who accepts my insurance has a f*cking waitlist?
So, I’m without therapy, without medication, alone in my apartment. Through my job, I was able to get five therapy sessions but that’s all they offer and the woman recommended therapists to follow up with (and they all have waiting list).
There are deeply morbid games my brain likes to play when I get this isolated. If I kill myself, how long would it take for anyone to notice? Especially now in a pandemic. My guess is I could be dead for about a week before anyone noticed. A close friend says they’d know right away but I’m not so sure.
And also I absolutely should not be entertaining those thoughts at all. But here I am, alone in my apartment, thinking about how I’d do it, how long before anyone knew, and what exactly happens when we die. Hell? Reincarnation? Endless nothing?
These thoughts haunt me. They’re why I can’t sleep. They’re why I’m so easily triggered (well that and being a black person in this country is fucking triggering).
So, I’m staying busy. I’m writing a ton of plays, I’m training as if I’m about to run a marathon (even though I haven’t been able to run recently), and I planning event after event. I have something planned every night to distract me from my loneliness and I’m still adding things on. Just to stay alive.
All because I think the other side of this will bring a lot of good things my way. Because I have 4 world premieres in 2021 and I would like to see them. Because I am deeply, deeply trying to convince myself things will get better.
Why am I sharing this? Again, it’s truly not to alarm you. I’m bipolar. Suicide ideation is part of the package. But I am sharing this because at the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote a post where I asked my friends who also are living with mental health problems to please, please, please stay alive.
And I want to say it again. And again. Stay alive. It doesn’t look like this isolation is ending any time soon. I share this to say I know how hard this is. Don’t let my productivity fool you. I’m in the same place you are. I’m just hiding behind my productivity. This sh*t is exhausting and tiring and I know where your thoughts are going. Mine are going there too.
Reach out. Ask for help. I’m here. I’m always here. I will make time for you. Let’s figure this sh*t out together. What makes you happy? And if the answer to that is nothing, then what distracts you? I don’t know right now what makes me happy but what distracts me is time with friends, being outside, playing with Luna (my cat), and doing theatre.
Find something to distract and do that. Do that until you pass out. Wake up and do it some more. I have book recs. I have play recs. I have ideas for social distanced outside activities.
But please, please, as much as you are in control of it, stay alive.
I recently went kayaking with a friend and LOVED it. It was the perfect distraction and in a single kayak it’s easy to stay six feet apart. Maybe there’s something in your region that’s similar? Maybe you could go on a hike. Maybe you could get lost in a video game and silmu-stream Hamilton with friends.
I have a million reasons in the world to be happy and I’m still struggling. I’m struggling every day. Friends, we don’t have to struggle alone. I’m here, for as long as I possibly can be, I’m here.
I love you. As much as you can, stay alive.
(And if you’re neurotypical, please reach out to your friends who aren’t. We aren’t okay.)
Please don’t worry about me. It’s important for me to frank and upfront about mental illness. I will keep finding ways to stay busy and I will keep working on going back to therapy. I’ll be alright.
Suicide Prevention Hotline (in case you need it): 1-800-273-8255