Thursday, 28 October 2010

Performing and weight

I am not feeling that great. Not desperately suicidal or anything. Just not good. I suppose that is a bit of a daft thing to say really as I never feel good. I don't know how to explain it really. I suppose it is partly just the post show blues making me feel flat - I think that is something everyone experiences after performing. It fills so much of your life, particularly during the actual performance period, and the week or two leading up to that, and so it is bound to leave something of a void when it finishes. It is strange how slowly the last few weeks have gone - it is less than 3 weeks ago that my friend was here, and it feels like so much longer. Back then, just 2 weeks ago, I didn't even want to go to rehearsals, and I wished I wasn't doing the show at all. Then it took over for a couple of weeks, and whilst I would say I was happy to be going off out every night, and I didn't always feel like it, I got on with it, and it was fine, and sometimes it was fun. And now I suppose I just have a gap. It has been quite a few years since I have done a big musical, which may be contributing to it I suppose - I didn't perform at all, apart from some concerts and festivals, between 2006 and this year, so that was a 4 year gap, which is really quite a long time. I was still dancing, and I did some teaching in that time, and some directing and choreographing etc, but I didn't actually perform myself, and the last musical I did before Carousel was Les Miserables back in 2005. I actually hadn't realised quite how big a gap there had been - I knew I hadn't been performing for a while, but it is only now I have opened up my CV and am actually looking at dates that I have realised just how long. Then in 2006 I did open air Shakespeare, and a very small part in a play, and then absolutely nothing bar concerts/festivals, and extra work in one film in 2007 (which I don't count as acting as you just stand about and move when you are told to) until the one act play I did earlier this year, then The Tempest, and then Carousel. It is strange - between 1998 and 2003 I did 2 musicals every year, and sometimes a play or pantomime too, and then usually a couple of concerts as part of a choir as well, and various other things, and after that I started doing less and less, until I stopped completely in 2006. I know that is no coinidence - 2005 is when I first tried to kill myself, and also when I moved away to university and was hospitalised etc, and although I did a couple of things in 2006 when I was back home, I know things had changed. They had started to change before that actually - I did my first summer course at a big Drama School in 2002, when I was 16, and I came home pissed off that I was starting A levels rather than a performing course, and unhappy with the quality of the productions I had been doing, and just wanting more. I also had my first audition for a West End production that year, which despite being dreadful, made me want to perform even more, and therefore made me even more frustrated with college etc. Then 2003 was when everything seemed to go wrong and I was first diagnosed with Depression, and given anti depressants, and an Eating Disorder, and referred to the CMHT. And I suppose I just started performing less and less as I just didn't have the motivation or energy, and I found being around people too difficult. I kept up with dance classes virtually the whole time, and I carried on with singing lessons until about 18 months ago, when a) my singing teacher moved away, and b) I was having severe problems with my voice, and I did some acting classes for a while, and some summer courses etc, but there were absolutely no productions after the summer of 2006, until the spring of this year.

Then this year I decided to force myself to do things, even if I didn't feel like it. I knew that performing was still the only thing I ever cared about, despite not caring the majority of the time. So I got involved in the 1 act play. I can honestly say I regretted that about 99% of the time. There wasn't a single rehearsal or performance I wanted to go to, I couldn't be bothered with it, I didn't care about it, I didn't enjoy myself. Then it was on to the Shakespeare. That was better. I still didn't want to be doing it most of the time, but there were some points that I was enjoying it. Shakespeare wrote so beautifully that it is hard not to get into it - when something is that well written you have to put everything you can into it (as of course you should with everything, but some thing just demand it). So although I never felt like going to the rehearsals or learning my lines, there were times when I was pleased to be doing it. And then Carousel. That has been a bit of a mixed one. I would be lying if I said I haven't enjoyed it some of the time. I still felt a real lack of motivation towards going to rehearsals, but they generally improved when I got there, although not always. I liked working with a good choreographer. I liked doing the pas de deux (bar the somewhat scary Saturday performances, and of course hurting my back!). It was a little difficult only being in the second half of Act 2, as that meant I didn't go to many rehearsals, and so really didn't get to know the cast very well at all, apart from those I was in scenes with, until the couple of weeks before the show week, but when I did get to know them they were a really lovely bunch. I got to know the other principal females particularly well during the week of the show when we were sharing a dressing room, and that was great - they were good fun. So there were lots of positives. On the other hand, there were also days when the thought of going out to a rehearsal had me in tears, as it just felt too much, and a couple of rehearsals that I didn't go to because it was just more than I could face. 3 weeks ago I would have said I would be massively relieved when it was over. But it really did improve a lot during the week before the show, and the week of the show itself. I wasn't happy, and I wasn't hyper and excitable like I used to be during shows, and like other people were. I felt quite flat and numb. I didn't get at all nervous, which actually isn't a good sign, as you need a bit of adrenaline to give a good performance I find. But it was the most positive performing experience I have had this year. Maybe because it was a musical, and really that is what I am most passionate about, or maybe because of having such a great cast, particularly in my dressing room. I don't know. I still didn't have the spark I want, but I didn't spend my whole time wishing I was at home, and that has to be a good thing right? Goodness, this was such a tangent. I can't even remember what my point was....

Right, yes. So when you are doing a show, it kind of takes over you life, and when it finished you are just left with this hole. I suppose it is particularly strong because I haven't been doing anything else this week either - normally I would have been to ballet twice, but it has been half term so that hasn't been on. So yes, I suppose I am partly just feeling a bit empty because of the show being over. Then I am struggling with my weight and food as usual. I ate far more today than I should have, and so feel terrible, and am really scared of what the scales will say tomorrow, but not weighing is not an option. Then there is normal depression stuff. I am doing better than I was a few weeks ago I think - I have read a few books over the last couple of weeks, which is usually at least a vague indicator for me, as when things are really dreadful I can't read. But I just feel kind of on edge. I am still having lots of suicidal thoughts, but I am not in that numb, unable to move type depression. I feel a bit impulsive I suppose, which kind of scares me, because in some ways it feels more unsafe, but I don't think I am at risk of acting on the suicidal thoughts at the moment, even in an impulsive mood. I have been getting a lot of urges to self harm though. They are often strong when I am really frustrated with my weight and body. I wish I could just cut big slices of fat off. Off my thighs. I keep getting these pictures flashing into my head of just carving massive chunks of fat off my legs. I won't attempt it - that isn't my style, but I would like to. I really need to find a way of getting in control of my weight and what I am eating, because at the moment it is just making me feel terrible about myself. I need to lose weight. I can't even express how important that feels at the moment, and yet how impossible.


  1. *hugs*
    Do you *have* to weigh yourself?

  2. I always got a post-performance low too. It can be really hard to deal with. I think it is positive that you are trying to perform again. I think you are underestimating how much you have got out of the performances. The way you write about it, I really think you have cared about it and enjoyed it more than you think you have. Even when you think you haven't enjoyed it and have been exhausted and frustrated, you have written about it a great deal and with passion. That should tell you something. If you truly didn't care, you would barely mention it.

    Sometimes the recognition of this lags behind, but you are doing well. Keep at it.


  3. Firstly, I. LOVE. LES MISERABLES. It's my favorite musical EVER! What part did you play? Also, it's really cool that you were an extra in a film. Anything I've seen? (You don't have to answer that if you don't want to.)

    Are you planning to try out for any other plays/shows this year? It sounds like Carousel was a good experience, so maybe more things like that will lift your mood a bit.

    I can relate to a lot of what you said about weight. I know what you mean when you say not weighing is not an option. I wish we weren't slaves to those numbers, you know?

    Take care.

    Wishing you well,

  4. I feel a bit of a prat reading your post because had I known you are a performer I would have read your blog more often. I'm from the Classical side of music and can relate to what you say about performing and employment gaps very readily. I also have serious issues with eating, but in my case it is binge eating that is the problem, and an obsession with food.

    I'm in therapy at the moment so am all at sea emotionally. Performing is very hard within mental illness, especially because we all know how image obsession is a driving force in the profession and that there is little support for mental illness in "Luvvie Land". All shades of wrong since there are so many mentalists within the profession.

    My rule of thumb is to keep performing little and often, so that intimidation doesn't set in.

    As per eating disorder: this is tricky, because the fear of being even a little overweight is encouraged by the obsession with thinness rife in the profession.

    But, I changed the language I use for myself a while ago because I asked a number of people what they expected to see in a theatre. In terms of look, the over-riding descriptor was agility and litheness. In my book, a lithe dancer, singer or actress is not thin: she is lean, and strong - but not overly muscled, or manly. But as a guide, I think back to performers like Gene Kelly, and Kurt Douglass. Kelly was a lean, compact guy, who danced tight. Douglass was more rangey but was still very strong from his circus days. Notice I haven't used any female performers: that's because they were often riddled with anorexia, drugs and alcohol - their thinness leading to fainting on and off set. Ute Lemper being one such modern example.

    But it isn't easy to change the dialogue you have in your head about weight, since the need to perform sets up an atmosphere that promotes anxiety in general - which in my case fuels insecurities.

    I haven't figured out whether you have had therapy for ED / other mentalisms including suicidal thought: perhaps this might help. I think it is really important that you dance: does this lift your mood? - it seems to encourage you to perform more... How I wish I had that hunger at the moment! And you did a West End audition not that long ago? I haven't auditioned for anything for ages, so you have my respect for just going and getting a slot!

    Big hugs and looking forward to reading more about you,

    Be safe,

    Clarissa X

  5. Thank you all for the comments. NOS, I played Eponine in Les Miserables. I have done extra work in a couple of films. They were big films, so you may have seen them. Extra work is fairly tedious though! There are a couple of shows I am considering auditioning for - both have auditions next month but aren't on until next Spring.

    Clarissa, I have had quite a lot of help for mental health stuff - I have been under various CMHTs for over 6 years now. Mostly that has been under CPNs etc, but I saw a Psychologist for the first year, which was primarily Complete Bollocks Therapy for my ED (not a CBT fan....), as that was before the Depression had got as bad. Then had a couple of hospital admissions, one of which was in a private hospital via insurance, so had a fair bit of therapy then. Did see another Psychologist but she was useless. Did an art therapy group for about 18 months, but that wasn't my thing really. Apart from that it has all been CPNs/Social Workers/OTs. My current CPN is brilliant, but obviously that isn't proper therapy. I am meant to be starting CAT soon - DBT is obviously what is recommended, but doesn't exist in my area.

    I don't really know how I feel about dance. It doesn't lift my mood, but it does sometimes distract me slightly I think. I wrote a post about it a little while ago. It is years since I have done a West End audition - must be at least 4 years ago, possibly longer. The audition I mentioned in this post was back in 2002, when I was 16, so 8 years ago now. I did a few after that, but I couldn't do it now. I just wouldn't have the confidence. Or the motivation actually. I haven't even been to drama school and trained - I haven't been well enough (several posts on that!) I have just been doing amateur stuff locally.


  6. Hi Bippidee,

    Thank you for your sweet comments on my blog. Yeah, that's my Svetlana (Zhakarova)sicko freaktastic ballerina alter ego... ahhh... Youtube her the next time you feel down... She's just beyond glorious.

    I am a former ballet dancer/ musical chorine/ show girl/ movie extra/industrial film-show/commercial P&G "Lysol Mom" in a little plaid shirt. LOL I did whatever I could get my lil ol mits on and I gave it all up when I turned 30 and couldn't take the BS any longer. (I'm 54 now---I know, its hard for me to believe it too!)I went back to college at 32 and became an interior designer. Found my way back to ballet at 42 (through my son's karate class! cool!) and let me tell you honey... I love it even more now... as long as the ol bod holds up. haha!!!

    What's wrong with weighing yourself every day? I do. I'm ever amazed at gaining weight when I'm trying to lose a couple and losing weight when I'm not trying. I find that eating just about the same amount every day, works best for me. No starving and no pigging out, but the starving made me WANT to pig out, because I was STARVING... well duhhhh... I could never be anorexic.

    I understand everything you are going through though... very tough biz with its ups and downs. Eponine, Wow! Love that part!!! You sound super talented!!!

    xo, Lexie

  7. She is a beautiful dancer. I had heard of her obviously, but never actually seen her dance before - just watched her Black Swan, with Roberto Bolle (am rather fond of him too actually... got in a lift with him once in Covent Garden - he looked just as good up close!). She really does have gorgeous feet - like I said, I thought mine were good, but hers are incredible! And her Kitri is beautiful - those extensions are just insane!

    I think most people with a dance background probably have different ideas about weight than other people, simmply because you get used to the pressure (even if just internal from standing in front of a mirror in leotard and tights) surrounding weight, and therefore behaviours that other people might see as a little odd are probably normalised a lot - I think weighing yourself is one of those. I do usually weigh myself twice a day, which isn't great, as it is a little obsessive, but I have had an eating disorder for 7 years, and it is hard to stop. I am not much good at the moderated eating thing either - I tend to flip between eating what I want (and purging sometimes), and gain weight, or restricting and quite severely limiting my intake, and losing weight. I am not great at just being moderate. Sometimes I do an ok job of it and eat relatively normally, but as I always want to lose weight I tend to end up trying to restrict before long, as I just feel too awful if I don't feel like I am trying to lose weight.


  8. okay--- this could have been me writing this 30 years ago, except I didn't purge. Believe me, I wanted to sometimes though and I would get so that I HATED MYSELF. I would go up and down the same 15 lbs. and sometimes a bit more... and it drove my bonkers... starve, stuff, starve, stuff..."Oh, I just won't eat tomorrow" ugh... It doesn't work and it just creates the opposite problem! weight gain! I know that we all have a "look" that we like to see in the mirror and we can gain half a lb. (I'm American, of course) and think that the entire world NOTICES---right? I've gained 5 lbs before and had ppl tell me that I'm looking quite thin. Like huh??? see, its all crap. 5 lbs is nothing. I believe that's your "stone"... okay. :)

    It took me a lonnnnnng time to really, really and except for pregnancy (when I gained 40 lbs with each kid) I've been much better. There is no magic bullet but moderation. every day. Don't let yourself get tooooo hungry or tooooo full and eat the foods you enjoy, not what you think you should be eating that doesn't satisfy you. Eventually, your body will want to eat what you need. Occasionally I feel like eating dessert for dinner... that's fine. Just no extremes It takes time, but eventually, you'll find your level and maybe it is a bit more than you are. I know... its scary and you feel that if you aren't losing, you MUST be gaining. right? Oh honey I do get it--- If you gain a small amount, eat just a bit less, but no starvation and if you don't lose weight, then you don't lose weight. That means that your body NEEDS that weight.

    I'm sure that you're already quite slender and maybe even too thin. Be honest. :) If everyone thinks you've got some screws loose (hun, we all do) ;) when you tell them you want to lose 5 lbs, believe them...lol

    Now, your presie.


    She doesn't have the lyrical artistry of Svet,(in my opinion) but boy oh boy--- A dancer's dancer, sick, sick, sick technique-- Enjoy! xoxo

  9. I am definitely not too thin - I have a healthy BMI (20.2), and can certainly afford to lose about 10lbs. I know that I did get a little on the thin side last year - I went down to a BMI of 17.5, which I know is underweight, but I didn't see it when I looked in the mirror. I know I will never be happy with my weight. But there are degrees of unhappiness, and right now it is fairly high. The trouble is, years of purging and restricting etc have left my metabolism a complete mess - to lose weight I have to eat under about 800kcals a day, occasionally 1000kcals if I am lucky, but I usually maintain on that. I find if I eat an amount that is considered 'normal' I just steadily gain weight.

    Ahhh, I love Tamara Rojo. All the RB principals are great actually. I love this clip of Alina Cojocaru. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5ARwxVGpO4