Thursday, 7 October 2010

Pressured and wanting advice

I am feeling quite pressured at the moment. Well, I have been for a few months actually. I am not sure what to do. It is about my future etc. Obviously people often ask me what I do, and I have to say nothing. They ask what I want to do and I say perform. Then sometimes they ask if I want to go to drama school and I say yes. They ask if I am applying. And that is where I am not sure. I have applied in the past, and had final recalls but not places. Getting a place on an accredited course at a drama school is tough - most of them take between 1% and 4% of applicants per year, so obviously it is stiff competition. But that isn't really the issue. I don't mind doing auditions - sometimes I even quite enjoy them, and if I don't get a place I can reapply - that is almost the expected thing to do. The issue is if I got a place, realistically would I be well enough to take it? It is really long hours - 50 contact hours a week would be the minimum, and usually it would be a lot more than that. And a lot of pressure. And I think you really have to be pretty stable to cope. It isn't unusual for people who have previously been fine to end up having breakdowns and having to leave. People assume that performing is just a nice, fun, light, easy thing to do, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

So every year I have the dilemma of whether I think I would be well enough to go the next September if I were to get a place, and therefore whether or not to apply. Last year I couldn't - I was having all the problems with my voice, and so it didn't even come up. But now that is resolved to a large extent I am back to not knowing what to do. There surely has to be a limit to how many years I can sit at home doing nothing, but when nothing has changed in terms of how I feel etc, how can I expect to be able to switch to doing something very demanding, with very long hours? My mum is taking it as a given that I will be applying for drama school this year. She keeps asking me if I have got my audition pieces sorted and if I have sent off my forms etc yet. My singing teacher who I saw in the summer for my voice asked if I was going to be applying when I saw her. The general expectation from people seems to be that I will apply, which is understandable really because you aren't meant to just do nothing, and performing is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. But I don't know what to do. I can't imagine being able to cope with it, but then will I ever be able to?

I am not getting any younger. If I did apply and get a place for next September, I would be 25 when I started. That isn't that young. Ok for acting, starting to be quite old for musical theatre. Still ok, but definitely on the old side. Already too old for dance based musical theatre. So there is time pressure there. Everyone gives me the whole 'you're young, you can do whatever you want, you have your whole life ahead of you' line, but that is only true to an extent with performing. And that is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I just want to be better. I want to be able to cope with things in the way that everyone else does. I don't want 'could I cope with this?' to be the thing running through my head at auditions. And it always is. It isn't just the course. That would be a lot of work and very stressful of course, but there is more to it than that. It would mean moving out. Having to look after myself properly. Having to flat share with other people. That would be really hard. If there weren't immaculately clean in the kitchen then I wouldn't go near it, which could be a problem. There are so many things that could be a problem.

I don't know what to do. Performing really is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I was looking at prospecti from drama schools from when I was about 11, desperately wanting be 18 so I could go there. But by that time everything had gone wrong. And it has never been right since. If I can't do this then I don't know what I can do. It sounds really melodramatic, but if I am not going to achieve the only thing I have ever wanted to do then I really don't see the point in being alive. There is a 1 week course the week after Carousel at one of the colleges in London that I was planning to do, but thinking about it terrifies me. Not the course itself as such, but being away, having to live with other people for the week, how I would cope etc. And if I can't even cope with the thought of a one week course, then applying for 3 year courses seems fairly ridiculous. I really don't know what to do. If I decide not to apply this year I don't know how to explain it to people, and I also worry that I go through this every single year, and nothing ever actually changes, and I don't know how it ever will. I could tell my mum, and anyone else who asks, that I am not going to be applying this year, but ultimately that isn't actually going to solve anything. I am still going to be left in this weird limbo where I can't cope with doing the only thing that I have ever wanted to do, and can't see how I can change things to make myself able to do it. And if this is going to be my life then I don't want it.

I honestly don't know what to do. Do I a) get on with it and do the applications and auditions and see how I get on and then decide (expensive due to audition fees but an option) b) Force myself to do this 1 week course in a few weeks and see how I cope with that, even though the thought of it currently absolutely terrifies me. There is an alternative 4 day course that I could commute to daily, but to an extent that would defeat the object as living away is a large part of it, plus the other college is somewhere I would want to apply to - this one would just be doing it to work on skills, c) accept that I am not going find a miracle cure in 11 months and leave it all for this year and maybe every other year too, and accept that realistically this isn't something that I am going to be able to do, or d) other. Please reply with your thoughts. I really genuinely would like as many opinions as possible, and what you think I should do - a, b, c, or a suggestion you have? So even if you don't usually comment, I would really appreciate it if you would reply to this. You can even comment if you don't have an account - I have anonymous commenting enabled. Thank you.


  1. My comment is this. I'm quite a bit older than you, and I know its an excrutiating stereotype, but the things I regret most are the chances I haven't taken, and the things I've failed to do.
    If its all you've wanted, then you should take the opportunity if you can. If you don't try, you will regret it. You definitely will.
    But if you can do something to build yourself up gradually to it over this year, then do that. It sounds like bloody hard work, and the more preparation you can make the better. And I guess you have to be aware that you might try and fail. But its better to have known that you tried something and it didn't work out, than to reach 40 and think bollocks, why the hell didn't I try it when I had the chance.

  2. The bottom line is, there isn't a time-frame on "getting better", which is where part of the difficulty lies...If you could positively say that in 6mths, your thoughts, feelings, symptoms, etc would be eased and under control to a large extent,then you could go ahead and apply, knowing you would be good to go next September.
    But, that is probably never going to be the case. As with my anxiety/panic disorder and Anorexia, there is no specificcure or time-frame for when i will be "ok" and able to cope with certain situations.
    So, you are right in being confused and frustrated and ambivalent, as you simply don't know!
    Perhaps if youDO apply, it will be a start, something different, something to work towards...just thinking that you COULD be ready next year, may change your mindset,even a little?
    And even if it gets to the time, and you can't do it, well, i guess thats what you need to do now - weigh up what you will lose in applying and then not being able to go, as opposed to just not applying, then perhaps not applying the next year, and the next year, etc..because nothing will actually be different.
    I hope this makes a tiny bit of sense..
    Love and Thoughts,
    Jennifer xxoo

  3. Hello!
    I saw your post and thought I'd offer some ideas. I have CF which is a genetic illness that effects my lungs - at first thought it might not seem that similar to BPD but I think both need a similar approach when it comes to considering work and life options - we both need to give ourselves plenty of time to rest, flexible working patterns, surround ourselves with family support, and be imaginative when it comes to work options.
    It sounds like you're asking an awful lot of yourself thinking of moving out and working 50 hour weeks. Have you thought of trying to do another job within the acting field? I know you said acting is all you've ever wanted to do but you might surprise yourself by how much you might enjoy something else if you try it out. Could you volunteer for a local theatre group? Backstage or backroom work for youth theatre? Teaching assistant for drama lessons? Maybe you can do some of these locally so you can settle into work first before thinking of moving out.
    Just some ideas but I think you're making yourself very stressed by thinking you only have two options in life - do nothing or become an actor, when the real solution might be something you've not considered before.

  4. I'm thinking, throw yourself into the deep end with the 1week course coming up, then you will find out, u can either cope and go for it, or not and look for something else. I think it would be silly to try a full on course, before trying a week away from home. Even though it terrifies you, I think that's the way to find out, and I think you might just suprise yourself. You may find more strength to cope, when u are busy wrapped up with a life of performing. Just my thoughts.x

  5. Apply!!!!!!! Take it from me, you'll regret it! If you want to do it go for it, it may force ur body to be well enough, if that makes sense... As it's something you want... If you don't like it you can always leave, but you'll regret do much not taking the opportunity when you could... Xx

  6. Hi,

    I think it is a massive jump to go from living at home as you are, and living with others away from home along with studying/working 50 hours a week.

    My suggestion is that you break this 'massive jump' down into smaller pieces. Option b in your post might well be one of the small pieces.

    It sounds like what you have currently is the start point and end point of a journey, and no route or plan worked out to get from one to the other. One thing en route is (b), but maybe it is not the 1st thing on your hjourney but the 3rd or 4th thing possibly.

    What things can you do to help prepare you for Drama School? I think you need to come up with activities etc that stretch your boundaries for things which cause you anxiety/fear.

    I am wondering whether you go to stay with relations, stay with friends, stay in a hotel, eat in cafes, stay in self-catering holiday flat for weekend with a friend(s), start doing a voluntary job regularly or part/time paid work, do a part-time course(for a term or more) etc.

    Plan to do things that build up your stamina, emotionally, mentally and physically. Do things which stretch your tolerance and move you out of your comfort zone(s) in terms of eating, living with people, coping with things that are not as clean as you would like etc.

    Once you have ideas then order them, so each step is doable - it may be hard, but not overwhelming. If a step seems too big, then think of something to slot inbetween to make it two smaller doable steps.

    Then once you have this sequence, of steps, put some timescales against them - dates to aim at. Then you will have a plan, which takes you from where you are to where you want to be.

    Maybe this plan enables you to go ahead with applying for drama school for next summer. If you got a place at drama school but did not feel ready at that time, then you have the option of postponing it for a year say.

    I also think it is important to explore other possibilities in parallel - I know that is not what you want to hear, and what you do not want to do. Whilst you are preparing yourself for drama school, you have nothing to loose to be alert to other opportunities - never say never. None of us knows what our future holds. On our journey through life things happen and we find ourselves on routes we never ever considered, but which are enojyable and fulfilling.

    I hope this makes sense. I can not read it through. By brain is spent - run out of energy.

    Good luck and take care. @hidihidi

  7. My vote is A and B. Applying to schools is an investment, but it's kind of like insurance just in case things get better for you. And I think that one week class would be good practice. I know the prospect of living with others is scary, but it's not that bad. I bet you'll have a better time than you are expecting to have.

    I can relate to being stalled when it comes to the future. It's tough. I think I might write about that on my blog tonight.

    Wishing you well,

  8. Lots of good advice here. Ultimately, it is down to how you feel.

    I think you should give the course a go though. You don't have anything to lose really - you may find it too much, but at least then you have tried and you can pull out if you need. If you don't give it a go, you will always wonder, what if?

    Don't worry about what is expected of you. Go with what you want and feel you can manage. I am being asked all the time if I am back at work yet and when am I going back. Everyone expects me to be back, as I have been a lot better over the past 6 months, but they do not realise just how much the slightest bit of pressure threatens my stability. I can manage with life as it is, little responsibilities or stress, but it's a whole different ball game with work. Thankfully, my occupational health doctor recognises this and is not pushing me back. The disappointing thing is I want to go back. I loved that job and I feel so useless being at home, but I am having to accept that I cannot rush back.

    The doctor wants me to consider another career path, because he doesn't think my chosen career will be good for me, but I find this too hard to comprehend at the moment. I have to give myself another chance. If it makes me ill again, then maybe I can conceed defeat, but I don't want this illness to stop me from doing what I want to.

    I think you should try and give yourself a go though with your chosen career. It would be sad for this illness to spoil your dreams and you will regret it if you don't try. You clearly have a passion for performance and I wonder if that passion will carry you through. If you are happy in your work, it can make a big difference.

    I hope you work out what you want. I'd see how the course goes, before you rush into a decision. If you don't make it this year, there is always next year.

    If you give it a go though and you can't cope, then you can at least say you have tried. You then have the chance to re-evaluate things. There will be other options out to you, but you don't need to look for them until you know for sure that you need them.

    Hope that makes some sense.. xx

  9. I know I'm a bit late for this but I'd suggest a) and possibly b). Judge how you feel and don't give up on your dreams. Good luck.

  10. Delurking: I'm actually an academic, but also have depression/anxiety...

    I'd definitely try the one week course. It will give you some idea of how far off from coping you are...

    Applying is stressful, but if you do apply and succeed, what a boost to your self-esteem that would be. It is quite normal to postpone a place for a year in most higher ed places, for many reasons, so even if you get in you don't HAVE to start this September.

    However, if you were one of my students I'd also be trying to help you get away from the 'there is only one way to achieve my dream' thinking. You want to perform, and you have an idea of how that will be - but can you imagine other kinds of work that would give you the chance to perform? This is probably my total ignorance only (and dislike of any kind of stage stuff resulting from being forced to do drama at school far too much), but it seems to me that there are elements of being a performer in many lines of work, like being a tour guide (especially a story-teller, or one of those people who leads city walks or ghost walks, or working in costume and in character at historic places) or being in some sort of educational role (like doing talks to schools and visitor groups linked with museums or other types of recreation - there's a woman at the local aquarium who is a dazzling performer, she has everyone spellbound when she's the one presenting the feeding time for the sharks and things). There are professional story tellers, that sort of thing. And I know you find kids a bit much (I sympathise!) but adults are an important audience too. In fact, could you look for a part time (even volunteer) opportunity to do something like this, partly to get a taste for whether it might be even a little for you, partly as a way of having another answer to the 'what you do' question?

    I'd worry about the performing, especially around the ED - the musical theatre type stuff you seem to enjoy seems to an outsider to be a particularly dangerous place for people with weight/food issues, since it is SO obsessed with superficial appearance. Of course, since the activity helps you feel comfortable eating, it may work the other way for you!

    Anyway, I hope that you can talk to L and other supporters about these things, and develop some sort of plan to help you work towards your dreams without pushing yourself closer to the edge. And that Carousel goes well!