Guest Blogger Valerie: Performance Anxiety and Me

Introducing Valerie, a former coworker from way back in the day when we both worked in a bookstore. Valerie inspires me in the way she has recently been facing her anxiety and depression issues head on, and she will not quit until she has regained control.  She has also been paying more attention to herself and doing things that make her happy, which also inspires me to do the same for myself.  One of the things Valerie loves is being on the stage, and this is her story of kicking her anxiety’s ass and getting that ass back on the stage!

So Laney asked me to write about my experiences dealing with anxiety and depression (which I was diagnosed with in Oct 2012). What do I write about? My struggle with feelings of sadness and despair? Or feeling anxious and nervous about a major decision I have to make? surely , I can come up with one.

I narrowed it down to anxiety. Anxiety is defined ‘distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger and misfortune’. Uneasiness of mind? Check. Fear? Check. Fear of failure or misfortune? CHECK! A big big check! The two words that stand out for me here are ‘fear’ and ‘failure’. So many times in my life I’ve been scared to do things because I was preoccupied with failing or being hurt(physically and/or emotionally). I always focused on the negative and worst case scenario and let it consume me, leading me to not do something that might actually be a good experience. I even let this get in the way of doing things I enjoyed.

One of those things was theater. To give you a backstory, I was involved in theater as a middle schooler. It was an escape from the bullying I was subjected to. I LOVED IT!! I always thought I would do this nonstop for the rest of my life.

But that’s not what happened. For over 15 years, I stayed off the stage. But after restarting my love for the performing arts in 2011, I realized how much I missed it. I took improv classes and even performed in a couple of one act play festivals.  But in the midst of all this, I was still struggling with my anxiety. I became nervous about wanting to experience and pursue one of my passions. I struggled and fought with the ‘Don’t even try it! You’re going to fail’ thoughts that had plagued me for so long.

I didn’t want to miss out on this experience again. I wanted to get out there and seek roles. Or , in the theater/acting world, ‘audition’. I was well aware that any part I  sought  probably wouldn’t be handed to me and I would have to compete with others for it. (For those of you who are not familiar with the theater worlds, not having to audition for a role is VERY rare. There is some precasting but that doesn’t happen a lot). I knew that I probably wouldn’t get a majority of the roles I sought (again, that is normal). I knew that sometimes I would fail. I had to mentally prepare myself for that.I had to put away my feelings of anxiety and realize that, yes, there will be rejection (and lots of it ), but if I don’t at leasttry, then there will be regret and I’ll start feeling depressed about it.

I’ve been expressing to my therapist how much I loved thhe theater and how I wanted to get back into it. She was encouraging me to put away the aforementioned feelings and try but she also wanted to make sure I was mentally prepared for the rejection I would face.  The  auditions that didn’t pan out the way I wanted to, the doors slammed in the face, and, we can’t forget, the not-so-thrilling opinions made  by others. The critics, the fellow thespians with  huge egos (I.e. the people who think they are ‘God’s gift to the stage’) and those people that think that no matter how hard you work and prepare , they will always come back with a negative, snarky comment.

When I met with my therapist a few days ago, I told her about auditioning  for a play at the end of the month. I expressed to her how much I REALLY wanted to do it and how I felt very confident in at least trying, knowing how the results might pan out. I think she was more enthusiastic about it than I was. So am I gonna do it? Yes, I am. There’s a play that I’m auditioning for at the end of the month. Will I get The role? Maybe, but then again maybe not. Will I be able to handle the results no matter what they may turn out to be? Yes.

Will I keep trying? Yes. I intend on auditioning for more roles this year. I may not get cast a majority of the time, and I understand that.

But if I don’t at least try, I know I will regret it. I will feel bad and start feeling depressed about not trying. Worst of all, I will have let anxiety win.

And I don’t want that. I want it to lose….REALLY lose.

About Allison Anarchy

I write because I have to
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