This is the concluding episode of this series which I began around two years ago with Episode 0...which you can find here. Ahead lay my 9 month solo-backpacking trip: questing for as I wrote back then:‘fresh perspective on what exactly I want to be doing here in London’.
I’d identified that because I lacked a clear career goal (beyond being a professional actor) that I’d lost momentum. I needed to find a specific target to pursue, to fuel my passion - a direction to fix towards through the challenges of life as an actor.
I travelled and wrote about my journey in the following episodes/months through Colombia, Jamaica, Central America, Mexico and North America...taking time to explore new cultures and experiences, including finally an extended stay at Black Rock City for Burning Man. Which was...immense.
Alas, all blazing trails must burn out eventually. I returned to a bleak London winter with an empty bank account, an untethered lifestyle and a somewhat unhinged frame of mind. At a time when I needed structure and support to help my feet find the ground there was little to be found.
In my experience, spells of poor mental health emerge from stress factors stacking up in one’s life; that become increasingly difficult to juggle. Like an overloaded computer processor- our system whirls along, coping with the workload as best it can, until the stacked errors trigger a system failure and necessary reboot.
It’s difficult for me to admit (to myself most of all) that in certain ways I am not as robust as others. Bi-polar disorder is a lifelong condition for which I must be diligent and vigilant in my self-care. After all, the outcome of my ‘system failure’ can be psychosis and hospitalisation.
Lately I’ve read some personal accounts written by people with bi-polar - it’s amazing how the same waypoints signpost our decline. Cessation of medication? Check. Obsessive energy on multiple projects? Check. Self-medicating? Check. Delusion that everything is fine? Check.
The ‘Catch 22’ kicker? The only person who can make the necessary U-turn is you. But as the illness advances- personal perspective is increasingly compromised and the the downward spiral, fed by denial, is perpetuated.
And then, suddenly...one day...July 6th in fact...prompted by the help of a dear friend - I was able to wake up and say to myself no more. Able to admit the truth of my reality and how denial of my illness was compromising my aspirations.
I commenced weekly therapy and connected to long-suppressed feelings of pain, sadness, anger...attended to the vulnerable child within whose needs I was well-practiced at neglecting. I’ve learnt to better identify the unhelpful, self-sabotaging thought patterns that distract my attention away from attending to these needs, which now I do my best to offer self-care and compassion to.
And so here’s the ironic cliche it seems...what I’d seeked externally...what I set off around the world to find last year - namely - ‘fresh perspective on what exactly I want to be doing here in London’ - had been available to discover internally all along...beneath my emotional blocks and aversions.
By gaining access to this grounded perspective and making peace with my fears I’ve finally been able to approach my 64 million dollar question...what’s my goal?
Complimentary to my acting career, I want to develop a career as a film-maker - producing and acting in my own creative projects - making entertainment and education.
With the help of an excellent tool I’ve been working with: The Artist’s Way I’ve been able to clarify the necessary steps that I need to take in the coming year to work towards this goal:
- Build a home filming studio (DSLR camera, tripod, sound, lighting, backdrop, editing laptop)
- Host practice sessions with fellow actors on a weekly basis - building my acting confidence and technical ability on screen (and directing experience)
- Be consistently pro-active in looking for screen work of all levels - from unpaid passion/student projects, to soliciting paid opportunities from Casting Directors
- Create my own acting opportunities by writing and producing short films (around issues that I’m passionate about like mental health) whilst nurturing a community of fellow writers, actors and filmmakers - working together to progress creatively
- Develop necessary videography skills to be able to direct and realise these projects
- Trust that my increasing confidence and proactivity will pay off with a range of screen work - building my showreel- leading to more work, stable income and eventually a proactive and well-connected talent agent who will offer access to further opportunities.
I’ll leave you with a quote from author Neil Gaiman taken from this speech:
“Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”
With my compass point set I can now easily keep track of whether my daily actions are taking me towards my mountain or not. Looking forward to checking back in here with report of my progress.