At a young age I was keenly aware that I was different from most of my peers. Things would affect me on a very deep level and I knew that I was highly sensitive. As a teenager I grew to understand that my hyper sensitivity was an asset for me as an actor, but it was debilitating in my everyday life. At fifteen I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and have been living with it and trying to understand it ever since.
Teenage years are hard enough without adding anxiety and depression into the mix. I began to became recluse and missed out on a lot of teenage and young adult experiences. Being different and feeling intense emotions at all times stunted me, in a way, but what was more discouraging was feeling all alone in my struggles. Very rarely did I see mental illness depicted in the media and it was only talked about after a major tragedy, like an act of violence. Reporters would quickly flock to talk about mental illness when a shooting occurred and they would talk about prevention after the fact. I was not represented, my struggle and the struggle of millions of people was still being stigmatized.
As I started going through my late twenties, the anxiety was no longer a daily problem. It only popped up a couple times a year. The however, decided to permeate. The self-doubt and self-hatred was evident in the decisions I began to make. And low and behold this past year my anxiety decided to make a reappearance. I was actually on a film set when a wave of fear crashed over my body. I looked at the director with tears in my eyes and uttered, “I can’t do this, I have to go home.” The entire car ride home involved me screaming and crying out of disappointment and fear. I knew I had to use what I was feeling for good. I had to make something out of this.
Vacancy is a film I wrote, directed and acted in, which will be released shortly. The film details the life of a woman struggling with anxiety and depression and poses the question, which I will pose now: Why are we afraid to talk about this?
Most people living on planet earth will experience anxiety and depression during their life. Whether it’s a chronic issue or just brought on, we will all be affected by these conditions. Yet, we don’t talk about them openly. We still have this judgement attached to afflictions of the mind. “Oh, you can’t see the illness, so it must not be real,” is the common sentiment. You don’t see the bruises or the scars, but the pain is very real and should not be shunned.
I was a scared teenager when I began suffering and living with these conditions. I will admit to being ashamed of them, but now I’m a woman on a mission to bring a voice to this. By writing, by making art from the pain, it releases me from the grips of oppression. And hopefully it will give encouragement to those who are feeling like they are suffering on their own, in silence.