By Anniwaa Buachie
“Okay let’s go again, 2nd take, you ready Anniwaa?”
“Yeah, let’s rock and roll”
“Okay… quiet on set”
I fainted, passed out, loss consciousness. I had a simple action, stand up straight, look straight into the camera. But no, despite my body appearing to be ready, my brain… Well my brain just decided to shut down.
This was my reality, a few weeks ago. I had a record breaking minutes upon minutes of my eyes closed. I awoke to the smell of alcohol, feeling like I had just left the arms of ‘The Starman’ Bowie spoke so fondly about. Realisation hit, I was not Wonder Woman, not Rogue from X-men, not the super being I so desperately want and try to be. But an actor who for the first time in my life was physically and mentally helpless… I needed a moment to catch my breath.
Until recently, I always felt that health is rarely ever discussed openly in the creative industries. I mean, sure most of us spend endless hours of the day making sure we are physically healthy, but how often do you check in with yourself and ask yourself if you are truly okay?
Mental and physical health issues have been highlighted in the media by artists such as Laura Mvula and Stormzy shedding light on their journeys. However, there is still a stigma attached to admitting that sometimes, the constant knock backs, will wind you at some point… and if you are not careful they will knock you the F@* out completely.
As an actor working your way to the ‘top of the ladder,’ every time you are offered work is a blessing, you take on projects despite your body or mind shouting out at you to TAKE A REST. You ignore your inner voice and work, because work generates work and nothing feels as good as performing. It’s your drug. There is a fear with actors that admitting exhaustion, depression or fatigue will hinder future work opportunities.
Creativity stems from the inner depths of your sub-consciousness. Neglecting who you really are, your thoughts, your true feelings block you in more ways than you know. Acknowledging and accepting your trials and tribulations will allow you to recreate, rearrange, and rebuild your canvas for whatever life throws at you.
Acting is one of the only forms of art where you inherently have to be someone else. In order to do that to the best of your abilities, you need to ensure your foundation is solid, that you really know who you are before you can be anything else.
It is important as an artist to check in with yourself. Ask yourself:
Is the end game, what you really want emotionally, mentally, financially, physically and spiritually?
Is what you are working so hard to achieve worth it? Will it contribute or jeopardise your happiness?
When, if any, will there be a time for you to stop?
Do you feel that your sanity is deteriorating under the constant gaze of casting directors, directors, producers and audiences?
I think it’s admirable when people are honest with themselves, so many of us are just keeping up with the joneses!
We all have physical and metal hiccups, seeking help, sharing experiences and finding ways to be a part of a community is the first step to transform sadness, anxiety, fear and depression into happiness, excitement and confidence.
Whenever I feel like shutting down, I watch the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was lost in an unfamiliar land with an unfamiliar path. Yet she manages to ask for help, build friendships and define what it means to have wisdom, love and courage. And after her long adventure, who and what she thinks is the “Great and Powerful Oz” is not what she imagined at all! Dorothy’s journey makes her realise that she always had the power to change her situation. When she wakes up, she is surrounded by people who love and support her, she had a support network in her sub consciousness and conscious state.
Waking up from my moment with ‘The Starman’ made me understand the importance of having a Glinda, a Lion, a Scarecrow, a Tin man and an Aunty Em in times of fragility.
Actor, 2007 Alan Bates Award Winner
Set up to support people in the creative industries, ArtsMinds is a collaborative initiative from BAPAM (British Association of Performing Arts Medicine), Equity, Spotlight and The Stage to bring together into one place a raft of resources for performers and creative practitioners facing mental health issues. This is a great resource for everyone in our industry and is thoroughly supported by the Actors Centre.