Toxic Shock Syndrome (This Is Not About Tampons)

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Living outside New York has been difficult to feel good about my career. The city gives so much street cred, as I have mentioned before. When you say you live in New York and you are an actor, something registers with the person you are speaking with. It’s almost like a “OH” moment where they get it, you’re there, you’re surviving, you’re somebody. That’s where you are supposed to be. Or LA. Or Chicago. Some big metropolis where the common person would say “Yes, actors live there.”

Burlington, Vermont is not that place. Ironically, there are a ton of New York expats and experienced, well known Broadway and film actors living and working here. But at first glance, a person in passing would not have that “OH” moment when I say I’m an actor living in Vermont. That person in passing doesn’t know there is a thriving independent film community and well respected theaters that employ hundreds of actors every year locally and also from the city. That person also doesn’t know there is a blossoming comedy community where you can find stand up or improv pretty much any day of the week at many locations, including the hub that is the Vermont Comedy Club. Though I hope they do because it is awesome.

This was hard for me. It still is hard for me. Not only was I going through the usual changes that come with moving, but I also was experiencing a nasty bout of depression and anxiety. I hated how I looked. I felt sick and tired. I was angry and lost. Living in Burlington did not make that better. Not to sound redundant, but not having New York in the background cut deeply. I felt stranded out in the water. Being in Burlington meant I had to hustle even harder which I did not expect. The city was easy to find auditions, work on films sets, book a modeling shoot. I took that for granted. Not that I expected auditions to fall from the ceiling here but when I first was submitting to the local theaters, no one was biting. I was naive to think I was the only New York actor to ever grace their presence. I was foolish to think I wouldn’t have to network. I thought I would walk in and it would be handed to me.

It was during this downward spiral that it became evident I had a toxic friendship I did not realize was toxic until I left New York. I spoke with this friend almost every day. They were in a very different spot than I was, no longer in New York like me, but another location where people have the “OH” moment. I would listen to this friend talk about auditions and opening nights. Their life had not changed as much as mine had. At first, I enjoyed it because we were close and I loved talking to this friend so much and hearing all their stories. Then it became clear that I was no longer at the same level and therefore, the friend was not interested in my life. I worked a boring job and was creating my own movies, not featured on a television show. That wasn’t intriguing. That wasn’t impressive. No one wants to hear about that, especially my friend.

The Nothing crept in. That’s what I call my anxiety and depression. The Nothing, from The Neverending Story, is one of the scariest childhood villains in my mind. It rolls in without warning and destroys everything in its path. It has no form, no actual name, it is just unstoppable devastation in a cloud of smoke. That’s how it feels when it hits me. And it me, hard. I let it consume me. I was jealous. I was angry. I thought I had made a mistake. I was trying, or thought I was trying, and nothing was happening. I wasn’t booking jobs I thought I was a shoe in for. I wasn’t making new friends. I was working a job that was exhausting physically and I felt old compared to my younger coworkers. I was sitting on my couch at night, whining to my husband, drinking and eating like shit, complaining about my weight but never exercising. The Nothing was here and it was staying.

I now see that I was living the same life I was in the first few years in New York. I was expecting a parade when I arrived and roles to be flying to me in pretty wrapped packages, begging for my participation. I was back to being naive, arrogant, and selfish. I had somehow reverted to my 20 something self and talking to this toxic friend was not helping. I was reminded every day that the place I had moved to wasn’t a lateral move. It was a move that left me with boring stories and a more suburban life style. It was a move that didn’t impress my friend who I usually impressed. A friend who stopped listening when I started venting or opening up about how scared I was that I had made the wrong choice. Instead, the friend switched gears back to their own story and I found myself shutting down and shutting up to listen and focus on problems that were not my own.

I do want to make it clear I do not this think friend is a malicious human being. I do not think this friend noticed I was falling. I do not think this friend could relate. That being said, I know they were not listening when they asked how I was. I know I was called because I would always answer and I would listen intently. I talked to my friend every day but they never had any idea what was going on with me.

I was drowning. Then it got worse. I made an terrible mistake and words were said between the friend and myself. I said something cruel and out of character but I was suffering and was frustrated. I let jealousy consume me and the error was sent out into the universe, unable to be retrieved. The friend, of course, was angry and hurt as they should have been. I scrambled to apologize, to explain what was happening in my own life, to tell them I didn’t mean it that way, it came out wrong. My friend of many years then did something that I will never forget. My friend said “Goodbye. Best of luck” and I received radio silence for several months.

This broke me entirely. I can honestly say I do not remember the last time I lost a friend due to a mistake or argument. We all make them. I’ve said regretful things to people I love and they have to me. But you forgive each other because you love each other. You are friends. You may need some space but you come back to each other because you know when there’s something deeper than the words that were spoken going on.

My friend hasn’t come back. I tried. I gave space. I sent a video to show how affected and sorry I was. I got a response that more time was needed. I gave time. I wrote an email. I got a response that it would be responded to and a funny quip. I felt relieved. That response never came. I tried once more and never heard back. It’s been four months since I last heard from my friend, over a year since we first fell out, and a person I talked to every day, spent countless nights with in the city, was present at all the big life events a person can be present for, is gone from my life.

That was the bottom for me. I couldn’t let it go. Not only did I feel I wasn’t good enough but now I was a horrible friend, a monster. It was around the same time we lost Oliver and my husband was changing jobs and I was in pieces. I hated the way I looked, I hated my heart, I hated that I had the ability to speak and that I had ruined a friendship I cherished all because I let jealousy run the show.

I woke up.

It took these four months to wake up. The election happened and something in me clicked on. I looked around and saw how much I had. I had been the female lead in two films of people I had met in Vermont, one on a recommendation from a colleague I barely know. I was in a beautiful community of hilarious, supportive people and had formed an improv team that makes my stomach ache with laughter every time we rehearse. I was getting my name out there more and more. I have two auditions early next week and I just taped another this week and sent it off, again on a recommendation of someone I highly respect and admire and feel so supported by.

I joined a fucking gym. Guys, in case you were wondering, exercise actually does help you lose weight. I know, it’s shocking. And eating healthy actually makes you feel better. I know, stay with me, it is all true. I didn’t think it was either. But it turns out, exercising and eating well make you hate yourself less and your pants fit better. I know, I’m mad, too, that no one told us.

2016 was a wash for me. A lot of great things happened but a lot of shit happened and I felt awful for the majority of it. That sucks but I am dealing with it. It reminds me that I went through something similar when I moved to the city. I came in, guns blazing, and didn’t give myself time to adjust. I moved back to Burlington and expected a parade and when I didn’t get one, I let myself be buried underneath others’ successes and one sided conversations where I was put on mute because my side wasn’t interesting. I kept myself on mute for too long and the silence drained me.

Moving helped me see the truth about a lot of things. Did I expect it to show me one of my most valued friendships would break under the first mistake it experienced? No. I thought it was strong. Put in my friend’s shoes, I would have forgiven me (I may be just saying that because I wish my friend would but still). I would have fought it out and held on because I loved my friend, very much. I still do. I have so many memories that feel warped and tainted now. It’s like a bad breakup. Do I worry that friend will read this? No, I don’t. I broke something between us with what I said and I think it dimmed the light my friend saw in me. Some truth came out with my words and it wasn’t expected. I not only hurt my friend but disappointed them. I ruined their image of me. Enough that I am not welcomed back. However, I will always welcome my friend back with open arms, open ears, and an open heart. Though I will no longer be put on mute.

2016 may be a wash for the most part and I’m not one to be like THIS YEAR WILL BE THE BEST YEAR. I just know now, in 2017, that I am crawling out of my hole and looking around me, seeing that I am worthy, I am valued, I am loved, and I am in the right city for what I need right now. I may not be as big of a fish as I imagined I would be, but I am still swimming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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