Working Through Mental Illness As An Actor

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From the picture on the top and left you can see the joy I have in my eyes to be involved in Brainfood, at brunchtheatre and halfthestory a collaborative show centering around mental health. This show is an amazing opportunity to be in and I could not be more grateful to be part of it.
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But can you look closely and see in that second picture that look of uncertainty, fear and sadness? There’s a resilience there too but it’s buried deep down built up over time.
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Even working on this show has been filled with self doubt and my own mental illnesses have come to the forefront rearing their ugly, monstrous heads, causing me to think I’m talentless and I don’t deserve a place in this show.
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My OCD tells me to not take breaks until I’m perfect on my lines which sometimes means hours without food or water( and “perfect” is a concept that DOES NOT and NEVER will exist for any of us -sorry my loves), my ADHD in complete juxtaposition makes it damn near impossible for me to sit down for long periods of time before I realize I am staring at dots in the wall or watching out the window and I can’t even get though the line I am trying to memorize or speak aloud to myself without stopping mid-way through.
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Being a human with mental illness is difficult enough, and being an actor on top of it I find is an interesting combo. The depth I have as a person due (also the trauma I’ve endured outside of my illness) simply due to the chemical imbalances in my brain and the experiences I’ve had because of them, allow me to tap into levels I think others cannot. But that adds a thicker wall: the ability to allow myself to be seen.
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So much stigma is alreadysurrounded around mental health (which is what this show is aiming to bring awareness to and make a dent into ending) but much of my life I’ve been told “I’m too sensitive” “dramatic” “clingy” “ moody” Well friend, some qualities can all be traced back to of my diagnoses I have that are rarely talked about- Borderline Personality Disorder.
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What I’m trying to say is- even though sadness behind my brown eyes in that second picture, (and resilience in the others) as an actor I want to work though my mental illness, try to strip back those layers, use the “you’re too _____” I’ve heard over the years (which is pure stigma blanketed over the years) and now, I want to allow myself to be seen, because that’s what this show is about. Being seen. Saying: mental illness is okay to admit and “I am struggling.”

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To think I am able to explore some of the depths of my mental illness because of an ad for a theatre company I responded to 2 years ago on backstage.com is mind blowing. I never thought that a magazine that used to sit on a table at my theatre schools and page through between classes had a website, let alone a website and that would then allow me to apply and eventually get cast, giving me the opportunity now, in 2019  return to my second season with this theatre company, is beyond me. It’s scary working though mental health problems, but I’m glad I’m being challenged in my work, and I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to do so.

Loneliness

November 9,2018 8:00pm

Have you ever felt so alone but you feel like you could start screaming maybe in your apartment or even out in a crowd and nobody would hear you or even give you a second look? Well, have you? That’s how I feel sometimes, certainly how I’ve been feeling as of late. I feel alone, I feel isolated, I don’t know that “insignificant” is the word but I feel empty and hollow.

Loneliness fills my apartment. It takes up space as would helium in a balloon. It’s tangible. Palpable. Real. The angst and sadness lingers in the air and just hovers like cirrus clouds on a cloudy day. The artificial sound of connection emanates from my tv on an endless loop, I am surrounded by characters. Some I relate to, some I don’t, some shows that turn my brain to pure mush like a squashed banana on a seat or other shows that stimulate me and wake up my cells. But regardless of what streams out of my Tv from the $79 internet bill I pay a month I am still alone.

The tears that want to pour out of my eyes start in my stomach and then rise to my throat, build their way through my cheeks and then they stop. They never fully make it out of my eyes. Maybe if they did I would feel some type of release, some type of feeling, some type of catharsis. Some type of feeling alive and a little piece of loneliness would leave me but instead I feel boxed in and even more alone and isolated.

Reclaiming my Body

“How am I reclaiming my body?” I am asked by my friend, Haley for a challenge she started. This challenge is the whole reason you are even reading this right now. I ponder the question. A few answers pop up, then push them away thinking they are too personal, so I say I will go to back to thinking about it later. I mindlessly watch Tv, zone out, but the tantalizing question keeps whispering in my ear and finally an hour later I finally confront it.

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Just now- posting that first picture of my mostly naked body…I could stop typing right now is reclaiming my body because I feel like I am going to throw up and my body is hurdling through space and my head is spinning. Am I going to post this? My grotesque body for the world to see? We will see if this post ends up on the internet. But I digress and push all feeling of utter detestation, distaste and revulsion for my body and I’ll post what I originally wrote:

I reclaim my body everyday that I no longer cut it’s beautiful, unique shade of carmel- honey-brown-sugar and in return, the counter on my phone applauds me by tallying another day clean. I reclaim my body with every morsel of food I eat to nourish my body. Is it fun to have to force yourself to eat sometimes? Or realize it’s 10pm and you’ve gotten though another day without food and find satisfaction in that, but also sadness because it’s not fair to yourself? Absolfuckinglutly not. With every sip of water I drink my body silently thanks me. Every cigarette I don’t smoke anymore and pollute my lungs with is a victory after 7 years of wasted money, stinking clothes and rotting breath. I reclaim my body when I remind myself that it is mine and nobody else’s and that *I* am in control from here on out. It’s revolutionary when I have the small “it wasn’t your fault” moments and feel that I no longer have to feel like a victim- they are few and far between but those are moments to be cherished. I reclaim my body when I see myself as more than my physical body and include my beautiful, brilliant, creative, afflicted mind as part as my whole self. I am not the sum of my physical parts.

Even in the moments when I all I can see are is damaged parts; the fat, hideousness, disgust, shame, laziness, loneliness, mental illness and sickness that swallow me whole, I try to salvage the idea that I am not a failure. I am intelligent, well spoken, educated and have an alacrity and appetite to learn more and more about the topics that interest me. I always say, (especially when it comes to dating) “I would rather be respected for my mind than my body.” Body shapes and sizes are ephemeral, intelligence is forever.

I reclaimed my body and soul when I declared my trans identity and express that in a plethora of ways because of the fluidity of my gender expression is infitie. On August 8, 2016 I surgically reclaimed my physical body.

I reclaim my body when I write because all the neurons and synapses in my brain are firing at once. When words surge at the speed of light out of my fingertips and onto a page and simultaneously thoughts erupt out of my brain like lava exploding out of a volcano–I must find a way to express myself because spoken words won’t suffice. My body is reclaimed when I speak about my mental illness because I can use my brain, (a seemingly endless mocking dichotomy of strength and weakness) as a beacon of hope for others because I am articulate, open and honest. I can show my scars, tell my stories, share the trauma and what lead me to who I am today. I use my lips that I once hated because people, men, used to make sexual comments about them to share my message of hope.

I am reclaiming my body when I go to therapy 2 times a week to work on the skewed and sometimes illogical beliefs I hold about myself and my body. I am challenged by a brilliant therapist to really look at myself and thoughts and notions about myself and the world and question if what I am thinking or feeling is coming from an emotional place or a place of logic.

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I am in a perpetual state of evolution.

#ReclaimingMyBody

The Landmine.

I scroll aimlessly. A picture of a classmates new shitzu named Bitsy pops up..Eh, not cute enough to give it a like… A college classmate dyed their hair purple, it looks cool as fuck, deff giving that a thumbs up. And then I get steamrolled, a “Why I didn’t report” post and then right into it- the gruesome details of a person I personally know from high school  who was taken advantage of briefly fill my 15 inch screen but luckily I catch it fast enough to scroll past it to reach my high choir school teachers witty pun about how I should be grateful about how I should thank a music teacher if I can read this message written in music notes. But the damage has already been done. My heart beats faster. Even just seeing those words makes me tense up and my vision blurs a bit. I brush it off. I try to refocus on what else is on my timeline and forget what I saw. Memes pass by, pictures of peoples kids (when the hell did everyone get married and have kids??) stupid videos and sure, I will probably see something else related, but maybe this time someone will be considerate and actually put a Trigger Warning (TW) and I know to sidestep that landmine even faster and squeeze my eyes shut even faster this time as I scroll by so as though to not see a single triggering word; “rape” “hands” “him” “hair” “no”  that I know will be mentioned in their post. But it happens again, an article this time, maybe a picture of a courtroom with some disgusting title. And obviously I don’t read the article, but stupid me just keeps scrolling, repeating the same pattern day after day the week of october first 2018 not realizing the extent of the damage I am doing to myself psychologically until I find myself at the end of the week when I cry silently to myself on my couch in my Bronx apartment, alone.

I cry because I hurt. I cry because I know how many others hurt. I cry because I personally know the **nnahs, **mes, **tts, ***thia’s,*am’s **sley’s, **ristian’s, **Iana’s,**chel’s, *m’s, *my’s, **eily’s, **ther’s,**ole’s,**er’s,*a’s, **ank’s and however many other  classmates from elementary school, middle, high school, college, conservatory, and teachers that taught at these institutions… H U M A N S  I  know. Whether they be cis, trans, nonbinary, undecided- – EVERYONE I know that struggles silently that will never tell anyone or worse, can’t remember the trauma they have endured because their beautiful brains have decided to protect them from the injustice they have suffered, that have been taken advantage of. Many of these people I just named have come forward on on social media which is a brave step, ( or in some cases, I have been one of one only people they have ever disclosed to) but like I said, not everyone has that privilege because not all of us have clear pictures of what our trauma is or what looked like in the first place. Speaking solely for myself, I have endured childhood trauma but I don’t have the whole picture– it is murky, but even if I knew and had the whole picture I don’t know that I would disclose those intimate details. There is a reason my brain is hiding those details from me this late into my life. I have very plainly disclosed most all the details of my assault on September 5, 2015 where I was assaulted at Coney Island on my YouTube, TheRilenFiles in a video candidly called “Sexually Assaulted.”  which was made 4 days after it happened and I talk about it in my writing, but as far as my childhood trauma, that is between my therapists, and what my brain decides reveal.

I guess what I am trying to say is, times are tough no, fuck that, times fucking suck. This is not a post about how much pain I am in. Fuck that. This is a post about how scared I am for those of us ( and I am including everyone- every single person out there) that are still in situations where maybe we are still being abused, or where something just happened or for those of us where sadly, the future will still happen and we too will soon become part of the grim statistic that a violation will happen to us. I pray for all that whatever God you do or do not believe in blesses you with the strength to carry on.

If you are a survivor, because that’s. what. you. are. if you are reading this and have had something happen to you, you are not a fucking victim, FUCK. THAT. YOU SURVIVED. You are alive and breathing. Not everyone has the privilege of being able to say that, my dear. You are still alive. I know it’s not fair, you question “Why me” you might blame yourself, most of do, how can you not? Society tells us it’s our fault. You might question, “Why did I wear that? Why did I drink that? Why did I take that drink?” Or in my case, “Why did I wear that and why the fuck did I say that?”

I sliced open my skin open with an exacto knife nighly and drank to “cope” ( hah! more like shove down and sprint away from and numb) with my assault for almost 3 years to deal with my shame of my assault. This is an unfair time and being activated or triggered ( whatever word you want to use) by some stupid “social media” platform like facebook is downright unfair.

I write this from a place of concern, solidarity and end on a  plea. I write in solidarity for all of my warrior survivors who are trying to get by in these fucked up times who are dealing with this in the stinging silence of shame and regret and who are doing the best you can possibly do in whatever way that looks like or even the people who have the arms of those who love you wrapped tightly around you.

And the plea? This goes out to those of you that come from the place that are not survivors and post what coud be potentialy very triggering content. I understand your outrage and your call to support for us, and I thank you. But please understand the constant barrage of articles can be overwhelming and sensory overload. I’m not here to censor. I am here to only offer a mere suggestion. A simple trigger warning, that is all I suggest. I’m suggesting because I do not control you, I do not know your motives in sharing these articles or presume to know you and your history, but if I may speak for at least some of us, for you to be an ally for some of the people you are angry for and want to protect, (or even are just a pissed off citizen who is disgusted and seek umbrage and are irate) I ask to please consider this small request,tumblr_pg5xdkt98j1qjql4no1_1280

In love and solidarity,

Rilen.

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Bipolar Manic Episode *Uckery.

Edit: I also feel like this post could be called: A desent into madness, lets take a journey together!

August 10, 2018 2:53

On July 20, 2018 is when I had my first night of 4 hours of sleep. The lowest amount of sleep I got was 48 minutes of sleep on Tuesday in which I had a full 14+ hour day. Second after that was this past Monday I had 3 hours and 40 min of sleep. So its been 12 days of less than 4 hours of sleep a night.its been 22 days and last night was the first time I got 8 hours of sleep. (I’m done with numbers now, I promise.) Eventually sometime last week I lost an entire week of sleep- don’t know how much I’ve lost now, but who cares- point is, I’m fucked and bipolar blows and insomnia can suck it.

Why such little sleep? Because of an ongoing, seemingly endless, (sometimes draining) Bipolar hypomanic episode. You see I struggle with Bipolar II (vs. bipolar I which is signified by full blown manic episodes which sometimes mean: no sleep for days at a time, psychosis, delusions, hallucinations– basically the shit that gets you hospitalized and REALLY fucks your life up.) Instead I have “lesser” episodes (which at this point, this fuckery has been going on for almost 3 weeks. So, please, try telling me that right now this is a “less severe” episode.)  Although I do know that in some areas of my symptoms things could be worse and certain symptoms that were present at the start of my episode have since subsided. Basically here is what my hypo manic episodes look like for me (but I just use the word ‘manic’- but  from a clinical standpoint I wanted to clarify for you the difference between hypo manic and manic episodes.

  • Impulsivity- perhaps to steal, promiscuity aka the want or need to sleep with all of the Bronx and parts of Queens, drink, occasionally the URGE to spend money (but I don’t act on that specifaclly one)
  • Pressured speech– feeling the inability to stop talking, constantly interrupting people and not being able to slow down my speech

The main way I describe my mania is this: It’s as if someone is standing behind me pushing me, rather shoving me forward while I try to stay still.

  • My mind races
  • I can’t sleep or if I do (usually 4-5 hours) I am able to function completely normally with no hint of being tired. As in I can pull off 15-18 hour days without a hitch. Sure I might be like “Jesus why am I organizing my closet right now, its 3 am go to bed kid” but yet, physically I don’t feel tired. Sometimes my mind gets tired but even then, I cannot sleep.
  • I can hyper-focus which is also a symptom of AD/HD meaning I can (just as it says) hyper focus which means I can seemingly zoom in on an activity for hours at a time. Yesterdays hyper focus of the day was downloading a shit load of songs and listening to music for like, 2 hours straight on youtube.
  • And the weird one; making lists. Like legit- writing lists. Bullet. Pointed. Lists. Of what, you ask? I don’t even fucking know man but when I do, it seems hella important.
  • decreased appetite and having to literally remind/force myself to eat because I can get through the days without eating much.
  • Racing heart 
  • Elevated mood, I can turn into Nice Nancy, who thanks all the cashiers and wishes them a great weekend and rest of their shift! Which is something I don’t necessarily do.
  • And most importantly: Increased creativity! Sometimes (not this episode) I will write songs or just write in general (maybe thats why you are reading this right now? Who knows?)

Essentially all these symptoms just mean none of this stuff listed above is present, or to the extreme degree they are in my daily life- they are disruptive to my daily functioning.

I wish I could say I have honestly 100%  given up trying to make sense of why this happens and try to cope with these disruptions but thats not 100% true. I would like to know how it it physically and mentally possible that I am able to function off 4 hours, or like I said 48 min of sleep ( and that to me is honestly frightening) and feel totally fine and not affected. The only reason I know how much sleep I get is because of my handy-dandy fitbit, which is such a helpful mental health tool for me. Long gone are the days where I constantly check to see (much to my dismay how little)  I’ve walked only to realized I’ve only walked .27 miles or something (thats a lie- I walk more than that. However, also sometimes I don’t leave the house at all for days at a time and I live alone which is magical- most of the time it really is, but it can get lonely.)

Sometimes these episodes are brought on by a clear cause, this one I can attribute to staying up until 6:30 in the morning talking to someone and then thats when it all began to crumble and it just been a god damn shit show since then. I believe this stretch is potentially being elongated because of a number of other factors going on in my life right now, namely the status of my relationship with my boyfriend who I am currently taking some time apart from so we can both focus on our mental health because we are both kind of messes (case in point!) and also I have financial burdens and my living situation is a mess because I’m broke as a bitch! But other times, like I think maybe back in January when I had another long lasting episode that lasted about 2 weeks just came out of nowhere, but we are slowly nearing a month which sucks major balls.

I honestly just want to sleep consitently and not feel altered. Sometimes I feel okay, like I’m not bouncing off the walls (these periods don’t last too long- a few hours maybe if I can focus on a TV show) But as of yesterday (and right now as I write) I have a killer headache which I realized literally 15 minuets ago might be caffeine withdrawal because I didn’t drink soda yesterday ( or really eat) because it’s just too hot to drink anything but Powerade and water because I have been so active (I legit took 3 showers the other day because I kept sweating through my clothing because I CAN’T STOP RUNNING AROUND AND DOING THINGS!)

SO, I guess what a manic episode can look like is someone (most people picture a little boy, but adults have AD/HD as well)  bouncing off the walls and won’t shut the hell up. With many mental illness there is usually co-mordbidy (simply meaning you usually have more than one diagnosis leading you to potentially hate your life an inch more and board the struggle bus more often than others who have one diagnoses) and a lot of the symptoms overlap. So some of the things I deal with daily are exasperated and heightened, however manic episodes are horrendously more disruptive in my daily life than my AD/HD.

I guess all I can say at this point at 3:27pm is I have a headache and I just want to feel like “me” again. And what does “me” look like? Essentially just a lot more sedated and my mind isn’t racing too much. I don’t have a need to keep doing things. I’d like to just sit here, maybe take a nap (“Hah! yeah right bitch!” screams my brain at the mere thought of casual sleep) and just exist peacefully. I wish I wouldn’t have called for an hour trying to find an issue of Variety magazine centered around trans actors at 10 am today calling every CVS, Walgreens and every Barnes and Noble in NYC trying to find it. Only to have a friend actually CALL Variety in NYC in which he was informed that they don’t sell variety in NYC, just Long Island so, that was a cool relization (see, thats what hyper focus looks like- an incessant need to carry out goal oriented tasks- see! THAT makes sense, I should have put that up there when I listed the symptoms. Oh well.)

Luckily I have an incredible psychiatrist who cares so deeply about me and is fighting alongside me to help me control this pharmacologically and end this vicious cycle and firstly allow me to sleep, while at the same time (using the same meds) to end this hellish episode. I guess my only fear I have that just popped into my head is I hope there isn’t a downswing and fall. Because sometimes (and not too common with me- I think?? I don’t remember?) there is a goddamn crash and burn like the Hindenburg and you’re all the sudden depressed, suicidal, maybe drinking even more (if thats your bag) Let’s hope that does not happen because my brain has already been traumatized these past few weeks, and we don’t need the pendulum to swing.

So my dear friend, I hope this gave you a closer look into what a bipolar episode from one persons point of view looks like. If you want to see my rad video I mad describing this (vocally in words, obviously) on my youtube channel including delicious text effects (yay!) here is the link to my video.

Warmly,

your mentally ill, but- fighting- like- a- fucking- warrior friend,

Rilen

I don’t think actors body of work should be written off because they are rapists and sexual abusers.

Yes, you read that title right. From the surface it sounds as if I am excusing actors for their predatory actions, no? Or perhaps it sounds as if I’m saying I don’t believe they should be held responsible for their actions and shouldn’t be condemned for what they did simply because they are famous? That might be the assumption you are making. You might be thinking “who the fuck is this moron?” From the surface I can understand why you would think that and question who I am. It’s a bold statement to make in such tumultuous times. But dig deeper and you will discover who I am. What you don’t know or realize is that these words, that declaration is coming from a sexual assault survivor. I was sexually assaulted at Coney Island on September 5,2015 and I also have an extensive, dark, scary, shrouded trauma history dating back to childhood. I am not a nobody- my eyes are not veiled by ignorance and innocence- I know first hand the effects sexual assault has on a person. I am a fucking warrior who has weathered the storm of abuse and the consequences that follow it. I have stood in the pouring rain, that eventually began to drown me and carried me away into a sea of despair and loss. Seemingly helpless I watched my life fall to pieces right before my (and those who love me) eyes. I have weathered the storm and in the end, (which is my present) I managed to come out on the other side finally. But to come out on the other end of that trauma I had to go through 2 years of abusing alcohol, cutting my skin nightly and complete decimation of any sense of self. It is now on the other end of that darkness that I feel competent enough and have the lived experiences to make the statements I am about to.

All the different parts of my identity—sexual abuse survivor, former cutter, peer counselor, animal lover, pizza fiend and overall human being who has compassion and empathy begin to make up the tattered fabric of who I am as a whole. In addition to these facets of me, I am also an actor and for the purposes of this post, I am going to separate this complicated issue into looking at this from an actors perspective and as a sexual assault survivor.

The reason I am writing this in the first place is because of a recent facebook status I made lauding Casey Affleck for his performance in 2016’s Manchester By The Sea, that I just watched last week. This film garnered him best performance by an actor in a leading role at the oscars, as well as the film winning best original screenplay. I expressed my admiration and shock of his seamless performance of a repressed, struggling, and under the external guise of put-togetherness a truly broken, hurt, vulnerable human. I didn’t expect to be so inspired and taken by his performances, I told the 556 friends on Facebook that I have how much I admired him and was inspired by the subtle complexities of his performance. Within minuets I received a few comments on my status, the first being “didn’t he assault women” in which I *truthfully* admitted I was not aware of. 2 other people chimed in, confirming the allegations made against him. I also had someone, a fellow acting teacher in fact, send me an article via facebook messenger that explained the accusations of sexual harassment made against him, in which this particular person lamented remarking “ Yeah. It’s pretty bad. Disappointing, to say the least” in my response to “oh man, I didn’t know!”

By the time the movie had come out ( now almost 2 years ago) there were allegations against Casey by a few women stating he displayed inappropriate, unwanted sexual harassment, although no formal rape allegations were made. When presenting Affleck with the award at the Oscars, former best actress in a leading role, Brie Larson made it a point to not hug, clap or touch him while presenting him the prestigious and sought after award. In an interview after the show she was quoted saying “I think whatever I did onstage kind of spoke for itself. I’ve said all I need to say about that topic.” The world had its opinion on whether or not he should have won the award given these accounts from women. Twitter blew up from people all over the world reprimanding the Oscar’s for giving him the award. A very outspoken Chrissy Teigen pretended to be asleep on her husband, John Legend’s shoulder while Casey awkwardly accepted the award. Currently, there is uproar about whether or not he should be allowed to attend 2018’s Oscars in which he would present the award of Best actress in a leading role.

Given this new information I felt shame that I had admired him so openly when others had such staunch opinions about him and his actions. I am not blaming those people, or pointing fingers and saying “You made me feel bad about myself, so heres an article! Shame on you!” The reason I write this is because, despite the fact that I know that was not the intention of these people, I still did feel shame, to the point that I felt obligated to delete my status as a whole because I didn’t want it to seem that with the new knowledge of what he had done I was still supporting him-even though I still do.

And that, that right there is the root of the problem in my eyes, or rather my question I pose to you is this: should we disregard, belittle and erase an actors work because of sexual assault or harassment allegations? Do actors like Kevin Spacey or comedians like Louie CK (and the laundry list of other abusers that have been exposed in recent months) deserve to be written off as performers and erode their past work? Or should we just look at their (despicable) behavior and “judge” solely their character and poor choices and dislike them as a human because of said actions and leave the work out of it? Does it make sense to take away the weight of inspiring, moving, heart wrenching performances that these artists were able to conjure because of something disgusting they did that clearly caused their victims discomfort and peril? Do we throw away all the brilliant performances Kevin Spacey (or in this particular case, in relation to me, Casey) demonstrated on film? Don’t get me wrong, a completely separate issue is whether or not they should they work again after their abhorrent actions were brought to light- but that is not what I am here to talk about.

I question whether or not this concept of discounting the totality of their work after their actions surfaced makes sense or is warranted. I will speak solely for myself and this whole “Casey situation.” Personally, I am saddened and disappointed to hear that Casey would sexually harass someone. And I lament the fact that the other victims of other high-profile entertainers lives are ( and forever will) be changed, and they too will experience the lost sense of self and inevitable implosion that happens after someone decides they have agency over your body. For those women, or men- I truly empathize with and stand beside them because to continue in the face of violence takes a strong person- a warrior.With that being said, I do NOT believe his, or anyone else’s performances in films (more specifically this case, Casey in Manchester) should be thrown away into the trash and blacklisted. His talent and what he dug down and into to reveal about the human condition in this movie should be respected and honored. I say judge him for his actions, not his accomplishments as an actor. Hate him, curse him, hell- throw darts at his face on a wall if you want to, but I don’t think his lack of decency should overshadow what he did in that film.

Now! For the flip side of this- the victim viewpoint. What Casey, and every other performer who is being charged with these lurid acts of explicit lack of compassion and sound judgment is disgusting, wrong and unacceptable. I do not condone, support or even bat at eye to knowing what they did to children, men and women is wrong. Their actions are reprehensible and unforgivable. Predators like this are pieces of algae at the bottom of the pond and deserve to be reprimanded for the lives they have ruined. But again, I do not think because of this behavior their talent as a performer should be stripped away.

Now ask me, “Rilen, if your abusers were talented, renowned, powerful actors and inflicted pain and emotional turmoil in your life, would you feel the same? Would you forgive them?” My point is, this is not about forgiveness or even making excuses or excusing behavior. This is not about wiping the slate clean. Keep the slate dirty- pour sulphuric acid and cow shit on it! Simply, I just don’t believe their performances should be disregarded. I was talking to a friend today about this, someone who used to be my teacher about this same topic and they expressed that they had no interest in seeing his films anymore- or at least this one in particular at this point in time. He felt that if Casey atoned for his actions, by first of all apologizing in the first place ( because he has yet to do that. In fact he settled out of court for an “undisclosed amount of money” Aka: “I know I ruined your life but heres some money so be quiet. Go to Fiji, get a tan, drink a mojito. Just keep your mouth shut”) and in addition tried to makeup for what he did by perhaps giving back to the community of sexual assault survivors he would be given some room to redeem himself. It’s funny, I was just reminded of how my late mom refused to see any of Tom Cruise’s films or even interviews ( she would honestly leave the room) after he made a comment directed at Brooke Shields saying that postpartum depression isn’t real. Looking at these two different peoples reactions there is (from what I can gather- I believe this is somewhat wrong, but this is all I can out together) no separation in their eyes between these actors less -than- angelic actions and the validity of their previous and future creative/artistic work.

One final example is when I texted a close friend of mine a few nights ago, who also happens to be an actor. I reached out to them because I was afraid to ask anyone else because of the fear of retaliation and judgment, similar to what I received online from other actors. I knew this person would be open to discussion and not judge or reprimand me for posing this question. I texted them in the same way I did earlier when I began this post. At 3:48 am I said “With all of these sexual assault allegations coming out and such, do you think it should discredit an actors talent or work?…I feel bad for still respecting his (Casey’s) work in this film when those people basically said I was wrong for looking up to him. What do you think? Do you think we should judge actors and eliminate their talent just because of disgusting choices they made in their lives?” His response, 10 whole minutes later, which frankly felt like an hour because this concept was really bugging me was this: “ No, not at all. Bill Cosby was America’s dad. I still have so much respect for him and the amazing things he did. But he raped women, one of whom tried to kill herself. Its fucked up. Does it make the good things he’s done go away? No.”  I responded with “ Agree. What they did was wrong. There was a violation. Someone’s life and innocence was ruined. But that does not mean their work should be discredited. Idk man.” He ended with “Exactly, its a beyond tricky topic to talk about. I’m going to bed. Goodnight.” And I quickly followed up with “ I know if I say or make a video or write about this it I’m gonna get scathed.” His response? “Just do it. Up to you.” I replied “We shall see. Could be powerful.” Which brings me to where I am now on Friday December 22, 2017 at 8:23 pm, taking a risk by voicing my opinion by carefully crafting my thoughts (this took 3 hours) on a very controversial, timely topic.

In the end what I am saying is: As a sexual assault survivor, I know first hand that what these people did to others is inexcusable, despicable, dangerous and life-altering, but I am also saying that I don’t believe the work they did should be discredited because of predatory behavior.

 

 

 

if you would like the video version of this is here: https://youtu.be/LfG3oF1bn6s

 

My Room Is Illuminated and Bright. A story of personal growth and overcoming self harm.

I woke up this morning to this this Facebook reminder. When I looked at it I smiled and was briefly reminded of how much this day was a catalyst to where my life is now. Now less than an hour later, on the 1 train headed to the Apple store, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel sad. You see, I had to just count on my fingers how many days it had been a year ago (when this post was made) that I first started self harming. At this point a year ago it was a week straight; my troubles started December 8, 2016. This is a day that I remember like an anniversary, like one would remember a birthday or death (perhaps this was a rebirth?) On this 1 train at 1:21 pm I am listening to my playlist “December 2016” which consists of all the sad songs I used to listen to for almost 10 months. Just as a little taste some of the songs on this pit-of-despair-in-music-form playlist I’ve got:

⁃ Hurt, Johnny Cash (a personal fav when the self loathing of cutting came in)

⁃ Under The Knife, Icon For Hire ( I think we can all guess what that’s about)

⁃ Creep, Radiohead

⁃ Hurts Like Hell (which, shockingly enough is NOT about cutting- it’s about people leaving you)

…Anyway. You get the hint. #sad #angst

SO! On December 8, 2016 I began to cut, on December 16 school let out for Christmas break, and Christmas Eve I left acting training.

It wasn’t another 4 months until my violent, life threatening behavior ended and I stopped hurting myself in March 2017. I can greatly attribute my recovery to my constant cognizance that what I was doing was dangerous, in addition to my willingness to go to therapy 4 times a week. Now I’m down to 3 because I don’t need to meet with my psychiatrist weekly anymore- we are now on a 3 month in-between period to touch base.

It’s sad because that moment in the status above mentioned a teacher grabbing my face and saying those words to me “you are worthy of love and belonging” was in response to me simply saying I probably wouldn’t return for the third year of training (a whole semester away from where we were now in training.) What I was really saying was “I know I don’t have you as a teacher next semester in the first place, I know I would have you again next year but I can’t do this anymore. Goodbye.” Same thing happened when my classmates and I went out for drinks after class was finished for Christmas break- I knew in my heart that I wasn’t coming back. I sat there, detached at the schools haunting grounds, mildly dissociated trying to quietly let on I was leaving.

I guess word spread among the staff at Atlantic because I soon revived a message from the student affairs director on December 23 and then eventually we had a phone call on Christmas Eve discussing my “options” even though we both knew it would be in my best interest to leave the rigorous training program that I was no longer mentally capable of meeting the demands required for success in the program. It’s funny, I was going through my old phone a few days ago and found the exchange between this human and I over Christmas break:

Looking at the conversation I see the resistance, anger and embarrassment I was harboring at the fact that she had found out what I had been doing to my body. It’s clear the amount of shame that I had considering this is the woman that took me to the hospital in the middle of a school day and ended up saving my life when I came to her and told her that I had tried committing suicide the night before back in September 2015 .During our phone conversation on Christmas Eve with her I decided to leave school. So there I was, in the north woods of my Wisconsin lake house in 18 degree weather, I felt as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I KNEW it was the right choice. I wrote a blog post that was called “Christmas Eve Drop Out” that I posted on Facebook and my WordPress blog. That night my post was read over 100 times and I received over 30 comments from people, some current classmates, some classmates in the grade below me who I never got a chance to know, family friends, teachers, and some private messages etc. In that moment I felt loved and supported. Part of my post:

“I had deep undercurrents of sadness and a sense of mistrust in myself and my ability to succeed at this school. By the final two weeks of school I had cut myself near 100 times on my wrists and legs as a way to deal with my feelings that I couldn’t express. I made it through to the final day just barely, missing classes became a pattern for me which is a no no at my school. I had begun to fall down the rabbit hole each night that I took a razor to my skin and inflicted such pain on myself.

I am lost and weak. I have lost who I am. Yesterday I wrote saying ” An inferno of sadness as engulfed my soul.” In this moment however, I don’t feel that way. I see a light in the corner, a light that I am actively chasing to eventually illuminate my whole room. This is the reset button. I will leave school to undergo intensive psychotherapy and get the help I desperately need but more importantly, want…. It is time that I stand  (shakily) on my two feet and walk into the light of recovery. It’s time to rebuild. “

After I came home from the lake house it was time for an action plan. We looked into hospitalization back in New York because I refused to move back to Wisconsin- cutting or not New York is my home. My therapist was in way over her head and told me she couldn’t help me anymore. Luckily that’s when Callen Lorde came in and saved my life. Callen Lorde is an LGBT community health center in Manhattan– the place I make the 2 hour commute 3 times a week to better myself.

So. That’s all in the past, yes? Well happily the answer IS yes. I haven’t cut myself in 286 days (and for those of you that are mathematically challenged *not judging, so I am* OR too lazy to figure out how long that is- it’s 9 months.) I still have sooooo many clinical diagnoses that are listed in the charts by the many mental health professionals I see, but guess what? I am working on it. Although these conditions will never go away, I am finally in a very stable place where my days aren’t soiled with the acrid taste of regret (usually alchohol) and sorrow that used to wake me in the mornings (and by mornings I mean like, 2 pm because I was a depressed mess.)

I have written about my past of self harm and depression extensively on my blog ‘The Rilen Files’ on WordPress (shameless plug. )Most notably the post called “56 Little Marks” that has a (horrifying) 486 views where I document the 56 scars left on my body that still remain a year after my 3 month fall apart-who-the-fuck-am-I-help! period in my life. Below is the beginning of the post (a good read if I may say so myself)

It’s nice that I’ve gained allies throughout that horrific time in my life. I’ve sustained friendships that have weathered my tornado. Friends I’ve met online across the world on different continents who I talk to daily,and trust inherently. Not your every day Joe Shmoe could’ve been sucked in and devoured by my sea of despair because they simply weren’t strong enough or had the compassion to deal. Cuz seriously, what the hell would YOU do if someone was texting you at 3M, drunk, depressed and (sometimes) angry telling you they a) have a knife next to them and either they want to cut themselves or b) they are already bleeding????I don’t even know how I would react to that.

So, to those friends, and therapists (that will never be able to read this- unless I decide to take the whole session to read this novel) thank you. Thank you for your friendship and unwavering love.

It’s been a year and then some but as 2018 approaches in (counts on fingers again- I told you I wasn’t kidding) 16 days, despite the haze that used to cover my eyes and cloud my thoughts, the darkness that consumed me, the vicious thoughts and voice in my head that whispered and sometimes screamed at me to cut deeper and give up, I am excited to see what wonderful opportunities are headed my way. On December 24,2016 I wrote “ I see a light in the corner, a light that I am actively chasing to eventually illuminate my whole room.”

And now on December 14,2017

My room is illuminated and bright.