The process and picture documentation of a panic attack

I’ve grappled with whether or not to share this picture with the world out of fear, embarrassment, being accused of being ‘dramatic’ and ‘attention seeking’ or perhaps looking for pity- and here I am, going against those voices in an attempt to teach and inform.

I truly believe I’ve been put on this earth for two reasons: one of those reasons is to act but, the bigger purpose of my life I believe, is to help people and spread awareness about mental health and mental illness. I talk about my diagnoses on YouTube and write about it, but until last night I didn’t have any “proof” of how this manifests its self (besides a video I have of me dissociated)

The reason I timidly and nervously am posting this picture is because I want to show people how erratic and unpredictable mental illness can be and help end the stigma. The top picture of me when I’m smiling and happy was taken at 5:59pm on my way to see a friends play- I was eager and excited to support my friend-what could go wrong? After intermission when the show started, within minutes I began to have a panic attack based on an OCD obsession and compulsion. Because I was not the able to carry out the “ritual” of what was triggering me I began to crumble during the second act of the show which was over an hour and began at 9:02 pm. I sat in my seat with tears rolling down my face,l had racing thoughts trying to figure out a way out of the situation; do I leave? Do I text my friend?

After the show was over and I was waiting for my friend to come out, I started texting one of my friends letting them know what was going on. As I was texting, my hands were shaking making it difficult to type, I was starting to get dizzy and I was beginning to hyperventilate which is when the second picture was taken at 10:48 pm—I wanted to show them what was going on. My friend from the show came up to me to greet me and saw that I clearly was not OK and grabbed his coat and we went outside. As we were walking down the street I began to lose it and was hyperventilating and crying. I was embarrassed and kept apologizing for my behavior because I felt so out of control and crazy. At the time I didn’t tell him what was going on and what triggered the attack, however now he knows—but I’m not comfortable explaining what happened on here. But I have to say I’m grateful for my friend for normalizing my behavior. He didn’t act like the way I was acting (even though he didn’t know the circumstances) was wrong,weird or crazy.

This is the first time I can officially attest to the fact that I’ve had a full out panic attack. I’ve had minor things like this happen such as hyperventilating and feeling like my chest was tight and had trouble breathing but nothing like this before. The third picture was taken 2 hours later after the initial attack at 11:02pm on the subway home when I was still in a state of crisis. And now, the last picture is of me 20 minutes ago, a day later. The fact that this was based around something around my OCD is something that I never thought I was capable of, or rather my brain was capable of creating.

So the reason that I’m sharing this picture is I want everyone to know that mental illness has a mind of its own and can truly paralyze someone and we need to stop stigmatizing people with mental health conditions. These diseases of the mind are inconsistent and things hit when they want to. People think that having mental illness is a sign of weakness or maybe attention seeking behavior, however what happened last night was truly terrifying and I felt powerless. 40 MILLION americans struggle with some type of anxiety disorder- that’s 18% of the population. This picture is meant to show that this shit happens to MILLIONS of people. I wish that more people were like my friend and would normalize this behavior and not have such a stigma behind it.

I hope for those of you that are reading this and struggle with mental illness whether it be OCD or type of anxiety disorder, bipolar, ptsd or whatever you’re struggling with is that you’re not alone, these things are normal, you’re not crazy and there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re perfect.

You’re Not Good Enough & The Little Lies I’ve Told Myself.

Sunday October 29, 2017, 8:40pm

I believe in this moment at 8:40, my life could be on a precipice of change. I sit here on my leather couch in my Riverdale apartment, with my script beside me, my favorite scent of circus sage candle burning, and a stiff well-deserved drink by my side and realize I have the power right now, to change my thoughts and eventually my life.

2 weeks ago, on October 7 I auditioned for my dream role, Konstantin in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull.’ Words don’t express how much getting this role, and even having the opportunity to audition mean to me. When I first read The Seagull back at Atlantic last year I was smitten. Never in my life have I felt so connected to a character before and felt understood and seen (more on that later!) In school I was fortunate enough to do the famous Act 3 bandage scene where K and his mother have a falling out. The work I did that day surprised me and opened my eyes to what I am capable of as an actor. I didn’t know I could be so vulnerable and open, and cry my face off and feel so much emotion by saying someone else words. I hoped and dreamed that someday I would be able to play the role but put it on a shelf of realities that probably weren’t going to come true. I put it on that shelf because I am trans- I look and sound like a girl and it would take an open minded director to take a chance on me and let me bring this character to life. Well, fast forward a year later, and it happened. I fought for this part, I gave every morsel that I could to prove that I deserved this part and despite my physical appearance, he and I are not so different and that I can bring a truth to this part that simply based on my life experiences, other actors may not be able to connect as deeply as I can.

Now, fast forward again and these 2 weeks a shit-storm of emotions have happened. Self doubt, self HATRED, insecurity, feeling unworthy, incapable, not experienced enough, green, are all things that have littered my mind. The overall feeling that I have been lugging on my back these last 2 weeks is that I am not worthy, that somehow I tricked everyone into thinking I am capable of playing this part and that in reality I was unfit and a pretender. Konstantin is the first lead I have ever played in my 12 years of acting. I have been bitch slapped in the face many times these past few weeks of what specifically that means, and how that plays out in terms of preparation and responsibility. When all is said and done my character is the protagonist- which is simply to say a very large role in which we follow the throughline of this characters story and has a full arc, or as dictionary.com states “The principal leading actor, character or participant in a literary work or real event.” I always hoped that someday I would be able to play a part this big, a part this complicated and then, when I finally achieved it and began to do the work I told myself nope- they made a mistake, I can’t do this because I’m not good enough.

The rehearsal process has been an uphill struggle. We are putting together a large 4 act show in less than a month. My first day of rehearsal I had a huge, complex, layered scene to memorize without whole lot of time. I became obsessive, mean and downright abusive and compulsive in the way I was approaching the way I needed to learn my lines and approach the character. I wanted to be perfect, or at least my version of what perfect looks like, and let me tell you- two weeks in I am still very far from that. I have standards for myself and the bar is set very high because I know what I am capable of emotionally as a human. I am grateful because of the intensity of this role and the journey my character goes on that I have the opportunity to learn and play and grow as a performer. To try to bring the emotional depth that Rilen has to the stage is proving to be difficult. I didn’t realize how complex the role was and the friggin rollercoaster he is on. I suppose some small part of me throught, we have so much in common that he should be easy to tap into. Don’t get me wrong in NO way did I think it was going to be easy, but I was naive in thinking having shared experiences was enough. On that note of shared experiences heres the list I have complied of how we are similar:

  • depression,
  • suicidal actions/ideation,
  • rapid mood swings
  • creative
  • sensitive
  • low self-esteem
  • extreme feelings of inferiority
  • both dropped out of college (for me, twice both because of psychological issues)
  • Longing for affection and attention from mom
  • constantly feeling like your mom hates you, but still reaching and longing for that love, and when its given, you crumble and give in no matter the amount of previous hurt she caused
  • feelings of loneliness and detachment from others—misunderstood
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • both play the piano when we are sad
  • feelings of abandonment-everyone is against me
  • dislikes the person his parent is dating

You would THINK (!) THAT HAVING THIS SHIT IN COMMON WOULD MAKE MY JOB EASY AS A PERFORMER- but nah bitch- wrong. Legit, if you look at half of that list its about self doubt, feelings of worthlessness and sadness. And anyone that actually knows me know’s thats me in a nutshell. Those are less than ideal characteristics to have in the first place, but pair that negative self image with the pressure and responsibility of telling a story, and its kind of a recipe for disaster.

The reason I started this post is because I realized something tonight after an intensive 4 hour rehearsal in which 2 of those hours were just my director and I fleshing out the first scene I am in. This revalation, simply put is: I can’t continue this play (and in the BIGGER picture- my LIFE and career) with this thought processes that has been running rampant in my conscious mind that I am undeserving and not “enough.” I am looking at these past 2 weeks and labeling it as the “perceived failure” chapter- the chapter where I would text my old teacher nightly (sometimes in a rage) of how inadequate I am and question how I got this role in the first place. I am making the choice right now to knock that shit off. The fact of the matter is I have 12 days to pull it together and make shit happen before we have tech. I am not going to get anywhere by telling myself I suck. I have been working very hard on this play outside of rehearsals, spending a bare minimum of 3 (some days 5-7) hours a day with the text- but I realized today, that simply is not enough. And for any non-actors you might be like, “What the fuck? Thats a long ass time to stare at a piece of paper with bright highlighted words and illegible notes!”And yes, in hindsight it is, but for the demands of this part and how far I still have to go to bring a truthful, honest and raw performance (in my eyes at least) that’s the bare minimum. I have the capability to DO something with this role, and until I feel like I have gotten “there,” I have a lot of work to do.

The fact of the matter is, this is my first role since completing my training at the Atlantic and like I said, first lead ever. A quick snapshot of the last year: My life fucking fell apart from December- February- (I highly suggest reading my older entires, because wow- a lot was going on and I did NOT hold back on the details and stark reality of the pain I was in.) I became someone I didn’t know anymore- I was in a perpetual state of emotional and psychological crisis. I was cutting myself daily, drinking and dissociating- my ability to be able to be present in my body and emotions was a daily struggle and a lot of times I failed. Then March happened- I discovered Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen. A fire was lit under my ass and I signed up for backstage, an acting website where a lot of people in the biz self submit for roles. I was getting work frequently, and then within 5 months of pursuing my professional career I landed a manager- a long-term goal I had set to achieve in a year. And now here in almost November, my mental health has taken a completely 180, and I am finally stable. But essentially, everything has been so fast paced- it’s like, everything I had ever wanted and dreamed of as an actor was (and still is) falling into place at the speed of sound. So while I have been berating myself and telling myself I don’t deserve this part or whatever else bullshit my brain has been coming up with I need to look at the facts: I AM good enough. I have trained, I am professional, competent and I want this and I got the part because someone believed that I could do this. I am just as worthy as anyone else and have worked my way up to be where I am now, so to tell myself that I am not deserving of this dream role is just fuckin mean and vicious.

So what I’m saying is this: I have no more room for bullshit right now, and on the deeper level- I NEED TO LOVE MYSELF. One of my old therapists always said, “Think of the negative self talk you have- all the mean, hateful things you say and think about yourself. Now imagine saying that to a child. That would be considered child abuse and your kid would be taken away from you. So knowing how impactful those statements and words are, why would you say those things to yourself?” And while I’ve always agreed with that analogy, at this moment in my life I’m like “oh fuck. What have I been doing to myself?” Now doooooon’t get me wrong, this attempt at seriously starting to realign my self worth is not going to be easy, its not going to fix everything and it sure as shit is not going to happen in the next 2 weeks before this show opens and closes. I am in therapy 3 times a fucking week and I have been in therapy for 11 years working on this very concept and this is still *clearly* something I struggle with. But right now, for this moment, for the rest of this process I want to try and diminish those lies I’ve been telling myself. I am capable of being a great artist someday, and this gift, this BLESSING from the god’s above to let me play this part is a huge step for me an opportunity to grow as an actor, but even more than that, A Human.

9:36

Now Is The Summer of My Discontent

July 7, 2017 1:57am

I try to turn my pain into hope for others. While this can be fulfilling at times, it can be exhausting for me. Try to keep a smile on my face and add levity to my situation but everyday it seems to get harder and harder. 10. 10 mental illnesses I am now diagnosed with. bipolar.borderline.ptsd.ocd.gad.complex grief.soical anxiety.adhd.edenos.body dysmprphia. Maybe that’s 11. I’m too tired to count.

I know suicide isn’t the option because I am able to help others though my pain, I still believe I have a purpose. But I get tired of fighting sometimes. Like now, my brain, body and soul is tired of fighting- of putting on a brave face for the “public” in a vain attempt to selflessly help others. I don’t lie, I don’t put on airs. I don’t try to act happier than I am but I am tired. I am 96 days clean of self harm. 96. When I think of that in number 96 is a temperature I hate, it’s too hot for me. I wish I could give up, cave and give in, remind myself that I am alive and here. My days are filled with lonlieness and dissociation. I drink and drink but I find it harder each day to get drunk and fully turn off. Instead my brain decides to dissociate and detach from reality and any semblance of being human.My face becomes emotionless, my words mean nothing and I am unable to communicate let alone feel. My sadness engulfes me, maybe thats what keeps me going. My sadness. My sadness gives me fuel to keep going because at least I know I am alive.

I wish I had something profound to say, like this is just a phase, things will get better. People tell me I am in a rough patch, but truth be told, I have been in a rough patch for 3 years. My mom died, I realized I was trans, I was raped, I began cutting, I dropped out of school- it doesn’t end. Now trauma from childhood assault begins to plague me and memories and nightmares begin to haunt my dreams. Restless from lack of sleep I toss and tun in my firm bed. I try to forget but my brain isn’t allowing me to. I want to rest, to feel whole and complete again. I wonder, what does it feel like to feel whole and not addled with pain and hurt? What does it mean to be happy and full? The only thing these days that gives me purpose is acting. Every time I get called in to audition I feel like I a doing something right. Like I am meant to be here for a reason. That when I step into that room in front of a table and someone hears me speak, I get to do what I love for 90 seconds. Those 90 seconds are mine to shine, to let my light shine and glow. I am reminded why I am here when I get to perform. The promise of being able to support myself solely though acting keeps me going and I allow myself to fall into fantasies of success and money. Not even fame, or recognition, but content–purpose.

I haven’t felt so low since December- February when I was self harming everyday. I don’t know what it will take to “snap me out of this.” Therapy 3 times a week instead of two? I don’t have the answers.

56 Little Marks.

56 little marks. 26 on my thigh. 16 on my left forearm. The rest scrambled on my wrists. Little reminders of how sick I was. Some are long, some are short, some go vertical, some go horizontal. Some are crooked, some are neat. All these little lines mark my body for the world to see. 60 days have passed since I have since picked up a knife and sliced my tender, soft, carmel skin.

There aren’t words to express how crazy it is to know that 2 months have passed since I last hurt myself. When I was self harming it was a daily habit. The longest I could go was usually 2 or 3 days, then I would cut again. Then I would make it a week then relapse. I was in so deep I thought I would never get out of the hole I found myself in. I thought “Okay, this is your life now. This is how you deal with your feelings, get comfortable.” What a relief to know my dirty little habit only consumed a short 3 month period of my life.

What a relief it is to not have to wake up to the massacre on my wrists after a night of excessive drinking and cutting. Half of the time I forgot I even hurt myself until I woke up and saw bandages on my wrist. Bandagaes carefully placed by my drunken self the night before. I would peel back the layers of gauze and bandages to reveal my shame from the night before. Guilt, weakness, shame and embarrassment would flood my body as I would see the risen mark and dried bits of blood stain my skin. I felt helpless, lost and alone. I’m glad I no longer have to go to walgreens and spend money on bandages and tape to cover up my cuts to help my body heal. It’s nice to know I don’t have to worry about being caught stealing another knife from a store because I am too embarrassed to buy a new, sharper, shiner one. What a relief to no longer wince in pain as hot water runs over my skin as I try to wash away the hurt and pain the next day. It’s nice to know I have moved on and have found better ways of coping.

To this day, I still don’t know why I cut. I know what caused the first incdent- a boy I liked didn’t text me back for 13 hours and I thought he hated me and abandoned me. But why it continued for 3 months is a mystery to me. I’m not sure which of my traumas I was trying to deal with when I dissociated every night and hurt myself. Was it my mom dying? My sexual assault? Or just a mere “symptom” of my mental illness? I tried in therapy to piece apart why I was doing this, and I still don’t have an answer. We have moved on to other things, things that still stand in my way.

If you asked my why or how I stopped I would simply say cutting myself served it purpose and I have grown up, out and away from needing to do that anymore. I no longer spent my nights as a drunken, dissociated mess of a human being. Instead I lie in my bed, watching netflix and talking with friends. I didn’t know who I was for 3 months. It’s like I completely disappeared under the knife, and only now am I beginning to resurface. Air is being breathed back into my lungs and I am starting anew. I don’t ever want to feel that low again, but I know my reality. I know that I have very serious mental health problems and disorders that very well may place me on that road again in the future. While I am aware of that possibility, I am not going to sit here patiently waiting for it to all crumble down around me again. I am going to stand in the light that is just beginning again to illuminate my skin. I’m going to bask in the light that I searched so hard, fought so hard to find again. I am glowing. People say they see a change in me, that I am happier. Thats because I was lost and now I am found again.

If I listened to my borderline mind

If I listened to my voice of borderline all the time, I would have no friends and I would have pushed everyone away, of that I am sure. If I were to tell every person when they take more than 2 minutes to respond to my text if we are texting back and fourth, I assume I am not important, worthless, small and not worthy of your time. If I were to tell others that when I sense a change in tone even in writing whether that be simply by the lack of punctuation that I think they hate me and I did something wrong, people would say that I am crazy. People would argue that I am paranoid and need to calm down, smoke some weed. If I told people how attached to them I got after hours of talking to them they would think I am their stalker and a lonely loser. Sure, this does not happen with everyone but with new friendships and romantic interests this is most always the case.

I hang on to peoples word, my mood hanging by a thread on what is said or isn’t said. If I were to tell people how thoughts of abandonment turn to vicious thoughts in my head, people would tell me to seek help. If people knew that when someone does not respond to me I think I am fat, gross, ugly and worthless they would feel bad for me. I don’t want pity. I want a world where it isn’t bad to ask for what I need without the stigma of seeming crazy for having these thoughts. I try to explain these feelings to others and they don’t understand, “take it slow” they tell me. There is no pause or slow motion button in my head or for my thoughts, it’s full steam ahead all the time. How am I supposed to date someone or get to know someone when quickly they become my everything? How am I supposed to be in a normal relationship when I am waiting for the inevitable moment when someone tells me they don’t like me and I am a ruiner. That I have a pretty face, I’m sweet and kind but “too intense” and I “come on too strong?” How will anyone get to love me past my illness when it causes me to push others away? I will never be free of bpd, this is my life- I’m stuck with it.

I just wish there was a world I lived in where I could tell someone all my truths and not be thought of as aggressive or too much. I just want to be freely me and then have someone decide if I am right for them. If I listened to my borderline mind I would have been dead at 22. If I listened to my borderline mind I would have stopped in traffic already or jumped out a window just to see if I would die. If I listened to my borderline mind I allow myself to whole heartedly believe I am crazy and unwell. If I listened to my mind, I would believe that I am unworthy of love and affection because I am too sick. I want my mind to be quiet. To be at peace. To allow things to naturally unfold and not have a ticking time bomb clicking away, making everything so intense and urgent. I want to feel what it’s like to slowly fall in love with someone, and not crash into it. I want to know what it’s like to grow fond for someone overtime instead of them becoming my everything after a day. I want to know what it’s like to have normal, healthy relationships.

When My Innocence Was Stolen

Monday March 6,2017  12:45am

The Loss of Innocence

I thought of writing this post 2 days ago but put it off because I was too scared. I was too scared to see what would come out of my fingers, what I would say, what would I think, but evermore, what would I remember? I want to talk about innocence and the loss of it in my life. Innocent by webster’s dictionary is defined as “lack of guile or corruption; purity.” When I think of the word corruption, I see 2 events specifically and one long term event that corrupted me and caused me to lose innocence.

The first turning point of me losing my innocence was when I was 16 and was dealing with a very sick, alcoholic mother. The memories are hidden and buried deep, and to turn them up to please the eyes of strangers that will read this and never comment seems sadistic, so I won’t say much. I will say from the age of 16 which was freshman year in high school is when my life started turning into shit. My mom was verbally and more importantly emotionally abusive for her last decade on this earth. Those that may be reading this that knew her will be shocked and maybe saddened to hear this, but I have to speak my truth. I strive to preserve her memory of the wonderful, beautiful, empathetic person she was but her disease took over and ruined her. That is the part my family refuses to talk about and acknowledge in public. But I won’t say silent. My mother would call me names, make fun of my body, swear at me, sometimes hit me, bang on my door, break my things, stand in front of my car while I was trying to escape and blame me for her problems and I was the reason why she drank. I got the brunt of it, not my dad, not my sister but little 16 year old Rilen.

I remember one of the first times I made myself sick to try to deal with the pain I was feeling was when we were in ixpapa mexico on vacation at an all inclusive resort. We went to a the fanciest restaurant on the grounds called “Don Quitoe” and I ordered the spaghetti pasta. Mom was impaired and ruined the dinner. Eventually everyone left the table before we even had our meal and I sat there alone at 17. A beautiful meal ruined. I went to the bathroom and stuck my fingers down my throat to make myself feel more balanced and better after the turmroil that unwound at the table. To this day I don’t remember what was said or done, what specifically happened, but I remember my mom leaving first, then my dad, then it was just my sister and I. But the specific moment of innocence lost was when I called the insurance company to find a rehab for my mom at 20 years old. We were trying to plan an intervention for her. My dad and sister didn’t do anything. I was in community college for communications and on a Sunday afternoon at my apartment I was on the phone with my insurance company trying to find rehab facilities for my mom. Why my dad didn’t do this still to this day bothers me. I was a mere child trying to save my mom, I thought I was her superhero, destined to save her. Because I failed, she died. She couldn’t stay sober and I feel guilt because of that even 3 years later. The logical part of my brain says, she needed to have wanted to recover, but the other part of my brain says you didn’t try hard enough.

My innocence then took another dive when my mom died when I was 23 and I discovered her dead body. You can’t recover from that or go back, that chips away at you, it forces you grow up before you were ready. You always picture your parents dying when they are old and grey, after you have given them grandkids, not when they are 56. Seeing her in bed…I can’t describe in words what that did to me or how it forced me out of my youth but it changed me greatly.

When I was sexually assaulted on September 5,2015 any semblance of innocence I had left was savagely ripped away from me. For any survivors out there that are reading this, you know as well as I you were forced to mature wise beyond your years because someone decided they had the right to your body. I thought I had seen it all and was mature and had seen enough for two lifetimes but when that happened I had reached the point of no return, I was now an adult and no longer a child. Any sense of self and security was taken from me, my body was not my own— it was tainted, used and foreign.

Do I wish these things would have never happened to me? Of course. Do I wish I wouldn’t have had to be an adult and sometimes the parent at 16 years old, sure. But there is nothing I can do to change my past. I have to accept it for what it is. I am wise beyond my years. I’ve been forced to deal with very traumatic and difficult circumstances that some people will never have to be exposed to. I guess through my stolen innocence I have learned who I am and what I am capable of. I know that I am strong, ruthless, intelligent and a fighter. So many crack and crumble and never return to who they once were. I am not 100% and haven’t totally retuned to who I was before these things happened to me and I know that even through therapy the chances of getting my childhood back will never happen. I was an adult at 16 and I am even more grown at 27.

Stained skin.

February 12, 1:50 am

My pain is represented by my scars. The fresh cuts on my arms and the bandages that cover them weekly demonstrate the hurt. The scars speak more loudly than words ever will as to how I feel. The scars speak to the pain, abandonment, fear and hurt that I feel that I’m unable to express in other ways. I try to speak, to impart to others why I hurt, why I hurt myself. But words don’t do justice. So I stay silent, not trying to have anyone understand. Nobody will get it, if I myself don’t understand, so I don’t try. The only way I know how to speak, is to write. To have words flow out of my fingers, thats that were unknown and un-realized thoughts and feelings surface, not revealed until typed onto my screen. My leg reads as a barcode, 20 or more dark scars stain my skin. My two tattoos on my wrist are framed by dark, self inflicted lines. I look into the mirror and I don’t see me anymore. I don’t know who this is, but it isn’t who I am. I am an actor and now I have to go into auditions with scars on my arms, my weakness and misery on display for all.

Someone tonight told me, for every cut you want to make, there are 1000 reasons not to. I am putting my career at stake with my sickness. I want my body to be pure again, clean, untouched. Instead I am tainted, dirty and soiled. Some people don’t hide their scars because they say they are sings that they are a survivor, proof that they have been through some stuff.They want the world to know they are warriors.  I don’t know that I agree, but its gotten to the point that my pain will be visible to see. Even if I wear a long sleeve shirt the pain will reflect in my eyes. Sure, my lips curve into smiles, my laugh booms out of me, but the darkness still rests within.

I’ve begun to cry more times these past 2 weeks than I have allowed myself in the past year. My eyes become blurry and fill with tears, but they refuse to fall. They sit stubbornly around my brown, sad eyes, unable to dip to my cheeks. I don’t feel a release, I feel nothing most of the time. I am hollow. I am carved out and empty. Covered in scars I did nothing to earn.