The Voice Over Acting Path My Career Is Heading Down That I Didn’t Expect, Auditioning For It & What I’ve Learned So Far

Voice Over: We all know it, whether we hate it (the car commercials, those horrific training videos before you get on the floor at our new job or even those annoying peppy- ass Spotify ads) or the ones we like, the ones that voice our favorite TV characters in animation, video games, the NOT so annoying commercials like maybe you like the sexy old spice guy? Or the Dos Equis dude? These are just tiny examples of where voice over is  present in our daily lives because baby- it’s everywhere. Instructional how-to’s, McDonald’s dollar menus, bar safety videos and our beloved Homer Simpson and Stewey, are all faceless voices, even the stuff on on TV telling us WHEN a TV show is  going to be on at “8/7 central” are all voice over.

In my over decade career of acting and years perusing professional training through my BFA in musical theatre and my 2.5 conservatory degree at the Atlantic Acting School in New York which specialized in solely acting, VO (Voice Over) was not even on my radar as something I would ever do, was in my range of possibilities or even of interest to me.

Now a year later in my professional relationship and contract with my management  overall, 98% of my auditions were for VO. My auditions are for animation so: The bulk is mostly TV show characters, a TV spot here and there ( the person telling you when a TV show- mostly for nickelodeon was going to be on), a few video games, I did one audiobook audition and I recently had an absolute blast for a horror-story podcast based out of an eastern city metropolis. Now, the other 2% of auditions can be broken down into physical in-person auditions and self-tapes. The physical in-person auditions have all been for wildly successful and high profile things that I still can’t believe I’ve been able to step into those rooms to audition for such as Netflix TV shows; FX, or big-name showrunner TV peeps or wonderfully exciting well known NYC Theaters–My managers are goooood to me! (Shout to SG if ya’ll are reading this)  The self-tapes have mostly been for films which I have the least experience in and don’t have much to say about.

So that 98 % of VO auditions that have taken up my August 2018- now present July 2019 have been such a learning experience and what I want to focus on. I’m not going to lie and say in the beginning and even middle and here and there, there have been moments where I have said after having so many auditions in a row (sometimes 4 in a week- but like- I wasn’t complaining then because HI AUDITIONS AND CREATIVITY!!) where I was looking at the potential trajectory of my life and saying “I don’t want to do voiceover ” or maybe some variation perhaps of ” This isn’t what I planned, I want to do theatre, where are those auditions?”

So privilege check for a moment- I am extremely lucky because in my best days I was getting a minimum of 2 auditions a week. Usually 3. Lucky? Check. The shit I was/still am auditioning for was and is ridiculous to be brought in at that level is extremely lucky and so fortunate. Check. I know there are actors out there who would murder their families Menendez style to audition for the companies I have in a medium they “didn’t plan on” or “want to.” So I know when those gross words slip out I need to shut the hell up and look at my life and be grateful.

So here’s the part where I’ll lay it out and just be transparent and in the words of Amy Schumer (who I can quote this almost verbatim because I was practicing my VO skills the other day from her book The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo) and say “Choose your own adventure and skip ahead if you don’t want to hate me or hate your life.” I’ve had the pleasure of auditioning (and I’m going to stick to VO only because that’s the point of this post) for new shows on PBS, Nickelodeon TV shows and commercial spots, Cartoon Network ( some established shows like Steven Universe and new ones), Video game franchises, Dreamworks and my personal greatest accomplishment and honor was when I finally got to audition for Disney about 10 months in. Privilege check meter:  meter has exploded- mercury exploding all over. check check check.

Now here’s a fun fact. Out of the however many auditions I’ve had (including the in-person ones)…I haven’t booked a single one! And I put that exclamation mark there for 2 reasons, A) for proof that you can have all the opportunities in the world and it doesn’t mean shit because this biz is hard and B)  also hopefully you’ll be like “see he doesn’t take himself that seriously and he’s not a conceited asshat”  *Nervously looks around hoping for the latter*

But in all seriousness, I’ve auditioned for a lot of stuff, and haven’t booked anything and while yes, that super sucks and my bank account weeps and I’ve been on the verge of having to move out of my 1 bedroom apartment I live alone in– heres where things turn around- I’ve learned so much about acting through VO and honestly this past week I have begun to learn so much more- which is why I was inspired to write this all down now.

The main thing about Voice Over acting: You have so much FREEDOM TO CREATE. You can literally do ANYthiNg. You get to be so SO big. You are literally, at the true essence CRE-ATE-TING a character from just lines on a page and conveying it all with your      v o i c e.  You get to encapsulate and paint the picture of a whole human with your mouth dude! What a concept!

The Audition Process: You get the email from your manager *LADY SPIDER DUE 7/4* you will usually get a break down which means it’s a description of the character, sometimes a paragraph giving the emotional arc (or other times, a very brief description like a sentence or 2 of key facets) of the character and sometimes you even get a sketch of what the character looks like, usually a black and white artist sketch. [[[Quick Trivia: Something I am learning now, (A year later…better late than never, but aren’t babies just learning to walk at a year or something? I know nothing of child development) as I am getting better from listening to the professionals, something paramount to creating the way the voice of the character is they may get the idea based on the sketch maybe about the way their mouth is shaped prompting this voice actor to then talk out of the side of their mouth, or have a lisp.]]] So you get the breakdown with or without the sketch. So here, let me give you a fake breakdown so you know what one would look like:

Lady Spider, 17-mid 20s,  She’s a spit fire always ready with a witty quip. Her close friends; Jewels and Tyler all work together at the job they all hate, Dairy King.

And then the scene would probably take place in a Dairy king (maybe she puts it down with a snide comment?) but maybe the lines have nothing to do with Dairy King-I dunno. Who knows, it just gives you a slight idea that this girl has some sass, and then it’s up to you as the talent to portray that facet in whatever way you want. Then you record it at home, do as many takes as you want- me I do like 80,000, then you send it off as an mp3 to you manager and you continue on with your life.

The lines are usually short, and equal a page or 2. I am going to type usually again, but use italics this time. Usually. I’ve had some doozy’s where I’ve had almost paragraphs to read. Another fun fact is, you just read your lines, when you get the script, or some people call it sides, or copy, you get everyone’s lines but you skip down the page and just read your lines even if aurally it won’t make sense if when listening it goes from suddenly you shouting “NO!” when your line before was “I think I’m going to eat some pizza.”

So, as I said– you get to be as big as you want, which I have found a lot of freedom and fun in. I find myself creating these larger than life characters, doing things, making sounds (I’ve had to pretend I was shoving my face with cake, so I was licking my fingers and had to find a way to make myself sound full) to create a picture and tell a story, which inevitably is a lot harder than you think. However not everything is peachy keen, I wish and have a bit of disdain that I have no training in VO. I will be the first to admit, and then my managers can probably (although in a loving manner) back me up and say that I would benefit from VO lessons and classes. I can do a few specific things very well, a few accents, and placements in my voice and find endless emotion within that placement, but finding a great deal of vocal range has been difficult for me. An old acting teacher has told me, my speaking voice alone is interesting, so wouldn’t that be nice if I could just Mila Kunis it up in this B (She plays Meg on Family guy in her speaking voice) and just get cast using my regular voice? And I’ve honestly thought about that a lot, and I don’t know that that would be all that fun. Part of the glory of sending in all these audio files to the faceless suits of the 2 agencies I always submit to is creating these larger than life characters, most of which are not human (I would like to clarify though, just because I’m reading for a character named Lady Spider or Ollie the Octopus I’m not making guttural noises like a Pokemon, these are human beings and voices I am creating.)

And finally the last story I will share with you my dear friend, is the most challenging and longest audition I had because it was a 10-minute recording, was for an AudioBook. It was a while back but I believe it was 3 chapters of a successful teen novel that had been out since I believe 2014? It was very surprising but the audition came late at night, I want to say maybe 9pm and was due the next day. Now, here’s my thing when it comes to VO auditions- I do them immediately. I don’t have much of a life so I am usually always home and can get to my computer almost immediately and start recording. So, it was like, 9pm on say, a Wednesday and I get an email for an Audiobook audition (my very first) I don’t even know how many pages it was…Let me see if I can find the email- hold please…-okay, I’m back- it was 6 pages in about size 12 font. It took me hours to record.

Now, I say this 100% UNBIASED despite the fact that I am a Backstage (magazine) Brand Ambassador for the Backstage platform, but months before I got the call for this massive undertaking I was browsing youtube and stumbled across a video they had where it was something like “An audiobook artist (?) takes us through her session recording” And my interest was piqued enough to click and it was interesting because the 10? 12?  minute  video showed how this woman differentiated each character from the next by highlighting their lines of speaking in different colors so she knew who was talking and which voice to do. So you saw a colorful page in front of her, designating the different characters she was voicing and sipping tea. I was blown away. At this point it was just voyeurism- I had no personal stake in this woman’s genius or lifesaving tactics. But come that Wednesday 9pm email months later and when I scrolled that 6-page pdf and a flurry of swears came flying out of my mouth I remembered that video. I didn’t even need to watch it again- I just knew I needed to highlight who was talking. Luckily for me, there were only 2 people talking, a 60-year-old man, who I gave a deep southern drawl to, and a young 17-year-old fiesty/ defensive girl. So, my computer screen went from white to an array of pink and blue (no not gender norms- more like adobe pdf sucks and I didn’t have color options)

What I found perhaps most interesting was  the “I said” and “he said looking down, embarrassed staring at his shoes” and then launching into the dialogue of a character because you then have to switch into someone’s voice you made up- also known as the narrative, in this case, it was first-person narrative. The older guy who I made up, with the deep southern drawl, we will call him Jack, was an interesting segue from the “I said’s” considering this was written in the first person and sometimes the characters would just dialogue back and forth. It certainly was a lesson and a sight to be seen.

Only now listening to the GENIUS that is Michael C Hall narrating, fuck it, acting the SHIT out of Stephen King’s ‘Pet Semetary’ do I KNOW what Audiobooks are supposed to sound like, oh my good god and heaven! I’ve never listened to one before, but thanks to Amazon prime I got a few for free and I am shocked at what that man can do ( I feel like Dexter didn’t do him justice because I was bored- sorry) He voices: an 80-year-old woman and man, 5-year-old girl, 2-year-old boy, the 40-year-old main character, his wife and the narration which I believe is third-person narrative ( “Louis put his shoes on”)

And finally finally (swear to god I’m done now) I got an official microphone to compete with everyone else with last week. This whole time bashfully I’ve been using my MacBook Pro microphone, so even as good as my auditions have been, the quality hasn’t been as nice as it could have been. BUT! The same 2 agencies called me for all my auditions so I won’t beat myself up too hard and fault myself, but now I’m ready for the big leagues. I’m ready to compete with the big dogs. Is this the $1000 microphone yet? No. But the difference is incredible. I am excited about my next audition and I want to  practice because now with the microphone it has a jack so I can hear myself while I’m talking, and obviously playback afterward when I’m done. Mostly, I am excited to learn from my mistakes, correct my accent (My Wisconsin regionalism still creeps through) and just get better. Because whether or not in the moments I am an ungrateful piece of poo, VO seems to be where things are headed, so I might as well be the best doggone actor I can be right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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