I am More

Jan 24, 1:15pm

I just weighed myself and weigh **0.7. Two days ago I was **1.7

I looked at my weight loss tracking app.

I saw that my weight loss has been .29% per week since December 3 2019. 3 pound weight loss in almost 3 months.

I stepped back from the scale and said aloud to myself as I was picking up quarters ($3.50 to be exact) to go to do laundry in my near-empty apartment where my girlfriends sleeps soundly in the next room.  

I said aloud:

“ I am more than that. I am intelligent. I know words. I am compassionate, I am beautiful because I have freckles on my beautiful brown skin.”  

 I started to tear up when unconsciously I said words in which I don’t believe “ I am more than that number on that scale. I am worthy of love. Of receiving it. Of Giving it.” A voice that spoke words as if they didn’t come from me lovingly cascaded out of my mouth because I don’t believe them. But this was a gentle reminder or rather affirmation from deep within. A truth I push away because instead the lie that I am “fat” beats me over the head daily and rips me apart, tearing my self-esteem and any possibility of self-love away and out of my grip.

So. I am more.

I am more than the names that I was called thought elementary school and the nickname they gave me about my body. The name that the popular girls at the sleepovers branded me with at the parties I used to get invited to. I am more than the hurt that still haunts me from the boy that told me he’s “seen uglier” when I was 11 at a party in a hot tub when it was time to play “who would you date” I am more than the trauma that began when the boy who told me to “sit down Rilen, nobody wants to see your fat” when my pre-pubescent, lanky, tall 5’5, size 6 body rose from my desk and I outstretched my arms above my head to simply stretch and my favorite magenta shirt rolled up, betraying me by exposing my then, non-existent “muffin top. I am more than the permanent message that from that moment forward that my hips were bad, gross, disgusting and the eventual stretch marks that showed up in adulthood were wrong and something to humiliated about. I am more than that debilitating fear that forces me to wear leotards when I perform out of sheer terror that my shirt might fly up and my “fat stomach” and “hips” will fall out mid-performance, leading me to be self-conscious and unable to stay in the moment during a scene because that voice will scream at me how disgusting I am and how embarrassed I should be. 

I am more than the deleterious nickname my mom gave my breasts in high school that mocked the color of my skin and the shape of my body. Goddamnit, I am MORE than any mean word and slur that anyone believed they had the agency or permission to pass judgment about my childhood body and my body now in my adult years.

I deserve nothing but respect and admiration for my body. For its shape, its color, the ripples on my thighs, the scars on my skin that I self- inflicted because I needed to feel something in moments of distress. The freckles that litter my face that seem to multiply every year, my 3 tattoos on my body inked in by a stinging needle with each holding deep meaning and representing a piece of my identity. 

My mind deserves to be respected for its intellect and capabilities. My gifts to express myself through word, song, and acting deserve acknowledgment, not my untoned arms and stomach. My mind needs to accept that I am everything I need to be at this moment. Would I like to lose weight to feel more confident in my body? Yes. Does that mean that because of weight loss I need to do in order to be healthier that was unfairly added to my body as a side effect of psychiatric meds to help with other aspects of my mental health that debilitate me equal me being gross, a failure and lazy because it hasn’t happened yet?  Does that fear that freezes me from making changes cross my mind that even if I lose weight I will still hate myself as much as I do now? Undoubtedly. But when all is said and done, I am enough. I am all that I need to be. A number on a piece of glass with batteries and a number on a size of pants or shirt has absolutely no merit or any standing in who I am as a human. I am more. So, so much more.

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.

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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