In 2011, I encountered a whirlwind of transition. That transition was scary, painful, frustrating, confusing, annoying, and maybe exciting at times. It not only resulted in amazing growth, but also revealed lots of pain and scars that need to heal. Part of that process involved making the very difficult choice to step away from my career as an actor for an undeclared period of time. During this “hiatus” I’ve taken some time to focus on my mental health and do a little “creative recovery.” I’ve been very grateful for this time, as it has really helped me re-center myself and has fostered a lot of self-discovery. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that whether I like it or not, I am an actor, I will always be an actor, and acting is one of my gifts not to be taken for granted. I am starving for creativity and performance as we speak. Yet, I still have palpable pain and trauma from the way I approached acting before. I keep thinking…“I know I want to do this, but how do I do this without being hurt again?”
There’s a quote that says doing the same thing twice and expecting different results is insanity. While I’m not a fan of the word insanity, I do believe there is some truth to the quote. How can we heal, if we keep making the same choices? When we think about mental health, many of us may think, “I don’t like this part of me…I want to be different…I want to be better.” But if we don’t make changes, how can we? For instance, how can we complain about how our unhealthy relationship with food affects our lives if we are not getting help? How can we agonize over feeling alone if we don’t share with others how we feel? How can we end negative behaviors if we keep doing the same behavior every time we are triggered?
Now, before you start to say, “It is way more complicated than that, it’s easier said than done,” believe me, I know; I’ve said it. I have struggled with my mental health several times during my life, especially in the last three years. In that time, I’ve seen five different therapists and I’ve even had many moments when I felt, “To hell with therapy! I still feel like crap and no one can help me.” I feel that professional help plays an important and often essential role in the healing process. But I truly believe that healing starts with us. It begins with us making the choice to do something new. My healing definitely began with me. I shared with someone that I was hurting, that person gave me resources for help; I made the choice to go to get help, I prayed and worked on my health. Although there were several factors that contributed to my healing, it all started with me choosing to make a change.
When I discovered that I wanted to re-enter the world of acting, I instantly began to do things that I used to do. I started to think about it the way I used to think, and right away I got the same results and felt the same crappy way I used to feel. Then I realized, “Wait a minute, I’ve changed. I’m not the person I was before, so I can’t think like the old me.” At that point I decided no matter how scary, strange, or silly it may seem, I should try it another way. It worked for my mental health, so why not try it with acting?
I wish I could share that it has worked and my relationship with acting is all better, but I just reached this “aha moment” today. But I am definitely going to try thinking and doing things differently. As for the results, you’ll just have to wait and see :)
Rhonda Marie Bynum is an ETD ensemble member as well as a member of the ETD Ambassador Council. Click here to read more posts from Rhonda Marie.