My agent was on the phone. He was sending me up for an advertisement. It was my first audition post-baby and stepping back into that world was like navigating the moon. I recognised it but somehow, I had never been there before.
For the first time, I took with me a baby in his stroller. For the first time, I did not take jittery nerves and desperate need.
Navigating old, familiar worlds as a mother made them strange and new.
And wonderful. I so appreciated the opportunity, relished the chance to flex a different muscle but free of the burden of expectation. Whatever happened, I would go home to my little family. I felt light, exuberant.
I was not surprised when my agent called to tell me I had the part. Of course I had the part. I was right for the role. And I had connected so easily with the director. Of course I had the part.
I was delighted and so grateful. But not surprised.
It was still dark when I awoke the day of the shoot. My mother, Betty, would be watching baby LD. He was not quite a year old. This would be the first time I had been all day without him.
I was nervous. For LD and Betty. For myself. I was pumping breast milk and finalising a list for Mum to follow regarding LD's meals and sleep times. B was hurrying about, trying to help me, trying to get off to work himself. Betty chattered away incessantly as she does. I snapped at her. Couldn't she see both B and I were in a hurry? Couldn't she just keep LD entertained so that we could get out the door on time?
In the car, more than half way there, I jolted suddenly. An awful tightening in the pit of my stomach accompanied the realisation that I had not taken my Zoloft for the day.
Normally, I could accidentally skip a day and not even notice. It wasn't a big deal.
But today, it was a tiny crack, anxiety's foothold.
What if I have an anxiety attack on set? It was a thought that had occurred to me when I first started getting the panic attacks. I had wondered whether my struggle with anxiety would effectively end my dream of performing. I wasn't sure I could separate normal nerves – stop them from escalating into crippling panic.
I had not dealt with anxiety in any form since becoming pregnant. But here it was again. Like it hadn't missed a beat.
I took a deep breath. Took another one. Managed to keep my heart rate steady, to keep at bay that creeping, creeping feeling.
I arrived on set, on time. Breathed out. So far, so good.
In the make-up chair, I chatted absently as my face was powdered, rouge rubbed into my cheekbones, mascara combed through my lashes. I loved this part – just a fraction of what it might feel like to be a star.
And then, suddenly and powerfully, the sensation of needing to vomit invaded my body. A sweat broke on my skin as the voices around me faded, white noise to my rising fear.
I sat quietly, just breathing, the last touches of make-up, such a pleasure just moments before, now excruciating.
Finally free, I walked calmly to the bathroom and in the safety of the stall, put my head between my knees. Breathed slowly and deeply, over and over. Prayed silently and urgently for help. Please let me be okay, God.
At the basin, I let cold water run over my wrists. My reflection looked back at me, fearful, embarrassed. You're okay, I told myself. And again, You're okay
On set, the words of my character felt real in my mouth. A recently homeless woman, a mother who finds herself unable to pay for her groceries, the medicine for her sick child. The humiliation, the fear that she is not coping, that others will see that she can not cope. I voiced her words as though they had lived inside of me forever.
Tears streamed down my face, I choked back sobs: I gave the performance of my life.
The worst had happened.
And I gave the performance of my fucking life.
This piece was written in response to the following prompt at The Red Dress Club;
"Tell the story (without any trivialization or modesty) of something in your life that you are proud of."
I fucking LOVE your honesty babe. I could serously read your words all day long….
Thank you so much, Belle. Your comment makes my heart soar. xxxx
Do you have a Youtube link to the commercial Ange, I’d love to see it?
Absolutely love your work, and as a fellow depression and anxiety sufferer I understand you as well as connect with your words. Hurrah for the Little Mumma!
And cannot type for shit, obviously 🙂
I corrected it for you, babe. 🙂
Thank you, Ashlee. I so appreciate you taking the time to comment and share with me. xxx
Unfortunately, it’s not on Youtube – but I’ll see if I can upload it here or maybe on Facebook a bit later.
Mwahhhh honey! As you know, I’m waiting for you to write that novel 😉
WoW. I can feel it. I can imagine how real the anxiety in that performance would have been! I would love to see the clip too. 🙂
Love it Angie – beautifully written.
I’m fortunate that I’ve only had one anxiety attack ever, but that one time was enough not to wish it on my worst enemy. I can’t imagine enduring them on a semi-regular basis. I can’t imagine what hell that would be. You described it so well in the make-up chair – it took me straight back to that one time.
You are a brave soul, you really are. x
That was fantastic! There is nothing like being able to channel your own emotions to create a realistic character.
I loved this! You should be proud of yourself, you rock!
This was fabulous, and kept me on edge the entire reading.
How wonderful! Good for you. You should be proud.
wow. you wrote the hell out of this prompt, and I am glad you wrote about your struggle with anxiety (I struggle with that as well) and that you wrote about your performance. Love your writing!! 🙂
Wow, so amazing. I know that feeling – I’ve thought it might happen to me in meetings or walking down the hall at work and it’s overwhelming. Good for you for getting through it and using it for your performance. It sounds amazing.