A couple of years ago, I came out of a motherhood-induced-hiatus and stepped back onto the stage again. I’d written and directed and been in plenty of church skits, silly sketches, and dabbled with doing drama at retreats, but I hadn’t been on a REAL stage for an actual play, in 17 years and there is a very distinct difference.
I assumed the dream of doing theater was dead. I didn’t see how I’d be able to do it again. It wasn’t because of motherhood, nor of schedules or the like. The reason wasn’t even the physical issues associated with my Chiari Malformation (where my brain tissue does not fit into my skull correctly and instead herniates into the brain stem, creating challenging issues and pain; to put it neatly) No, the obstacle was tied into my seeking help with Chiari pain management and how I was overmedicated and medically abused.
After being diagnosed, I chose not to do the surgery where they remove a part of the skull at the base and relieve the pressure, kinda like unbuckling a belt after Thanksgiving dinner. It was risky and I was told I had an 80% chance of walking out the same or worse than I walked into surgery. Every case of Chiari is different. Mine was not a good match for a “fix” and, sorry, but my kids were really young at the time, and I couldn’t afford to be worse than I already was. So I instead sought out a pain management clinic. A friend of mine, who also lives in chronic pain, gave me the name of her doctor and I made the call.
Long story short? The doctor (term I use LOOSELY) nearly killed me.
Luckily for me my own family doctor, who is my hero, as well as my fully involved family who loved me, took me to Indy, helped me get out of his clutches and saved my life. I was close to deathly overmedicated and at one point I actually questioned how much longer I had. Would I be here to raise my kids? I begged God one night to answer “yes” I’d be there for them. I didn’t tie Him to my ways of “being there” – but instead asked that he restore me – let them have a mom who the not only need, but let them know ME – the real ME – the one HE created once, and I no longer was. I wanted to somehow have that vivacious, courageous, spunky, bubbly, goofy, spitfire there for my girls to roll their eyes at and my son to be embarrassed by.
It was a long hard year when I began to get clean. I was one of those red ribbon “Just say NO to drugs” kids. I’d never tried a single drug over Tylenol in my life. Then suddenly I was on all these hard drugs, muscle relaxers, and pain pills. I had every one of the most stolen and desired prescription drugs in my medicine lock box… All legally and completely hooked. My body was a mess. I had body tremors that came randomly and my arm or leg would even jerk and move on their own, waking me from sleep. I was a mess.
I detoxed one drug at a time, hiding for long periods in the bedroom so I could do the ugly stuff alone, out of my kid’s sight. I thought when I finally came off the drugs, and I was back on track with some management that was SAFE for me, that I’d be out of the clutches of this mess. Then I realized… I had brain damage.
Yeah, the memory issues I had on the drugs were bad, but they didn’t go away. I had lost my ability to drive longer than 20-30 minutes tops in any given stretch. My brain can’t concentrate in intense periods for longer. It will shut down and I have a tendency to suddenly jolt to “consciousness” and realize I’m driving when my brain lapses.
I now had serious trouble with short term memory. I could no longer depend on remembering I’d even heard a conversation. Everything had to go into the long term memory, or be written down and reminders popping up on the phone for me to have a chance to retain it and show up to places and do things.
All that to say, while romping on the stage had always been a dream, it was never one I thought I could ever do again with any kind of success. How would I ever remember lines? There was no way. I struggled the first few shows to remember my 2-15 lines. I was trying to put them into my memory the way I always had.. and those methods didn’t work anymore for me.
I had a few moments of panic and freaking out, I’ll admit it. I was sure I’d never be able to do it. My family listened, but encouraged me anyway. My friends told me to shut the heck up and just go be AMAZING. I found little notes in my script that made me feel like I was no longer doing this for me… maybe I was doing it for us all… my kids needed to see me succeed. They needed to know that stress can good, not just not something to avoid; even thrive under.
I refused to give into it. Otherwise it was like I was letting this doctor steal a part of my soul, not just have robbed me of years of my life, and of quality. I am a heck of a lot more stubborn than that!
I told my family all I wanted for Christmas was the chance to do this show with their support. I had won a role in a four person cast, with some amazingly talented actors. Every night was like taking a college class in acting.
My hidden fear, however, was that I’d fail them all. I was increasingly worried when the words wouldn’t come, wouldn’t stick. It’s always a struggle to get the words to stick. Now? I wondered just how much brain damage there was. Could I do it at all? Again, a few key friends told me to SHUT UP AND GO STUDY. I may not have believed in myself, but everyone else did.
Could I still do this? Could I be who I always wanted to be? Could I step back on stage and really be any good? YES… I can. I know that now. I overcame the limitations and while I may never forget these lines as they have been placed in a crazy hard longterm spot, well, maybe that means I wont forget them when I’m on stage! Ha!
We open tonight. The first of three weekends of shows will begin in just a few hours. I am excited, but not just because I am 40, finally back on track to live my dreams and enjoy my passions… but because I overcame a massive life obstacle, kicked my way through some pretty hard crap, and will get to romp across the stage, holler, smirk, laugh, and undoubtedly, have the time of my life.
What dream have you given up on? What refuses to die inside of you, or nags you? Maybe 2015 is the year to decide what controls you, what control you have, and how to change the balance of power. Be amazing. I know you can!
To hear the director chat about the upcoming show, check out this link: http://wboi.org/post/disputation-takes-comic-look-lines-divide-faithful