Take A Break. Take a Breathe.
I love theater. I love it with a passion and intensity that sometimes keeps me up at night reading script after script or watching illegally downloaded scenes (shhh!) online. This is in addition to throwing a substantial amount of my money, time, and spoons into seeing it live. I produce at least three events a year, and that's a slow year and a conservative estimate. I am a renaissance soul, and I am as passionate about spirituality and the career it has provided me, about literature and my dreams of contributing to the literary world, and social justice activism--but nonetheless, theatre is a driving force in my life.
Three years I did five shows back to back, with no break whatsoever, and in fact, prep for 2-4 at a time overlapped significantly. By the end of that final event, which I loved and was so proud of, I was crying almost every day. Everything set me off. I was at max capacity stress level. I was barely scraping myself together for tarot clients and my day job (which I have since quit but that's a different story for a different day), and I wasn't writing at all because I was spent. I was also the second sickest I have ever been. My arthritis wasn't flaring up so much as I was living in the first flare-up that happened in that time for months on end. My PCOS was out of control and there were days I could not keep water down. Yet I was up, working at least 15 hour days between theatre and my other obligations EVERY SINGLE DAY. It was absurd.
So I stopped doing anything but Gadfly. For a really long time. And this past year, Gadfly didn't do any mainstage work until last month, so after this much time not directing, getting back into two projects in a row (that, then One Minute Play Festival) felt exhilarating. It felt like I was me again. I cried Sunday night after 1MPF ended because I was so happy. I even went out with afterwards, had an amazing time and felt almost no social anxiety.
So what changed? First of all, 10/10 recommend taking a break when you need one. If you're making connections, doing good work, and pleasant to be around, contrary to what you think in the heat of it, no one will blame you from stepping away from your field for health, mental health, or any other reason. (Family! Travel! Because!) Your field is probably not steeped in totally unreasonable assholes, and if it is--well, maybe you need to talk to yourself about that. It is so important to take care of yourself and your work, regardless of your field, will suffer if you are crying every day and driving yourself to literal sickness. So take a break. Get some distance. When you start missing it--go back! As SOON as I told people I was interested in both performing storytelling and directing theatre again, things started to trickle in. It takes time to rebuild, but you are not rebuilding from nothing. You unfortunately also will not be building QUITE from where you left off, but somewhere in between is not the worst thing to happen, and if it's gonna save you your sanity or physical health you HAVE to do it.
Time and space were not the only difference though. Unrelated--or so I thought, I went on a big self-care, physical and mental health...quest, I guess? In theatre, and I am not slamming anyone personally because it runs so deep in that culture, it is considered bragging rights to have had the least sleep, to have not had time to eat in three days, to not have friends outside of the show because you don't have time. Everyone goes out and gets drunk together every night, and cures their hangovers with coffee and jumps right into it again. While I know people who navigate this successfully, I did not. Many close to me did not. After some time away and learning to listen to my body, I didn't run into these problems this go.
Of course I ran on less sleep during tech and shows the past month. But I supplemented with water, getting to bed as soon as I could, eating when I was hungry, and finding even five minutes every few hours to sit and do something unrelated--read an article, read a book, journal a fun quote someone said, play Pokemon Go. You need breaks in your day when you're working that hard. I'm no self-care expert though I've come a long way, but what this past month made me realize is this:
You can have your passions and your health.
There's no life hack, magic trick, or prescription to provide both to you though, as both are journeys and take work. There isn't a secret metaphysical ritual we're holding out on you about. But you can listen to your body and your soul and adhere to their requests--and that's pretty much all most spellwork is anyway.
Take a break. Take a breathe. Take your life back. You'll still meet your goals.
Until next time, Blessed be.