Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Exploring mental illness

It's been a strange day.

It seemed darker than usual at 7am. There were trucks reversing, making that beeping sound. They woke me up.

I got out of bed, earlier than I had planned.

Over breakfast, I got into the skin of the character I was playing in a film today.  It was complex and I don't think I've shaken her off yet.

She had Borderline Personality Disorder.  As I took on the details of her life and started to think about how I would bring her to be in the world, I felt myself slipping into the background.  I was providing my own wardrobe, so it was tricky to choose from my own things they needed to speak of her, rather than me.  She had a history of self-harm so I made sure my arms and legs were covered.  I'd been asked to wear no jewellery and felt naked as I walked out the door.  I always wear jewellery.

There was a lot of detail to remember and I had to summons feelings and manifestations of things that I have never myself experienced.  A sense of dissociation, a sense of nothing but black inside and a level of impulsiveness that goes well beyond just being spontaneous, were among them.

And then there was the sadness and difficulty of her life that needed to be brought into focus.

I always find when playing a role that I need to understand and accept the person I am to bring to life.  Today was a challenge, but I delivered.  The power of imagination and the ability to transform into someone else is one of the magical things about acting.  My face felt different.  My body was positioned differently from how I normally sit and stand. Everything was a different shape.

After the director called "cut" I felt myself start to rise to the surface again.  It's interesting that a sense of dissociation and lost time are what I often feel when I come out of a role and these are some of the characteristics of many mental illnesses.

I've put today's character away and learnt that I'm really glad I don't suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder.  And, while my life is not perfect in every respect, I am very happy to be living it.

The first thing I did when I arrived home was put on my earrings, necklace and rings, but it will take a good night's sleep to be fully present again...see you tomorrow.

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