October 9th, 2018
Over the last few years, my therapist has learned more about theatre than she ever wanted to know. I frequently tell her about some interaction or event that has left me feeling confused, unsure, and more often than not, terrible, and I’ll ask her, “Am I crazy? This is a weird thing to have happened, right? This isn’t normal, is it?” And she’ll say, “None of this is normal.”
For roughly two years, The Interval has been working to put together a roundtable discussion about mental health and theatre. While mental health is a broad topic, we felt that there was a unique and necessary conversation to be had about the challenges of working in theatre while also dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. A life in theatre involves instability, rejection, lack of financial resources, lack of workplace protections, competition, questionable loyalty, intense emotion, intense community, intense isolation, confusing social mores, and more. In other words, a lot of things that aren’t normal, or, as my therapist would say, “It’s a foundation of quicksand.” For anyone dealing with a mental health condition, it becomes a complicated relationship, and more so for women, who already face cultural and medical bias—this is especially true for women of color, trans and non-binary individuals, where multiple studies have shown they are less likely to have mental health concerns taken seriously, have an added stigma, and are to have less access to treatment.
Lately, a handful of theatre professionals have begun to speak more openly about their mental health challenges. They have mostly been actresses and have mostly been white (likely due to the aforementioned bias and, for theatre specifically, less opportunity combined with historic and structural racism; and for female directors and other authority figures, sexism often keeps them from feeling like they can show any vulnerability). In September, we gathered a group of women—Halley Feiffer, Lora Lee Gayer, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Alexandra Socha, and Lauren Villegas—who had all spoken publicly about their mental health and agreed to speak on the record about the intersection of mental health and theatre.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.
On the Day-to-Day
Alexandra: I contacted Victoria [Interval editor] a couple years ago because of something that I had experienced with my anxiety and panic disorder and mental illness, and how it ultimately affected my job and affected my ability to work at the time. I was on the other side of it. It’s been a few years and I have lots of perspective and hindsight now, so I felt like I could talk about it. I felt very alone while it was happening, but as I talked about it to other people afterwards, a lot of people were like, “Oh, I’ve been through something similar.” But it felt very hidden.
I think now, in the years that have passed, people are more open to talking about it. You have someone like Patti Murin [who posted on social media about her mental health issues] who’s being very, very open about it, and [while doing] Frozen. I feel like it’s this thing that a lot of people have gone through but no one talks about.
Nikka: There kind of is no overcoming. That’s the thing. You sort of cycle in and out of things. You’ll think you’re on the other side of something, and then all of a sudden it hits you again like a mack truck.
Alexandra: I just texted my father today and I was like, “I feel like the last five years of my life have been nothing but overcoming things, and I’m so tired of overcoming things.” I was saying that exact thing, where you feel like, “I’ve got it!” And then [you don’t]. You realize that this is something you have to deal with, and this is something that will continue to come up. And how do you go and live your best life knowing that this is something that is also a part of it?
Halley: I was talking about the exact same thing two days ago with a friend where he was like, “How are you?” I ran into him at 1 in the afternoon, and I was like, “Right now, amazing. If you had talked to me at 6 this morning, disastrous.” Nothing changed, just my perspective has altered, but I had to do so much work to alter that perspective: read five different books, meditate, take a walk, exercise, call a friend. For me, it takes so much work to shift that perspective, it feels like making a U-turn with a bajillion pound truck. It’s just so discouraging that some days I feel so buoyant and energetic and positive and some days I just feel bludgeoned by my life. I know he lives with similar issues and I was like, “When does it end?” He was like, “It never does.” Then he was like, “But in a way, that’s good because it forces me to keep seeking a solution.” And that’s why I seek out books that help me, that’s why I have 20 women in my favorites list on my phone who I can call, that’s why I ever get to the gym—because I never would [otherwise]—so, in a way, it forces me to really actively seek out a healthier life. Otherwise, I would just be lying in my bed eating potato chips and crying, which I have also done.
Lora Lee: I agree. There is something very unsettling, sad, and frustrating about the idea that we’re going to live with this for the rest of our lives, that it isn’t going anywhere. A parallel that I have found is diabetes. The idea that you have diabetes and you will deal with that for the rest of your life and every day you will have to take insulin. The idea is that we then have to find what is our right dosage of insulin. And that some days, we might forget to take our insulin. And some days we might take too much insulin. But for me, it’s the idea of, okay, I’m going to have these drops in blood sugar or these spikes in blood sugar. But the times of getting back to a level blood sugar get faster. I try to think of that, even though there are times when I’m like, “Well, that just fucking sucks.” The lows allow us to appreciate the highs, even though I’m like, “Ugh, I just would rather not have those lows.”
Alexandra: Why do they have to be so low? You can’t have light without dark, but you’re like, “It doesn’t have to get so dark.” Could it just be like dusk and not pitch black midnight?
Lauren: I like that you brought up the chronic illness parallel because I also have a chronic illness. I have a lovely little thing called Pernicious Anemia, which means, left to its own devices, my body would not have enough iron and would start eating its own organs. The way that it is treated is that I have a wonderful hematologist who has me on a regular schedule where I go down to the cancer center, where they’re equipped to do massive infusions, and I have iron put directly into my veins every few months. But it’s this thing of, “Am I due? I feel like I’m coming up.” Or I’ll wake up in the morning and be like, “Oh, I’m dizzy for no reason at all. I bet I’m due.” And I don’t have to put it in my calendar because I know it’s coming up, and then I look it up and I’m like, “Oh, that’s right, yeah, coming up.”
Halley: I have chronic illness as well, a different thing, and no one really knows what it is. And one cool thing is that we can laugh about it today, you know? Which I really appreciate and I’m grateful for. I was saying to some friends recently, “So at first they thought it was mental illness,” and they said, “Well you have anxiety and depression.” I was like, “Agreed, that’s not it.” I totally couldn’t move my body. And they were like, “Yeah, you’re sad.” I was like, “No.” And then they were like, “Oh, you have chronic Lyme disease,” so I got treated for that. Then, recently, I was like, “I don’t think it’s that,” and I have done a lot of research, gotten tested for everything, and I believe it’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which no one knows what that is. It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of us have this, and it reminds me of mental illness in that I try to talk about it as much as I can because I want other people to know that other people have it, because so any people told me that it was just my anxiety and depression.
Alexandra: If you are feeling tired all the time, it’s going to affect your mood and it will affect your ability to use all of those tools, and your ability to judge what you need when you need it.
Halley: It’s like, “Am I depressed because I can’t move my body and am afraid for my life? Or can I not move my body because I’m depressed? Or because I do actions that ultimately hurt me and make me sick?” It reminds me that we’re all women here, and mental illness and women are two things that often are talked about in relation to each other, and that’s partly because of misogyny. Or perhaps all because of misogyny, because whether or not there are more women with mental illness or not, in a way you can’t blame us because we’re treated as second-class citizens. That would make anyone feel fucking crazy.
On Women and Medicine and the Myth of the Tortured Artist
Lauren: It’s also the history of the medical profession. The word hysteria. There’s a reason that it was called that. We literally were believed to be incapable of being sane because of our biology.
Lora Lee: And the fact that hormonally we go through something crazy every month. I used to have PMDD, and that was actually my first foray into mental illness because it was like, why is it every month when I was a teenager, before I got my period, I would just be like, “My life is going nowhere, I have no friends. I’m the ugliest person that’s ever existed.” Just on the floor, going crazy. I think every woman has a different level of that, and just what our bodies go through once a month is crazy.
Lauren: I have to say that one of the things that makes it extra challenging as women in this field, specifically, and facing mental health issues is: How often in your career have you played a role where you were being abused, beaten, or raped? Have you ever been murdered on stage? Have you ever had to do that with a director that’s not the same gender as the character you’re playing? Have you ever had to do that without a fight captain? Have you ever had to do that without any kind of resources? Why is it that the tour of Lion King travels with three physical therapists, and I have been gang raped onstage and not offered any counseling? They recognize that what we do is physically taxing, but they don’t recognize that maybe we could use some mental health resources now and then.
Nikka: About the hysteria thing, women were so strapped in for so long. Women couldn’t take a breath. So yeah, that’s going make you lash out in interesting ways that people will want to sweep under the rug because it makes them uncomfortable. And the other thing about that is that your brain knows that what you’re doing [on stage] isn’t really happening. Your body does not. Your body has no idea that what it’s being asked to do isn’t really happening to you. I always try and find really specific warm-ups and cool downs into and out of things like that. Where those actions tell your body, “Okay, we have to prepare for this,” and when the show is over, similar actions telling our body that you’re just checking in and saying that we’re safe and it’s okay to go home. Not a lot of that gets brought in to a process. I think it would be really great if some more of that could be brought into rehearsal processes, and to have people who understand setting up really clear boundaries with the body so that you can tell yourself that you are safe. We don’t do enough of that.
Halley: I was thinking when we were talking about what you said, Alexandra, about if the dark, dark periods have to be quite so dark? I had this thought and I’m even hesitant to say it out loud, because I don’t know if it’s me just making a justification, but I often feel that I’m so grateful to be the deeply feeling person I am who’s profoundly well acquainted with darkness and with joy, because I think it makes me the artist that I am, and I think that’s truly a hallmark of the work I do. Everything I write, for instance, is intricately laced with darkness. I don’t know how to write otherwise. I consider it my life’s mission to find humor in the pain because I think it’s entertaining, and I think it’s cathartic for all parties involved—the artists who are creating a play and, hopefully, the people watching it. So in a way I think what we do is this beautiful sort of alchemy, which is that we take that darkness and we turn it into light by making art.
Lauren: I don’t know if you all saw Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette? She talks about Van Gogh, and there’s this wonderful story about how people want to say, “Oh yeah, if it hadn’t been for his mental illness, we wouldn’t have had any of these things.” And yes, but also, let’s remember not to romanticize not being treated. It’s not because he had his illness and wasn’t treated. He had his illness, and he was treated, and those two things combined are why we have his art. I think it’s really dangerous to give into that tortured artist thing of, “I have to be tortured to produce good art,” which is nonsense. And also, “Oh, I shouldn’t treat myself because then I won’t be as truthful. I won’t be me.” Actually, no, you’ll be you longer and healthier, so if you don’t get treatment then that’s not good for your body.
Halley: Yeah, because the voices of the mental illness, for me, what it tells me—which is that I’m defective and worthless and unlovable and should just give up today—that’s not really me. It talks to me in my voice, which is very confusing. I heard someone say, “Yeah, my disease talks to me in my own voice with great authority.” It is not really me though, so I have to do all this work in order to become the true person that I am. I remember a couple years ago I read a review of a play I wrote that said, “Gosh, this girl really needs therapy.” And I was like, “Oh no, honey, I’ve had so much therapy. That’s how I wrote the play.”
Lora Lee: My therapist actually has said that to me, over and over again, to find the appreciation of the darkness. I do think that having the darkness also allows us to be empathetic, and I agree with you too that it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be treated. For example, I got to the point last March where my darkness had consumed everything and I then couldn’t do the art. That’s when it’s never a good thing.
On the Lack of Stability and Getting the Job
Alexandra: This lifestyle is not set up well for people struggling with mental illness. Routine is very good for people with depression, and there’s none of that [in this field]. There’s none. Because even when you’re doing eight shows a week, every day is so different.
If you watch a television show where a character loses their job and they’re unemployed, they always depict them as very depressed, and they’re laying on the couch in their sweats and they can’t get up and they can’t get to the interview. You always see these characters like, “I lost my job and I don’t know what to do with myself.” As an actor that’s 65% of my life, sometimes more, sometimes less. So, of course, it then can fuel what is already there, or make it harder to come out [of depression], because if your brain is telling you you’re worthless, and then you go to an audition and don’t get the job, it feels like, “I now have proof of how terrible I am.” And that’s incorrect.
Lora Lee: Then there’s the catch-22. We always hear the idea that, really people hire the people that they want to go and have a beer with. I totally get that. I think most jobs that I have booked have not been what I’ve actually done with the material, it’s been the chit chat in between—like, “We’re getting along really great. I think this is going to be a fun process.” So when I come into the room, and it took me everything to get out of bed that morning, whether people know it or not, they can feel that energy, so then it’s a catch-22 of people being like, “I don’t want to be around that energy so you’re not getting the job,” and it just keeps going and going and going.
Halley: At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, it’s forced me to do is two things. One: find ways to empower myself so I’m not a victim of other people’s opinion of me. I started as an actor, and I was like, “I want to kill myself all the time. This is so brutal, and I have to find another way to live, because I’m driving myself from audition to audition in a city I don’t really like, wearing clothes I don’t feel comfortable in, reading lines that I’m positive I could write better. There must be another way.” That is what forced me to become a writer. And two: it also forces me to focus on other people, because I find when I am feeling dark, it’s usually because I’m obsessed with myself and how I’m feeling about me. Then if I focus on how we’re all having a human experience, and that means living with anxiety and sadness and darkness, and it’s very likely that this person on the other end of the room, who I’m intimidated by, has exactly those same feelings, and if I focus on making that person feel comfortable and asking that person about him or herself, and really just trying to be a great listener, usually I have a better time and I often get the job.
Lauren: I was out with a group of actors, and we were a couple drinks in, and [one of them] had just opened a show, and that very day had gone through a thing where she woke up and saw all the press photos from the opening, was horrified with how she looked in the photos, and called press agents and hunted down pictures and asked people to take them down because she was so upset with how she looked. She is a gorgeous woman. So three women and one man are sitting there, and the three of us start talking about just how difficult it is as a woman. Because most women have complicated relationships with their own bodies, and their faces, and all of the above, and then to actually put that on display and say, “This is what I’m trying to sell to you, and this is what you’re going to decide whether or not has value, is my physical being.” We talked a lot about disordered eating, eating disorders, issues with aging, issues with hair. We’re like [to the guy], “What are you thinking right now, as you listen to all of us? What’s going through your head?” And he just said, “I’m just trying to listen.” Which was the best answer I’ve ever heard in my life. And they started talking about, “Is there any equivalent for men?” Weight is an issue for men too, of course, but the only thing he could think of other than that was balding. I can pick apart my body and my face to the most minute detail and every one of those things feels like it has the same weight as balding. I think it’s important that we remember that that is very much a part of that job seeking cycle. I know, for me personally, that disordered eating is something that’s very tied with my mental health. And when your physical presence has so much to do with your employability, and your physical presence is so tied to where you are mentally, and your size roller coasters up and down, you have to deal with how differently you’re perceived from year to year, from month to month, and that can be really, really jarring to your sense of self.
Halley: Another part of being an actress that was also why I wanted to transition more to writing was that society is telling me two different narratives. It’s telling me: go off and be Meryl Streep or Allison Janney. And it’s also telling me there’s an expiration date, and once you’re 35 it’s like, “Have a great life, we don’t really want to see you again.”
On the Word Diva and Being Labeled a Difficult Woman
Alexandra: When your job is to be emotional and have all these big emotions on stage, if you have them off the stage, somehow you are now crazy. I know that there are male actors who struggle with stuff too, but I would dare to say that, as a female, when you have those issues, it’s so much easier to be labeled a diva and labeled crazy.
Lora Lee: There is no male equivalent for the word diva, which I think is fascinating.
Alexandra: There is a Tina Fey quote, too, from Bossypants, where she’s like, “They call these actresses crazy, especially older actresses. They love to call them crazy.” And she says, “The definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.” And you can tell. There are male directors—and it’s not a sexual thing—where you can tell, “Oh, they like me. They think I’m cute.” Like, I definitely am on their good side because I’ve got their attention [for the moment].
Lora Lee: I thought it was fascinating what happened with Serena Williams.
Nikka: It was so racist.
Lora Lee: She called [the referee] a thief, and then a game is taken away from her, and now a lot of officials are boycotting her. And then there were all these video compilations of men destroying rackets. I have been in rehearsal rooms where I don’t agree with what the director just gave me, and I tried his way three times and I’m like, “Cool, I’m just going to try this a different way,” and then he proceeds to tell me that don’t I know he’s been doing this since before I was born, and things like that. Then, the same day, the male actor doesn’t try it once, and says, “This is bullshit what you’re telling me to do,” and it’s like, “Okay, wait, so how can I help you?” Then I had a terrible relationship with the director the rest of the time and he and the male actor were best friends.
Lauren: Someone said, “Can you imagine if a woman behaved the way that Jared Leto does,” and said, “Oh, it’s because I’m a method actor”? Do you think she’d ever be hired again? Ever? No. Especially if she were a woman of color. I’m a first generation Latina, which is a whole other thing, especially in this process of job hunting and things. My mother, she’s an immigrant, and she came to this country and she’s like, “No, the point is that you’re supposed to have a better life. The point is you’re supposed to have stable job. What the hell are you doing?” She’s worked for the same company since before I was born so that I would never go hungry. When I talk to her, and she’s like, “So are you auditioning?” I’m like, “I’m not going to tell you, Mom,” because as soon as I start telling her, she gets stressed. She’s like, “I haven’t been in a job interview in 30 years, Lauren. You have to understand how insane it sounds to me that this is what you do with your life.” She’s like, “I can’t bear it.” It really makes her physically ill.
Lauren: I’m currently fighting with workers comp to pay for a bunch of mental health treatments, because I was working on production of Man of La Mancha in Arizona, and I was playing Aldonza, and both my leading men were incredibly terrible people and were harassing me and bullying me and the director did nothing to stop it. I reported it over and over and over. I ended up having a full dissociative episode. I have two days during the tech process that I have zero memory of. I ended up in the hospital, sedated for 36 hours. I woke up and I’d been fired. I was told I had six days to get out of the housing, and I was sent on my merry way. Since then I’ve needed to seek a lot of treatment. It’s been over seven months, and I just started auditioning again. My insurance has not covered my psychiatry treatment. I’ve needed to go at least every two weeks, as I’ve adjusted my medication regimen, because this is how I found out I have PTSD. I have spent many thousands of dollars out of pocket to get my medication regimen on track, while I also fight for workers comp to maybe consider a PTSD reasonable thing to cover. I count my blessings every day that I am married to a spouse who can support me. We have enough savings, I have a mother that I know that if anything really came down to it [would find a way], I have got a brother in town, I have every resource possible, and it’s been an economic possibility for me to take that time to heal. I am horrified to wonder what it would’ve been like to go through what I went through had I not had a partner and a mother to support me. Not just emotionally, but financially. What would I have done?
Halley: I don’t have any of those things, and I have chronic illness, and I work very, very, very much. I was just talking earlier about how my goal for this year is to do less, and I don’t know how that’s going to work out. For me, it really is a chicken or the egg thing, where I work so much that I am tired much of the time—and when I say tired I don’t mean “I’m sleepy,” I mean I can’t move my body and my muscles are deeply inflamed and I have severe dehydration and have to go to the emergency room—but I work that much to treat the chronic illness, which costs tens of thousands of dollars since insurance doesn’t cover a lot of it. I have to move to L.A. for long periods in order to make a lot of money so that I can cover the illness. I don’t know how the cycle ends. What I’ve been doing isn’t working for me physically or mentally.
Alexandra: Which is so crazy, because this is what people don’t realize. They see, “Oh, Halley Feiffer, she’s so successful. She always has a new play being produced somewhere.” So then if you are having an issue of having a problem, people just think you’re complaining. I think that narrative in general as artists that you need to be grateful you have work comes up so much that when you’re upset it’s like, “Can’t you just be grateful you have this job?” And I’m like, “Well, I can be grateful at the top, and also have other stuff going on underneath.”
Lora Lee: You can be grateful without being happy. I don’t think we can solve health insurance and all that in this circle, unfortunately. But I do think that our generation is very open with who has depression and who has anxiety. I’ve been at dinners where we’re literally like, “Cool, you’re on Zoloft. What’s your milligrams because my milligrams is this.” We talk about that. We know people have depression, we know people have anxiety, but I don’t think we talk enough about the tools that we use to get over that. I think that is how we as artists and as actors and people can combat that. Going back to using humor to combat the darkness of, “I was on the bathroom floor crying today,” there is humor in that sometimes, but what did you do to get off the bathroom floor? That, to me, is the conversation that we need to be having. Because not everyone can afford insurance and because not everyone can get the drugs that they need, it’s talking as much as possible about the things that have worked for you. I just got back to the city a month ago, because I had a mental breakdown in March, and I went away and got help, which I am very fortunate that I was able to do. I have found the tools that are working for me. And I’m still in that really great period right now where when I’m not feeling great, I’m like, “Great! I know the tools that I get to use.” Talk to me in six months and we’ll see what happens.
What I found is that I am now trying to share that with as many people as possible. We all have our own levels of privacy, and the things that we want to share and don’t want to share, but I think we all can say that we would want to share our things that help us with good friends. Then those good friends then pass it along to someone else, and then pass it along to someone else. I think that we get into this habit of complaining about the business, and if we can just transition the narrative to ways to get around the hard stuff [that would help]. And it’s not the Pollyanna of being like, “I’m grateful, I’m grateful, I’m grateful.” Just being like, “No, this actually really sucks. It does suck. There’s no other way to put it. It just sucks. But this is how I got through it.” I think that’s the conversation that needs to be happening.
Alexandra: Or how I’m getting through it. Because there’s both. There are certain things that yes, now I have a lot of perspective and hindsight on, and I can see how I came through. And then there are other things that I’m like, “Oh, I’m still actually going through this, so how am I doing this every day?” Because somehow I’m making it to work every day, and that’s a big improvement, because five years ago I couldn’t step on a stage without having a ginormous panic attack and feeling like, “Why is everyone staring at me?” So I have to remind myself that there have been improvements.
On Community and Industry Dynamics
Lora Lee: I wrote this long [blog post] about what happened to me, and I got hundreds of messages, from people I knew and from people I didn’t know, which was amazing. So many people then shared their stories with me, and there was a part of me that was like, “My God, if I had known half these things when I was going through my thing, I wouldn’t have been so fucking ashamed and embarrassed.” And I’m posing this as a question. I don’t know how we do that. I did want to share my story. Some people don’t want to share their stories, and that is their prerogative. But how can we figure out a way? Because right now we’re at a point with social media where we want to share everything that is great. So how can we also share, “Hey, this morning was rough. I woke up this morning and it was really rough, and I was able to say to myself, ‘Oh, you know what? I haven’t gone to the gym in three days. Let me go to the gym,’ and after I went to the gym, it was like night and day.”
Halley: I think what you are talking about is community, and this business has both ends so deeply. If you’re in a show and you’re doing that eight times a week, you have the most tight-knit, uplifting community, or you could have a toxic and poisonous environment that sucks you dry. Then you can have nine months where you’re doing nothing and you have to go out and seek your own community. As humans, whether I like it or not, we are social animals. I’m in recovery for addiction, and I have found that I need to go to a group of people, most every day, who are talking about our struggles of staying away from a drink or a drug. But, as you were saying, mostly talking about the solution. Talking about how I stay away from a drink or a drug, and how I stay away from the thoughts that make me think that a drink or a drug will be the solution.
Nikka: I read [Lora Lee’s] post and I loved it so much, and as we have been talking I’ve been thinking, “You’re Halley Feiffer and you always have a play going on,” or “You’re this or that.” And there’s a really interesting thing that I feel of how open I can be being commensurate with a level of success. Because if I have more of a platform, then there is less of a fallout when I speak openly. And right now I haven’t really worked in a year and a half, and I am coming up against a fuck-ton of roadblocks where I can’t figure them out, and if I also add being as open as I would like to be about the shit I am going through, I am immediately put in the crazy file.
Lauren: It’s a luxury.
Nikka: And I’m at a point where I do have a bit of a platform. It’s not like I’m nobody who has accomplished nothing. But I don’t know if I have accomplished enough to allow my work to stand on its own, if I speak about what I personally am going through.
Lauren: I do a lot of activism, and I see the fallout of that, and that’s a very clear choice I’ve made to be like, “Yeah, I’m going to speak up about some shit and some people are not going to want to work with me because of it and that’s fine.” But having a mental illness is not a choice. So it’s a trickier situation where it’s like, I should be able to just be who I am and be open about who I am without that affecting my chances at a job. And yet…
Alexandra: I will say this. When it had become impossible for me to perform and when I lost my job, I remember my first thing was like, “Oh my God, is no one going to want to work with me ever again?” And that didn’t happen. I had auditions even a couple weeks later, but I was like, “I’m not ready to go on this.” I remember being so upset and being like, “What if everybody’s talking about me?” And my friend was like, “You know what? They probably did for a little bit. And then something else happened. And then they talked about that.” And maybe in some of the dressing rooms there was chatter. Or maybe in some of the casting offices. And then another thing happened, and they moved on, and you came in and you did your thing. I didn’t book a theatre job for a long time. But I got very lucky that I booked a pilot where nobody knew me or knew anything about my past, so I was like, “Great!” That doesn’t happen to everybody. I worked really hard to get back on a stage, and to be back doing theatre, mostly for myself. I was like, “I do love this. I do want to be doing this.” But I want to be doing it more on my terms than I felt like I was before. That was a big lesson. But I will say, the phone didn’t stop ringing.
Halley: I do think people’s memories, if you do “work on yourself,” quote-unquote—which is an expression I sort of hate, but it’s something that I have done and continue to do— people’s memory of me being sick is supplanted by a memory of me being healthier. I worked with an actor, who years ago we offered him a part in a play, and he said to the director, “I can’t work with her. She’s crazy.” And the director said, “Oh, that’s not been my experience at all. Just do this workshop, and let’s see if that’s your experience,” and now he’s one of my good friends. I realized that when I was working with him, I was a little crazy, for lack of a better word. It was a really dark time in my life and I was taking very poor care of myself. But through that I learned what doesn’t work, and now I take very impeccable care of myself, and I’m not quite as crazy, I think. So I do think there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m just so proud of us all for being willing to talk about all of this openly, because this is how we end the stigma.