I just finished the first week of my Sane New World show at the St. James Theatre in London. I can say for the first time in a long time, this is as close to happy as I get. To me the feeling of being happy is very close to the feeling of indigestion so it might be the second option. Same goes with the feeling of being in love and irritable bowel syndrome, both feel identical.
I love performing my show, mostly because of the second half where I have the privilege of sitting on stage and letting the audience take over to ask, answer or discuss whatever. For those 20-30 minutes it feels like I'm with my people that we're the same under our fronts with all our vulnerabilities we need to hide. Rather than seeing a large, dark, foreboding mass when the lights come up, I can see individual faces and so it becomes a conversation with specific people rather than speaking at a crowd. It's intimate and feels safe even though there might be 600 people.
Men are doing most of the talking these days probably because they have a little more pressure to look in control and in fact aren't. No one is. One guy raised his hand to say he had bi-polar but never told anyone. Meanwhile, he's just told the whole audience. Members of the audience stood up and offered support by telling their stories to make him feel less alone. There sometimes are teenagers who say they don't know where to go for help and feel like they're drowning at school with the pressure. A mother a few nights ago said her daughter doesn't sleep and is like a skeleton; what can she do? She said she didn't want anyone to know. (she says this in a theatre where obviously people will know). A woman in the front stood up and practically bit her head off, telling her she was harming her daughter by not getting her help. Then someone shouted out where she could take the daughter for help and offered to take her there herself. It like a dating service for mental health.
Sometimes they ask about how I stand on taking drugs and I tell them it's the reason I'm standing. They ask about meds, how they got the illness and if they have a relative or friend who has mental problems what can they do to help. I always say, "Never say 'perk up' it's the killer of phrases." It's a tragic that in this day and age we need to use a theatre for this kind of raw, honest communication. If there were walk-in centres where people could talk from the heart we'd probably save a lot of time and money on anxiety, fear, stress, depression, madness .... You name it we've got it. A woman last night asked me what the voices in my head said to me? (In the show I talk about having a nagging loop tape in my head that endlessly plays, "I should do, I could do, I'm going to fail...") She said she had voices too but they were on the outside. I asked if she was a schizophrenic? She said she was and proceeded with great composure to answer questions from the audience. She spoke about what the voices told her and who they were. Because no one judged her or treated her as if she was crazy, she told me later, she felt her fear diminish. I've noticed that if you label your feelings, they lose their potency. When you're brave enough to face the monster, you become the one in control. I thanked her for being brave and she seemed happy for simply being heard rather than ostracized.
I'm so fascinated with the human mind I can listen to these kind of stories forever. I once interviewed a schizophrenic woman who told me at one point she thought she was Jesus so she went into Morrison's holding a hoover tube as a staff to get disciples; she got three. I adored her and we're still in communication. She knew it was a disease, it wasn't going away but she could observe it from a distance rather than be held hostage by it. The awareness of the illness means she can let go of some of the shame and fear and that really lessens the already hard enough load to carry. Anyway, another show tonight - I can't wait for the public to let rip.
My Sane New World tour continues until June 2015. I'll be in Australia from the end of March. More details on my website.