About six years ago now, I was in a Gilbert & Sullivan musical called The Mikado. No lead role or anything – just the men’s chorus. It was a lot of work. And I was depressed most of the time – not because of the show, but for personal reasons. Actually, depression had become a mental habit over many years.
On the afternoon of dress rehearsal, I nearly didn’t get out of bed, I was so depressed. I dragged my butt to the theatre late, and while other people were warming up on stage doing vocal exercises, I was in the dressing room pulling myself together. My depression ran lines in my head, like:
- “I’m not important anyway, so what’s the point in being here?”
- “Nobody cares about me. The show could go on without me and nobody would notice.”
- “I’m just too tired to care what I do any more.”
- “I just want to quit everything, and crawl into a hole somewhere.”
- “None of this matters. I don’t matter. I don’t even want to bother going out there.”
I didn’t realize that they were video-recording this show. Not only did they record it, but they also put it on the video as extra footage after the show. (The video was distributed to the cast and crew members as a memoire. It could not be sold for legal reasons.)
Much later, when the depression lifted, I watched the tape. And I watched the extras at the end. What I saw – rather, what I heard – was not what my brain remembered from the event. The tape showed the truth of what happened that day. The naked, no-holds-barred truth.
As the cast did warm-up exercises and prepared for a run-through of the show, I could hear them asking each other: “Has anyone seen Craig?” “Ya, where’s Craig?” “Is Craig here?”
Sitting in front of my TV, alone, I cried. I clearly remembered my thoughts in the dressing room: that I did not matter, that nobody would miss me, that it was pointless to be there.
None of that was true.
The truth was, I did matter. People were looking for me. I needed to be there. And I wasn’t.
I was sulking in the dressing room, making up self-pitying excuses, when I should have been on stage.
I didn’t show up because I had allowed negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs – which were not true – shape my view of the world and my reaction to it. I was not there to support my peers because my brain was too confused by negative patterns to see what was really going on.
I gave in to a story about my lack of self-worth, and I made excuses for not taking action.
Today, I can look back on that younger self with compassion and forgiveness. I did the best I could at the time. I don’t feel guilty, and yet I do feel a sense of sadness over the time I wasted in self-pity.
Today, I’m showing up. And I’m sharing that story with you, in the hopes that you are also showing up.
Because we need you on stage.
Not in the dressing room.
Break a leg.