I stood at the window, looking out on all the uniform buildings surrounding the grey building I am in. Everything looked so dull. I squeezed the bit of skin between my left thumb and pointer finger as hard as I could. I had googled that trick earlier, and Wikihow had informed me that doing this will keep you from crying. I could still hear my brother screaming. I could still feel the room move as he kicked the door. I stood quietly in the corner, wanting to disappear. As the tears streamed down my face, I realized that my thumb trick didn’t work.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings and mania. My older brother has a severe form of the disorder, suffering from delusions and dangerous psychosis. He has been hospitalized five times since I was 13 years old. At that age, most of my friends concerns were their summer vacation plans, my concerns were if my family could afford to keep my brother in rehab. I could not reach out to my friends for support because I was far too humiliated by the struggles my family were facing. I did not know how to deal with the struggles I was facing at home, so I began to search for a distraction.
To appease my craving for escape, I threw myself into theatre. After my problems at home began to get out of control, I began to perform in as many shows as I could. I let theatre become the welcome diversion I longed for. Instead of letting myself be sad about the yelling I heard at home, I invested that emotion into the role I was playing. I found it easier to feel the emotions of my characters than to feel my own emotions. I performed in order to lose myself in a character, and to help relieve my pain. Through all the darkness I was facing, I discovered my passion for performing.
Five years have passed and I found myself sitting in my friend’s dorm room at Governor’s School West. My friends and I were attending Governor’s School for theatre. We were discussing what theatre is for us and what we want it to be, and my friend said to me “I think you can do theatre to help yourself, or to help others.” This statement struck me profoundly. Before that point, I had been performing theatre in order to help heal myself, and relieve my emotional wounds, but over my summer at Governor’s School, that had changed. I was no longer performing to only heal my wounds, but to try and heal others as well. I wanted to make people think about the way they look at the world around them. Through changing my approach to theatre, I healed the pain I felt from being surrounded by my brother’s illness. I have realized that I want to perform to help other people, no matter their struggles, for the rest of my life.
I would love to end this essay saying that my brother is cured. But, that’s simply not true. Bipolar disorder lasts forever, but so does my love for my family and my brother. Thanks to the struggles I went through, I found that theatre can be used to help others. That’s what I want to do. I wish I could say I won’t ever have to stand in another gray building, pinching the skin between my thumb and pointer finger. I can’t make that promise. What I can say is that I have used my struggles to grow as an artist. Theatre helped me heal and now I want to help others heal through theatre as well.