This, this is not easy. This particular article goes hand in hand with what was going to be my next blog post; simply because the 1000$+ Commercial shoot was yesterday (8/23/16), and my anxiety almost wrecked me.
Some backstory: I’ve had crippling anxiety for many years, it got worse as I got into my teens and even harder to deal with as I got into my adult years. Basically my eyes start twitching (in combination with the anxiety/chronic dry eye syndrome), they start tearing up and I find it hard to look people in the eye. I start shaking all over and sweating horribly. This happens most in social situations (ok only in social situations :D), I’ve tried all sorts of things to control it; massive exposure therapy (of my own making), benzos like Clonazepam, SSRIS like Prozac, Effexor, Citalopram and Wellbutrin, insane amounts of exercise (like 4 hours in a day).
Now you can imagine it’s hard enough being a model/actor with an ostomy bag (obviously I can’t take certain parts, such as if I’d have to play a knight from the 14th century and there was a shirtless scene, or a character that’s not meant to have any medical issues), if I had let my anxiety stop me I wouldn’t be in this business for very long!
So how do I deal with it? Well first off, I still highly recommend and advocate being under the care of a psychiatrist if you have anxiety/depression, at the very least under the care of your primary doctor (and keeping them updated). Some people want to stay away from the pills, that’s understandable there are supplements and other things like that out there, just use anything that affects the mind and brain under the care of a medical professional.
Prep Techniques: Do these before the shoot!
Meds: First things first, if you have access to a benzo (and are prescribed it), depending on how bad your anxiety gets you may want to take it on an empty stomach in the morning. Xanax is fast acting (because it’s meant to quell panic attacks), that means you can typically take it on set when your anxiety becomes an issue and it’ll still work for you. Directors like to move things pretty fast, so if you aren’t prescribed Xanax but rather something like Clonazepam, you may have to be a little more creative. With Clonazepam because it’s slower acting if you know your anxiety is going to be really bad take it on an empty stomach; keep a bottle of your prescription on you in a backpack or something (and in the actual pill bottle, remember it’s illegal to have controlled substances without them being in YOUR PERSONAL pill bottle). I personally cut mine in half, just because I don’t want to have to double up on my dose, I take half in the morning; and half if my anxiety gets bad. This technique can be a life saver on set.
Exercise: A good long run before a shoot can really up your endorphin count, it’s always helped me quite a bit with my anxiety issues. Weight lifting as well can help (the reasoning behind this as far as what I’ve read is more testosterone in your body, haven’t verified that though). Personally if my anxiety is really acting up on set (and yes this is going to sound weird), I politely excuse myself and then go somewhere quiet and do some pushups/dips/squats, anything I can think of to get my blood pumping and getting a little sweaty. I’m not sure why but once I’ve broken a sweat my anxiety typically isn’t as bad; go figure right?
Setting up Someone you can Call to Bitch to: This could be anyone, your best mate, your girlfriend/wife, your parents; whatever. It doesn’t honestly matter but I will tell you if it goes rough on set it helps to have someone to call!
On Set Techniques:
Eyedrops: For me personally (with the combo of REALLY BAD dry eye syndrome and anxiety) these are a lifesaver for me. I’d recommend them to anyone who had the same issues.
Face Washing: Not sure why this one helps but it does, if my anxiety is really acting up I go to the bathroom and continuously wash my face over and over; for some odd reason it helps. It also helps hide any sweat/sweat stains that you can’t have on you for whatever part you’re playing/modeling for.
Pain (I DON’T RECOMMEND THIS WHATSOEVER, JUST SAYING WHAT WORKS FOR ME): As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, digging my fingernails into my palms typically helps (the pain helps pull away from the anxiety). Sometimes I literally have to do this if I’m on camera doing a scene and I have to keep a certain expression on my face but my eyes want to start twitching. If things are really bad like they were yesterday… I excuse myself to somewhere with strong walls (like a bathroom), go into a stall/private area and punch the wall a few times. I don’t hit it hard enough to bruise my knuckles but it does help with the anxiety.
Vaping/Cigarettes/Nicotine: Now… I’m not advocating starting to smoke, again this is just what helps me. Ever since I quit the cigs I tend to vape instead. A few puffs on that on a quick break helps me quite a bit.
I hope this article helps you if; like me you have crippling anxiety. Even just knowing that there is someone out there that’s pushing through and fighting it everyday, just like you; let that motivate you and burn a passion in your heart. If you’re modeling/acting with anxiety you’ve got my respect and you’ve got cojones for sure!