How acting got me out of a deep depression and led me on a spiritual path.
This article describes my back story and how going into acting helped me overcome a deep depression.
When I was 18 I taught myself programming in hopes to solve monetary problems. I didn't know how to help myself out of money issues any other way than making something with the only thing I was good with, a computer. I was forcing myself to work and I was programming often 2-3 days in a row without any sleep. My piece of software found a distributor and I became the CTO / CEO of a new company after 3 months of work. There were times when the thought about touching a keyboard already caused a mental block in me. 2 more employees and 2 years later. I was still living an unhealthy and solely on work focused lifestyle believing that the big money at the end will make everything possible I was wishing for. That was until I reached the point that I could barely make it out of bed and often arrived hours later than my own employees because I mentally and physically couldn't force myself any sooner to work anymore. I felt out of energy. At times I laid awake on my bed and simply didn't do anything. I felt emotionally nothing. My glass was most of the time half empty. I was generally not happy. Only when I watched TV I got out some chuckles. And I had the feeling I couldn't any longer listen or do anything for anyone anymore because just talking about it would drain me already of all energy. I felt stuck with no change in sight. I saw myself as a realist and often times thought other people were simply wrong when their opinions didn't align with mine. My family wouldn't listen or didn't understand me when I told them I don't have the strength anymore and couldn't do anything anymore, so I shut them out or just didn't follow through whenever they brought up ideas or advices for anything. I had sympathy for people but lacked empathy. Unless they fought as much as I did with everyday life, there was no reason for them to complain about something. I couldn't see any positive outcomes and when something worked or changed, it was more out of a coincidence than anything else in my opinion.
The only way I thought how I can deal with my depression was by doing my work remote from different islands in Spain but I took unconsciously the unhealthy lifestyle with me and nothing changed.
This went on for a little bit until I visited Miami and I was told to look into modeling. That was my turning point. I was already on my way towards Vancouver, BC and I knew I would finally pursuit other things. Hoping there would something more and better out there waiting for me, no matter how far fetched and superficial it would sound to other people.
Still being affected by depression the tiniest things felt like tremendous work, possibly putting out the last little flame of energy that I have left. At times I curved into a ball on my bed because of pure pressure. Other times I'd go to bars every day of the week searching for fulfilment by connecting with new people and having "fun", which usually was very superficial and didn't get any further beyond small talk and "cheers".
In Vancouver I began looking into modeling and background work. Wishful thinking that I might become something big regardless of the odds and it would change my life and solve my problems. Times got better. I did a lot of background work. I was throwing myself at every background gig there was. My interest for acting awoke and I started pursuing real acting instead of only background work. I was doing as much acting as possible and reduced the IT-work that I despised to a minimum. Still filled with anxiety but with more energy I kept doing everything I could do acting related. I kept going out to auditions, in some I did frightening terrible and in some better than others. About a year later when I started to pursuit acting on a professional level I started to look in all the available acting techniques, scene study and on-camera classes. I stopped being defensive and listened to my brother's and friend's advice for once and took classes instead of just going out to auditions and trying to wing every role with little to no knowledge about any acting techniques.
After about half a year something strange happened. I had moments where I could see colors brighter and trees looked more alive. After a while I found out that I wasn't crazy and all the webmd's article about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses aren't something I was being affected from. It's funny how your mind starts looking for all these things and making wild assumptions to make sense out of it. Sometimes I was standing somewhere and realizing that I was truly there and I was having a better sense of my entire body. I knew that this was the way I really should be and perceive things, not in the depressed "filtered" way I experienced things. This went away and came back occasionally. I tried to force the experience by staring at random points without looking away and trying to stop thinking. I was very anxiety filled so even though I knew I could trigger it that way and made it possible to see things more alive, it was very difficult to maintain and staying focused without having my eyes look around and my mind coming into play again. Another thing I tried was consciously forcing myself into seeing what's really happening around me, what is someone wearing, what are they doing, even when I didn't see anything exciting about something that catched my eyes at first glance. At this point of my life I was still very self-conscious and anxiety filled and looking people in the eye, especially passer by's caused a lot of discomfort in me. After a while I started living in a way that I attacked my own thoughts. When I wanted something, I was making compromises but not getting what I really wanted. When I thought about things that were time related and stressed me, I was attacking it, being late means I was walking even slower and not running towards my appointments. Even though I could feel the stress I make that choice and I would not let it control me. I was watching my behavior more closely, trying to figure out what unease feelings made me go after things to compensate. I got to the point where I would no longer let any kind of addictive behaviors control me anymore. That means smoking, drinking, what I want to eat or drink and any other kind of urges that arose in me. I was consciously making the choice to feel all my urges, be aware of it and watch it but no longer to give in. When I wanted a coffee from Starbucks I wouldn't give in, but instead got something else that I was fine with having but not really wanted, tea. I purposely broke everything I could get comfort from. After more time passed and I participated a handful of classes I was experiencing a sudden shift in my perspective. What was before in brief moments turned into a complete shift. I was reading a play with my scene partner off-book in a cafe out loud and suddenly it happened. Being so deep involved in reading, breaking old behavior patterns and developing a new perspective towards things disconnected me from my mind. I was not my mind or body anymore. Everything was alive. I was scared. I didn't know what was going on and suddenly didn't know anymore who I was. All what my mind tried to identify myself with had been dropped, I let go of everything I hold on to and understood that I'm not the clothes I wear, the style I have, the accessories I wear, the people I idolize, the way I look or the materials I possessed. All my believes in who I was have been thrown over board. A spiritual awakening had happened.
Thanks to being around other spiritual awaken actors made me realize early on how freeing and important it is to not care and identify with other people's opinion about you. Which was often easier said than done, but after a while established itself. Dropping all the netiquettes one by one and becoming real and authentic to people instead.
Once I got spiritual awaken everything changed. My whole believe system that was build since early age on stacked with other people's opinions suddenly dropped one by one. Instead of rephrasing other people opinions that fit my believe system I started to build my own opinions. I began attacking the things I was conditioned in. When I was scared about doing something, I needed to do it and attack my mind that gave me the discomfort feeling regarding things.
What I learned later was that Eckhart Tolle and other spiritual teachings described my experience and there was finally a name to what has happend to me. After a while I saw the core's truth of spirituality in many other fields. Buddhism, Hinduism, Osho and most importantly Sanford Meisner's acting technique which I was studying and applying for months. I suddenly understood why Jim Carrey was forefront speaker for Eckhart Tolle, Chris Evans was describing "Power of Now" almost like his bible, Jake Gyllenhaal studied Buddhism and what Will Smith's and Russel Brand's spiritual talks were really all about. They all encountered spiritual awakening by practicing being present and active listening in acting and off-set. I realized I wasn't alone and understood why actors prefer relationship with other actors and how the world separates in two kind of people. Conscious present people and mind identified people. I was part of the few people who weren't identified by their mind anymore. Practicing acting set the seed and got me out my depression. After my awakening I was peace filled, I was finally capable to be happy again, to laugh, to be free and fearless, to be sensitive without shame and to have emotional breakdowns to open myself further up by letting go of emotional blocks. Acting got my filter removed and my mind-chatter silenced. Even at the 20th rehearsal of a scene you still have to listen closely and stay out of your head while you talk to another actor and I know that this, among some other things put me subconsciously on a spiritual path free of any more suffering.