Monday, August 14, 2006

Implosion and Expansion

I moved to New York in the summer of 1986. By 1988 I was putting my health and sanity into serious jeopardy.

I wasn't yet thirty and felt that with my energy and ambition, I didn't need as much sleep as everyone else. I could do it all.

Wrong.

When I moved to New York, I got the advice to use my night owl tendency in a productive way: find a job at a law firm in a 24/7 word processing unit. That's what I did. From midnight to 7 in the morning, I worked in word processing create large documents, mailings and other fascinating stuff. Almost everyone on that shift was an actor, dancer, writer or somehow involved in the arts. Having the day free to perform, rehearse or look for work as a great advantage. Plus you had a steady paycheck and large corporate law firms pay word processors very well.

I had that night job five nights a week and for almost a year and a half, I was also working full time during the day as the assistant to the artistic director Curt Dempster at the Ensemble Studio Theater. That position required my attending meeting on Curt's behalf outside of the theater, acting as a liasion between the artistic end and the literary department, read and write feedback on incoming scripts, cast staged readings and workshops and supervise the internship program.

During any lull while on these two full time jobs, I worked on scripts to assist friends with script problems for shows they were doing and collaborated with actor Jonathan Frid on developing the second of three major one man shows. This one would ultimately be called Fridiculousness.

By the spring of 1990 I stopped working for Curt and enrolled as a full time student in the theater's highly regarded professional theater training program. This two year program required my being available during the days and some evenings for rehearsal and attending classes. I also started getting acting work during this time. Later in that year, I was hired by the New York State Arts Council Theater for New Audiences program to teach playwrighting in Brooklyn at a high school for "at risk" youths. The risk involved with this particular school was getting to and from school without getting jumped or shot.

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you already know about the fact that I have had ADHD since I was a child and it went not undiagnosed and untreated until I was forty. My chaotic lifestyle deprived me of precious sleep, regular, healthy eating habits and the inability to keep track of my finances. I gained about twenty pounds during this period.

By 1991 I let the night gig go. But a lot of damage had already been done. It took years for me to fully recover my health. I started seeing a doctor who was willing to experiment with different medications to see about calming me down and helping me achieve focus. Having time to catch my breath would greatly assist in this regard but I needed much more.

The medications were designed to slow down my metabolism and in doing so, I wound up gaining more weight. My metabolism slowed down but my brain did not.

It was not until recently that the perfect medical combination was discovered. But now I have to shed this weight.

In the past few weeks and in the next few weeks I will be seeing some people for the first time in years and I feel very self-conscious about the weight gain. I try to not feel embarrassed about it but I am. I don't know why since that will not make the people I care about feel any less about me but when I look in the mirror and see what I see, I am reminded of those days when I did not take care of myself and did what I did to my health and sanity.

I still need to continue with that recovery.

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