*Last month I did a new show called ‘Lou Sanz Speaks Easy’. It was about my anxiety associated with returning to stage and the at times self-imposed obstacles I faced on the way to putting on my first show in nearly 2 years. Here is part of that story…
A month out from getting on stage I found out I had rickets, well in adults it’s called osteomalacia, but I prefer Rickets, it sounds more Dickensian. It’s caused by a severe vitamin D deficiency – weird right? A writer that doesn’t get enough sun. Severe Vitamin D deficiency also can exacerbate anxiety, so the timing couldn’t have been better, given the press releases for my show were due to be sent out.
I decided I needed to do all I could to elevate the symptoms of my phobia associated with getting back on stage - I cancelled my publicist. With no publicity for my show, surely that would make things a little less stressful…
This allowed me more time to devote to writing new material and getting a pap-smear, something my doctor insisted on doing after I told her how stressed I was feeling.
‘I’m not sure a metal rod inserted into my cervix is really going to help me overcome my phobia of being on stage, but look I’ll give it a go.’
‘Ok, now if you could put your feet together and relax your pelvis – do you do yoga?’ asked the doctor.
‘Why, would it help with my anxiety?’
‘It would help with this exam – really you can’t get wider? Try making fists with your hands and putting them under your bum, ok and now cough.’
I coughed. She paused.
‘Just give me a second.’
‘Is everything alright?’
‘Yep, just trying to find your cervix…give me a second….no, that’s not it.’
‘What’s not it?’
‘Whatever that was.’
‘But what could it be? What else is down there?’
‘Hang on, I’ll just grab a bigger speculum’
‘Have you had children Lou?’
As I waited for the test results to come back, my anxiety got worse and now posters were being designed, flyers distributed and I had no show in site, well not one I was sure would work. I’d written over 16 different versions of the show and each one just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I couldn’t eat – well look to be honest I’d been told by my doctor to give up grains to combat my Vitamin D deficiency and grains are in everything – even marshmallows! I couldn’t concentrate; I had so much nervous energy I wasn’t sleeping. I was operating on the smell of an oily rag and the one thing I kept obsessing over – how was I going to get back on stage? My body was clearly telling me not to do it – shouldn’t I be listening to my body?
About a week after my pap smear I got a phone call from my doctor. They’d found something and I needed to go into hospital. She told me not to worry, it was just routine…
I found myself lying on my bed thinking to myself ‘maybe this could be my out?; a pretty fucked up thought but to understand just how bad my fear was, I thought, even if it was for only the briefest of moments that being sick would be better than being on stage.
My doctor had prescribed Tamazapine to help me get through the final weeks leading up the show – so I could at least get some sleep. Ok, so now I was on medication to deal with this and the only people that knew about this were my boyfriend, my family and some close friends, but to everyone else I was fine. I was making Facebook posts telling people I had a show – I sent out invitations to opening night. I was setting myself up to fail.
So on the Monday before opening night I went into hospital for something I was told not to worry about, only to have the specialist to sit me down, smile and say ‘so have your results been explained to you?’
‘Um, I was told it was just routine’
‘Um…oh I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.’
We’ll I’m not absolutely sure or you wouldn’t be here would you?’
‘What do you know about cervical cancer Lou?’
‘Um…I was told this was just routine.’
‘Um…there’s just a slight chance with this type of result that…’
That night my boyfriend and I stayed up late, and we found ourselves watching ‘Say Yes to the Dress.‘ It was a special episode about brides who were a little special – one of these brides to be had cervical cancer. My boyfriend grabbed the remote as is to turn it off but I stopped him.
‘It’s fine. Leave it on.’
This 24 year old girl was finishing her treatment and she was looking forward to her hair growing back and having a wedding on the beach and she had a twin sister – so you could tell what she looked like when she wasn’t sick- so that was heartbreaking – but the thing is she survived and everyone cheered and they even filmed her wedding for the show. It was beautiful.
As the show ended a still of her wedding appeared with an In Memoriam tag…she died 4 weeks after her wedding! My boyfriend burst into tears. I jumped off the couch – betrayed! They said she was fine, what the fuck!!!??
MY boyfriend was inconsolable; he is after all a theatre director –
‘It’s ok’ I said, trying to console him ‘maybe she got hit by a bus. Maybe he murdered her deep sea diving by her new husband? Who knows what goes on behind closed doors? ‘
The next day, Tuesday, I devoted to staring at the telephone. I’d been told that if everything were ok she’d just send me an email, if it were what they thought it might be, they’d call me.
By Wednesday I was a wreck. I tried to distract myself by watching old episodes of Blossom and NCIS. Gee Michael Weatherly seems lovely.
Thursday. My phone beeped. There was a message. It was from my doctor’s receptionist. I decided not to listen to it, not yet, I still had to put the final touches on my show, decide whether or not to put in the bit about when I dressed up as Michael Jackson, by painting my half my face white and doing a interpretive dance to ‘Black or White’ about how to end world poverty. But I decided against putting it in. It didn’t seem relevant.
I was about to call back when I saw an email had come through. It was from my doctor. She said she’d rung because she knew how anxious I’d been, but ‘look, there’s nothing wrong. You’re ok.’
Great, now I had no excuse, I had to do the show.
‘Lou Sanz Speaks Easy’ was performed as part of the 2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival.