Written By Izzy Gerstel —
As a chronically ill actor, it feels as if the industry does not care about your mental and physical wellbeing. This is partly true, we are told that “actors never get sick”. After talking with other actors, I found that younger actors gaslight themselves into thinking that they are okay. There needs to be an understanding that getting and being sick is a human experience that if not taken care of can lead to more serious complications.
Here is a guide
Taking Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself, chronically ill or not, is pivotal to surviving in the industry. I would not like only to survive, but to thrive in doing what I love. For me, that means doing routine acupuncture and massage, going to the gym 30 minutes a day, and taking my medication. One thing I have learned very quickly is taking my medication as regularly prescribed is something that is an uncompromisable part of my routine. For everyone with a chronic illness, this routine looks different, but having one changes
drastically how we work, and can help us to put more time into working in our art form. Taking care of yourself does not only mean setting a routine or taking your meds, but also applies to going to your appointments and keeping up with your body.
Knowing When to Push and When to Rest
Challenging yourself as an actor can be a great thing, it is what makes us grow and learn, however there is a difference between pushing safely to grow, and pushing yourself beyond the limit, affecting your chronic illness. Getting to know these limits are beneficial, and are worth exploring. They also may change. In order to be your “best self’ this should not be self judged, because it is out of your control. Maybe in dance rehearsal you are able to go full time with no break one day, and the next it is hard for you to move. This is a valid experience and doesn't make an actor any more or less worthy of booking a job. If you are working in an unfamiliar area, to make sure you are physically safe.
Warning Your Crew
Communication within the film and tv industry is one of the most important aspects of succeeding it. This applies to informing your PA/Assistant (depending on the budget of the production) when you are
feeling unwell, when you are in the middle of a flare up, as well as being told to do things that make you feel unsafe. If standing on 4 apple boxes makes you feel like it will make your chronic pain worse or you fear that falling would have a negative impact on you physically, you should be able to voice that. If you need your service dog on set, make sure they understand that before adding you to the project. Chronic illness is a part of your daily life, so it should not be something that you try and compromise. Of course there is a balance to everything, so being difficult and informing about your issue are two different things.
With all that being said, putting your overall health and wellbeing is important. Breaks, mental health days, and rest are important to avoiding burnout. This is your gentle reminder that the industry is hard, but even with illness, there are ways to thrive!