I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking
Of all the things I should’ve said,
That I never said.
All the things we should’ve done,
That we never did.
All the things I should’ve given,
But I didn’t.
Oh, darling, make it go,
Make it go away.
Give me these moments back.
Give them back to me.
Give me that little kiss.
Give me your hand.
- Kate Bush: This Woman’s Work
I’ve been debating whether or not to publicly put in my two cents about Amy Winehouse’s death. Amanda Palmer’s blog has a brilliant post about it, something I relate quite to and I feel is written beautifully. Also, I applaud Kimya Dawson for being wonderfully raw and real about her own experiences with drugs and darkness.
But my story’s a little different than that. (Or maybe not, but everyone will admit to different things.)
I never knew the woman and didn’t idolize her music nearly as much as other musical influences, but in death Amy’s hit me in unspeakable ways. See, I have been her kind. I’ve never been so far and so badly gone that I’ve overdosed, but I know what it’s like to get lost to the point where you can’t see the people in front of you who care and want you to thrive. Personal hells are just that – personal. You can’t claim to understand thoughts that aren’t yours. Drugs and alcohol and sex are all good distractions from the noise in your head – insecurities and demons and losses – but they only go so far. They don’t erase, only numb, and there’s only so much you can do before the voices break through again.
I believe Amy sang because she wanted to share her message, her feelings, her grief. She sang waiting for someone to say “I understand, I’ve been there too. Now pick yourself up and come along. It’s going to be alright.” And maybe she sang to say the same thing to others.
Making art (whether you’re a singer, writer, filmmaker, actor, whatever) is about life and emotions and relating to other people. It’s about getting your unique message out there, about trying to make sense of what you know and feel and experience. And with that all, you’re offering your experiences to others on a silver platter. You want to be understood, accepted, loved. And all of that can drive you mad.
There are times when I’m afraid to feel, because (like the quote in my last blog post) I know how overwhelming it is. A lot of creative folk are like this, I find. Love wants to burst from your chest and makes you dance in the streets. Misery lurks around corners and attacks out of nowhere, savaging you like a bear. It’s hard to not get caught in that tumultuous undertow, the ebb and flow. Monroe, Cobain, Van Gogh, Ledger, Elliot Smith, a hundred thousand others have been there too and got lost.
No one person’s feelings are any more or less valid, less real, than anyone else’s. But they’re sure as hell going to vary in intensity and focus. Creative people especially are vulnerable to what I think of as neurodiversity or uniquely-brained: many struggle with some or another ‘mental illness’. It’s not something that people can just permanently think themselves out of and move on from, like those who have relatively ‘normal’ brains can. Moods haunt like ghosts.
As an actor, I sometimes wonder if I’m not a part of that group. Why it is so natural for me to suffer tragic deaths over and over in the horror films I’ve been in. Why I am so easily able to become a troubled victim of rape and incest. Why I can kill my own child. Why I can be an otherworldly creature. In these moments, I’m not pretending or denying the feelings that come. I just am. It scares people just how quickly I can cry on camera when needed, and how quickly I can laugh again when the cameras stop. In those moments, I feel it all, and it moves through me. Other times, without that immediate and wonderful creative outlet, it won’t let go.
It’s all or nothing. You either feel everything and take what comes with it, or you try to shut off. And shutting off ruins your art, makes it a hollow shell. I’ve had those bad auditions where I just couldn’t connect to the character and the bad improv sets where I know I’ve just been a talking head. And in those moments, you feel like you’ve failed yourself, and it all starts again.
Amy Winehouse, the girl who felt too much. Rest in peace with all the other creative souls.