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Oct. 10th 2017

World Mental Health Day: Butterflies Diaries #5 by Sara

New Beginnings

Whilst rehearsing the show ‘Butterflies’, I discovered that Butterflies can symbolically mean ‘New beginnings’ which I thought was a lovely affirmation of our title. It was another layer, as butterflies initially came to us in a brainstorm about describing how anxiety feels. I also learnt so much more about Anxiety through our research and discussions that surpassed my personal experiences with it and treating it with therapy and yoga practise.

The show sees three characters going on a big adventurous journey filled with danger and excitement in new scenarios and how they overcome their anxieties in these moments. Every scene is a new beginning, a new thing to overcome, which each character successfully does. Especially at the end standing atop a mountain looking into the horizon , looking ahead to the future. 

 

This moment had a real personal connection for me. The first time we did it in rehearsals I cried!

 

Earlier this year I learnt to ski in the French Alps and had really moving moments looking out at 1850 metres above sea level over these beautiful landscapes. It gave me an enormous feeling of hope and new beginnings after a painful few years in my personal life and the fact at 34 I had learnt a new skill I never thought I would do. Skiing is SCARY and when I started to learn I was so anxious and by the end of 2 weeks practise I was loving it! So I really felt a personal connection to the show ending in this way.

 

As I mentioned I have suffered with anxiety notably since a road accident 6 years ago so I had some knowledge before we started making the show. I have had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help deal with it. It helps you to simplify the sensation of anxiety and explore the anatomy of it to some extent as well. It asks you to question why you feel this way, are you actually in danger, reprogramming the way you behave or react to things both through your thoughts and behaviour. In doing that, you calm down as you rationalise the sensation and learn techniques to cope with them. When we were devising we looked at similar ideas and also found that offering new opportunities and overcoming them might be a good way to let our audience know that having anxiety is OK, and there are ways to overcome it. We looked at the anatomy as well, to deepen our understanding of the physical sensations of anxiety and used this in our devising process. The process deepened my own understanding of anxiety, even having already had therapy for it!

 

Discussing anxiety out loud with my fellow collaborators made me realise that everyone has anxieties, some heavier than others, but actually that it is OK. It’s a part of life. During a scene in the play where the characters encounter a huge cavernous hole and they all get butterlfies, one of the characters says:

 

You have it too’

to which my character nods and responds with

It means we won’t jump in’

 

Anxiety actually protects us from doing things that might harm us. So it is essential to keep us safe. Even though I think I knew this (we all know the feeling of flight fright or freeze in stressful situations) I think now when I suffer with my ‘flutter’ in everyday life I will know its just my body telling me to look after myself, keep myself safe and sound and it will pass. That’s comforting and a new method to incorporate into coping with my own anxieties day to day.

 

This was a very therapeutic experience for me to explore an issue I actually deal with and also in finding a way to explain and understand it to convey a story to our audience deepened my understanding of it. I have learnt so much from sharing this process with such a great team. Thanks so much to the Butterflies cast & crew.

 

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