My voice is filling my head. Through the headphones I hear myself. I speak slowly, I am apprehensive, hesitant and full of ‘umm’s and ‘ahh’s. I sound scared, unsure saying the words out loud is the right thing to do. I take my time, when answering the questions. There are difficult questions, I don’t know the answers. I pause and there is silence. She speaks. She speaks with purpose and assurance. She presses me, but no more than is necessary and no more than is comfortable. She challenges me but never provokes me. All of a sudden words tumble out of my mouth, quickly, saying them before I change my mind. She catches them all, and places them in front of me. I can’t avoid them now. There they are, the words I haven’t been able to say or write yet, for an audience or for the people close to me, looking back at me, and now, filling my head, the worst thoughts, the most powerful and potent ones. Sitting here, listening to myself, is uncomfortable. I don’t want to listen; it somehow seems more real, and more intense than it did in the room. But I have to listen, I have to think about what is being said, and I have to remember what was said in the blurry haze of the session just gone.
I’m scared. I’m terrified of letting go of it all. Someone is starting to gently tug at my security blanket, and I’m steadfastly clinging on to the other end of it. I want to let go, I just don’t always feel ready to. I’m unsure where the OCD ends and I begin. It isn’t wholly me, but it is a part of me, and although it is something I’ll always live with, I’m apprehensive of not knowing the OCD the way I know it intimately now.
The documentation of the process is providing some comfort though, not only to the fearful, obsessive part of me that doesn’t want to let go but also the slightly masochistic part of me that doesn’t want to forget. Will I be able to connect with it to write about it and perform it in the same way if I’m not dealing with it every day, if it isn’t always present? Maybe it is the OCD talking, but right now it feels important that I will have something static to hold on to at the end of the process.
Although an uncomfortable voyeur to my own therapy, I wonder how an audience would feel being invited to listen to these words that are pouring from the headphones into my head. Steven Berkoff said “…you must express things that nobody else will even hear about, that you wouldn’t tell your closest friend, the most abominable kind of imagination. Imaginings you have, the worst things you can imagine. That is the domain of theatre, to open the skull and out on the stage those writhing cans of worms.” What I’ve been saying inside that room and what I’m listening to now is everything I haven’t been able to share yet, I’m too close to my current obsession to write and talk about it openly with an audience but will it feel safe enough to share at some point? Would an audience want to listen? Could the slightly distilled recording of voices provide a comfortable distance between me on stage and me in therapy?
My aim isn’t to intentionally shock an audience but it feels necessary to reveal the most difficult and darkest elements of this way of living and thinking, sometimes it seems only when confronted with the most terrifying corners of the mind, can you begin to see the ridiculous and the humorous. As I listen to her and myself now, through the headphones, I’m surprised at how much we have laughed. I laugh out of fear, but also out of realisation and familiarity. Maybe the darkest bits are also the really fucking funny bits?
At the moment it is difficult and unsettling to understand and unpick where the OCD begins and ends, which fears are real, what I can hold on to and what I need to try and let go of. Maybe nothing will change, maybe everything will change. Maybe I’ll want to share it all, maybe I’ll want to lock the recordings in a cupboard and throw away the key. This is part of the process. This is the start of cognitive behavioural therapy.
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- Peopling The Stage. Anna Jones, of NYLon Projects, on community engagement and The Hackney Volpone.