Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Things I can control, things I cannot & everything in between…

“In an era of stress and anxiety, when the present seems unstable and the future unlikely, the natural response is to retreat and withdraw from reality, taking recourse either in fantasies of the future or in modified visions of a half-imagined past.”

Alan Moore

I was reading through a few of my posts on here, wondering what to write next and I noticed that my posts largely fall into 3 categories.

  • Serious posts about arts marketing
  • Non-serious posts about arts marketing
  • Posts about comedy and/or health and well-being

I’ve been reading lots of articles about mental health over the last few months, in part because I have friends who have mental health issues, in part because the challenges we all face interest me and, in part because I have my own from time-to-time.

It’s not something I talk about tremendously often, or, at the very least, something I try not to, certainly it’s something I find faintly embarrassing, like someone who enjoys the music of Toploader or supports Manchester United but has never seen a game at Old Trafford. 

On Lark Lane in Liverpool last week, I was watching the football with a mate, and, after the classic initial greetings, observations on the pros & cons of Klopp’s gegenpressing and the merits of James Milner (England’s best player) my mate turned to me, and with a wry smile said, “how are you actually beneath all the facade and deflection?”

“Yeah, fine”

Which is both true and also not true. 

Yes I am, largely fine. Life isn’t bad by any stretch, I’m really happy at home, I have my health, and Newcastle have won two games in a row. Also I don’t deflect. It feels like complaining about life is, frankly, a little churlish. I have a good job, friends, family, a new nephew who is the cutest child ever and sure Brexit is round the corner and Jeremy “The Saviour” Corbyn is being a bit of wet blanket at the moment with his principles and steadfast beliefs (who likes winning anyway), but overall, it’s all okay. 

I’ve also just watched Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, which is about the men and boys of World War One, a beautiful documentary and work of art, that I think really connected me with that generation. 

It’s fascinating watching the men on horses, riding through the mud to be able to think that members of my family (particularly my great uncle Rich – of whom we have a picture of him in uniform and on horseback) went through that. The past has never felt so close. My only sadness is that my Nana (who died a year or so ago) never got chance to see it as I’m sure she’d have got more out of it than I did. 

I sometimes feel a bit stupid writing this blog, but I write it because there’s stuff I’m comfortable saying (very little of genuine emotional value) and things I’m comfortable writing. I think detaching a bit, via this, helps in many ways, helps to make that disconnect that allows me to actually write about what I feel or think. It’s also not always read. a good proportion of what I write on here is live and visible but never actually shared more widely, it’s the process of writing which offers the partial catharsis.

So what’s been on my mind?

I guess a couple of things. The future (shocker) and also creativity. The future relates to general things to do with not having kids, or owning a house, or being able to actually make proper roots. And the creativity thing is to do with a crippling doubt I have about anything creative I do.

The creativity thing is an odd one. I suspect that working for a creative organisation in the role I do is possibly the worst things for it. Theatre’s divide into creatives and non-creatives, so despite having professionally directed and made small shows, I feel, pretty frequently, creatively inferior. It’s noone’s fault, it’s very much my own insecurity, and my inability to push for doing creative projects links to that. There’s a comfort zone I’m in. And I don’t count my marketing work as creative.

Yet I’m not always sure it’s an inferiority complex or insecurity. It’s a safety, risk averse thing too (bizarre when you consider the stand up thing). But that’s not really what this post is about (we’ll save that for another time).

Truth be told I’ve been having an issue with anxiety in the last few months, I think maybe 8 or 9 months, probably a little longer and it’s been getting worse recently.

What do I mean by anxiety?

At the gentle end I find it hard to turn off, I constantly feel like I should be doing something better, or solving a problem. There’s a negative streak that starts to hit after that, a relentless pessimism, that I try and hide as best I can. At the harder end, it can mean me curled up on the floor in my house, finding it hard to breath, as if someone is standing on my chest, my head thumping and spinning and tears rolling down my face.

The gentle end has been years, the harder end has been more frequent recently, and in the last 3 month really much more.

Get a grip. 
You need to learn to relax.
It’s not worth getting stressed about.
There’s nothing you can do right now.

It’s really hard not just to say fuck off. 
As if it’s that frigging easy. 

It’s a cycle of thoughts and actions that make it worse. Combinations of tiredness, trying to work my way out of it, constant needs to check and double check, self-blame for everything, and trying to be what is expected.

So there we go.