Month: August 2014

Those Trying Days…Keep That Head Up!

From the red carpet events, to the photoshoots, and pool-side soirées, an actress’s life can be exquisitely glamourous. The stories of “over-night successes” and finding the “diamond in the rough” romanticize the thespian’s life story and uplifts us all to dream the impossible dream. As an actor, the idea that we must lift everyone’s spirits is somber when we ourselves need to be lifted out of our own malaise.

Today I spoke with my father. Here is a man who never stopped working a day in his life. The apple falls right from the tree and straight into the office, in this case. He excitedly proclaimed that he is slowly working on his new book about electrocardiology research. I feel happy for him and tell him about eBooks if he was interested in publishing his previous work which exists in blog form, Diamonds from Finland (poems from Finland’s poet laureate, Eino Leino, translated by my father). He says happily that he prefers hard copies for such a thing. I agree.

It’s time to visit family as I only see my father once a year, and my mother a handful of times as she is the only one who is able to travel. My father had quadruple bypass surgery back in 2010. The surgery made his life immeasurably better. He is turning 82 in December, and as my dear mother softly reminds me with the occasional morbid e-mail that he is getting on in the years. I miss them dearly, thousands of miles away. I have never lived this far away from them, but I have been on my own since I was 17. I miss them now more than I ever did.

I finally got a survival job going on today. This will buy me [some] time to focus on selling my show, Queen Gorya. In the meantime, I will focus more on writing and completing my existing projects for my film company. Like my father, there is always another project brewing. I have a sneaking suspicion this will be the case until my death bed. “And another thing…check the drawer by my bedside table. There you will find a script…”

Phone calls to family are bittersweet. I am happy to hear from them but sad because I miss them terribly. Sometimes I am cross because the actor’s life is taxing and so often discouraging. I relent to bring them down with my lack of real news, but I can’t not talk to them just because I’m sad. As a good friend once said, “No one understands show business, but the people in show business.” Bits and pieces falling together to form the elusive and ever changing puzzle that is my destiny. I will control what I can, and keep others believing in the dream. I honestly can’t wait until the day that I hear some incredible news, if only to share it with my father and mother on a video call. I never want to make them cry, but in the case of exuberant happiness, I will gladly oblige.

-Satu Runa (“I am still trying to get used to your name”- PMR)

Actress and Director, Satu Runa

Actress and Director, Satu Runa. April 10, 2014 Glendale, CA

photo by Michael Moriatis

 

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Anxiety, Depression, and Showbiz

It was a somber news day as the world learned of the passing of Robin Williams, the thrilling, electric, and magnetically gifted comedian, movie star, and voice actor.  I am more comfortable calling this man a real Actor, because he was every reason to pursue becoming a performer of the stage, big and small screen.

Tonight I am watching “Patch Adams,” the 90’s drama-comedy about a med student who finds himself in a psychiatric facility for treatment due to a suicide attempt.  This film affected me deeply, as did most of Robin’s films.  Mrs. Doubtfire, because Sally Field reminded me of my mother. What Dreams May Come, for it’s ultra powerful morbid subject matter and depiction of what it is like to loose someone to suicide. And of course, Hook, with the unforgettable line, “Life is an awfully big adventure.”  To lose an incredibly gifted and enigmatic talent such as Robin Williams is astonishing, particularly to suicide. Many performers suffer from manic-depression or bipolar disorder, amongst several other personality disorders (namely histrionic and borderline). I studied psychology in high school at a college level and took what I learned for gospel. As I dive deeper into the entertainment industry myself, I am time and time again investigating the behavior of several beloved performers who have decided to end their lives. It fascinates society, and it fascinates me. I am compelled to study the early deaths of celebrities and artists.

I have studied the lives of Marilyn Monroe, & Heath Ledger among others.  I have been pursuing a successful career in show business for some time, so I completely understand the heartache one can experience, and the toll it takes on the heart, body, and mind.  I’d be a liar if I said I never felt feelings of anxiety or depression directly related to my career choice, but I am left with the question so many others face: to take medication, or to face the storm without it? I recently had Lasik surgery, which involves taking a Valium to relax the nerves. I couldn’t help but relish the feeling all day, despite my eyes being freshly cut. For the first time since I could remember, I felt completely relaxed. Other than a full body massage or a full day at the beach, the Valium eliminated any stress, worry, fear, or panic. Accompanying the lack of these feelings was a lack of any feeling. Nothing mattered. “Anything goes”. I was happy to float along and enjoy my complacent afternoon. There’s the rub with psychoactive medication: while it can help some people be themselves, it’s also possible that it can rob you of your true self by snuffing out any charisma or edge your personality might naturally have. I could easily see myself abusing this drug if given the chance, because it allows you to go beyond forgetting your troubles and cares and just completely “check out,” which so many of us need on a regular basis (ie., why people have horrendous phone addictions, which is essentially checking out from life while playing games or [ab]using social media).

I understand how one can become addicted to psychoactive prescriptions which is why I am avoiding them. Things can become very stressful in anyone’s life, but in that of an actor’s life, we must manipulate our vulnerability, emotions, and body so that we turn our feelings on and off when we need them. The trick is that it’s more difficult turning them off, than on. There is more training focused on “opening up” and letting go, reaching a nerve and exposing it raw, than there is for protecting your psyche and soul in the process. Perhaps drama schools should intentionally focus on the “protection of the psyche”, as certain acting work requires deep psychological experimentation, experiencing trauma, and believing it.

For actors and others who experience depression it’s important to recognize that it absolutely can be possibly balanced through medication. More importantly, like in Patch Adams, we must work with the disease/disorder, not against it. We must never forget that there is a person behind that disorder.
robin-williams-cover-ftr

And laughter is the best medicine. Thank you Robin. I feel better already, when I see your face.


-Satu Runa

www.twitter.com/saturuna