I had the pleasure of speaking with insanely talented Sarah Hjort, a recent music theatre graduate from The MTA. I saw Sarah in her final year showcase and was in awe of her wonderfully truthful comedic energy. She's definitely one to look out for.
Sarah bravely shared her story with me and I really think there is so much value in Sarah's experience with anxiety and depression. Something that Is very common within the arts, yet many are often embarrassed/ struggle taking that first leap of faith in admitting something isn't right, for so many reasons.
Sarah shared the truth on taking her first leap and some of the ways she has found to help combat her anxiety.
“When I was younger, probably 14/15, I'd googled my symptoms marched myself off to the family GP and was like here you go I have depression and anxiety. They then make you fill in this almost like pop quiz of your feelings but the whole experience made me feel super anxious and at the time I didn’t want her to think I was bonkers so I put in the answers she wanted to hear rather than the truth.
This meant I wasn’t properly diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and given treatment until half way through 1st year at The MTA. That was 6 years later."
Do you think it would be the same if you went to the GP for the first time now?
“If I went to the GP it would be different but that's with the benefit of hindsight and the privilege of knowing so many people with various mental health issues, their advice and how they have coped with it.
I only heard those with mental health issue being sectioned and "sent away" so I had no idea about what treatments were available to me…”
Being a performer, have you ever found your anxiety has stopped you or affected your performing?
"Yes! Pretty much every time I see other people performing I have that voice inside that says 'you are not good enough'. So auditions are always difficult. Although CBT has helped recognize negative thoughts like that."
Have there been any ways you have had to adapt your lifestyle with anxiety disorder in isolation?
"Oh definitely. As soon as lockdown happened and anxiety crept in I had to limit social media. What I found useful was to leave my phone in another room.
Varied exercise does help BUT for the love of god be kind to yourself. If you skip a couple days, it honestly doesn't matter. Same with goals. I try to keep a list of things I can do rather than things I have to do. That way I don't start beating myself up if I don't follow the list.
I also try to avoid too much Netflix. Don't get me wrong, I love a good box set binge but it can be obsessive and like all addictive things if you find yourself unable to stop and your not enjoying it- admit to yourself that it's not healthy. Sleep is so important and I got so used to binging on TV throughout the night that I wouldnt sleep properly.
I find throwing myself into creative stuff helps (I'm lucky that I've got art as well as musical theatre)."
- Paris Hoxton
Should you need more information on anxiety or for any helplines, visit:
Illustrations by @red_cheeky_drawings