It’s Friday! Which means it’s time for another Blogging in Bed guest post. This one was written by a friend of mine from school, who has also had glandular fever and then was diagnosed with ME. Yes, we had A LOT to talk about when this all happened a few years ago!
Catherine has just finished her Masters (well done!!) and has written a post all about performing with a chronic illness. I hope you all enjoy it!
Introducing… Catherine Catizone
Hi! I’m Cat and welcome to my guest blog post for Blogging in Bed!
First of all, I just thought I would give you all a little insight into me and what I do. I’m 23, half Italian though I don’t speak it, I am a US citizen who has lived in the UK for the majority of her life and I am a theatre practitioner (i.e. a facilitator, actor and theatre maker) working in the North East. I create and focus my work around socially and politically aware theatre, sometimes comedic and sometimes tragic; with the idea of using art as a vehicle for change, awareness and escape.
In September 2013, I was diagnosed with glandular fever, which then developed into M.E., which until my diagnosis, I’d never heard of. Before getting sick I was sporty, incredibly active helping out on the farm and performing whenever and wherever I could. Unfortunately that is no longer the case, after a year of bed rest and many years learning to manage my condition, I am now in a position where I can work in the field that I always dreamed of (albeit with some minor adjustments).
Performing, Working and Creating
So let’s get into it! Firstly I would like to address the fact that working within the arts is incredibly difficult, even without a chronic illness and I am yet to find the wonderful work life balance you read about in women’s magazines; You know the ones where everyone’s smiling and holding the most intricate bowls of granola and fruit with perfectly coiffed hair? (Whatever that means) Yeah that. The truth is, I spend a lot of my time in very real and very physical pain as well as being mentally drained. I constantly feel like I have no idea what’s going on and in the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Women, ‘I’m a kinda fly by the seat of my pants gal. You know moment to moment, yeah.’ But, this is the career that gets me out of bed in the morning and the career that pushes me to get out there and not let this condition become me or define me. In fact getting M.E. in a really bizarre way, has actually opened a lot of doors for me and helped me become the artist that I am today, it actually got me my first paid acting gig.
I realised when I started my BA in Performance, that I could no longer be the kind of performer that I always thought I’d be growing up. I couldn’t go on these massive colourful tours with shows that lasted an hour and a half and were performed twice a day, 6 days a week. So what do you do, when you’re a performer in the North East, with an incredibly strange American/Geordie accent, massive hair and a chronic illness whom agents would struggle to cast and book you ask? You create your own work!
The first show that I’ve written and performed in and created 100% from scratch is, Memories (Shameless plug). I’m currently completing a Masters in Theatre and Performance, which has been a dream of mine for some time, so that I can learn how to create my own solo show, the result of this has been the most emotional year of my life, trying to create art based around my experiences with this disease. The absolute focus of this project was to make this invisible illness, visible on stage. To achieve this, the themes within this piece revolve around memory, chronic illness and relationships, because while we don’t all have experiences with chronic illness, we all experience memories in all their wonderful complexities. I believe firmly that art has, and still can be, an absolute vehicle for change. I want people to see this condition, really see it and ultimately understand it.
This condition has also opened my eyes to the world of facilitation within the arts, this means that I now teach theatre. Specifically to those who wouldn’t normally be able to access it, mental health service users, young women from disadvantaged backgrounds and individuals who identify as disabled, for example. This is something that when I started off my career within the arts, didn’t necessarily appeal to me. I’ve always respected those that work in this area and thought it was incredibly important, I just didn’t realise it was something I wanted to do. Until I got sick and I realised how at times the world of theatre can feel incredibly inaccessible. I also realised that this is a line of work that, physically, is more suited to what I am capable of and gives me the greatest feeling of pride in my work. I understand that even though I have M.E. I come from a place of privilege, where I could train and pursue this career with the financial and mental support of my family, and I want others to have that chance. Art is for everyone after all.
Creating Memories has taught me so much about myself and my art and has drastically changed my relationship with my condition. I hated it, loathed it, but now it’s starting to become a part of me in an (almost) positive way. Because of my condition I am precious with my time and energy. I won’t waste it on those who I don’t deem to have my best interests at heart. I pursue things that I want with more passion and I enjoy every single success just that little bit more.
I’m an artist. I’m an American who swears like a Geordie man. I live with a chronic illness. And I can eat an entire cupcake in one bite.
I hope you enjoyed Catherine’s post, something completely different to anything I’ve discussed before which is a welcome change. You can find Catherine’s website here.
Catherine also did a sponsored run a couple of weeks ago, raising money for the ME Association – yes, she is that crazy! If you want to donate anything, you can do so here.
The next guest post will be on Friday 30th November.