Jessie’s story

This story is from a participant in our Atlantis project in 2021.

I Love My Cat

I first heard about Hidden Spire because I was a member of Crisis a few years ago. Ages ago, when I first heard about it, I wanted to do it and I just thought I’d never have a chance, and then somehow over the last few years, it’s slowly become possible. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Crisis and the Old Fire Station and that, because you know you’re gonna be supported. 

So in early 2021 they started The Drifting, which became Atlantis. They asked the Creative Collective, which included anyone who wanted to do it, to write one duologue and three monologues. You could write as much or as little as you wanted. I’d been really depressed during lockdown, hadn’t done nothing, but I got into that and it actually started a bit of a process, which really helped me and got me back into writing. There were some really good writing workshops as well. It was all over Zoom, which at first I was a bit, um, petrified of. It’s still a bit weird but it was a lifesaver during lockdown, just to look at people and have something to focus on. You could see that you weren’t alone, everybody was kind of struggling with the same feelings. 

So, I wrote some characters. Then a while later Rowan, who works for Crisis and was also one of the writers, come out with the first draft. It was really cool. It was such a mad array. In final draft, three of my characters remained, so that was quite exciting. I was involved in anything I could be at that point. It was keeping me alive, doing the writing workshops and then the read-throughs. I auditioned for my own character. Messed up! But I got the part. A few weeks later, we got into rehearsals, and that was just so good. Learning the script, being totally involved, it was really intense. Before that I was quite ill. A lot of stuff happened. My mum had died. And I got back into some unhealthy bad habits. I was doing well before the lockdown. But the lockdown was massive. Any problem anyone had was just exacerbated during lockdown, because there was nothing to do. So, you know… People who liked eating ate a lot. People who like to do drugs done that. 

But when I was in the rehearsals, I couldn’t be doing that. I’ve actually change my habits since the rehearsals. So, it’s really helped. I was so nervous when rehearsals started. My God, I was like a totally different person. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. I mean, my character wasn’t massive, but she had quite a lot of lines. Just being on stage, I was nervous. But I got into the rehearsals, and we started the read-through. There were proper actors, there were all sorts of people. But everyone was really nice. Just that bit was helpful.  

It was intense, because we’d start at ten and finish at four. We had to get everything right and it was an immersive piece, so there was a hell of a lot of things we had to worry about. It took over my life in a really, really good way. I’d have to wake up really early, which I wasn’t great with before, and I had to eat. It was really good how they provided food because otherwise I don’t think I’ve been able to do that. I had to get myself healthier. It was really good: routine and direction. I kind of wanted it anyway, like an outside force. They were so supportive, they were really attentive to our needs. I suddenly had something outside myself with all the support. And a goal that I actually wanted to do. And the food. I know it’s silly, but it’s little things like that. They gave us the scripts, you know, just every little thing you could worry about, they took care of us.  

Theatre’s something that I’ve always been quite passionate about. I just hadn’t done anything like that in a long time. I’d forgotten how much I actually really did enjoy it. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, it makes life worth living.’ You can actually focus on something, and be a part of something. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have really believed that I could have been involved, I just would have thought that would have been ridiculous. But slowly, through trying, through doing things, I feel that I can. The performances were alright actually. There was such a buzz. I could get more high from the shows than from anything. I was really excited. It’s a bit scary and it’s a bit fun. It’s very empowering. 

It’s like your whole life, a play. In a good way, though, like, all of you is focused on the show, everything you do is for that. You go to sleep to wake up for the show, you’re eating so you’ve got energy for the show, everything you’re doing is just for that, which was really good for me, just having that. That sense of having structure in my life has continued afterwards, and just the creativity. Realising that I really need to do something creatively, to keep myself going. If I don’t, then I just wither. If I’m doing that, even if it’s hard work and all that, I don’t feel depressed. Sometimes I’m tired and exhausted, but I feel like what I’m doing is worthwhile. Even when you can’t be bothered, you have to do it. Usually, you’ll feel like that and then about ten minutes in, you find actually you feel so much better for doing it. I guess it’s mindfulness. 

I’ve been getting back into writing. In the last six months or so, I’m writing every day. I’ve done a few stories. And I’m looking at competitions. It’s like this whole world that I don’t really understand. And it’s a bit out of my depth but I’m just trying, I’m trying and getting there. I wanna do something more theatre-based. So I’m getting as involved as I can with the Old Fire Station, just anything. I’m going to Mind too. Anything I can do to keep on track. And getting organised. I bought pet insurance for my cat. My boyfriend, he was laughing, ‘Now you’re worried about pet insurance?’ But it’s totally, totally changed me, I think.  

Atlantis really has changed my life, and I haven’t resumed my old ways. And it takes you out of yourself, so you can deal with really terrible things and get through it.  

But then this come along and I thought, ‘Well, this is just not going to work.’ And I feel so much, so much better. I’ve got so much more time. My mind feels clearer as well. I’m just doing positive things, really living my life positively. That’s how good Atlantis works. Otherwise I think my life would be going a lot worse, you know. I was really not in a good place. And I couldn’t really see a future. And now I’ve got pet insurance! Because even if you try, if you’re not in a good place, you can’t be a responsible person. Now I can be a totally responsible person. I feel a lot happier with myself now. I don’t lie awake all night, worrying about things. Well, no, I still do that, but I worry about more normal things, like my cat. 

I love my cat! I got her for my 30th birthday. My boyfriend gave her to me. I spend all my time with her. She’s the sweetest little cat ever. She’s always purring. She gives kisses and everything. She’s got a really rough little tongue. It’s like sandpaper, it really hurts but I encourage it cos it’s so cute. Being able to buy her pet insurance, I couldn’t do before, but she’s got that now. She’s got all these things. She’s my only responsibility, but I’m doing the best I can. I think I’m just more responsible in general. You’re just totally a different person when you’re not smoking. Like the best of yourself. I think Atlantis helped me find a lot of strength I didn’t really realise I had. A play! The power of Art!