An exciting career but just not the one for me right now
About 10 years ago I left a job in the civil service to pursue my dream career as a freelance opera director. It can be physically demanding and energetic work – you’re on your feet a lot, rushing about when time is short, and the hours at the climax of a rehearsal period can be gruelling. Physically and emotionally it was a boom and bust existence.
Over four years in the job my EDS and PoTS symptoms increased, particularly during intense rehearsal days. It’s very hard to take time off work when there’s a definite deadline of an opening night. Being sick and freelancing felt problematic too. The money wasn’t great so between jobs I worked some long shifts in a pub to help pay my bills. That pushed me physically even further down.
Eventually it just became unsustainable. During my last year in the job the dream career wasn’t really feeling like a dream. It can be tough industry at the best of times, let alone managing chronic health problems. After one particularly stressful rehearsal period, I ran myself physically into the ground and realised things needed to change. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so decided to go back to policy/project management while I worked things out. I got a contract role as a project manager for a website and ended up staying permanently.
I try and think of my arts career as being like a very attractive but unsuitable ex – exciting but just not the one for me right now
The change was dramatic – having job stability, a regular salary and a pattern of stable working hours has made it much easier to manage both my symptoms and the anxiety about managing them. It’s a relief to be able to take a sick day. Working from home from time to time is also great as I can manage my energy or just be in pain more privately. I work for a really supportive company which has been a great relief when my health has dipped. There are still challenges around office work and EDS like sitting comfortably at a screen all day and commuting. But overall it has made a huge difference.
I have been trying to find other ways to replace the creativity I lost in my career change. I’ve started writing, and playing the piano again. I do feel pretty sad sometimes about not working in theatre any more – it was what I’d wanted to do from childhood. Maybe I’ll get to be involved again somehow in the future.