Ryan_1L1A1120People see me as a confident person, but I haven’t always been that way. Anxiety used to have a tight grip on me; my inner monologue tossed around self-deprecating thoughts to the point where I was afraid to speak to people for fear I would say something stupid.

I felt like I had failed in life and had no purpose. One would think completing two university degrees would have the opposite effect, but actually, my life was nothing like I had imagined it. I felt like I had no control.

So it’s not surprising I became a control freak to deal with the anxiety and depression. I rehearsed every little situation in my head, and with every situation, I rehearsed a hundred contingency plans to combat my feeling of powerlessness.

Realising I needed to do something about this issue, I decided to put myself in situations where I had no control ─ improvisational theatre, or improv for short.

I joined a community improv group called Big Fork Theatre. Participating in regular practice sessions with Big Fork Theatre and performing in their monthly improv shows has helped me in so many ways. Through doing improv, I have learnt that failing is normal and should be embraced. When I play with Big Fork, I have the opportunity to share blame and success through improvised scenes. Everyone fails, but everyone succeeds. As this happens all the time in improv, it takes the sting out of failure. Interestingly, this has filtered into my personal life because in life, you can’t always plan ─ you just have to accept. And that’s what improv has taught me. Improv takes you out of your head because you have to be in the moment in every scene.

There are usually seven or eight of us on stage when I perform, and the team always back each other up. One of my favourite improv rituals at Big Fork Theatre is ‘checking in’ at the beginning of every practice session or before a show. It’s an opportunity to get things off your chest and get out of your head; I find it very cathartic.

It took me a while to get out of my head. But when I just accepted and let go, the anxiety lifted, and I have improv (and Big Fork Theatre) to thank.

Ryan, Australia