Dear Dear Evan Hansen,
Today’s going to be a good day because I’m going to try and have a good day. Today I am going to eat a piece of fruit, today I tried talking to a new person. Today’s going to be a good day because I didn’t check myself on the weight scale, because I downloaded “Waving Through A Window” on my phone. Because I convinced myself that washing my hands twice instead of three times was enough to keep my nerves calmed.
On Saturday December 10, 2016 I had the incredible fortune to purchase the last $42 standing room only ticket for the 8 PM performance of Dear Evan Hansen. I purposely didn’t listen to any of the songs released or read the plot, knowing that this was a musical about a teenager with anxiety was enough to draw me in.
I, being a theatre kid now studying drama at NYU, have of course cried at many shows; but I’ve never heaved or cried in a theatre like I do when I’m having a panic attack. I’ve never had fellow audience members come up to me, offering tissues, water, and hugs. I’ve never been so concerned for my own well-being at a show, but I’ve also never felt so understood.
For me, it takes a massive amount of courage just to answer my therapist’s FaceTime call every Tuesday night. It’s taken this entire first semester of college for me to be comfortable being honest with myself and the eighteen other people in my acting class about my emotions, my disorders, and my limits. I can’t even imagine being as vulnerable as all of you are, performing a story so personal eight shows a week, but I sure am glad that it’s being done.
The day I started taking anti-depressants was one of the scariest moments in my life. The idea of submitting control to a little orange bottle still terrifies me, but I keep hanging on. I’ve never once skipped a pill because I want to get better, I want to be happy. And when Evan Hansen starts to get noticeably better, he stops taking his meds, which gives me so much hope. You’ve given me so much hope that I won’t have to be dependent on doctors’ offices, on pharmacies, on acting on the will of a pill my whole life.
I hate to admit it, but I’ve come close to climbing Evan Hansen’s tree; I’ve approached the tree then walked away just to come right back to its base. But I don’t have to feel broken like that forever. One saying that never fails to ground me back into reality is “Suicide doesn’t end the pain, it just passes it on to someone else.” I can go through the ups and downs of my depression and OCD knowing that I’ve survived everything in my life thus far, and I have the tools to get through another day.
I left the theatre equipped with a blue Dear Evan Hansen jacket, to hold onto and breathe into when I’m too numb to leave my bed or too chaotic to do anything but cry; I added the Dear Evan Hansen mug to my collection, for when I need comforting tea at the end of one of my episodes; but, more importantly, I left with the understanding that “maybe there’s a reason [that] I’m going to be okay.”
So thank you to the writers who imagined a story then gave it life by composing gorgeous music at the same caliber of Next To Normal, shattering my soul into a million pieces on the floor of the standing room only section. Thank you for creating a character like Alana, who doesn’t really know the person who committed suicide but is still deeply affected, because I’ve been there. Thank you to Michael Park and Jennifer Laura Thompson, for hugging me voluntarily at the stage door when all I could manage to say was “Thank you [for performing].” Thank you to Ben Platt, who I met after his guest appearance in “Oh, Hello” and was so enthusiastic to be opening Dear Evan Hansen in the coming month. Thank you for getting it. Within the first few minutes of the show, I knew you understood.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.