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This article is part of our Summer 2021 Breaking Barriers. This installment focuses the arts and disability. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers

by Kyla Hewis

The Meeting House Church, Burlington ON

Growing up in an artistic household, I always had art supplies readily available. I was always encouraged to draw, paint, or color. In university, I have seen how much this has influenced my life, and how I can use art to deal with my anxiety. 

Over the years I have looked for different ways to distract myself when my anxiety flares up—like watching a movie, listening to music, reading a book—but these never keep me focused long enough. Yet, painting or simply coloring do keep me focused on one thing and distracted long enough to calm down. Art has also helped me express feelings when words couldn’t. 

Another art form that helps me is acting. The theatre community is open and accepting. I’ve learned how to open up and talk about my feelings before they become worse. Theatre gives people room to develop themselves and understand how they are feeling. Acting has also given me a way to escape the stress of everyday life. I step on stage and become someone else for a while, giving me a break from the anxiety I might be feeling that day. Plus, many modern playwrights are not afraid to explore issues such as anxiety or depression. Through these plays, I have been able to see a representation of myself, connect with characters, and understand their struggles. 

Playing characters has also helped me embrace parts of myself that I was hiding before. One particular character was Betty, an older woman and dog lover who had given up on the need to act as society deemed “normal.” She embraced her weird, kooky side. Through Betty, I saw that it was okay to be myself, and that others won’t necessarily judge me in the ways I might think. 

Studying theatre in a Christian context has shown me how theatre and my Christian faith are more closely linked than I realized. I’m learning to express my faith through theatre, appreciate the community’s respect for one another, and show kindness and support as we grow in our skills and our faith. Theatre has helped me explore ways to bring the biblical story to life, which I can apply to my faith journey. 

Art and theatre are helping me manage the anxieties of everyday life. 

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Thank you Kyla for your vulnerability in sharing this post. It also reminds me of how much I miss the theatre in these COVID times. I'm praying that it will come back soon, for both the actors and the audience's sake. 

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