Behind the Scenes, the Psychotherapy

Writer: Shahi Ezzeldin

Editor: Khaled Mohamed

Therapist: Happy or sad?

Him: Neither.

Therapist: Frustrated or at peace?

Him: In-between.

Therapist: With or against?

Him: Neutral.

Therapist: Sigh. This isn’t getting us anywhere. Let me ask you some other way: What are you feeling most of the time?

Him: Nothing, I feel numb. It’s like my facial reactions are a polar opposite of the emotions I actually want to convey. I’m not good at talking; I keep bottling it up and it feels like a volcano inside, like I’m on the edge of exploding into tears and rocking on the floor. But somehow, I manage to hold myself together every time. So after years of repeating this cycle of suppression, I have lost my senses.

I keep reminding myself, ‘’What would they say if I showed them who I really am? How will they judge me? Would they love me less? Reject me? Exclude me? Most importantly, will I bear the thought of being looked at differently?”. They only like the ‘me’ that I show them; the fake façade that never wears off, the joyful vibes I spread, unconditionally. 

They like the actor who’s on the stage, the one that melts their hearts with his handsome smirk and flirtatious wink. The hero of the movie, who always manages to save the day at the last minute. But who saves me? Who witnesses the sleepless nights and mental breakdowns? Who is there for me behind the scenes or backstage, except those who want an autograph? Who asks me if I am well, after that scene where I cry my heart out, the one they believe is just an act, when it was obviously too real? No one. I’m a nobody off-screen. After all, I’m an actor, that’s all they want to know, but the human in me, the fragile, vulnerable man I am, never sees the spotlight. 

So I continue acting, I continue swapping characters and losing myself in the career I love, forgetting who I am on stage. But everything has a price, and I lost my soul in the reimbursement.

What I feel most of the time is unknown, even to me. Am I happy? My last theatre performance ended in a happily-ever-after, so I guess I should be. Am I sad? I just finished shooting a tragic episode of the soap opera I’m starring in, so maybe I should feel somber.

Am I frustrated? No one understands me, they all see me but never see through me, no one’s there for me and I’ve been let down numerous times. Should I be? Am I at peace? I go to yoga sessions like all celebrities do, but honestly, my mind is always heavy, so the meditation probably isn’t working.

‘’With or against?’’ Do I even have a choice? Like I said, I’m a nobody. I don’t have the power to pick a side, aside from the one I’ve been chosen to represent. I am molded into a specific sculpture from which I cannot move. Sometimes, I feel so powerless that I can’t breathe. So, in conclusion, I feel them all, and yet I feel none.

Hollow, shallow, and non-existent as I am. I want to express what’s inside, but I’m afraid it will cost me more than what I can afford. 

Therapist: You can express what you feel to me, don’t be scared. 

Him: Oh really? Well, it feels like……

Therapist: I’m sorry, but our session for today is over. Don’t forget to wear your smiley mask! It’s on the coffee table. Oh, and would you mind if we took a photo while you were wearing it?

Him: Sure doc, ‘’cheese’’.