Mental Health Awareness Week – The Girls – More than just a musical

Currently running at The Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End is the fantastic new musical, The Girls. Lauren and I, being insanely big fans of the show, spent the earlier part of our week trying to conjure up genius ways to encourage more people to go and see what we consider to be a truly important and life-changing piece of theatre. It was then that we realised it was Mental Health Awareness Week. Knowing that the musical had a profound effect on us and our mental wellbeing, we decided to open up the discussion to other people and below are a collection of stories from other people who’ve also been inspired by The Girls.

Charlotte (@LBcharlotte)

For quite a while I’ve suffered many different types of mental health problems and personal issues. Sometimes it hits me hard and sometimes I can be okay. Since coming to watch The Girls I’ve been able to relax a lot more and get involved with the show, both watching in the audience and volunteering with Bloodwise. Having a laugh, meeting new people and interacting with the cast always makes me feel like I don’t have to be this person with all these insecurities and I can be myself. It helps me to forget all of my worries if only for a few hours. I’ve been lucky to have someone linked to The Girls who has helped me through all of my troubles and who I know I can go to at the drop of a hat with anything. The Girls has now become my go to when times are hard or I’m having troubles dealing with my mental health. I have so much to thank them for.

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Isabella (@IsabellaPitman)

Back at Christmas my granddad was diagnosed with cancer for the 3rd time. We have since been told that there is nothing the doctors can do and he has been given a year to live. I first saw The Girls in April and for the first time since his diagnosis, I cried throughout most of the show. I tend to bottle everything up in fear of making other people upset. I have now seen The Girls once every week since then and it’s helped me to know it is okay to be upset and that things will be tough, but I will come out of it and I will be happy again. Last week I saw it with my mum and I finally felt comfortable to explain to her why I keep going back. The show is truly helping me get through and cope with one of the toughest times I’ve gone through.

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Anonymous

For a while now, I have suffered from a depression and anxiety. I however cannot express how much The Girls has helped me! I have never smiled as much as I do during the show. Some might say it’s because of the laughter and happiness they intend to make you feel during the performance, however I leave the theatre and feel the same 3-7 days later. It turns fake smiles into real smiles, and that’s something I never saw at the end of the tunnel. It makes me believe in myself. It makes me shine with confidence. I could not thank the cast and producers enough as they have managed to help me escape out of this bubble I felt trapped in.
Not too long ago I lost my hero and favourite person; my granddad. Although he did not die of this silent disease cancer, I feel such a connection with the show as I am still grieving the loss of a loved one. The show is heartwarming and sentimental to me, because not only am I still grieving, but my granddad also has a plaque on a sofa. The show itself just brings everything home again, and let’s me be a free “sunflower, following the sun.” It’s that ray of sunshine I need to rise. So, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU to The Girls.
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Sharon (@slhattersley)

I fell in love with The Girls the first time I saw it when it opened in Leeds 2015. I struggle with anxiety and the songs from The Girls are now my go to music when I need to calm down or cheer up. Dare is a really important song for me as the words frequently remind me to “feel the fear” but do that thing I’m scared of anyway.

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Lauren (@LaaaurenMay)

If someone would have told me eight weeks ago that a spontaneous trip to see a show in London would end up with my life changing in so many positive ways I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m not skeptical about how inspiring and influential theatre can be to someone; I’ve always been a theatre lover and lots of shows in the past have meant something special to me, but this show has truly helped me a lot.

Almost eight weeks ago I decided to see The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre in London. It was a quick decision and I booked the night before after hearing great things about the show in a bid to get myself out of the house. If I rewind back eight weeks ago I was in a bit of a different place in my life. I didn’t like going anywhere on my own, I was quite down, very anxious and didn’t like five minutes of my own company. Even the thought of driving myself to the station and getting the tube was overwhelming. I felt uninspired and quite alone. I forced myself out of the house that day and I’m so glad I did.

I don’t normally speak up about my mental health because I fear being judged by people who might not understand, but as it is Mental Health Awareness Week I feel it is important to be more open. I’ve suffered with depression for many years, but I would say I am in quite a good place right now. The Girls has been a big reason for this. Having seen the show 19 times (and counting!) it would be an understatement to say that I love it. Not only has it lifted my spirits when I’ve had tough days, it has helped me meet so many new people, something I was way too anxious to do before. It has also helped me learn to enjoy going to the theatre on my own sometimes, which is something I didn’t feel I could do before. I also wrote my first ever theatre review of The Girls which I published online. I have always wanted to write reviews but used to doubt myself too much, but I remember leaving the theatre after seeing the show for the second time and feeling like I could achieve anything if I put my mind to it.

I have seen and experienced how The Girls has brought people together, whether it’s through social media or meeting at the theatre, and it is so uplifting and refreshing to meet new friends who also appreciate this amazing show. I have noticed a change in my confidence too, and I have started painting again after years of being unsure and doubting myself. I definitely have the wonderful cast to thank for this, as they have been a massive support and have given me heaps of inspiration and confidence to carry on painting. I certainly wouldn’t have opened an Etsy Shop if not for Debbie Chazen’s encouraging words, and I am loving painting commissions for people which I would never have had the confidence to do before. While I’m talking about the cast of The Girls I need to say how kind-hearted and lovely they all are. I have never met such a supportive and genuine bunch of people.

The Girls has truly given me so many genuinely real smiles which is a nice change to hiding behind a fake smile. The Girls always leaves me feeling inspired and there is a sense of community and friendship between everyone involved, which has helped me not feel so alone.

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Emily (@emkirsten)

I’ve struggled with my mental health for several years now. Just leaving the house can leave me feeling extremely distressed, so sometimes by the time I reach the theatre I’ve worked myself into a panic attacked frenzy. Then the music starts and I’m immediately transported to a place where I don’t have a reason to feel worried or scared. That’s why I often struggle to make it through the opening number without a few rogue tears streaming down my face.

I’ve always been a bit rubbish when it comes to making friends because I get so anxious in social situations and that’s why I’m so thankful to The Girls for introducing me to a whole range of amazing people who I’m lucky to call friends. Having people around who share my interests and passions, and I feel comfortable talking to about what’s going on in my life is a refreshing change. I’m so much happier in myself because I no longer ever have to feel like I’m completely alone.

Equally I’ve learned to be more content with my own company. Considering I once struggled to walk out of my door and go to the local shop on my own, the fact that I can now go to the theatre on my own for a few hours a week feels pretty miraculous. It’s because throughout the show there are constant reminders that change is possible no matter how unlikely it may seem and anything is possible if you just dare to push yourself. I’ve seen around 30 musicals and although I’ve loved many of them for varying reasons, it is this one that I truly believe to be the most important and inspiring because of the world of possibilities that it has opened my eyes to.

When I first saw The Girls at the beginning of February I was miserable in what I was doing at university and I’d really lost any sense of direction in terms of what I wanted to achieve out of life. I’ve always loved acting and writing, but because of bullying I’d experienced when I was younger I’d lost any of the confidence that I needed to pursue it. It was seeing this show and realising the profound effect that it was having on me that brought me to the solid conclusion that I didn’t want to spend one more day of my life trying to ignore the fact that I wanted more than anything to work in theatre. With support and advice from the fantastic cast, I auditioned for drama schools and much to my surprise, secured a place at my dream school. I can honestly say hand on heart that I never would have had the courage to go through with those auditions if it hadn’t have been for The Girls and it’s given me a level of self belief that I haven’t felt for years.

My final thank you goes as always to the cast who are literal superwomen. It doesn’t get acknowledged enough how brave they are to get their clothes off in front of a theatre full of people every night, so from all of the women like me who’ve been led through life to believe that their body isn’t perfect just the way it is, thank you for proving that all women are beautiful. Thank you for supporting and sharing my blog, and giving me the motivation to write more often; something that I’ve really come to enjoy doing over these past few months. And lastly, thank you for making me feel classy in a weak moment by giving me milk in a champagne glass (you know who you are).

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Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with us. It’s not too late to get involved, so if The Girls has inspired you, email your story to girlsmusicalfans@gmail.com to have your story added!

You can book to see The Girls on their official website- https://www.thegirlsmusical.com/

Tickets are also available from the TodayTix theatre app. If you’re a first time customer use the code LGTXI at checkout to get a ticket from as little as £12.50. We guarantee it will be the best £12.50 you ever spend!

Make sure you’re following @thegirlsmusical and @thegirlsfans on Twitter!

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