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PARENTING FROM THE WINGS: Patti Murin and a Boost in a Battle

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My friend texted me the Instagram post as soon as she saw it. It was April 2018 and the post showed Broadway's Patti Murin looking confident and in command in a photo of her as Frozen's Anna. The accompanying post talked about missing a performance to deal with her anxiety.

"So last night I called out of the show because I had a massive anxiety attack in the afternoon," Murin wrote. "It had been building up for a while, and while the past month has been incredible, all of the ups and downs and stress and excitement really takes a toll on my mental health. I've learned that these situations aren't something to "deal with" or "push through." Anxiety and depression are real diseases that affect so many of us. It requires a lot of rest and self care to heal every time it becomes more than I can handle in my daily life."

So last night I called out of the show because I had a massive anxiety attack in the afternoon. It had been building up for a while, and while the past month has been incredible, all of the ups and downs and stress and excitement really takes a toll on my mental health. I've learned that these situations aren't something to "deal with" or "push through." Anxiety and depression are real diseases that affect so many of us. It requires a lot of rest and self care to heal every time it becomes more than I can handle in my daily life. While I hate missing the show for any reason at all, Disney has been nothing but supportive of me as I navigate my life and work, and I'm so grateful to them. Just remember that you're not alone, your feelings are real, and this is not your fault. Even Disney princesses are terrified sometimes.

A post shared by Pattimurin (@pattimurin) on Apr 18, 2018 at 7:32am PDT

She finished her post with this: "Just remember that you're not alone, your feelings are real, and this is not your fault. Even Disney princesses are terrified sometimes."

I still fight back tears when I read these last couple of sentences.

My friend who forwarded the post knew that my daughter with big Broadway dreams also battles anxiety that impacts her life to varying degrees. She knew she looks up to Broadway stars. She knew I would want to show her. And I did.

For Murin to put herself out there like that, to show theater kids, all kids, that she too struggles with something that might leave them feeling like less than their peers, it's impossible to measure the impact.

That she battles and can still do the job when she takes the stage? That she admitted to needing to take a break momentarily, but got back up to battle again and take the stage soon after? It means something. And even if it only means something to one child or a handful, it can change a life.

Just like theater can.

The stage is where my daughter's anxiety melts away. She handles every stress and unexpected issue-falling set pieces, slipping mic packs, castmates who forget their lines or props, a stage full of puddles when a theater roof leaks in a rainstorm. There is no doubt, no hesitation, no fear. On stage, she is in command. The more people watching, the bigger she gets. You can almost see her grow taller with every seat filled.

I will never understand this and never fail to be awed by it. I can't dance at a wedding without getting self-conscious. I can't stand up and speak in front of people-even people I know well-without my knees shaking and stumbling over my words. I can barely remember my name, never mind whatever I am supposed to say.

To see your child, who some days seems paralyzed by fear, get on stage and do anything, never mind do it reasonably well, can leave a parent speechless.

She doesn't do it alone. Her theater friends couldn't be more supportive and if a difficult moment strikes during rehearsals or before or after a show, they are there. Even in times when they are competing for a role, I have never seen a true friend she met through theater let her down. It is amazing what happens in those rehearsal studios and on that stage. They not only find a family; they can find a way to keep fighting.

When people ask why I drive all over for rehearsals, why I go not only to my daughter's shows but also to as many of her friends' performances as we can, this is why. Because, and feel free to roll your eyes here, the stage is where she is free of whatever is dragging her down and her friends are the ones who keep her going.

But she always knows the battle is there. The curtain closes and she is back in the fight. Some days are so good we let ourselves forget. Some days she is not so lucky.

And one day, a Broadway star went to Instagram to tell my daughter-and the many kids we know like her-that Princess Anna battles too. That it's OK. That achieving your dream is possible, but it won't make your struggles disappear. That with support and understanding and the willingness to be kind to and forgiving of yourself, anything is possible. I remind my daughter of the post whenever it's needed.

Thank you seems inadequate, but what else can you say? Thank you, Patti Murin.



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