What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger by Rainee Denham

Inside the Box | No Comments → | August 24, 2016

I stopped acting for decades to be a business woman. It was a decision I’ll never regret.  I obtained a confidence, an understanding of people and the world I could never have come by without that career change.  I handled enormous pressures.  I met people in high places.  I was challenged, won awards, and created bounty and prosperity from my own hands.  

But in 2014, I chose to give my energies back to acting.   Deep down, I knew I ran from the truth. The weight of my superwoman persona was crushing me.   

I had a lot to hide. I had a text-book troubled and turbulent childhood.  Abandonment by my father at 1 ½ , put into foster care at three.  And there, experienced all the abuses you hear about on made-for-TV-movies.  Physical. Verbal. Sexual. Until one day I finally took things into my own hands and, at 9 years old, escaped a frighteningly wicked home with my little sister. We showed up on my mother’s doorstep to ask, “Can we come home?” It worked.  So I learned early on that I had power.  

My modus operandi through life became “I don’t need anyone.  I feel no pain.  I am a warrior.”  But, people like me, who have a life of abuse, abandonment and neglect end up machining their emotions to survive.   I had my protective shield on, and if you tried to hurt me, a cobra uncoiled.  I could sting, attack, and pummel with huge rage.  And I’d win.  I had the ‘warrior’ on display on a grandiose level, and hurt and pain exploding below.

During week three of Black Box Academy training, my carefully constructed persona erupted.  In a nanosecond, the most intense series of images from my life flared in my eyes, and I could clearly see my partner.  See his pain.  See his hurt.  I felt compassion for him.   It was a connection that transcended me as an individual.

And I realized how selfish I was in my life with my feelings.  How I’d worn my pain as a shield to protect myself, and keep others away.  I was so blocked, so dreadfully blocked from my inner truth.  I wasn’t able to let anyone in.  Both in life, and onstage.

Acting now feels alive. I’m throwing a healthier me into imaginary circumstances.  I can handle a whole collection of honest feelings.  It’s a personal transcendence.  The impact of the work wasn’t pain.  It was freedom.

I’m now grateful to the universe that I’ve had a life of rich and dramatic events.  It shaped me.  Now I see that being a survivor doesn’t mean you deny the tough stuff; it means you accept the situation, embrace it, and learn.  

Strength lies in being vulnerable, not impenetrable.