Hi, my name is Jamie, and I have something to confess. I’m addicted to something I NEVER thought I would ever be. In fact, my friends and family that have known me well would even say that they can’t believe that I am now committing this act on a daily basis. I. Am. Addicted…to asking for help.
Ok, ok. Maybe to some of you this doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, for those of you out there that are like me, you will get it. I have always been the type of person who thought I had to do it all by myself. All the time. I thought that asking for help would show weakness, or that I wasn’t good enough, or that I was not “perfect”. I can’t really say that there was anything or anyone that taught me to think like this. I truly believe it was a personality flaw that I came into this world with. Maybe something Karmically I had to work through in this lifetime. Well, for whatever reason, this is the way I operated. For many years, I thought it was working to my advantage. I was super successful at a young age, constantly fooling people into believing I knew what the hell I was doing. Secretly, I really had no idea. I was a “fake it till ya make it” kind of gal. If an audition called for pointe shoes, I would go out and buy them (having NEVER TAKEN pointe class). Then, I would literally grimace my way through pretending I had all the experience in the world. It was kind of fun to be honest- to constantly challenge myself. I don’t necessarily think it was a bad thing for a while. But then, life has a funny way of throwing you curve balls that can force you into serious behavioral changes.
At the age of 20, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A really scary diagnosis to get at such a young age. I was about to be married. I was on a hit show (The Sopranos). Also, I was finally making my Broadway debut as Belle in Beauty in the Beast. NO Freaking way was I going to accept this reality when all my hard work was paying off. So, I did what I did best..I ignored it. I pretended everything was fine. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t tell anyone that I was secretly suffering…until I couldn’t hide it anymore.
When I was 24, I went through a pretty bad divorce. I hid that too for awhile. My MS, tricky little thing, also decided it was time to rear its ugly head and start giving me pain and discomfort. It started to decide when I could run or wear high heels, when I could hold my bladder or not (so terrible and embarrassing and frightening ), and it started to effect my work. I think because of all these secrets I was keeping and all the pain I was hiding, people took notice. They called me after work one day to say that they felt I needed some acting coaching because I wasn’t really focusing at work. I was DEVASTATED. I felt like I had finally been found out or something. That all those years of fooling everyone had come to a head and my entire life, every area, was now falling apart.
I remember I went to set the next day. The late and GREAT James Gandolfini told me he heard what happened and he wanted me to know that it was OK! He said that every amazing actor he knew had a coach. Its not about talent, its about someone helping you reach your potential. He graciously shared his personal acting coach with me. Susan Aston. What a gift she was. She would come to my apartment and work through scenes with me. I remember showing up to work after that feeling SO much better, SO prepared, and much more confident (despite all the physical stuff I was dealing with). She was an angel. I still use much of what she taught me today. That was my first baby step towards being open to help.
Once Sopranos ended, I moved to LA. It was exciting and fun, but also scary. I was away from my family, and my disease was starting to really effect me physically. For 5 years, I basically fought to hide it every single day on my own. On rare occasions, I would let my few closest friends attend an infusion session with me, or drive me to San Diego or somewhere where I was going to try some weird experimental treatment. I really didn’t know how to fight it with anyone else. It felt like it was a punishment for something…that I had to suffer for what I had done. I was so sad and no one knew. It was the most isolating and lonely time of my entire life. Even with the boyfriends I had, while wonderful and supportive, I just couldn’t let them in. I had to just do it on my own.
Then it all came to a head when I was about 30. I had injured my back badly. Between that, the MS, being single for quite some time, treatments not working, and dealing with depression, I knew I needed help. I just didn’t know how to ask for it. SO the universe delivered me someone. Ryan. I kept running into this sweet guy named Ryan Weiss (who used to be my agents assistant) at totally random places- Earth Bar, the gas station, restaurants. We finally said one day, lets have lunch, because this is not a coincidence! Well, we did. During that lunch, Ryan told me how he had left the business to become a life coach. I said, ” Let me be your first client.” I couldn’t even believe the words coming out of my mouth. But everything felt so dark for me at that time. I had to.
SO we began. Having Ryan be there to listen to me, work with me, encourage me, support me was everything. He taught me how to let people in. He taught me how to allow my friends, who were trying so badly to be there for me, finally do so. During this time, I also met my husband and booked a fun new tv show. So go figure. Maybe this help thing was working. I still had pitfalls. Like during the tv show, I was still hiding my MS. While I could blame my burning leg on my back issue, I knew that wasn’t the whole case. Instead of asking for help, I just hid it. I literally grinned and bared it. Then I would come home hysterical crying every night to my (then) finance about how I didn’t know how much longer I could do this. I wasn’t seeing Ryan as much because I thought the help was supposed to be a quick fix. But these are the trials in the journey.
I soon got pregnant after that (surprise!!), and I fully immersed myself in motherhood. I felt like I had a purpose and something to finally focus on that wasn’t myself or my disease. I could ignore my pain, and ignore my career and just be a mom. But, at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough. I knew I needed more. So in 2016, I faced my biggest fear, and with the HELP and advice of Ryan and many others, I decided to be public about my battle with MS. It was terrifying and amazing and is still something I am coming to terms with. But, what I have learned since being open about it is that people WANT to help. It actually makes people feel good to help you AND you get to take a little load off of yourself. I’m still getting hired; and when I am, I have learned that when I ask for help, it eliminates all fear, all uncertainty. Then, everyone can get the best from me, including myself.
Sure, I wish I could do all the things I used to be able to do. I wish I could be that fearless girl who could throw on point shoes or run a race she never trained for. I am fighting every day to be able to do that again. But, looking back, that girl was so alone. She wasn’t sharing her experiences with anyone. She was lonely. And I never want to be back there.
So , yes, now I ask for help ALL the time. I’ve hired full time help with my son, I enlist friends and family when I need them. I even got proactive during my current pregnancy to get help with some emotional and mental struggles I’ve been facing. I could have had every excuse to not do that, like hormones. But, I decided help was a way better route. And it was. So, for any of you out there that were or are like the old Jamie, who thought she had to do it all and handle it all on her own…you don’t. Asking for help is one of the most noble things you can do. Being vulnerable and honest is a new feeling that I love. Everyone knows where I stand. As a result, I receive the most honest and loving responses from the world.
Thank you so much to my gorgeous friend Nikki, for giving me this space to share my honesty and heart.
With all my love,