Nikki Lynette is a renaissance woman. Her artistry knows no boundaries. She’s a musician, a visual artist, an activist and as of late a playwright. Lynette’s life has been tumultuous over the past few years. Relationship issues and the loss of her mother prompted a struggle with mental health. She attempted suicide. Nikki was diagnosed with PTSD. That experience and a promise she made to help others with mental illness inspired her to write the play Get Out Alive. The play is currently on a five-show run at Steppenwolf in Chicago.
Rolling out spoke to Lynette about her mental health journey, her play and why it is important for her to share her journey.
Talk about the moment that inspired you to write Get Out Alive.
I wrote Get Out Alive right at the end of my suicide recovery. I started to accept that I have a mental illness and was ready to rebuild my life. Music composer and producer Ira Antelis told me to write a play about my experience. He didn’t want me to regress into depression.
I’ve never written a play before. I workshopped my idea for the play on stage while opening for the punk rock group Pussy Riot on the first three dates of their tour. Ira loved it. He told me I should finish writing it.
What is it about sharing the mental health journey that is important to you?
Conversations around mental health help to normalize the subject. I want to make it so nobody endures the things I went through before and after I came out about my mental illness.
The theatre can take a toll on the mind, body and soul. Talk about some of the ways you have been able to function at a high level while perfecting this piece.
I have been preparing my body for this since October. I lost 10 pounds and started doing yoga so I could take pressure off my joints. I eat a vegan anti-inflammatory gluten-free diet. I inhale steam when I wake up and before bed and drink ginger tea and carbo-load the night before shows. I do not play about taking care of my body when I am performing a lot.
What is the message you want to convey?
That it’s ok not to be ok. In those moments when you aren’t ok, you are not alone. It’s important to understand that you can get out of it alive.
What resources can you share with those who are having mental health challenges?
I recommend if anyone is having issues coping, reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I called NAMI when I was at my lowest. Now I am an ambassador for them. It is very important to get help as soon as you get that moment when you realize you need it. Don’t wait. NAMI really can help. They helped me.
Get Out Alive runs from Jan. 30 through Feb. 2, 2020 at The Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.