What to do in case of breakdown

Showbiz stress can alter careers

Stress comes with the job description in the entertainment business. But what happens when someone burns out — or is about to? If a studio exec tosses a chair through a plate glass window, can they take two months off and pull their wits together?

“This industry is like a dysfunctional family,” says industry psychotherapist Rachel Ballon. “Today you are beloved and tomorrow you’re invisible.”

After learning she was too old and too highly paid to get another job, the vice president of a failed production company became seriously depressed. She went into therapy, called everyone she knew and took the only job offered to her — as a reader. Her income and status were significantly diminished, she says, but she got to keep her house.

Her advice: “Be nice to everyone on the way up because you’re going to need them on the way down.”

A TV writer got panic attacks when his mind went blank as his deadlines neared. He took up carpentry, designed cabinets, went to lumber yards and did manual labor, allowing his right brain to percolate undisturbed until something bright bubbled to the surface.

But not everyone recovers, Ballon says.

“I advise some clients who can’t handle the stress to consider leaving the business because they become chronically depressed or suicidal,” she explains.

One successful producer says the ruthlessness, duplicity and egomania of those he dealt with made him a rage-aholic and damaged his family life. He moved 3,000 miles away, bought a horse and happily never made another film.