Last night I took a leap of faith and attended 1 of 6 beginner modern contemporary classes at Visceral Dance Company in Logan Square (my neighborhood here in Chicago). I wish I could sit here and write to you saying what an amazing experience it was for me but then I would be lying. Now, I would like to point out, this has nothing to do with the dance company itself. The company is wonderful, and the staff is fantastic, made me feel very welcome and at ease in my surroundings. I was the culprit to my overall demise of the situation last night and can only blame myself for the hysterical crying fit I had once I made it home.
I am sure you are asking what the hell possessed me to just “go for it” and sign up for a dance class. It doesn’t seem like something I would personally do considering what I actually spend my time doing (examples – reading books about the history of the US highway system, singing elaborate songs to my dog Digit, riding my bike and tickling the HMBB until he cries). I am a pretty elusive creative which is not that big of a surprise to the closer humans in my life. So, when I announced I was going to take dance classes again I was met with a few pondering facial expressions. Yes, I wanted to take classes AGAIN. What do you mean AGAIN? How could I possibly have failed so bad last night if I am a veteran at dancing? Let me explain. When I was in middle school and high school I did take dance classes. I had watched my little cousins for years be a part of recitals, solo performances etc. I was interested in finding an outlet for the emotions I kept inside so much. I knew dance was a powerful tool with releasing emotions and stress. After my grandmother passed away so suddenly and I was thrown into being around my mother and brother all the time, I knew I needed some kind of outlet. At first being a part of a dance community was really exciting. I was able to meet new people and maybe make some new friends. I am most definitely an introvert with several extroverted personality traits so deciding to do something like that was a big move for me especially in my tween and teen years. I wish I could say things went smoothly for me in my formative dance years and last night was just a fluke chalked up to finding out an ex boyfriend getting better job opportunity because I helped him get sober (while I am still working for pennies for someone who doesn’t care waiting for my “opportunity”) or the sheer stress of spending my only vacation in months with my mother but I unfortunately can’t.
I was actually met with some resistance when I did take dance and it wasn’t me or even my very non active parents, it was the students and the teacher surprisingly. After a while I realized I was the target of most of their under the breath and inside jokes, the teacher even getting in on some of them. Now, not all of my teachers were like this, but this particular one, yes you – you know exactly who you are – was a fucking cunt. Take note, I do not say that word lightly, so please know me typing out that very vulgar word and directing it towards another woman means she did some pretty heinous things to be called it in the first place. I am a very sensitive person, to the point where I cry during certain commercials these days (Ask the HMBB, he can confirm), so you can imagine how I felt when I realized their jokes were directed at me. Every week I would go into the studio with my head held high ready to take on a new dancing task along side with the torment these pathetic girls would dish out to me. I left every class with my head hanging low, defeated and waited until I was in my room alone to let out my frustration. I know now as an adult to ignore these childish and vicious attacks towards me but as a young teenager just trying to survive, it was brutal. I wish I could say I continued to fight the good fight and eventually overcame those bullies and danced in my sequin and feather costumes until my heart’s content but again, I wouldn’t be telling the truth.
Deciding to quit dance even though I loved it wasn’t the last time I let others get the best of me. There were countless other times I was the subject of cruel jokes and plots of sabotage (high school Drum Major, college classmates and coworkers – all to be explored in other rants at some point I promise). I am well aware if you really want something you cannot give up no matter how tough it might get. I really do understand that statement all too well. I have crawled through those words and risen up through the mud to be where I am today because I didn’t let giving up get in my way. So why now, why do I feel the need to quit this new endeavor now? I am no stranger to failure or success so this should be something I just brush off my shoulder right? You would think, but you forgot to add one tiny MASSIVE thing to the equation; my anxiety and paranoia. I have suffered from both most of my life but didn’t really understand their meanings and effects on my life until a few years ago. I quite literally lost my mind in 2011 and rode my bike into oncoming traffic. I was fortunate, whether it was an angel looking out for me or in my catatonic state I somehow knew to swerve my bike at the last possible moment to avoid death. I let my anxiety and fear overtake every inch of my body that I completely lost control and had a breakdown. In retrospect of the entire situation, I am honestly surprised it did not happen sooner in my life. The sheer fact it happened in the middle of my 20s lets me know I am a lot stronger than I actually thought I was. I am not going to lie to you; it was a long hard road to feel normal again. No one is ever truly cured from a mental illness; they just recover and work for normalcy every day. Some days are harder than others, fuck, some YEARS are harder than others, but I am old enough to know now fighting for normalcy is better than not breathing. I am pretty proud to say I handle normalcy without any medication and substitute taking prescription drugs with other means of release like biking, writing, exercise, yoga and I was hoping to add dance to the list.
Yes, I will admit part of the reason why I wanted to try modern contemporary was because of Dancing with the Stars. DO NOT JUDGE ME. I CANNOT HELP MYSELF. I make Kristen watch it with me every week when there is a season on. I love everything about it, so get over it. Yes, I am also willing to admit because I know Kristen is reading this right now yelling ‘BULLSHIT E YOU BEST TELL THE TRUTH” that I also wanted to get back into dance again because of Riker Lynch of R5. ONCE AGAIN DO NOT JUDGE ME. He was my favourite on the last season of DWTS and should have won. I also have claimed he is my future husband and we will dance beautifully at our wedding. HMBB is okay with this, we have discussed it and he approves (he only approves because he thinks I am kidding about all of this. Really, I am not. Riker *wink wink* I will rock your world). So, adding my love for DWTS, Riker Lynch and a Groupon, I found myself wanting to try this again. Modern contemporary is a very physical yet emotional type of dance. I wear my heart and emotions completely on my sleeve and thought giving it a try could be a really great stress reliever and maybe just maybe help with my anxiety.
I guess I wasn’t using my brain completely when I made this decision. I didn’t realize that I would have to fight through my anxiety first before dance would help ease it. Last night, I felt the exact emotions I felt years ago when those evil little girls bullied me. No one actually bullied me last night, to be clear. This was all in my head. I let myself get in my own head and that’s when I lost all control of reason and started to unknowingly give up. I don’t know if anyone reading knows what it’s like to let anxiety and paranoia take over. It is a crippling thing to watch from an outsider’s perspective let alone your own. You get to the point where nothing you do for yourself will change the course of an attack. I could not keep up with what the instructor was doing because I could not concentrate any further. I kept focusing on what I had done wrong 10 minutes prior instead of what was right in front of me. It’s quite literally a snow ball effect. If I wasn’t so embarrassed by the thought of it, I would have grabbed my bag and ran out of the room at the first given opportunity but since I have more respect for my instructor than that, I stayed.
I choked back tears the entire bike ride home. I burst in my front door with imaginary flames shooting out of my nostrils and proceeded to lay it on Kristen and the HMBB sitting on the couch. They are far too familiar with my explosive panic attacks and are honestly the only two who can bring reason back into my brain when I have completely lost control. Once I was done yelling to yell, they regrouped their approach and comforted me the best way they could. Still, after all that, I was convinced I was never going back. I was convinced it was a bad idea in the first place. I was physically ill all night last night over the thought of having to go through 5 more weeks of not being able to keep up with everyone else in class. This was supposed to be fun, no stress and a learning experience. My anxiety has turned it into a fucking nightmare from hell. I was so sick this morning I couldn’t go to work. I had to take a sick day because I let my anxiety get the best of me. I have been keeled over in pain most of the day, sick to my stomach, dizzy and disoriented any time I think of trying to remember the steps from last night’s class. I am supposed to remember for next week so we can build on them. Yeah, that’s not fucking happening. I have a pretty good photographic memory and I cannot remember a damn thing, that’s how bad my anxiety can get. I am practically a 29 year old with Dementia. I am a sad almost 30 year old person sometimes I swear.
I was brave enough to vaguely share my experience last night on the FB. Now, I really do not like sharing too much on that garbage of a website but I know I am living in a social media world and I want to write for television so I need to learn to suck it up. Yeah, I get it. What I was most surprised about was waking up this morning to a long string of comments from friends sending their support and other personal stories of feeling defeated. I cannot express enough how amazing those comments were. Although I have been in a constant state of panic, depression and physical pain today due to my anxiety, rereading those comments over and over again have given me strength. My college friend Jane said I was brave for trying it at all. She is right; I was brave for taking that leap into the unknown without a friend and staring my separation anxiety and other flaws straight in the eye. What I think is even braver is deciding to keep going even though I am not even remotely sure of the outcome. Yes, I could fail miserably again but at least I wouldn’t be letting my demons get the best of me like I did in my past. If I stick this out, and see it through despite my fears, doubts and sometimes crippling mental dysfunctions I will in turn be making myself a little closer to normalcy. I want to be good at this; I want it to be a great emotional and physical outlet of my stress and frustrations. Am I going to the studio early next week to have time alone to work out my moves in front of the mirror? YOU BET I AM. Am I going to leave my annoying fears at the door when I walk in and pick them back up when I leave? I AM SURE GOING TO TRY. Am I going to embrace this new experience without any fear? ONCE AGAIN, I AM SURE GOING TO TRY.
I noted on the FB I might expand on this topic in my blog, so here it is. Here is my long winded response in all its glory. I will continue to keep a log of this dancing experience and see how my emotions progress in the coming weeks. I am pretty embarrassed I just shared all of this nonsense with the world but I guess there’s no going back now. YOLO.
*To the people who did comment on my post last night and today – THANK YOU. Sometimes a third party perspective and honest emotions help me pull myself out of the gutter and back to the confidence I know I have deep down inside of me. YOU ROCK.