Monday, 30 March 2015

Dancing, depression, and me.

This is one of the most difficult, most distressing, most desperately secret things I have dealt with over the last four years. It is almost impossible for me to put into words, and even more unimaginable that anyone would understand - however I do now feel that I need to put it into a format that my friends may be able to comprehend - to speak out and be bold, as I have done during the course of my recovery from a debilitating and destructive mental illness, and in doing so take this overshadowing fear of what was, and try to see what could be instead.

I was a dancer, at the start of my career. That's what I wanted to be, from watching Cats at ten years old, and for a long time it seemed like the only option available to me. I couldn't sing for toffee, and knew nothing at all about acting. But dancing was fun, and people told me I was good at it - Baby Perfectionist Me liked to be told she was good at things - and I could see myself going far with it.

I don't remember when it stopped being fun. Probably around the same time I started to forget how to be happy - impossible to pinpoint an exact moment. It was gradual, and dependent on circumstance. If I got everything right, AND was pointed out by the teacher as the end of the class, it was my true calling in life and the best thing in the world and I was almost happy. If I got everything right and did not get pointed out at the end, I'd panic. I hadn't worked hard enough, clearly I was secretly rubbish and people were just being polite. You can imagine how I felt on an off day, when I forgot moves, fell out of my turns and bumped into everyone around me.

Depression makes no exceptions. It's grasp reaches everything. To begin with - when you first realise there is a problem - it feels like there isn't a way out. There isn't a happy place, no respite from self-loathing, and there is nothing - nothing in the world - that will bring you joy. And if there is - well, then you don't deserve it.

I turned my joy into self-harm. It's still difficult for me to call it that - but that was what it was. I knew where to hurt myself most - in my dance lessons. I would consciously, deliberately, look in the mirror and loath. I would look at other people and say "if you were any good, you'd look like them." I would set myself impossible goals and constantly tell myself how awful I was, because I was utterly convinced that that was what I deserved.

When I left college, and had my first major meltdown, I stopped everything. I didn't go anywhere near a stage for about a year. Things crept back into place slowly - singing was always going to take a while - but I've been so incredibly lucky to have worked on some of the shows on my CV. I'm beginning to find my feet as an actress - which, in truth, is where my strength and longevity as an artists lies.

Dancing frightens me. I could give you a thousand excuses to not go to class, and it's really because I'm utterly terrified.  It frightens me because I know how wonderful I could feel while dancing, and it frightens me because I know how cruel I can be to myself. I cannot fully concentrate on the dance itself, when I'm in class now. I'm constantly monitoring my mental state. Altering cruel thoughts, becoming aware of when my old Am Dram teacher pops up to tell me how terrible I've become and how disappointed she is, and conjuring bouncers to forcibly remove her from the room. Years of developing a certain mental attitude when I walked into a dance class is going to take twice that time to undo. I'm determined, though to do it. I want my joy back. And I want it back unconditionally. I want to not be the best dancer in the world...and love it anyway.

I recently bought myself my first ever Month membership to Pineapple. I promised myself to only do classes I liked. I love theatre Jazz. I know the music, I can assume a character, it's fairly simple but full of life. I feel like I did - like I should. One day I will get that back with tap, jazz technique, ballet, all the things that used to bring me joy. I am confident that the love is still there - and when I uncover it, it will have been worth every agonizing, exhausting, courageous minute.

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Artist's Way Week Five check in

Another very long and very stressful week, but I managed to keep on top of my exercises this time! Hooray!

And my goodness, am I noticing some changes! I do still have my panics, but when I do, the recovery is quicker - I am becoming more assertive, more clear about what my boundaries are, I have a higher level of respect for myself and my wellbeing. Last week I really felt the morning pages were a bit of a chore and while that has happened a couple of times this week, on the whole I felt they were a productive outlet and helped me get my head together for the day ahead. I missed one day. I got in to my friend's house at 1am from Gainsborough and got up at 5.40 for work - the maximum lie in I could allow myself. I tried to do the pages at work but it's hard to free-think when you have a bulletin scheduled every 5 minutes.

I almost missed my artist's date. I need to protect this time more! I went to a restaurant and had wine and ice cream - I also took my artist on a bus ride on the top deck at the front. It was glorious. Massage is booked for next week.

I have been using my prayer and affirmations, when I remember, and I have to say they have had a profound effect on my general level of peacefulness. I do feel better about myself when I have done my affirmations, in particular, and if I'm feeling anxious at night  speaking my prayer aloud helps to dispel any worries or lurking panics that may stop me sleeping. I may make some post-it notes with a suggested morning/evening routine on them and stick them by my bed to help me remember that these things do actually help.

My creative ambitions are becoming clearer, more solidified. I am having more thoughts about my Fundraiser in particular, and beginning to wonder more about the Peter Pan adaptation. I need to start actioning these things - a project-in-action to do list, if you will - and just get the ball rolling with these!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Artist's Way Week Four Check in

Well! Two weeks later, I'm eventually at the end of week Four. I am gaining so much more clarity in terms of  what it is my life is made of - I'm slowly losing the sense that there is too much going on, that I can't achieve what I want - I can see more clearly where I want to be, where I WILL be in a few years time.

Once again I completed all my morning pages. At first I tend to think "Ugh this takes so long, they're not doing anything" and then I get past the superficial talk of how tired I am and the things I'm grumpy about, and get to some big realisations about how I really feel about things. It's such a relief to be able to write like that and not have anyone want to look at it or analyze it, or even to know I don't have to read it back myself.

I didn't do an artist's date, for I am a naughty human. I did try to give myself time to have some peace - quiet walks without music in (limiting music was part of my reading deprivation), keeping my train journeys for watching out of the window instead of working, and I have noticed a big shift in my attitude to the need for peaceful time in my day. It was a long and stressful week but I don't think I got as wound up as I would have normally done - I felt more aware of why I was feeling down or anxious and thus was able to address it straight away.

I'm going to start to eat better. That was my "thing that I haven't changed yet." It's a comfort thing, it's an insecurity thing, it's a fear-of-nothing-changing thing, but I am so fed up of never feeling completely physically well. I had a lot of "I can't do this any more" realisations this week, in particular with regard to carrying instruments/stands/costume around on public transport. I am very close do doing my back in and I really can't let myself do that any more. Once I'm able to drive it will be fine - until then I need to think more carefully about what I'm prepared to carry about.

Ah, but the reading deprivation was HARD! I caught myself out SO many times, especially with Facebook, of all the useless things. I do like to read the odd article when they come up. I think what I need to do is allow myself some internet time, 30mins each couple of days perhaps, or even less, simply scrolling and reading buzzfeed articles. If I know there's time set for it, I'll be less inclined to do it.

I cleared out my wardrobe, too, and threw away more than I ever have done before. I am really looking forward to swapping in my winter clothes for summer and buying a couple of new bits too. I just need to throw the bin bag away and I'll be done!