Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Personal Story: A Dancer's World

I've been a little depressing with the last two posts, haven't I? Well, let's take a break from that!

As many of you know, I am a dancer. I have been dancing for as long as I can remember. Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip-hop, Contemporary, Lyrical, Hawaiian, Pointe (still learning!), and Ballroom. I taught the first four styles listed for about five years. One of the perks of being a faculty member at the studio was getting to choreograph a solo for myself and performing it in the annual recital. Solos were never my thing. Why on Earth would I draw attention to myself like that? I'm not even that great of a dancer.

 Hold that thought!

I'm not being hard on myself when I say "I'm not even that great of a dancer." I'm not bad, but I'm actually pretty average. My hips are too narrow for me to have a proper turnout, my arches can't make up their mind of whether or not they want to be lifted each day, I am by no means flexible enough to do half the stuff I should be able to at my age with my years of experience, and I am simply not that strong. But that didn't change my passion for dance. Not one bit! In light of that, I had come up with a quote that I have kept with me and have shared with others. I think it's something everyone can apply, not just dancers:

"Never let your performance 
define your passion."

Dance is more than being able to make it all look effortless and pretty. While that's the basis of it, it's not all of it. Dance is more than just what you see with Misty Copeland, Angela Carter, or Robert & Allison from So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). The public sees the dancers who are able to work harder to overcome those obstacles or have been dancing since they came out of the womb. Those are the dancers who are able to share with the world what the rest of us dancers aren't able to.

Dance is expressing any emotion through movement. It's learning to work with the rest of the group to tell a story. It's working hard to get as close as possible to what your teacher/choreographer is picturing in his/her head. Dance is choreographing. Creating a visual story set to music. Dance is finding yourself somewhere between the 8am barre and the 10 pm cool-down-laugh-session with your fellow dancers. Dance is what taught me that I could accomplish anything I wanted.

Resume thought!

So, I choreographed my first solo when I was a...junior? senior? in high school. I choreographed it to a song that my Momma always loved for me to hear on our car rides together. Now that I think about it, I think it was my junior year because I had been told that she wasn't supposed to live to see me graduate high school. I wanted to do something special, so I decided to choreograph a dance for her.

The fact that I was preparing to perform alone on the big stage freaked me out! I had never been on that stage alone. I was always with at least one other person. It was a comfort thing. As long as there was someone else on stage with me, I could do okay. So, I worked on my solo during any break times in my dance day, during lunch and advisory (equivalent to some people's homeroom, I guess?) during school, and at night when I was alone in my room. The song was on replay in my head, the choreography was playing over and over but constantly changing slightly. It had to be perfect. This was my first ever solo and it was a dedication to my mom!

Well, May finally came around and my solo was finished. It was time to perform. I was so nervous about it that I even forgot the spandex shorts to go under my dress but over my tights!! Talk about embarrassing. Luckily, I only had one slip up where it was noticeable. I can laugh about it now, so that's good! I was nearing the end of the dance and I was completely lost in the movements. I had no idea how well I was doing and I could barely remember how I had even gotten through to that point.

Me and "Hagrid"
As I exited the stage, I felt it all hit me at once. The adrenaline. The exhaustion, 'cause why would anyone choreograph a simple solo for themselves? The joy. The passion. The nerves. The fact that I just danced by myself in front of a ton of people. It all hit me, but I had to keep that smile on until I got out into the hall of course! The second I was out in the hall, I burst into tears. I had to run to the dressing room to get changed for whatever was next. I was running and crying and wiping my makeup. Great, now I gotta fix my makeup! As I was running, I saw my dance best friend--let's call her Hagrid (inside joke behind it, hehe)--coming towards me. She saw I was crying and she gave me the biggest hug. She told me how well I did, how proud she was. She told me it was okay to be crying, as long as they were good tears of course. I couldn't be more grateful for her being there for me during that huge rush of emotions.

I was happy that was the solo Momma saw. It was far from perfect, but it was 100% me. It was a song I connected with, I choreographed it, I chose the costume. It was me. And that's what started it. The next two years I choreographed a solo for myself. The last one, I ended up not performing because I had too much else to do for the recital in terms of teaching and my own classes.

So, there's another little snip-it about me and who I am. I find great joy in dancing, and I haven't been able to dance since being in college the last two, almost three, years. Maybe someday I can find a way to afford to go back to classes, but for now I will simply reminisce.

Until next time,

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Personal Story: Dealing with Undiagnosed Depression

In my last post, "Personal Story: Revealing My Old Self," I wrote about my struggle with anorexia throughout high school. This post was the first in a little series I want to create for you. My "Personal Story" series will contain stories about me that you may or may not have known already. This is going to be a little outlet for myself that has been needed for some time.

Next in the series: a few ways I dealt with my depression without too many people knowing.

My childhood was not much of a childhood. I had to grow up a lot faster than most kids did. I was the "good kid" because I had to be. I saw no point in adding to whatever my parents were already dealing with. I stayed quiet and kept my issues and desires to myself unless they seriously needed to be addressed. While I have some fantastic memories as a child and teen, there are more painful memories that stand out.

I had to go through a lot. I have seen both of my parents in hospital beds for reasons no child should ever have to. Luckily, my dad survived and has a large family to show for it. However, I watched my mom slowly deteriorate along with her life over the course of almost ten years due to cancer. I watched my oldest brother go off to the Army, unsure of when he'd be coming home again. I watched my older brother make mistake after mistake, not knowing how to help him or if he would ever quite figure it out. I watched myself grow further and further from the only sister (well...step-sister) I have, unable to fix whatever made us strangers. I learned of death and loss at too young of an age. I won't go into detail about all the rest of the events that affected me over the years; we'll save that for another time.

Right now, I want to talk to you about the fact that I know I was depressed. I don't need a doctor to tell me that. I didn't exactly know it back then. I thought I was, but I wasn't 100% sure. But I managed just fine. I just thought it was how things were going to be for me; I didn't know any different. It was around my senior year that I started to become happy again. Looking back at it now, I dealt with my depression a few different way, good and bad.

Good Ways I Dealt:

1. God
I was the good little Christian girl throughout high school. I went to church every Sunday. I didn't get into trouble. I prayed and read my bible on a regular basis. I struggled with putting everything into His hands; I gave Him as much as I thought I could. They always say, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle," and I kept that with me through it all. When I would start to be overwhelmed or when I broke down, I reminded myself that God didn't have me go through this for nothing. He's preparing me for something, and I have to fight through this to find out what. 

2. Confided in others
The times that putting my faith in God failed me, I confided in others. I had plenty of people who would listen to me: my cousin, boyfriend(s), youth leaders, a select few friends, and even a stranger every now and then. Having someone there to talk to, whether they know you or not, is a wonderful thing. Being able to get it all off your chest to someone who will listen and not try to fix everything for you is exactly what I needed the majority of the time. Even if it's just one person that you tell everything to, it can go a long way. I want to thank my best friend who's actually my best cousin for being there for me through it all. It's "us against the world" forever and always. I love you!

3. Dance
Like every other athlete out there, exercise was always a great way to relieve stress. Dance was not only a stress relief, it was a depression relief for me. I went to the studio as much as I possibly could so I could be surrounded by fellow dancers, faculty who loved me, and music to express my deepest of pains and help me escape from the world outside. When I was dancing I was many things-- a dancer, student, teacher, assistant, and friend-- but most importantly I was a part of a dance family that loved, supported, and encouraged one another. I had never felt more a part of anything than I did (still do when I can go back) at that studio. So, thank you to all of those who made a difference in my life there. You know who you are.

4. Faked a smile 90% of the time
No one knew I was so unhappy, because I mastered the fake smile. I was able to hold in my negative feelings throughout an entire day and save it for my pillow. I found a way to pretend I was always in a good mood or just content with everything. I didn't voice my opinions and I only vented about them when it was necessary and to people I could trust. There were off days (hence 90%) but for the most part, when I was around people I was "happy." Because of this, I was called a "beautiful spirit" by those who knew me only in public. Well, behind every beautiful spirit there's a story.

Not So Good Ways:

1. Cried myself to sleep 
Referring back to "Faked a smile 90% of the time" I said I saved my feelings for my pillow. Unfortunately this happened more often than not. I feel emotions very deeply. Which means I have a lot of built up emotion I had held in a given day. Tears would come when my lights went off, and they wouldn't stop. I couldn't tell you when the tears stopped and sleep began the majority of nights in high school. It wasn't healthy, I know. But it happened.

2. Negative thoughts
I won't spend to much time on this, but I'm sure it's clear what this means. There was one time I didn't want to make it through my shower. There were many occasions when I thought, how simple it'd be to just crash my van and be done. Luckily, I never allowed myself to get that far gone in my mind. I reminded myself to call that one person when I thought like that because I promised him I would.

3. Cut
I hate to admit it, but I think I need to. There were exactly four times I cut myself. Now, I am way too weak of a person (no matter how much pain I feel) to hurt myself badly enough to leave a scar. I would use my van key and do it until I stopped crying and started focusing too much on what I was doing. I only drew blood two of those four times because I snapped back to reality and remembered to call someone instead. I was lucky enough to be able to do that. Not everyone gets that choice or wants it.

4. Relied on relationships to identify myself
Finally, the absolute worst way I dealt with my depression. Yes, all these other things were not that great and honestly most people consider them the worst. I don't. I relied on my relationship with a boyfriend to define who I was as a person. That is not okay by any means. No one should ever feel like they can't live their life without another person by their side. That is a privilege not a necessity. I didn't think I could go a day without feeling like I was someone's girlfriend. The longest I was single in high school was about three months. But even in that time I was trying to get back with my high school sweetheart. That is just something no person should ever do to themselves. Every person is worthy and capable of an independent life. It's only when we can figure out how to do that the right person will come along.

Well, there you have it. I have gotten another thing off my chest, and you have learned another aspect of who I am and who I was as a person. I repeat from the last post: I am not looking for anyone to say they wish they would have known or they would have helped or I should have told them or anything along those lines. I'm not looking for help because I fixed myself with the help of the few who did know. I learned and grew stronger from it.

Until next time,

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Personal Story: Revealing My Old Self

Hey everyone! So, I am going to do my darnedest to post once a week and keep up with it. One of the most requested types of writing to post has been my own personal writings (poetry, short stories, etc). To get things started, I have decided to share a piece I wrote for Creative Writing last fall. The prompt was to write about a person with bulimia who wasn't ashamed of it.


I can feel the burn in my throat
As I tie the ribbons on my shoes.
The burger wasn’t as satisfying the second time.
I begin plies for barre and
Feel thinner than I did an hour ago.

During the adagio I get a glance of the mirror.
I see the fries on my thighs.
Tights, leotard, and skirt combined
Can’t hide this morning’s pancakes.
Ballerinas are supposed to be petite.

If I eat I no longer possess the required figure.
Choreography commences and I jeté as if
I need to leap over my last purge.
With each arabesque I feel my stomach grumble.
After class, a large meat lovers is calling my name.

I untie my ribbons
Simultaneously preparing my stomach.
Ballerinas are supposed to be petite.
After that pizza slice
I will be.

Rereading this poem has inspired me to write about something extremely personal to me that I think is time I share with more than just those who know about it. No, I was not bulimic.

However, I was anorexic throughout high school. I was always around people who were not exactly thin in society's eyes. I was naturally a small and skinny person, which is normal because I was born prematurely. But growing up around people who weren't "skinny" made me feel extra self-conscious. It was 6th grade when I heard the first comment about my size.

"You're so thin. What, are you anorexic or something?"

It was meant as a joke I'm sure, but it didn't feel like one to me. That question has been in the back of my mind all these years. Then, more comments started coming along.

"Do you even eat?"

"Maybe you shouldn't dance so much."

"How are you so thin? Are you anorexic?"

And yes, people did actually say those things to me. At first, I wasn't anorexic. I was just small. But then, as high school approached and I started filling out, I thought I was getting fat. I didn't want to be like the people who said those things to me. I associated gaining weight with being a mean person. So, I did what I could to avoid it; I became what they thought I was. I knew it was wrong, but I thought if they think this is the way I got so small, it must be an effective way to do it. I began eating less at lunch without people noticing. Instead of the chicken patty, bag of chips, salad, and juice, I grabbed a PB&J and a carton of milk. Eventually, I would only eat half of that PB&J. No one really noticed, or they didn't mention it, because I was good at either eating alone or just talking with someone about anything but food.
"I liked how I looked when I didn't eat."

As the years passed, I got a job and started feeding myself dinner on the go. That usually consisted of a quick taco from Taco Bell or a McChicken from McDonald's. During breaks at dance (about 6pm), I'd go across the street to the gas station for dinner and grab a granola bar and a bottle of water; that'd be the only thing I would have eaten since that PB&J from lunch at about noon, and that'd be all I'd eat the rest of the night. On nights when I knew I wasn't strong enough to finish the last three hours of dance on just the granola bar, I'd grab a hot dog since they were only a dollar or two. The saddest part, I believe, was that I liked how I looked when I didn't eat. I was thin, I could see my muscles, and I was the reason why. I liked that. 

If I was home for my parents to make/bring home dinner, I'd eat it. But I would hate myself a little more each time. I could see the food sitting on my thighs and making my butt bigger. I was starting to get a belly and I hated it. I absolutely hated it. I was exercising every day for a minimum of two hours a day with the dance studio, and I could still see all the food sitting on my hips. I wanted it gone.

Unfortunately, this went on for about three years without anyone noticing except my high school sweetheart. On Sunday's after church with his family, he made sure I came home with him to eat his mom's lunch/dinner before I went to work for the night. Once senior year came around I was getting better at eating more. It wasn't much more, but it was more. I started eating Crunchwrap Supremes from Taco Bell instead of just a taco and maybe a hearty salad from the local grocery store.

The year that I took off from school was probably the hardest year of my life. Not only was I struggling to make money for myself while still being happy as a dance teacher (which any dance teacher knows does not pay well money-wise), but I was also struggling to break the habit of not eating. I would do really well with eating for a few weeks, but then I would get really depressed about something happening in my life and I'd fall off the wagon. I would go a week without eating more than one meal a day. My boyfriend at the time, Fred (now my ex--see posts from Aug/Sept 2014), was away at school but he noticed and helped me get out of my depression and start eating again. By the time I had moved out of my house and started my own life, doing whatever made me happy, I was a hundred times better. I was eating a full three meals a day, and I was exercising to stay healthy and fit.

Now, I still have days where I know it would be super easy to fall back into that pattern to lose the weight I've gained since high school. But I know better now, and I do all I can to force those thoughts from my head. Looking at old pictures, I realize now I wasn't even that skinny to begin with. I was the average build for a girl like me.

It was a rough five years of my life, not only with the anorexia but with other personal issues as well that will surely come up in this blog eventually. I struggled with the eating disorder, depression, family drama, friend drama, and major self-confidence issues. With each day that has passed, I have become a stronger person because of it, and I have started learning how to love myself. No, I don't always like how I look but I can recognize that I have curves and some fat on me. I know that I am not perfect and never will be, but that doesn't mean I will fall back to anorexia. I am aware of my less than perfect body shape, but I am also aware that I am by no means obese or unhealthy.

"I can recognize that I have curves"
It has been a long time coming for me to open up about this, and now I have. I am not looking for anyone to say they wish they would have known or they would have helped or I should have told them or anything along those lines. I'm not looking for help because I fixed myself with the help of the few who did know. I learned and grew stronger from it.

Note: I am by no means encouraging an eating disorder, and I am not saying people should not get help for any serious issues like the ones I have mentioned. I am simply saying that in my unique case, it worked itself out and made me a better person.

I do not blame anyone for my being anorexic in high school; I am simply a product of my environment.

So, there you have it. One little part of my past has been laid out on the table. Maybe you know me a little better now, and maybe you know me a little less than you thought. But either way, I hope this has taught you to be a little more cautious with the words you let your mouth say. Think about what it is you're going to say next time you say it:

"How will this person react to this thought of mine? Am I sure it will affect them in a positive way?" If not, don't say it. Save a person from their own self-consciousness. Think.

Until next time,

Saturday, July 11, 2015

My Gibberish Survey

Dear readers:

I have been struggling with ideas of what to write because I am unsure of what you all would like to read. As my blog grows, I want to start narrowing down from all of my thoughts to a singular type of post that my readers will enjoy.

So, to get me started on that I have created a quick 6 questions survey. I would be very happy if every one of you could fill it out for me. If I get as much feedback as possible, I can get My Gibberish going in the right direction. 

Thanks everyone!