“When it’s time for something new, you will feel it. You will feel a desire to let go, to shed layers, to move, to re-create. You will know because there will be subtle shifts all around you. You will release the old because you are really clearing the path for what’s ahead. Trust the process.” ~Brianna Wiest
I landed myself in the ER three days short of my twenty-fifth birthday, due to a mental health crisis.
It was January, always a difficult month for me. The holiday season tends to be stressful, and I’d recently visited my parents back home, which had led to a resurfacing of depressive and anxious symptoms. It was also a month filled with anniversaries, and the winter weather and early darkness affected my mood in a negative way.
And of course, my fourth year English literature seminar had left me feeling so overwhelmed, I believed I’d never be able to graduate from university.
I’ve been caught up in the same pattern for many years. The fallout of my hospitalization had left me not only with a broken heart, but also a deep conviction that everyone I loved would eventually leave me. Roommates asked me to move out; my therapist was discouraged and didn’t know whether she could continue to help me; and I was now unable to complete my course, which meant I had plenty of time on my hands.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I found myself in bed, ruminating about the choices I’d made that had led me to experience symptoms so severe I needed to be hospitalized. I wondered what options were left ahead of me.
One afternoon, as I was wondering what was the point of being alive, I suddenly sat up in bed and exclaimed, aloud, “F*ck it. I’m signing up for dance lessons.” I had nothing to lose at that point, and I did have fond memories of dancing as a kid.
It was not easy. First, I needed to find a studio. There was no way I’d show up alone, so I decided to bring a friend along. But the biggest challenge was simply managing the nerves that often fired up whenever I tried something new.
I wish I could tell you that I found myself suddenly passionate about dance. That I found myself at the studio every day, determined to lose the weight I had gained over the last two years of the pandemic.
That was not the case.
But what I had not expected was to find a sense of community. It helped that the classes were open-level, and anybody, regardless of skill or size, could join.
What I loved the most was showing up early and chatting with the dance teacher, other dancers, and the ladies at the front desk. They made me feel welcomed, and to be completely honest, were a much-needed distraction from the mess that was my life.
Over the last few months, I’ve attended about a dozen classes, so I’ve been at the studio for about twelve hours total. It’s not a lot, when you consider the number of hours we have per week. But if anything, at least during that time, I allowed myself to breathe. To relax, and even forget.
It’s been a bit of an escape, and like I always say, sometimes it’s the small things in life that matter the most. They aren’t small, after all. I do look forward to Friday evenings now, especially because it’s contemporary dance, so the movements feel more natural to me.
Sometimes I wonder how the people at the studio would feel if they knew the truth. If they knew my personal circumstances, the suffering I have endured this past six months, and the reality of living with chronic conditions that make it hard to enjoy life.
I just want them to know that a simple hello can make my day, that their enthusiasm is contagious, and that I always leave feeling more at peace.
In the past week, I’ve even caught myself twirling around in my kitchen, and it feels good to just be.
Perhaps that’s what I have been looking for all along: the ability to just be, to just let my body take space, and give myself permission to dance and move as I please.
I don’t have a lot of wisdom to offer, but I do know that showing up was an act of self-care. I know that it’s scary to try new things, especially when you anticipate feeling uncomfortable and perhaps even judged. I know that dancing and singing have been an integral parts of my recovery, that a sense of community improves your overall health, and that growth can be painful.
If there’s something I want people to remember, it’s that letting go is okay. Play, mindfulness, and dance are all gifts that need to be cherished.
We live in a world that often encourages us to be productive 24/7, that values fast-paced environments and achievements. Sometimes, I get so caught up in my head, I forget have a body that deserves my attention. I forget that taking time for myself will allow me to be a better youth peer supporter. I forget that we only have this one life, and that tragedy can strike at any moment.
Mostly, it is easy for me to forget that others care, that my presence is valued, and that emotions aren’t dangerous; they deepen our connection to those around us.
So, I encourage you to cherish the members of your community. They will hold space for you as you learn to hold space for yourself. Face your fears because you are worthy of bravery. And of course, take a pause. Listen to your body, because it is wise and trying hard to keep you alive.