The darker side of dancing...
When you feel alone, darkness has a way of swooping in all over you, creating anxiety, depressive thoughts and a lack of connection. When the darkness comes, here's how to find your light again...
Dancers, just like non dancers, can experience times of darkness.
Many believe that because dancers do what they love, have fun jobs and get to be on stage, travel the world and smile all the time, that they must be happy and joyful all the time too. But it's never just as simple as that.
As we mentioned, dancers are still humans and therefore, experience the same emotional range as everyone else on this planet! Sometimes they feel euphoric...sometimes they feel depressed and like they can't go on...
Dancers have to learn to deal with some very real, harsh realities every day- rejection, competition, comparison, injury, perfectionism and much more. And this becomes a whole lot harder if the dancer in mind hasn't spent time working on their mindset and mental strength to reframe these seemingly negative things.
Like I hadn't, all those years ago...
I struggled a lot whilst at dance college. I spent a lot of my second year carrying a dark cloud around me, that felt all-consuming, every, single, day. It was exhausting and painful and I just wanted to be rid of it. But I didn't know how.
Back then, I had no idea how to re-train my mind, or what to do to help myself feel better. Everything ran on one big auto-pilot and I felt powerless over what to do to change this.
On my darkest day, when I felt so alone and empty inside, I considered ending it all.
I wanted to be free of the pain and sadness that was inside me that I just couldn't escape.
But then something miraculous happened.
As soon as I had that thought, I immediately broke down and cried my eyes out until I had nothing left. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to live. But I wanted (and desperately needed) to feel better so I could start living.
That's when I took things into my own hands.
I started getting out of my head more and I did this by being with my best friend. We just hung out together, watching Friends, eating snacks and playing on her laptop. When I was with her, I wasn't alone and I wasn't constantly stuck in my head.
I took some time out. Unfortunately (but also with hindsight, now a blessing) I had to take time off college for a few months and miss my second year show because I broke my big toe and couldn't walk. This allowed me some time away from my environment and to be with the people I loved and needed most-my family.
I educated myself. This didn't happen straight away. But when I started, I got the bug and I couldn't stop! Education gives you knowledge and knowledge gives you options. Options to make other choices, to help yourself feel, be and do better and then help others do that too.
I worked hard. I worked at helping myself daily. It was a struggle sometimes. I needed help and support a lot, but I never gave up. I never went back to that night all alone on my bedroom floor of my flat in 2nd year wanting to end it all. I had made a better choice for myself and each day was a step forward towards feeling better.
I didn't talk about this night until more recent years, because I just wasn't ready to and that's okay. But when I did, I learned that I wasn't alone...far from it. So many people messaged me and opened up about their own struggles of darkness and it reassured me that even when you feel alone in the world, you never are.
If you're going through a struggle right now, whatever that may be, just know that things will get better. It may take time, it will most certainly take effort, but things will get better, eventually.
Looking back to those times over a decade ago, I can see how much I tried my best to fight, but also how I didn't know what to do and that ultimately left me feeling even worse.
So I want to help give you some words of advice that hopefully may help you get out of any struggle you may face, a lot faster than I did.
1. Talk to someone- find someone you trust, whether that's a family member or friend, a teacher, or even someone you don't know at the end of the phone like The Samaritans. Don't allow yourself to be alone in this-reach out and talk to someone who can give you help and support.
2. Get out of your head- you know those things that can't but help put you in flow state and OUT of your headspace...do more of those, especially when you feel the darkness creeping in. It might feel hard to push through this, but keep pushing-go outside for a walk, put your favourite music on and dance around your room, listen to an audiobook story, bake, paint, run, write, see a friend...
3. Find inspiration- find books, podcasts, people, audiobooks, events, webinars, seminars, trips or courses that all focus on personal development, self care and going deeper into you. Do these to distract yourself from the internal noise and learn more about yourself, so you can help yourself.
4. Learn something new- use your brain space to learn something new and drown out the noise this way. Learn a new musical instrument, a new language, a new style of dance or enrol on a fitness course, go on a yoga retreat or learn to journal every day.
5. Be around people you love, people who inspire, people who love you. This is very important. Try your best to move away from anyone who adds to that dark cloud and instead move towards people that feel light.
6. Keep going.
These are things I would say to my younger self-there are probably many more too, but these are where I would start. Some may work for you, others may not. You may find your own ways of feeling better-if you do, please write them in the comments so others can find them too.
When you feel at your worst, the easiest thing to do is to listen to your mind and wallow in your head. But this ultimately just keeps the spiral going, taking you further down the rabbit hole.
Aim to NOT do this. Be vigilent with yourself. Even when you feel you don't want to. Fight for yourself. Take the harder path.
The harder path is the path that will lead you out of the rabbit hole...eventually. This path involves lots of little dark turns and bumps, but there's always a glimmer of light at the end for you to hang on to.
Take this path.