When I was in dance class, my anxiety was so bad that I wasn’t able to memorize combinations that were performed in front of me. I felt embarrassed and inadequate as a dancer. My other classmates were able to perform the combinations after one or two repeats of the instructor performing it, and had it down. As for me, I stayed in back of the other dancers so I could follow them.
I wanted to memorize the combinations and have it down pat, but my anxiety prevented me. Majority of worries had nothing to do with dance; it had to do with random things such as worrying about having sex with the devil, or the fear of having a crush on the new male dancer. It was hard for me to admit to my peers of my nondiagnosed mental illness. I was already the weird one who didn’t shave her underarms that one time during rehearsal, so explaining my thoughts would have made more of a pariah.
It didn’t help that I was competitive with my peers. I wanted to be the best in dance class, but it’s hard to be the “best” when anxiety is preventing you from memorizing combinations and accepting corrections. I felt alone. Why was I dealing with irrational thoughts, but my other dance classmates weren’t?
When I took a ballet class in downtown Los Angeles, my instructor always got mad when I didn’t memorize the dance combinations. I wanted to, but my irrational thoughts took my attention away. I tried to ignore them, but they came back even stronger and stressful than before.
At the beginning of a summer ballet workshop I took in Long Beach, I anguished that my anxiety was going to prevent me from focusing in class. My mom, who thought my anxiety was controllable, told me to tell myself to “focus.” Well, that’s great. The only advice my mom gave me was what I’ve been trying to do the whole time. I was filled with inadequacy from not being up to par with my summer workshop peers, and insomnia from not sleeping as a result of thinking all the time.
There was a period of time I stopped taking dance classes because I felt nervous that I wouldn’t be able to memorize combinations and keep up with the rest of the students. Now I’ve managed to overcome my fears and learned techniques to quickly pick up dance sequences. I still have a long way to go, but since my mental illness is under control, I’m able to focus in dance class, which has boosted my confidence.
Photo Courtesy: Kryziz Bonny, “Ballet Shoes” via Flickr.