It’s Friday evening here in Australia, and I’m still shaking my head about something – the impossible happened. I actually went and did a ballet class yesterday morning. ME. BALLET. IMPOSSIBLE?
It happened!!! It was real! I did it!
Thank you so much to everyone who commented and passed on encouragement and happiness for me! I was overwhelmed with how many of you care – you are all quite awesome
I think that yesterday had quite a few ‘wins’ for me.
Social anxiety prevented me from getting myself anywhere for quite a few years – the last straw for me was when my legs started giving out on bus stairs. I could no longer catch a bus without help to get into it, and when my legs gave way, people would stare. Same with the train. There often wasn’t so much of a step up to get on, but getting to the station, the travelling, being surrounded by people.. it was all too much.
I also fear hugely the unknown – unknown places, finding my way around, maybe getting lost.
Yesterday morning I left at 7.30am for a 10am class. It was frightfully early, but I was planning to be there an hour early, to scope things out, warm up, etc. Also in the back of my mind I said “Well, something always goes wrong when I don’t leave enough time!”
You can plan your journey online using a government travel site, and it told me to catch a train to a far off suburb, walk a fair distance, and catch a bus round and back to where I wanted to go.
It started off fine. I caught the train, and got off at the correct station. Referring to the map I’d drawn, I walked out and followed the directions. However the street was no longer there – instead there was some huge construction project going on. Neither was the bus stop.
A worker directed me onwards when I asked him where people caught the X bus now, and I went that way, but ended up hopelessly lost. After wandering around in a totally strange to me place for half an hour, a different bus went past, I flagged it down and simply said “I’m lost!” and the lovely driver gave me a lift to where the bus departed from now. I was a long way out of my way!
From there I caught the right bus, shot past the stop I needed by about 15 minutes walk, but finally found the right place – with 15 minutes to spare.
Even a few months ago, I would have melted into a pile of tears in this situation. Panicked so badly that I hyperventilated, or simply retraced my steps to the station, turned around and gone home.
Yesterday I not only made it to where I was going, I was able to laugh at it. It really was kind of funny!
One of the ballerinas who runs the school had come in especially to greet me, another reason I wanted to be early – not knowing how early ‘early’ was. Thankfully I was there at a good time for her, too. She came up and was just beaming! Such a magical smile, so genuinely happy to see her again. I first met her about 20 years ago and it’s amazing that she and other people haven’t aged in that time. Ballet must truly be an elixir of youth
I felt so special being welcomed so warmly! Hugged and introduced to the class teacher (who turned out to be another ballerina I remembered who also remembered me!) They presented me with a lovely tshirt and tote bag as gifts and some free classes – so I have nearly a year’s worth of classes to go to! One of the best things she said to me was that she saw my name still on the honour board every time she went to the [redacted] Ballet studios – and thought of me. And the excitement she shared with me because I was finally actually walking onto a ballet floor in a ballet studio was so infectious I forgot most of my nervousness. It was a truly special welcome. (Image Source)
Class was awesome too. I actually had little idea of what to expect – it is a ‘Ballet Barre and Pilates’ class. We did a lot of floor exercises, core strength exercises, leg exercises and some barre work at the end. I loved it. I wasn’t expecting to be able to do as much as I did, but I did all of it, and felt that I did it quite well considering that I hadn’t danced for more than a 15 years! I did struggle with things like keeping muscles working that I’d forgotten even existed – and with my own strength and stamina but pushed on. I’m proud of myself for doing everything in the class, completing the entire class.
I felt totally comfortable! The other class members came in all shapes and sizes and ages seemed to range from early 20′s to perhaps late 60′s. There was a really varied group of women. Also everyone was dressed comfortably. Leggings and/or trackpants, jumpers or skivvies or tee shirts. Socks seemed more common than ballet flats – only three of us wore them. Socks would have been more comfortable for the pilates exercises but I was thankful for my ballet shoes when we did the barre work – socks are very slippery for that sort of stuff! And the atmosphere was lovely, the women were all down to earth, friendly, warm people. No body shame, no bitchiness, all in a ballet class? Heaven!
The only hard part for me was that there was one girl in the class (a younger one) who was emaciated – obviously, unavoidably anorexic. I studiously ignored her (except when saying hello, thankfully she didn’t come near me anyway) because I wanted this place to be free of that – I didn’t want to spend my classes looking at her and comparing myself. I hate that I do this, but I do, every time I see another disordered person on the street. I also hate that I find myself thinking things like “I’m not thin enough, I’m a failure, I should be thinner than her..” because I KNOW what a hell it is to live what she’s living – I know that hell. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It hurt and infuriated me so much every time someone said to me, “I wish I could have a bit of your anorexia so I could lose weight” or even “I wish I was as thin as you”. It was horrible! I can’t believe I do that, myself, think that of someone else, KNOWING their hell.
Also, I was extremely aware that the school’s owner and the class teacher knew I had been out for years because of the anorexia, that I’d been very sick with it. So I found myself looking at this girl and thinking I bet they are looking at her and me and thinking “but that is anorexia – why aren’t you really thin like she is? “
I know that’s not true at all, that’s stupid thinking, and that they know I’m here now doing this class because I’ve come a long way – put weight on, kept weight on, etc. And they are very non-judgemental people. It’s just an example of how screwed up ED can make us and how it twists a situation.
Today I woke up sore all over and barely able to move with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – there wasn’t an inch of me that didn’t ache. But it was worth it! And next time, it won’t hurt quite as much
So that was my first ballet class after all these years – my return to doing what I love. Next Thursday can’t come quickly enough for me! It was the first time in years that I can remember not feeling depressed AT ALL. I felt on a high, totally singing and dancing in my heart even after the class was over. And I realise that this could be the key to recovery for me. I remember what it was like to place more importance on what my body can DO than what it looks like. I remember how good it felt to feel my muscles all working. To feel strong. To express myself.
If I can place more importance on being strong and being able to dance, hopefully I can let go of the ‘too fat, must be nothing’ obsession that still is there, all the time, despite me choosing not to act on it. Perhaps I will be able to comfortably gain the rest of the weight I need to gain, knowing that I’m creating a functioning dancer’s body – an instrument – rather than it just being ‘size’ and ‘weight’. I really hope so.
At the very least, that feeling of absolute joy – is enough to help me get through the rest of the week. I haven’t felt that joy in forever. I’ve missed it.
Yesterday it was like I was coming ALIVE after years in some forced hibernation. I was waking up. I can’t wait to see what else is on the horizon for me.
Thank you again for all your lovely comments. I’m so happy to be able to share something so positive. And I truly wish that if any of you have dreams that you have lost to your illness, dreams you are putting off because something has to be ‘right’ first, and/or dreams that you dearly hope for but deep down can’t believe they can ever possibly happen for you – don’t give up. My dream was impossible – and yet it’s happening to me! So never, ever think it can’t happen for you too, and hang on to those dreams.
What is your dream? Do you believe it is possible?
(Featured Image Source)