First: a long ass preamble. About 2 weeks ago, I quit my dance team.
It happened in phases. In January, I quit the performance team due to some concerns about how some choreographies could be perceived by my coworkers and superiors on both sides of the pond via social media. Teacher makes shows that are unexpectedly humorous. However, to the extent the humor is poorly executed – a risk for any person other than Teacher himself & his partner – the show can easily cross a line from frothy fun to earnest and vulgar. If my blog is the topic of scrutiny, I can only imagine what kind of raised eyebrows might occur because of dancing. I might find such views narrow-minded and archaic, but to deny their existence and impact on my advancement in the company would be naive. So I quit the performance team, which didn’t really bother me because I don’t enjoy performing. Teacher allowed me to keep attending the practices and team meetings as an honorary member, given my dedication and desire to improve as a dancer. But my strained relationship with the team became even more difficult. I didn’t belong. Which, to be fair, was accurate. My status was not the same as theirs, I was apart. And that apartness could be felt by everyone. I was unhappy. Like baby Vanilla in kindergarden, I could tell that something was off, but had no understanding of how to fix it. Coupled with my as-yet unidentified major depression, I was not having a fun time, to the point that I started to associate dance with a state of acute misery.
After my shocking doctor’s appointment last month, I’ve been working hard to identify and eliminate any areas of my life that are causing me stress and unhappiness. I don’t have the energy to fight the fight I need to fight against my brain and fight people or situations. The biggest priority is getting my career back on track: my job and my identity are so tightly intertwined that when I underperform at work, all of me suffers. And while I have the best boss anyone could ask for, supportive and understanding, my performance at work is directly a function of me. So I have been funneling all my energy into trying be productive. Drugs. To do lists. Being patient with myself. Reorganizing my priorities so as to do more solo-driven work instead of team projects because I can’t handle people and the burden of appearing normal right now. And it’s paying off. I’m crossing some things off my interminable to-do list. I experience 15-60 minutes of clarity and concentration every day now. I occasionally know the answer to things. I only forget half the conversations I am involved in. Progress. Exhausting progress. Worthwhile, but so so so tiring. I have nothing, absolutely nothing left for any other battle.
So I’ve just been dropping everything else. And that meant dropping dance. I’ve never been good with groups; at boxing a similar dynamic existed with my team until they accepted that my sweet spot for social activities was once every 2 months. Spending 10-15 hours a week with the same squad is hard. I need space, time-outs, alone time. I always have. I told Teacher I was demoting myself to a student, nothing else. A student that was under no obligation to show up to class, and whose progress was entirely up to their desire to learn – and currently mine was non-existent. I recognize that I have a lot left to learn in dance, and that dance as a form of vulnerability is an excellent way to fight depression. But I am not there yet. I am too busy surviving the worst depression of my life.
I decided to go to kuduro yesterday. I really wasn’t feeling it, having had a draining day at work and a few interactions that left me feeling raw and exposed. But kinda like forcing oneself to go to the gym in the hopes that once onsite, it won’t be so bad, I thought the workout aspect of kuduro might trigger some endorphins and make me feel better.
Instead, the room was too crowded, my former teammates were taking up too much space, the music too loud… I felt myself slide down a tunnel vision of misery. I was despising every second of it. I had one thought pounding through my head, on loop, “I shouldn’t be here, I hate all these people, and they all hate me. I fucking hate dance, I’m quitting everything, I never want to dance again” over and over and over again, as I went through the motions like a robot. As the first hour of class drew to a close, I accidentally bumped into the girl next to me. I was irritated. Then I realized that the girl next to me was Darlene, my friend, a guest at Allie’s wedding, my former coworker, who has been taking lessons at Teacher’s school for the past year. Through my haze of misery, a thought, “Wait a second. I don’t hate Darlene. Darlene doesn’t hate me.” Followed by the realization that if I could be so caught up in my fog of paranoia as to not notice my friend dancing next to me for an entire hour, then my grasp of reality was clearly off, which meant that I was probably wrong: I didn’t actually hate the team, nor they me. It felt like it, but clearly my feelings were out of whack.
So I left. Because the only thing to do when on the verge of a meltdown is to take an immediate time-out from people, go hide in the safety of my home, with my PJs and my teddy bears and my coloring books and my music.
Darlene called to check up on me. Suggested that next time I try focus on the music, build a relationship with music and block everything else out. Good advice, except I’d been so far gone in my tunnel vision of paranoia and misery, I hadn’t heard a single song. Couldn’t name one song title that played during the hour.
Teacher called me after class. “So that was unusual, you leaving like that. What’s going on?” I explained I wasn’t feeling well. “Nah, girl, what’s up. Let’s be real. Something with the team? Why you mad. Real talk, come on.” So I told him what had happened, and asked him if I could take a rain check on any real talk, since clearly my feelings weren’t my own. They might FEEL real, but they weren’t true and I didn’t want to say anything that I would later come to realize was a product of my false reality. Silence. “Is it the drugs making you like that?” What? No. The drugs are helping me, by making my emotions less overwhelming. No, this is in spite of the drugs. “So this is your conflict then?” My condition, you mean? Yes. This is what it’s like living with depression. “Nah. I think you are just tired. Get some rest, sleep it off.”
I did sleep. I slept like a rock, waking up 10 hours later at 9am, late for work, feeling like a train hit me. Completely spent. But clear-headed. No negative thoughts. Shaken by the realization of how strong the hold of one of these paranoia/anxiety phases can be. I believed my thoughts, they left me no room to believe anything else. My thoughts were my reality, and yesterday my reality was unreliable.
The road to remission is gonna be long and arduous, apparently. Fun times.
Recap of this recent battle with depression: