Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dancing with Depression

Dancing is hard. It takes determination, strength, courage and a slew of other bold and cliche epitaphs. Dancing with depression is even harder.

The world in general seems to have a lot of misconceptions about depression. No, having depression, or any other chemical imbalance does not necessarily mean you lie in a dark room all day thinking about suicide - that's just being emo. And, no, it's not just all in the person's head. It's also in their knees, back, shoulders, stomach. Most people don't realize that one of the most common symptoms of depression is a sustained amount of aches and pains that exhibit for no real reason. So, right there, suddenly, dancing becomes a little harder.

We've all seen the commercials for all the drugs on the TV, listing "loss of interest in things" as another symptom, and this is mostly true. But loss of interest does not mean one morning you are going to wake up saying "OHMIGOD! I HAAATE Irish Dance and I NEVER WANT TO DO IT AGAIN". If you do that, you are either bi-polar or just a cranky, spoiled child who is mad that they didn't place. Loss of interest, for most run of the mill depression victims is far more simple. "Oh, I just don't feel up to going to class tonight." or "I don't feel well enough to go" (even though your only symptoms are those generic, mysterious aches and pains)

Most depression cases can also exhibit mainly with anxiety, not just irritability or moodiness. I know in my case, which is a minor case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, when my symptoms act up, I loose all ability to deal with stress, make hard decisions or in general function with day to day problems. So, y'know, that makes competitions not so easy.

There are more physical symptoms too, that really can impede or interfere with dreams of a dance career, if they aren't managed just right. Regular depression symptoms often include loss of appetite, or in some other conditions, increased appetite and weight gain can occur, and we all know, we need to eat well to dance well. Loss of sleep, lack of energy and ability to concentrate also hit dancers hard.

BUT . . .

Dancing with depression can also be one of the best things you can ever do.

Like I mentioned, I've been fighting a chronic case of SAD for about the past 7 years. With SAD, I go through good months and bad months, but sometimes even that can be difficult. However, SAD is far less severe then text-book depression can be, and can usually be dealt with without medication, and one of the BEST, non-medication treatments for any kinds of depression is EXERCISE.

It's hard, any given night, to pull my drowsy, overweight behind off the couch where I want to nap and force myself to go to class, but as soon as I do, and I start dancing and sweating and moving, I feel my body's chemistry just shift. Everyone knows that exercise releases endorphins, but few people realize that the good that does for people with these conditions. The social interaction also helps.

So, all this to say, that while depression certainly adds to the list of difficulties one can face being an Irish Dancer, specifically an adult dancer, you need to persevere. Never give up on something you love because your body is playing tricks on you. I don't know if I am the only one out there dealing with this - I can't think that I am, all I can say is 'Hang in there'. Eat healthy, get plenty of vitamin D, DANCE! Dance all the time, constantly keep moving. But, also, don't be afraid to talk about it. Don't think that you can't bring it up with friends, family and doctors. Don't let it win - don't let it take over your life, and what's more, don't let it stop you from dancing!