Am I Depressed

Ballet Austin at Manor High School

This week is a busy, yet exciting week for Ballet Austin's Second Company. After weeks of rehearsals, we finally are performing Thang Dao's Quiet Imprint!!

Since these performances are there for the education of the students, we perform as well as do a question and answer session after the show. The students have asked some really deep questions about pursuing dance as a career. One question in particular stood out to me.

What is your motivation to keep dancing?

My motivation to keep dancing changes, but recently, I have been struggling.

I have not been in my right headspace for a while now. As I have been writing the past few weeks, I have tried to find answers to really this question- what is my motivation- because right now I am at a loss to an answer. I have been struggling to sleep for weeks and I have not worked out on a consistent basis. The newness of the city and my new life has caught up to me. I would be lying to you and truly to myself if I said everything is awesome. 

Everything is not awesome.

Period.

I have had plateaus many times before in my life, but I am at a plateau that has felt longer than ever before and I do not know why. I feel like I am struggling to grow. I feel slow to pick up choreography. I feel distant while I am going about my life. I do not feel present. I have felt reserved and more introverted- which if you know me, I am the loudest person in the room.

The reason I postponed my blog by a day was because I saw that Dance Magazine posted an article answering the question, "Can dance training cause psychological harm?" Eating disorders are a huge stereotype of ballet and dance in general, but there is truth to why it is a stereotype- Girls AND GUYS struggle with eating in ballet regularly. Within the article, Jennifer Stahl reports on the latest study out of Portugal that shows "dance training—particularly in ballet—might be associated with additional mental health problems." I read the full study from Portugal to get an unbiased look at the research.

In the conclusion of the study, the researchers state, "The levels of psychological inflexibility could be explained by some characteristics of ballet training. Similar to many sports, ballet involves discipline and physical demands, competitiveness, highly critical and perfectionist attitudes of trainers, and acceptance of emotional and physical suffering."

This brings me to a more personal question-

Am I depressed?

The last two months have been rough as I said before. There was no one event that has brought me to where I am right now. All of these feelings or a lack of feelings are new to me in my life. Being a student is a whole lot different than being a professional. The money I use to live, buy groceries, and pay rent are from the very thing that I love.

But that is a blessing and a curse.

I love dancing and I want to be the best I can be, but now there is this shadow of reality of being able to pay for all that I need looming over me. I have seen that I have allowed my thoughts to eat me alive.

There is an amazing podcast called the Accidental Creative from a man named Todd Henry. This week's episode was called. "The Assassins of Creativity (and How to Spot Them)." This is worth a listen! In the podcast, Todd Henry talks about perpetuating fear and expectations. People do not want to take creative risks because they are afraid of losing their job. People have high expectations or they see a gap and instead of pushing to close the gap, they run away or give up. A lot of people want to be great and will look to the best people in the industry. Instead of being inspired to work hard and improve to reach that level of greatness, people compare their mediocre to the best and give up.

When I say people,

I really mean ME.

I have done amazing things these last few months and I have had so many great times and laughs, but as I am alone, I have flooded head with negative thoughts and fears. I make things up like, "Oh, I had a bad class- they will not renew my own contract." or "I messed up in all of the rehearsals today- the artistic staff hates me." 

The list goes on in my head.

I think like this at a higher rate than I have ever. I consistently project my fears and insecurities into my thoughts as I dance and perform. I have not been my best physically because I have not been my best mentally. Usually I am getting in trouble for being too confident, well now I feel that I have no confidence. 

With no confidence and no trust in my training or abilities, I am struggling to reach my full potential.

How did I get to this point of beating myself down to an unhealthy place?

I care.

I care about what I do.

As I wrote before, ART MATTERS, and dance is incredibly important to me. 

I want to be great at dance.

This is not a job that I am doing to get money- heck, I do not get paid much. I DO THIS BECAUSE I LOVE DANCE.

I have a high standard on all aspects of my life. Usually that standard helps push me to grow in ways I never imagined. On the flip side, I struggle to understand giving myself grace. I struggle to allow myself to be imperfect. I struggle to allow myself to make mistakes. I have allowed my mental capacity to be filled with fears, and in turn I have shied away from being the dancer that I know I can be. Instead of learning from mistakes and allowing them to be a point of growth, I have allowed my failures to exponentially grow to the point where I lose motivation.

Science says that ballet training can have psychological harm- I believe it now first hand. I have seen how the rigors of ballet have destroyed people. In an environment where you are consistently being corrected, it is easy to take corrections personally and negatively. The people in charge want me and my fellow dancers to be successful and to look good for performances. Although I know they want the best for me, it is easy to struggle with the correction.

I have never held a job that I cared for so much. I have in some ways let my work enslave my thoughts in an unhealthy way. 

Where do I go next?

This week I have spent the time getting with important people in my life to help tackle my thinking and put into place a system for growth. I think I was depressed before but now I am in a much better place but the work continues. Although I see the breakdown within myself, I still struggle with questions and doubt within my head. I am ready to refind myself in a city and job that I love.

Throughout life, there will be seasons where I will question if I am good enough for the work at hand. In those times I must embrace myself for who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I need to give myself grace.

If you struggle with depression or have had similar thoughts/feelings at work, I would love to hear your stories and how you deal with your thoughts. I would like to thank a friend named, Elier, who I only met randomly only last week. He taught me to write and be authentic within my writing and creative aspirations. This post is raw. This post is me. I write these post to not only educate you about the life of a dancer but also to allow myself to examine the deeper parts of my mind within the ballet world. I want to go after this life in a positive way and tackle hardships positively. I am constantly building my self-awareness through these times. 

I hope that by writing this, you can also go after self-awareness and mental health.