Climbing Through the Rabbit Hole

A week ago today I made a decision that, reflectively, I wish I had made years ago. I decided to go on a low dose anti-depressant. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me it meant finally having control of years of an emotional struggle.

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I have struggled with anxiety and underlying depression for most of my life. People who don’t have these disorders don’t understand the daily struggle that ensues with battling seemingly simple every day living. Going the grocery store would stir a panic attack. Waking up in the morning with an overwhelming feeling of doom and gloom or just feeling a sense of sadness so strong that it made moving forward in the day difficult. That was my life. 

Why did I wait so long to make this decision? Fear of judgement for one. Unfortunately, though its 2013, we still live in a society where depression, anxiety and mental illness are looked down upon. Whenever I told certain people in my life that I had depression, they gave me a look of disgust and would make remarks about how depression doesn’t exist, or that I have a wonderful life, I have no reason to be depressed

Depression isn’t about what you have in your life…its about what you don’t have–and that’s control over your own emotions. I have a great life. A great job, a great career, a wonderful husband and amazing people who I love and love me. I am a overall, a happy person. But anxiety and depression are disorders that are often biological. I couldn’t help feeling these feelings. They were there. When I woke up. When I went to sleep. 

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I held off on going on anti-depressants because I didn’t want people to think I was a “crazy” person.  There is still a negative ideology around medication to control emotions. I also didn’t want to have to fill my body with essentially, a mind altering drug. But, I have been in therapy most of my life, and have tried several means of controlling my anxiety and depression without medication, including herbal remedies, meditation, yoga and the like (all of which I continue to do). But when my panic attacks led me to frequent doctor and emergency room visits, I was finally given Ativan. My little white pill that the ignorant around me would tell me to take to “make me feel better,” whenever I was in the thrust of a panic attack. The little white pill was my life saver for a very long time. Just knowing it was in my pocket made me feel better.

But the depression is another issue. Feeling doom and gloom and sadness all the time for absolutely no reason. It eats away at you. I felt like I was living a shadow of my life. Finally, after my latest bout of the blues, and my breaking point, I decided I just didn’t care what people thought, or what I thought–it had to end. I finally decided to discuss taking an anti-depressant with my physician.

And truthfully, it has been the best decision I have made in my entire life. The first week has been hell of side effects as my brain adjusts to the new chemical reset…But……ImageIts been worth it. I feel upbeat. Less stressed. And while the anxiety and sadness are there, I have what I haven’t had before and that’s control. I smile more. Am able to focus and yes, my sleep has improved immensely. It doesn’t make me “zombie”~I still feel. But what I don’t feel is that sense of hopelessness and sadness. The sense that my life is spinning out of control because doing the simplest thing like driving to work or going to the grocery store, was to much for me to handle and process. 

I feel like a shroud has been lifted off me. The veil finally parted and I am able to see and think clearly.

For the first time in a long time…I can say I am really truly and undeniably…..

Happy.

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Entering the Madness

My life often inspires my art (dance). Certain things I have delved in during the course of creating a performance piece–such as topics of spirituality, loss, strength, renewal. The only topic I have veered away from, until now, is my anxiety/depression. I was diagnosed with an anxiety-depressive disorder three years ago–when my life had hit rock bottom. I have always struggled with anxiety my life-and have had swings in moods from being so peaceful and happy to being sad and having deep feeling of overwhelming sadness, that often times, led me to staying home from work because I just couldn’t walk out the door. People who do not have anxiety or depression have no idea what a struggle living is day to day. Your brain is on an endless “loop” – you find yourself crying for no reason-or feeling completely isolated. At times, you cant even be around those you love because the “noise” is overwhelming. Grocery shopping, driving, eating a restaurant, becomes so overwhelming-your heart races, your head aches. Its exhausting. And more than just “feeling sad”–its not like that. Its not about not  loving your life or being grateful for what you have. It is your brain not being able to free itself from a feeling that you know rationally is irrational. 

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

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I never creatively delved into my anxiety/depression in my dancing because I was afraid of what would happen when I did. Its not a simple thing that can be explained. Then I was asked to be a part of an experimental theatrical dance project taking place this summer–and suddenly I found myself having dreams about The Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland.” I have never been a huge fan of Alice. Never cared much for the story. But, the Hatter always intrigued me. More so now because I thought to myself, “if there is one character who could help me explore my anxiety through creativity-its a crazy rambling guy in a hat.” Add to the fact that there is a bit of a circus freak hiding somewhere in him and I was good to go.

I thought that there must be a real back story to why the Hatter is mad…not just what is written. What if the Hatter has a whole other story we don’t know about? Why did he go mad? In my pursuit of meshing the Mad Hatter together with my own issues, I created a back story. The Hatter went mad because he was waiting for something that never happened. That’s what anxiety is like. Feeling like you are on the edge always. Then there is the downward spiral. The slip down the darkness where you find yourself alone and isolated. The loop started and he cant escape it. 

I cant escape it.

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“The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?  Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

The more I work on creating a back story for the Hatter, the more I find myself being the Hatter. He was always moving, always going, always rambling. I find myself like that at times. When my anxiety  is high, I can not stop. I work a lot. I have to keep myself busy, because if I don’t–I find myself feeling overwhelmed. For “normal” folks, its hard to comprehend feeling overwhelmed when you are caught up with something. But for people like me, you have to your mind busy. It offers a sense of freedom at time. Tactile tasks are the most helpful.

I have adopted the Hatter as my little spirit guide. I am learning a lot from him through me. Through my work as a dancer. I am enjoying his company.

Perhaps, after all, I am Mad as a Hatter?

My Body Is A Temple…….

My friend Zabel recently posted a question on Facebook: “Where do you pull your inspiration to dance from? How does it manifest in your dance?”

I have two answers. One more basic than the other.

Music obviously. As a Fusion Belly Dancer I dance to music that moves me–both emotionally and spiritually. I need to feel a connection the music-whether it be the actual composition or the lyrics. Because of this my style of dance can be anything from an African/Aboriginal fusion to didge and drums, to a heavy pop based routine.

The second, is spiritual based. I have been a neo-pagan practitioner since I was 13. My spirituality, above all else, is held with the deepest appreciation. Through all the experiences in my life, good and bad, my spirituality has been the one constant, and the one thing that has lead me down the path I currently walk.

Zehara Nachash "Primal Wanderings"

Zehara Nachash “Primal Wanderings”

I felt drawn to “belly dance” because of the earthy rhythms of the drums. The most primitive and basic sound of the drums moved me–literally and figuratively. I cant help but dance when I hear drums! It was also an easy transition from a dance I was already deeply connected to which was the firey and sensual gypsy dancing. That mixture of sexual, primitive and spiritual energy that comes from the gypsy violin took me to new levels.

Almost everything I have done in my dance career has come from dreams. My dreams are very vivid. Often I am visited by spirit guides, a Diety, or a sage/shaman. I am given messages –names, ideas–and will wake up with this “need” to create something unique. Whether it be a dance, or a show.

 

My three most successful shows: “ANIMUS: A Shamanic Journey Through Dance and Theatre,” “Kalliopes Karavan: An Evening of Side Show Delights and Vaudeville Theatre,” and “Dancing the Wheel: A Journey Through the Witches Year,” have all come from dreams. A message from the Divine to create something. The shows couldn’t be different from each other, but the link is that they all came from Divine inspiration. They are all shows I am very proud of–even when they have had mishaps! They have all been guided by something deeper. Sometimes the show has deeper spiritual meaning for both me and the audience–and then at times its about creating a sense of family and friendships (with Karavan for certain) that spill into the audience.

I use my body as a way to connect to my spiritual journey…….

 

My body is guided by something deeper than myself.  As they say, “My body is a Temple….and Dance is my Prayer”