I barely made it to the holidays. Exhausted. Completely useless. Brain dead. The depression had leveled off, keeping me trapped in this constant state of anxiety and misery. Couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t cry, couldn’t do anything.
The only thing I could do? Go dancing. I’ve explained it best here:
Dancing is the next step. To dance is to accept one’s spot in space and to be seen as one is, imperfections and all, rather than as one would like to be perceived. To dance kizomba is to accept connection. It is an intimate, sensual, physical dance: chest and legs touching. As a follower I must accept the leader’s lead: that requires giving up control, trusting him to guide me with clarity so that I can translate that into movement. It is a form of vulnerability. By accepting to follow, I must accept that I will sometimes get it wrong: I won’t understand, I’ll step on the leader’s toes & stumble, I’ll react too slowly, I’ll fuckup his intentions. I must accept that my imperfections will be seen and trust that the leader will treat them with kindness and patience and work through them so we can create something lovely together. My overriding need for perfectionism is one of the ways my shadow wears me down into depression, bc perfectionism is incompatible with compassion and vulnerability, the two cornerstones of human connection. By dancing, therefore, I am weakening my perfectionist tendencies, and strengthening my capacity for compassion and tolerance for vulnerability. By dancing, I am keeping my shadow at bay.
On New Years Eve, I came down with the flu. There is very little that I can say about the flu that is positive, but it does have one slight perk: when your entire body is so sick that you are exhausted from laying in bed, even your brain takes a breather from its usual vicious soundtrack. It did notice that very few people seemed care that I was bailing on the parties, and even fewer texted me at midnight – proof that I am unlovable! – but then it yawned and agreed with me that the best thing to do right at that moment was to take a nap.
For 2 days, my depression was on hold because I was too busy not dying from the flu.
On day 3, I noticed this on Instagram:
I realized that I’d stopped seeking out beauty. Unlike feelings, which are muted – depression is like living in a colorless world, or being colorblind – the capacity to see beauty does not disappear during a depressive episode. Beauty is always just that: beautiful. What does change during depression is the willingness or the capacity to notice beauty without significant effort. A depressed person can walk past an architectural wonder without blinking. But if someone stops them, and says, “look!” (depression and anxiety make stopping risky, bc having stopped, its very difficult to find the wherewithal to start going once again), a depressed person will not be blind to the beauty in front of them.
It occurred to me that seeking out beauty might prove to be a valuable coping mechanism against my depression. Beauty and humanity are close cousins. Humanity is the antithesis of depression. Having made this resolve, I’ve tried very hard this week to notice the smallest of beautiful things, from how pretty my street looks covered in snow, to how lovely Teacher and his partner look when they dance together.
It also occurred to me that while I am comfortable noticing beauty in others, I am extremely uncomfortable with anyone seeing me as a source of beauty. I delight in encouraging others to take their spot on the dance-floor, watching them express themselves fully. But turn the spot-light on me? I hate it. I will dance a few beats and pull someone onto the floor to take my place. Why do I hate it so much? Moments in the spotlight are nothing more than moments when I will be evaluated and found inadequate. While I value those moments of connection with my dance partners when socially dancing, I do not believe that alone, during a dance off or a performance, my dancing has any merit whatsoever, and it is only reasonable that others pick up on that, and find my dancing lacking. I do not believe in my dancing. I do not believe in what my dancing has to offer. I inherently do not believe in my own brand of beauty.
I’ve come a long way from the days when I couldn’t bear to watch myself in the mirror or see myself on video. I am now comfortable occupying my space. A significant victory! But I am still a ways from appreciating, and valuing my own vitality, my own expression:
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.― Martha Graham
2018: the year I accept my own beauty. I’ve a hunch that doing so will prove to be one of the biggest new tools in my tool box against my sick brain.