Dance Diary: High Anxiety
I worry therefore I am.
I am an anxious person. I always have been. I make light of it, but the fact is, I do not know what life is like without chronic, on occasion, nearly debilitating anxiety. I cannot remember a time in my life where this wasn’t so. Whether this is nature or nurture I could not tell you. Certainly, circumstance has influenced it, but I suspect that mostly it’s part of the peculiar genetic map that is me. As I have gotten older my anxiety has intensified. It is a low thrum constantly humming in the background of my day. If it was a sound it would be the theme from Jaws.
I know that there are medications for this, but I am not inclined to go that route. I have taken Xanax in rare and (to me) extremely fraught situations - Flying (are you surprised I’m phobic?), and things medical related like tests, physicals, sitting in the waiting room... But a familial history of addiction is also part of that genetic map so I must be extremely cautious.
Which brings me to dance. One of the most unexpected side effects of dancing has been its effect on my anxiety level. I have consistently found that going to a lesson or class significantly reduces it. For some people this might be counterintuitive. This was a surprise. The reason I took up dance is that it has always been my weakest point as a performer and a cause for angst. How could it possibly cure it?
The short answer is - I don’t have any idea. It might be that the effort to follow the steps, keep up and retain the information disrupts my brain enough to derail the worry loop that it gets stuck in. It could be that the rhythm and vibration of the music act as a natural Reuptake inhibitor, altering my serotonin and lifting my mood. (I have read quite a few scientific studies that bear this theory out.) Singing has a similar effect on me. It might simply be that the music drowns out the Jaws theme replacing it with a happier ear worm.
This week has been a particularly difficult one in many ways, and last night I found myself wanting nothing more than to crawl under the covers and hide. So what if I had a 7:00 class, and I had promised the instructor I’d be there? It’s not like she’d notice. Did I really want get dressed, put on makeup and earrings and venture out into the freezing cold? “Are you nuts? Do you know what could happen out there?” The little red Demons Of Doubt were whispering in my ear. Nevertheless I put on the outfit, got in the car, drove to the studio and put on my shoes all the while thinking the demons were making some pretty good points. I danced anyway, and after I danced I felt better.
If this were the first or even fifth time this happened I could say this was a fluke, but I have felt this over and over again. Dancing and singing are not just what I do for a living or even merely how I view myself as an artist, they are my drugs of choice. They provide a bulwark against the chaos of the fear that threatens to topple me. The demons will most likely always be there, but now I know how to put them to sleep.