Before group class yesterday, I was formulating a post idea in my head about entering “beast mode.” You’ve probably heard the term. It’s used to describe someone in a state of extreme determination and action, like an incredible hulk of productivity. No more excuses, no slacking off. In beast mode, you get things DONE.
I was feeling a bit like I was in beast mode. After a good lesson on Wednesday, which ended with a practice round (meaning we danced all four dances in a row, just like we will at the competition), I identified mistakes I made and things I needed to work on. And I was ready to WORK. “Let’s dance that again, and then dance it 10 more times!” I arrived at the studio early yesterday so I could practice before Teacher’s waltz group class.
It didn’t go so well.
I started off decently. I began with waltz and went through each of the routines, trying to focus on keeping my head and chest picked up. I had to review my practice videos to recall some of the waltz choreography and most of the foxtrot choreography. Foxtrot continues to be my nemesis. I could feel myself getting frustrated and upset while I tried to get through that routine, so I skipped ahead to Viennese to keep a positive momentum going. There is this runaround turn thing (sorry, I’m terrible with names) in my Viennese routine that is really cool, but it’s super fast and it’s very easy for me to lose control in it because it almost feels like I’m slingshotting around Teacher. Sometimes I nail it and other times I’m a mess.
It was one of those other times.
Group class was starting in about 10 minutes, and I could tell the beast of determination in me was turning into a demon of anxiety. So I called it quits and made myself a cup of chamomile tea.
The group class was a progressive one, meaning each week would build on what was discussed the previous week. Teacher had been talking about rotation and swing in the waltz dances, and we warmed up by doing progressive silver waltz steps around the studio. I felt pretty good, and Teacher commented that I was looking better.
His next discussion was about using the lats to push your rib forward in the angle your body was in. So if your left side is moving forward, you contract/squeeze/engage your right lat to push your left rib in the correct direction. We repeated our drill with instruction to apply this concept.
I didn’t feel as good as the first time. Something was off in my timing of things. Teacher called to me to correct something, but I just felt like I was getting worse. I started to feel the sensation of coming apart at the seams. But I held it together.
Teacher stopped the drill to discuss another concept – the idea of not fully straightening and locking your legs when you rise. Keeping a slight bend in your knees even when you’re up on the balls of your feet allows for more swing. This idea was the final trigger. I knew I straightened my legs too much when I rose and it would make my movements look jerky. I had worked on keeping my knees bent before, but whenever I focused on it, it never felt right. I would feel more off-balance instead of less. I wasn’t going to get this right before CalOpen. Crap.
We did our drill again and I fought back the demons as I tried to not straighten and lock my legs. Teacher was calling pointers and corrections to me as I moved around the studio, and finally I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew Teacher could tell I was getting upset because he told me to wait a minute as he walked over to help. But a full-blown anxiety attack was about to start and all I could do was shake my head and say “I’ll be right back!” as I hurried to the bathroom to avoid breaking down in front of everyone.
I don’t think I was away for too long, although I really have no idea. I started to feel really embarrassed, even in the middle of the attack, but while I tried to slow my breathing, I told myself to take as much time as I needed and there was nothing to be ashamed of. Teacher and the other students in the class would not begrudge me anything. They would understand and be supportive.
I’m going to stop for a moment to repeat, anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. I think giving myself permission to take the time I needed actually reduced the time needed, because it helped bring some calm to my mind.
Teacher had moved on to shadow position by the time I returned. We paired up to practice applying the discussed concepts to this position. I think shadow is fun. It’s challenging but I feel like you can really fly around the floor in a cool way. So I was happy to move onto something I specifically enjoyed and thought I had some skill in. Teacher and I have shadow in both our waltz and foxtrot routines and, especially in waltz, I felt like I was steadily improving.
Apparently only when I dance with Teacher. My class partner and I were having trouble because I would step on him as we were moving backwards. He was ending up directly behind me instead of off to the side and getting in my way. Teacher observed errors on both our parts, but one problem was that I was moving too fast in my step and not giving him time to move out of my way. I needed to delay my step more.
As Teacher explained what needed to be corrected, I focused on breathing. The anxiety was coming back as the one thing I was feeling confident in turned out to be not so good. At least when I was dancing with someone other than Teacher. I know another issue is my movements are a lot bigger than most women. As my class partner said, I really move! I sometimes forget to adjust to my lead.
I had to escape to the bathroom again after class to manage another attack, but this one wasn’t as bad.
For a brief moment, I considered staying to try to practice a little more. Maybe I could turn the night around and end on a positive note. But all I wanted to do was go home and go to bed. Pushing myself when I was tired and didn’t have Teacher available to help me work through things wasn’t a good idea. So I went home.
I know it’s odd to share something so personal here when I was hiding while it was happening. But I know I’m not the only one out there. It’s easy to feel very alone in your anxiety, especially when you’re experiencing it while those around you seem just fine. You feel like the oddball for reacting the way you do. But you’re not weird or abnormal. You are you, and that is beautiful.
I share more in Tips for Dealing with the Anxious Beast by breaking down exactly what I did to handle my anxiety attacks yesterday. Hopefully, someone else will find the tips useful.
Happy (and anxiety-free) dancing!