This month, I invited another dancer to write her own story. We met through Instagram of all places. Her Instagram account (@girlinthe_vans) is mainly videos of her dancing at a gym. No fancy costumes or glamorous settings. Just her, the music, and dance. The story behind these videos is full of pain and loss. But always, there was dance, ready to act as a lifeline when she reached for it.
I never really knew why I loved to dance so much, since it honestly never really amounted to anything amazing. I kept it going through elementary school, high school, and college. I eventually became an assistant teacher at age 15 and worked my way up to teaching my own classes and winning awards and all that. For some reason, in my heart it never completely meant what it was supposed to mean. I didn’t even know what that meant. I loved to teach dance, but the meaning was one of the things I lost along the way.
I always shared dance on Instagram. I would hashtag #dancethroughlife on my posts about dance. Last year (2016), that hashtag took on new meaning. Last year was one of the hardest years of my life. I won’t say it was THE hardest, I won’t challenge the universe in that way, but it was one of the hardest.
I fell in love. It was the most beautiful thing and I sometimes felt like I was dreaming. It was like God himself printed this man out of his special Godly HD printer with all the tattoos and imperfections in all the right places just for me. This isn’t a story about that man though. It just starts with him. It ends with me. Just me.
I got pregnant really early on into my relationship with this man and we decided not to keep the child. We agreed that we would have beautiful children together when the time was right. I supported him, and everything he was doing for himself. I wanted to see him succeed. I wanted to help him succeed in life. He had struggled. I never wanted him to struggle again, especially not because of me.
So I beat myself up endlessly when he began to struggle again. After aborting my child, I had severe physical and mental health complications, missing months of work. He did his best to support me. Midway through the aftermath, my family was affected by a horrible drug epidemic and my life at home became very tumultuous. I moved out, which created an entirely new dimension of familial tumult in and of itself.
It was at that point when my support ended. It was all too much for him, he said. I was too much. I never meant to be. He accused me of being a drug addict and a bad influence and simply wrote me off as such. I tried my hardest to get him back. To no avail. He meant what he said.
In the winter of 2016, I gave up my child when all I ever wanted was to be a mother, and ended up on a very lonely medical leave because I lost the man I loved too. I wasn’t supposed to lose them both.
He had wanted me to keep my abortion between us. It was private, he said. So my dance family didn’t know what I was going through. It was one of the reasons why I ended up losing them too. They didn’t understand what was going on with me, and they had a show to do.
After moving out of my family home, I lived in a converted garage apartment with no contact or communication with my personal family or my dance family. I chose him, they said. Which meant I wanted to be alone, since apparently he didn’t care about me. After our relationship ended, he didn’t talk to me, except to tell me that he had moved on and met someone new.
While in that garage apartment, I learned a lot about myself and what I believed in was challenged. I lost my brother-in-law to his battle with drugs and watched from a distance as my parents struggled with helping my sister get through intensive outpatient rehab treatment. I also lost my uncle to Lou Gehrig’s disease a few days before I lost my brother-in-law.
I finally had to give up on one hope I was holding on to, and that’s ever hearing from my ex again. I had let him go, but always hoped a little that he would maybe come back around in a few years. He had called me to tell me that he met someone new, but he didn’t mention that he had also gotten her pregnant. I later learned that she was keeping the child, and I imagine he’s about to be a father. I simply did not expect to have to deal with seeing him become a father so soon after I’d barely made peace with my own self for aborting his baby the year before. I began to receive some extra counseling to help me manage my anxiety. I felt no one understood. I did not expect them to. But in time, I hoped that I would.
If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with dance, I guess this is the part where I explain it. I suffer from Post Abortive Syndrome, an arm of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My ex and I had been grossly misinformed about the mental health dangers of abortion, which led him to jump to some horrific conclusions about me, and me to lose just about everything I loved in my life, except my ability to dance.
Before our relationship ended, I joined a gym. My ex had told me we should work on ourselves, but separately. I believed him and took it to heart. I promised him that I would work on bettering myself physically and emotionally for him and for us. I told him I would dance and exercise at that gym every single day. I wanted him to be proud of me. I created the Instagram account so he would be able to see what I was doing. I wanted to show him and to prove to him that I really truly was spending all of my spare time repairing my body and mind from what it had gone through, and using my artistic gifts to do it.
My heart hurt so much and not hearing from him after he left hurt even more. I would post the dancing online and hope he was watching. I hoped that I would eventually hear from him, something like “wow, you really have done a beautiful job on yourself and I’m humbled to see that this is all for me.” But he never said anything.
I never choreographed anything or worked on any specific technique. The dancing was much more basic because I was focused on my emotional healing. I would go to the gym and set my phone to record in selfie mode (which reduced resolution but ensured I was in fact recording the entire time). I was usually alone and sometimes I would go with certain songs in mind that I heard on the radio, but I would mostly go and put on YouTube or Pandora and just let it play. I was too afraid to go into the rest of the gym to meet or talk to people. But sometimes, someone else would be in the room I would use and be playing music when I got there, so I would just dance to theirs. I actually made a lot of unexpected friends that way. I danced for a few hours at night, and sometimes I would go during the day too.
Everything you see on my Instagram is on-the-spot improvisation. I don’t run through anything more than once, and so there is plenty of video footage of me looking not so connected or in tune with the music. The beautiful moments when I just knew I was connected to the music are the ones I share on my Instagram.
About six months in, my dance Instagram started to become something else entirely. I had received a lot of beautiful words of encouragement from people all over the world, and messages from others saying that I inspired them or that they are going through the same thing. That I gave them hope. So when I found out this past March that he had gotten someone else pregnant so quickly, and here I was all this time dancing for him trying to get over him and my abortion, it stopped being for him. Sharing my dancing on Instagram was more than ever just for me, and for all the people who watched and felt inspired or hopeful by what I was doing.
Now, my Instagram is a place for me to not only talk about how I’m feeling but to dance about it too. Not only that, it is a place for others who may be feeling something similar. I want it to be a place where people can go and just feel hopeful.
God took everything away from me and handed me an empty room. In that room, I dance to show love, honesty, loyalty, and forgiveness to those who I care for and who have cared for me. I dance to remember who and what I have lost, and I dance to provide hope to others and for my own future. It will get better. I dance for my life because dance saved my life.
Please like, share, follow my Instagram @girlinthe_vans and #danceFORyourlife. I am dedicating it to raising awareness for PTSD and Post Abortive Syndrome, and also for love, the love of God, self and others, for one year.
The first few months though, I humbly say, are also dedicated to someone.