I thought ballet was my life, but then I lost everything, and I realized ballet didn’t mean that much to me.
A Photo of Me in My Last Ballet Performance
I’ll start off with the back-story. I started dancing when I was little, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. It became a serious passion around eleven years old. My younger sister and I were enrolled in a pre-professional ballet school when I was fourteen and she was thirteen. Many ballet dancers are already auditioning for companies at sixteen, so my skills were not where they should have been for my age. But I loved ballet and decided I was going to work harder than everyone else to catch-up. I just wanted to dance, and nothing was going to stop me. Dancing was an exhilarating rush of adrenaline, coursing through my veins, and it felt like I was leaping over rainbows. There was nothing else like it.
I was away at a ballet summer intensive when I got a bad case of Achilles Tendinitis in my right foot. All of my friends said they had it too, so I brushed it off and convinced myself I was just being weak. I saw the doctor on campus, and he told me to ice it. I danced about seven hours a day, and it kept getting worse. In the final week it was so swollen my shoes barely fit and it had turned an ugly purple-blue color. I could barely walk, but I still dragged myself to dance class and smiled through the pain. After I came home we went to another doctor, and she confirmed it was a bad case of Achilles Tendinitis. She instructed me to wear a removable cast, and to not dance until I recovered.
It took over a year to recuperate, and by that time I had started college. I relapsed into anorexia and depression due to my injury, and I had become apathetic about life. My mother taught ballet at her own studio and enlisted the help of me and my sister. A few years later I was in remission from anorexia, and I started to dance again. I had forgotten how much I loved it.
Then I got married and moved to attend grad school. I had been dealing with undiagnosed hypothyroidism for the past few years in college, so it took all my energy and willpower to focus on school. Once the hypothyroidism was treated, I found myself again, and I agreed to help my mom teach ballet. I had lost all of my flexibility so I diligently stretched for about an hour a day. It only took six months to tear my right hip labrum, and reinjure my Achille’s Tendon, again.
Ballet was everything to me, and I felt lost and hopeless without it, so I fell into a pit of despair and relapsed into anorexia. That was five years ago, and at the time I didn’t know I had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a genetic disease causing defective collagen), and that my health was headed for a downward spiral with no end in sight. Since then I have had three hip labral tears (two hip scopes and an open surgical dislocation), I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, and I injured my shoulder. Some of this is normal to a certain degree, but not in your 20s. For the sake of brevity I have only divulged my main health issues. One of my hip surgeons told me that it didn’t matter how well he fixed my hip, I would have to be careful for the rest of my life because I have multidirectional instability. It was a confirmation of what I already knew. I could dance again if I wanted to, but I already lost several years of my life, a prisoner to my own broken body, laid up in bed, drowning in sorrow.
A Picture Taken After My Health Declined
I found writing, and that helped soothe the heartache and gave me a creative outlet to vent my angst. I don’t miss ballet like I used to. There will always be a small part of me that wishes I could still dance, but over time it’s been easier to suppress that desire. I still taught ballet for several years after that first right hip labral tear, but my health kept declining, and it got to the point where I couldn’t demonstrate anything anymore, so I had to quit. I live vicariously through several of my students, two of which are on the road to becoming professional ballerinas. I take pride in knowing that I was their first ballet teacher. I enjoy following their progress and watching them become beautiful dancers.
Five years ago I thought ballet was everything, but as my health declined, I realized there was more to life than that. It was a hard lesson to learn. . .