I've been able to find a lot of blessings from this extremely difficult situation I've been given. I've learned an immense amount about myself and my body in a short amount of time and I've quickly realized how many amazing people in my life are here ready to catch me when I fall (sometimes very literally :-P). For the first week after my surgery I was barely ever by myself. I always had a friend there with me. Without asking, they just filtered in and out of my door which I started leaving unlocked for any one who wanted to come visit. I had barely any time to think about feeling bad. Love distracted me, and I swear that's the best distraction. I always had food, water, medicine, and incredible moments of bonding where I had the opportunity to learn more about my friends and be there for them as they are for me. I cherish that first week I was posted up on the couch because I felt so deeply connected to my friends. Especially with all the traveling I do it's sometimes hard to reserve the face-to-face time that I would like to have with the people in my life. That's something I've decided to prioritize- making sure I am as present in my friends lives as they are for me. I owe them big time for the way they have embraced me through this and have kept me from going absolutely insane. The second week of recovery a lot of my closest friends were diving deeper into rehearsals for Shaping Sound and prepping to leave for tour. Even my friends who weren't in rehearsal had a lot going on that week (LA can be nonstop- its a "rise and grind" type of place). All of the sudden there was no one there and nothing going on. Not because they didn't want to be there with me, I believe they would have if they could have. At first it was nice to have the quiet time to reflect. But after half of a day it became a huge struggle. Not only did I stop eating as much as I should have because I had no way of getting food unless I ordered in 3 times a day (which sometimes I did), but my ice machine, that's supposed to consistently pump ice water to my knee through out the day, needed to be refilled with ice every 4-5 hours and there was no way I could physically pull that off. I finally figured out how to maneuver my crutches using just my armpit so I could have one free hand to get myself water. And even that didn't become a priority until my medicine wore off and I was in so much pain I had to find a way to take my pain killers.
It was only week two and I felt an incredibly deep sense of loneliness. It was quiet. There was nothing. The nothingness lasted for days at a time. I would sleep, cry, think too much, and sleep some more. The clock ticked by so utterly slowly. I tried to give myself credit for already having endured the first week then jumped to imagining the 39 more weeks I had to go. The TV wasn't an adequate distraction, my mind would just talk over it. It told me a lot of ridiculous things that made me feel helpless and ashamed of my situation. I had a ton of friends I could call but that- to me- meant updating them and talking about it all over again. I had become so sad so quickly I couldn't bare to hear the silence anymore and I also couldn't bare to talk. I was slipping fast and deep into a headspace where I knew I didn't want to go.
I had been in that space of darkness before during my last two surgeries. For those procedures, I went back to my hometown of Virginia Beach. At first because I wanted to be near family. Now, I see that wasn't my only reason. Deep down I felt ashamed of my situation. I didn't know any dancers that had gone through an injury that took them out like this and it made me feel inadequate, and worthless. I saw myself as a tool that didn't work- broken and unreliable. Like being a pianist without having a piano to play on-My art and passion felt trapped inside of me. I felt that there was no one that would understand me. So, I escaped as fast as I could back to a place where no one -except my immediate family and childhood friends- would be able to see me in my most vulnerable state. I was so embarrassed and rapidly became depressed. I decided to disappear and come back when I was "camera ready".
That decision to shut down and try to piece myself together in private didn't benefit me and it didn't help for my story to benefit anyone else around me. This time I decided to allow myself to be broken by this and for whatever it is inside of me to be exposed. It doesn't make it any less painful but it gives me purpose. And that purpose gives me a sense of self worth. Even just the decision to not run away gives me confidence in myself that I'm not the same scared young girl I was 4 years ago. I'm a woman who rises and falls. Still scared sometimes- but I'm trying to enjoy the fall as much as I do the rise.
Back to the now- I was kidding myself if I thought I was going to get away with everything being so much "easier" this time around. The sadness I was feeling was so strong. I honestly don't think it's avoidable in something like this. I also don't know how to make it go away. It feels a lot like swimming against a strong current and just wondering if and when it will get easier. It does get easier. Sometimes it lasts for months and months (it has for me before). Sometimes it comes in moments or out of no where for a day. This time, I attempted to kick the feeling by reading a book my best friend Travis gave to everyone in Shaping Sound. It's called The Energy Bus. It's a wonderful book and an easy read (I highly recommend it). I dove in and finished the book in a little over a day. It really helped me to turn my negative energy towards myself and the absence I was feeling from my friends that week into something more positive. I felt inspired by it for a bit then out of no where, and for no apparent reason, I would crash again. I see it now as waves. In a situation like this, no matter how strong you are, you're bound to have these intense emotions wash over you. You're going to experience sadness, loneliness, feeling left out/abandoned, worthlessness...etc. but you don't have to let the current pull you out to sea. Learning to swim upstream is the only way.
I'm sure that what works for me to keep my head above water may not be the same for everyone. But I have started to understand that making the effort to find the things that do work, whatever they might be for you, is a great way to prepare yourself for personal tragedy. Reading a book passes the time for me better than tv or a movie. Journaling helps me get it out from inside me, and then reading it back to myself helps me process the emotions. In fact, I learned something from a seminar called Landmark a few years back that I've found incredibly useful. I learned that all of us have "blind spots", the things we can't (or choose not to) see about ourselves. Imagine walking through the woods in the pitch black. Frightened and unsure of how to move forward. Once you face your thoughts, emotions, and actions for what they are you shine a flash light on your blind spots. Even if the flashlight only exposes a few feet in front of you it creates a safe space, a clearing for you to take a step forward and with every step you take your flashlight will expose more and more of what lies ahead and give you a sense of validity in yourself. For me, feeling like my feelings are valid instantly takes the edge off. And in times like this any relief is exhilarating. I tend to bottle so much up that I need to cry it all out but being so prideful makes me so tired and numb I can't even cry and that is a huge issue for me. However, as soon as I hear my thoughts out loud it makes me realize they are real and they are OKAY. It almost feels like giving myself permission to just BE even if it means my light isn't as bright in that moment....Or maybe it means my light is becoming even brighter in that moment because I'm not trying to hide it from the world when its not the color I'm most proud of.
For those of you who know someone who has been going through their own hardship: If you want to support them know that you don't need to "do" a lot or say the "right" things. The smallest gestures have been the most powerful for me. It's the text that says "thinking of you<3" from a friend who can't be there that takes the loneliness away. It's the friend that isn't just there for you when the wound is fresh, but remembers that the wound is slow healing and continues to be there for you consistently no matter how long it takes that makes you feel the safest. And sometimes it's just BEING there. Sitting with someone is the most powerful thing. Talking about everything or nothing at all and being okay knowing your presence alone is enough to take their pain away. The one thing I noticed about human behavior in these situations is that it's very natural to be deeply and genuinely concerned about someone but then to become distracted by our crazy lives and to forget that the other person is needing you. If you want to be a great support system for someone stay present. A text, a card, a phone call, a visit, a meal. Whatever it is you can do to let that person know you haven't forgotten about them. Being thought about, even for a single moment, could be the only thing someone needs to feel to help them paddle against the flow.
Thank you to all of my friends and family for everything you have been doing for me. Thank you to everyone who has fed me and brought me ice (and wine, haha), and for every single text and phone call. Thank you to those of you I only know through the social media world for supporting me and sending me love. It is felt so strongly. And most of all thank you to every single person for your prayers. I couldn't do this without you.
P.S. I kept hearing my girlfriend Nikole filling people in on my "injury". I have developed such a negative feeling around that word that I finally asked her if we could call it something else....
.....she perfectly responded with something a long the lines of "We can call you Bambi- because you always have a broken leg... as in 'She's just Bambi right now'"
I love my new nickname because it perfectly describes me but is also still pretty sexy at the same time...
Enjoy the journey....