Depression is s shapeshifter. It has rarely felt the same to start, but once I’m deep in it, I know I’m there. You may wake up feeling despair for seemingly know reason. Overly emotional. You might not have interest in doing your favorite things. You might feel trapped and unable to leave your own home. Anxiety will almost always show up to the party because the two are best friends. Depression and anxiety feed off of fear. It waits, for that small introduction of doubt in the depths of your soul, to regenerate, slowly, teasing your mind until your fear is so great, that it can take over again; leaving you stuck in the muck… the light slowly fading until your in the dark.

Being a mysterious, dark Scorpio probably doesn’t help my case. Darkness always finds a way to us and truth-be-told, I’m pretty comfortable in the dark, I just don’t like being stuck there. I’m also extremely creative and like any creative person, self-loathing comes with the territory. “I’m trying to do too much and what I’m trying to do is never good enough.” Seeking balance and happiness needs to be coupled with the realization that love and fear cannot live in the same house. You can only fake positivity for so long. Eventually, you have to break yourself down to be able to build yourself back up. This past summer, I was dead in the water. Not even flailing… just lying there, letting the water inch higher and higher, until I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

I was overwhelmed by all of my larger than life goals, anxious about the future, but no desire to do anything any more; including leaving my home. I found myself unbelievably unhappy with my body. Again. 30 years old with body issues. Will this ever end? To top it all off, I had lost my confidence at work and felt overwhelming guilt for not working all the time. Due to all these factors, my blog also suffered during this period because I felt like I had nothing to write about and I didn’t feel authentic giving advice when I was feeling so lost. So, I did what I always do during times like these, I write down all my angsts and make a plan of action for each and every one.

In my time of introspection I realized there was still a raw wound from my last relationship that was not only effecting me so deeply on a personal level, but also effecting my new relationship. When my ex and I met, I was about 108 lbs–the result of over-training and under-eating. Five years later, I had gained weight. He never looked at me the same. He never wanted to touch me. I’m sure you’re wondering how this all came back up recently… Well, although I have no interest in having “that” body again, I do want to change my current body, but this is how my fear processed desire to change:

“You gained weight in your last relationship and he never looked at you the same again, if you lose weight now, your new beau won’t look at you the same either”

I’ve never been in a relationship like I’m in now — a man that shows unbelievable support and affirms me every day. A man that looks me in the eyes and says things like “you take my breath away”… a man who calls me his dream girl and gets lost in my curves. But, nevertheless, fear stepped in. After I had broken down all my other issues to be able to rebuild, this was still there clawing at me. It was painful. Laying in bed one night, my boyfriend had asked me if I was okay and if I was working through all my shifts. He listened as I went through one by one, shedding light on all my fears and demons and my plan of getting out of my funk. The great thing about him is that he can read me like a book. He looked at me, blue eyes piercing my soul and asked, “is that it? I feel like there is something else.” Yes, there was something else, but I was so embarrassed to bring it up. I had to admit my insecurity based on an old relationship… and that is just what I did.

I opened up. Just speaking the irrational fear-ladened words to him took a weight off my shoulders. For a moment, the monster inside stopped clawing at me and waited… He looked at me and said, “Are you kidding me? That’s not a thing. I will always watch you go up the stairs in slow motion and look at you the exact same way.” And just like that, the monster vanished. He understood my need to find my stride again. We’re both of the mind that exercise is the best anti-depressant on the planet, but I had spent so long beating my body up, that I didn’t know what I could do to reap the benefits of working while also having fun. He asked what I wanted to do as an activity, but I had no idea. I desperately needed to do something physically and mentally rewarding, but that’s something I had needed to find and discover on my own.

While I was scrolling through facebook one day, there was an ad in my sidebar. $20 intro class for Pole Dancing. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to try, but fear kept me from going out of my comfort zone. For a moment, fear was there… whispering doubt in my head that I would be “embarrassed”; “not strong enough”. I responded with a “F&ck it!” and signed up. Little did I know, it was going to be the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

Step one– It got me out of my house. For the first time, I was excited about something again. I felt like I was living — experiencing. On a hot California afternoon, I drove across Los Angeles to see what this intro class was all about. I stepped into the studio and was greeted by women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. All of the newbies were ushered into a small, dimly lit studio–two poles–and were given yoga mats. We started by introducing ourselves and then we were told a little about the studio. As I looked around the room, I realized there were no mirrors. I was confused, but then our instructor explained the space in the most beautiful way…

“You’ll notice there are no mirrors. What we do here is extremely intuitive and personal. Mirrors hinder your intuition and introduce judgement. This is a judgment free zone. We do what feels good.”

She dimmed the lights of the studio to darkness–small candles making us all silhouettes–and proceeded to lead us into warm up. As the music came up, my insecurities found comfort in the dark. Darkness was an old friend, but it was then that I started to find myself in the dark.

As sexy as it felt and probably looked, it burned. I was engaging full body muscles for moves that looked so fluid and easy. I noticed that our instructor moved so unbelievably slow and as she lead us through the movements she mentioned that with strength will come control. The slow, primal movement carried into the dance routine portion of the class. At this point, I was tapped into my sexuality, but I didn’t understand why I couldn’t control my motion like the instructor. I thought maybe my intuition was leading me toward faster moves, but it was really my lack of trust in my own body that wasn’t allowing me to slow down. That lack of trust was apparent when we moved onto the pole. I have very little upper body strength, but through my struggle and frustration, I found determination. I hadn’t felt determined about anything in months.

The class was about an hour and a half. I enjoyed it. I felt… empowered. I chatted with the instructors about my schedule, which had been a cause of much of my anxiety and they understood why I didn’t want to jump into a class package. I went home to think about it. When I woke up the next morning, my entire body, muscles I didn’t know existed, were sore. That’s when I knew pole dancing was the workout for me. I didn’t particularly feel like I did anything to warrant that body response, but clearly, I had. I felt that life high again — and it excited me more than words can express. Anyone who has ever felt depressed or has lost motivation for something they loved will understand what it’s like when life sparks again.

I wound up getting an unlimited annual pass. Yes, that’s a huge commitment and pretty pricey, but there is a method to my madness. So much of my misery over the last few months was due to feeling guilty about not being at the office. I have a fast-paced, high-stress job, but I’m not busy all the time. I could easily workout in the morning and come in late or leave the office at a decent hour to workout at the end of the day, but I wasn’t doing that. So, the unlimited monthly was motivation to get there, be present, and stick with it. One of the great things about pole dancing has been that it doesn’t feel like a chore. There have still been days where I have to drag myself to class, but I know that once I’m in the warm up, my motivation will kick back in.

“As you grow stronger, you are more comfortable and confident with slowing down.”

The slow control and trust developing on the dance floor is pouring into all the aspects of my life that have been causing me so much angst. That feeling of everything needing to happen right now, is fading. The lack of self-confidence is transforming into love, faith, and conviction. All that I want to accomplish, feel, and experience will happen in its own time… my only objective is to keep moving forward and intuitively change course when I need to. I no longer feel guilty taking time for myself. We are not put on this earth to work and die. So, I choose to live each and every day with the assurance that there is no one path to happiness and success, and also, perception is key.

I have always had a fondness for Jim Morrison’s poetry. “She dances in a ring of fire and throws off the challenge with a shrug” is a line that has stuck with me for years, but it was only recently that I connected with it on a deep, personal level. Maybe I hadn’t been lost in the dark all this time; maybe I had been trapped in a ring of fire–burning with desire but unable to rise to its’ challenge. In my journey, I’ve found that when we don’t rise to the challenges presented, the fire burns us, sometimes completely enveloping us until we rise like a phoenix from the ashes. I am being taught to intuitively dance with my ring of fire… all while finding myself in the dark.