If you have ever suffered through a hard, hopeless season in life, you will know where I am coming from. It is that season when just getting out of bed in the morning seems near impossible and beyond your capabilities. The season where you walk around throughout the day on auto pilot, emotionally numb to the world around you; yet, still unable to stop an endless flow of tears. And then, there is the guilt so heavy on your shoulders for a person of “so-called” faith such as yourself to be giving in this way when you should be a person of abundant joy. Yes, that is the season I am talking about. I have been there.
In looking back with a clearer objectivity, I can see how I tumbled down that slippery slope. I was detaching because of overwhelmment. At the time, I was a mother to two young children going through a lot of change in general; but, the biggest factor was coming to grips with the reality that our youngest has special needs. I was stricken with stress and grief that I had never experienced before. And in addition, I was suffering through some significant health issues causing major sleep deprivation and distorting my view of the world. I was someone I didn’t recognize any longer.
I used to be full of life; a carefree optimist, an extrovert and true social butterfly. I loved to travel the world chasing adventure and ministering to others. Now I was everything opposite of those traits. This season of transition, grief, and ill health took me by storm. I was a mess.
I was attempting to wisely wade through the strife with the help of a counselor. I knew I couldn’t manage on my own and needed the additional support so as to keep my husband and children from absorbing the brunt of the emotional storm. I valued them too much to bring them down with my ship.
I was cleaning up around the house one day and found an old list of things I had written down long ago that I wanted to pursue. It was a sort of to-do wish list. And when I say an old list, I mean it must have been 5 or 6 years. On the very top, I read the words “Belly Dance”. Yes, for years I had wanted to try out a belly dancing class, but I had yet to drum up enough courage to give it a go. Besides, what would people think of me…a person of “deep faith”, shaking my hips with a coin belt on! I chucked the list to the side; yet, the thought of “what if?” continued to percolate in my mind.
What really did I have to lose? In my apathy, there was so much I didn’t really care about anymore. I was in survival mode, trying to deal with this trapped existence I had come to believe characterized my life. Yet, just “what if”? It might sound strange, but I prayed about it. I asked God if pursuing such a thing was really allowed. And, I added that if ever there was a point when the class environment was not appropriate for me, to make it clear and I would remove myself. I didn’t feel God’s disapproval so, I did it…I signed up! I needed to do something just totally crazy and random, out of my comfort zone; something just for me and no one else. I told only a few of my closest friends about my new activity, figuring that the last thing I needed was to listen to any opinions in response to my behavior.
My first visit, I did manage to coerce a friend into accompanying me, but soon after I was left to go it alone. The initial intimidation factor was there…a wall of mirrors, an experienced instructor, and a small group of ladies with coin belts on and moves much more refined than mine. The music began and so did the best depression medicine yet… not taking myself so seriously if even only for an hour a week. I was able to laugh at myself again and just have fun. It was a complete release that I came to crave.
I needed to do something just totally crazy and random, out of my comfort zone; something just for me and no one else.
The physical exercise was helping me to clear my head and release the stress pent up in my body. I have never been one disciplined for fitness unless it can prove itself a fun experience at the same time. Belly Dancing seemed intriguing, physically challenging and also cultured. The class environment was extremely gracious, non-competitive and carefree. Disclaimer here, attendees were in fitness attire and not the full-on dancing garb. Coin belts were tied over yoga pants and modesty was still present. There was the rule that no spectators were allowed and men were banned. And, though we were facing off with a wall of mirrors, no one seemed to be watching or battling with anyone but themselves. I could come and go anonymously, with no one expecting anything of me but to “shake something”. And, the women in the group were all ages, sizes, ethnicities and skill levels. It may sound odd, but this new environment gave me a new lease on life. I began to overcome previously crippling insecurities by just the realization that I had conquered my fear of joining the class. I was finding new joy in life through the humor of it all, and literally shaking off my depression.
Now I am not telling you to go sign up for a belly dancing class. It, in and of itself, did not save me from depression. But, the act of removing myself from an environment in which I felt overwhelmed and trapped in order to experience something totally new and fresh did provoke me to unload my frustration without being aware that I was doing so. I was, in a way, distracting myself from being overwhelmed and hopeless. I needed to see myself in a different setting, a somewhat foreign setting to experience life outside of what I knew. And as I did, the mental and emotional fog I was in, seemed to miraculously lift.
Two years later, and I’m still shaking it. No, I have never been in a recital. That is still beyond me and not of much interest. Oddly, what began as an impulsive decision has become strategic in buffering me while in a difficult season in my life and provoking me to build a new and much needed personal resilience. I am in a new season now, feeling empowered and inspired, while hopefully filling my tank in defense for any seasons that may come my way. I am also happy to report my faith has not only remained intact, but also become stronger in the process.
By the way, after a couple years of practice, I can shake it pretty well. It is my little secret…that I have now shared with the whole blogging world. The cat is out of the bag and there is no putting it back now.
“And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off…” – Florence and the Machine
Looking for more on depression? Check out Is Battling Depression Disappointing God? and When Someone You Love is Depressed.