Photo credit: Ed Bowron
Life is hard when you are just starting school and you are different. Most psychologists catch anxiety and learning disabilities in children when they are very young, but I was not diagnosed until I started having panic attacks at dance classes and at school. One of the causes, at least when I was younger, was too many people talking to me at once. I would feel like the room was spinning, my mind was racing and like I couldn’t get my head to stay on straight. Once I started having these panic attacks the teachers and psychologists started looking at my marks and noticed they were slipping and I had the penmanship equivalent to a primary student. With a lot of hard work I got through that stage of my life, but then I was on to the next stage: Junior High then High School, then finally where I am now, Cape Breton University.
Junior High was an interesting time, now thinking back to it as a 19 year old. I didn't realize how much of a change Junior High was, especially for a kid with anxiety. I was always known as the kid who stressed out a lot, whether it was at school or dance, especially with anything that allowed me to try to be an overachiever. When I didn't get the results I wanted, I would be very hard on myself. Eventually I got through my grade 7 year, 8 and then finally grade 9. In grade 9 things finally started looking up. I got honors, a 99 on one of my exams and then came the jungle. In other words: Memorial High School. People say that high school is where you find yourself, where you discover who you are, but to get to that point you have to get over the anxiety of finding your way around. I remember my first semester classes at Memorial like they were yesterday. I did not do very well in any classes the first year until I just decided to try my best and not worry about what marks I received.
Next came grade 11, then 12. I was still the kid that stressed out, but about different things now, such as what school to go to, and how to keep my marks up to get honors (which did not happen). Then my anxiety really started to come out. Tests became hard, especially within the sciences and quite frequently ending up with me becoming upset. So I really had to learn how to accept that stuff happens and you can't be perfect all the time. This for me was a very hard thing to accept. But eventually I did, though, with the help of some of the amazing staff at Memorial. They helped me so much over the three years I was at Memorial. Then came prom, the best night of my life, then graduation, then University. University was definitely where I found myself, I learned to be myself and not care what other people thought. I found some wonderful friends and that leads me into today, into my second year of university and couldn't be happier.
I still get anxious, it is still there, but I know how to better control it. Now at university I am known as the person that makes everyone's day and I have had it said to me that I am never in a bad mood, which definitely makes me so happy to know I am the life of the party. However, It was not just my school life that my anxiety affected, it was my extracurricular activity dance.
I danced at the same school for my first eight years of being a competitive dancer. I made some spectacular friendships, and had some amazing mentors and teachers that helped me become the person I am today. These people were around when I was first diagnosed. I think it definitely made sense to a lot of my dance teachers. As a competitive dancer, when I would compete I would always be so scared, I would think: what are the judges going to think of me? And this was always one of the thought that consumed me in my first three years that I competed. I never knew why I always thought like that but I just assumed that everyone did, that everyone kept themselves up all night before competing, and everyone made themselves so scared that they couldn't eat before competing. I learned very quickly that this was not the case; we didn't do many competitions so I did not have to feel that way very often. My friends and my teachers were my family, they never treated how I acted at competition as any different and looking back that is something that I will always love them all for.
Years came and went and then I changed dance schools and I would be lying if I said that was not one of the scariest things I have done. When I went to my new school I knew two people that is very funny looking back at this because now I pretty much know everything and everyone at that dance studio. My first year there was the years of being just a little all over the place, and was a year that definitely gave me a lot of anxiety. But it was different now; I wasn't with the kids that I grew up with. Very quickly I became part of the Northside Dance family and every person at the studio accepted me with open arms and I am forever grateful for that. To this day, even competing in 3-4 competitions a year competing still gives me a lot of anxiety, especially when I perform my solos. I have now spent seven years at this new school and I appreciate the teachers that I have had, the people that I have met through the studio are so supportive. I have had people stay backstage with me at competition and at 19 it does feel quite weird to ask for that. I have my people; my people will help me and they never make me feel weird about being a bit different, about having anxiety, about getting so scared before I perform. They just stay with me no questions asked and don't make me feel guilty about it. It is definitely because of these types of people not at one school but at both the schools I was at, that I have been able to be a competitive dancer for 15 years. I am forever grateful for both of the schools I have danced for. And for the love and support they both gave me.
That is my story but that is not my story, my anxiety may show up in every aspect of my life, school, home and dance but it is not my full story. I am an accident waiting to happen, a mother hen and a major pain in the butt (if you ask anyone at dance). If you ask anyone at school, I am the very hyper girl with a heart of gold that would do anything for anyone. At home I am a big sister and a daughter that loves to dance. That is what defines me, that is what I am and that is my definition of me.