Live Broadcast from a Sinkhole?

Today I was going to write about choreography, but instead I’m going to write about depression again.

In fact, I have an entire post about choreography almost ready to go, but I don’t feel up to finishing it.

So here we are.

This morning I woke up, which is to say that I finally and begrudgingly relinquished my grasp on a 10-hour sleep marathon, in a bad way.

Not that I’ve exactly been in a great way, so to speak — though I keep sorta faking it on facebook and in other areas of my life where it doesn’t make sense to let the depression leak on too many things, as one does.

It’s just that the sheer calibre of this particular depression has shot from “fairly mild” to “crushing” overnight.

By way of analogy, it reminds me of a thing that happened a couple of years ago. One day I was riding my bike up to the Highlands for one reason or another and was flabbergasted to discover that, literally overnight, an enormous sinkhole had swallowed someone’s front yard, a mature full-sized tree, and about a quarter of a fairly large intersection. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.)

Needless to say, it was a shock. I had ridden past the same spot the day before, and everything was normal. This happens here, from time to time, thanks to a highly-porous limestone substrate and lots of underground water.

That’s kind of how this thing is going for me. Like the forces of whatever have been gnawing away at me from underneath, silent and unseen, and at last the surface has given way. So now I just wait it out, I guess.

The upside is that I wouldn’t say that it’s quite reached the “crippling” point. I am still capable of getting up and going to class and dancing. I thought I was supposed to teach today, but it turns out we didn’t have class because my co-teacher is in Massachusetts (should’ve known that; didn’t think to offer to teach class by myself — that’s probably okay).

I spent this morning at Open Fly making dances: one to Adele’s “Hello,” one to Jeff Buckley’s stellar cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” one of the few covers that I like better than the original artist’s version or, in this case, versions. The dance-making went well (if less modern and more ballet-influenced than I intended). I could move. I could balance. I could create. I could write stuff down, which I did a bit at the end. For a little while, I felt rather more … I don’t know, alive?

It’s weird how that works. The depression makes my body not want to move (which, btw, is the way you can tell when something is really, definitely, seriously wrong with me). Even speaking is hard right now. Dancing brings the body back to life for a while.

It’s like depression rolls a thick slab of glass across my experience of the world, and dancing pushes it back. As long as I dance, the glass stays gone. When I stop, it returns.

To be clear, though, dancing doesn’t eliminate the haze of pain that is forefront in my emotional experience. It’s just that I’ve learned that you can dance from the heart of pain the same way you can dance from the heart of joy.

And then, perhaps, sometimes you should dance from the heart of pain.

After, Denis collected me from the outdoor bench where I was slowly dissolving into inarticulate tears and took me out for brunch. While he was using the men’s room, I wrote myself a note:

When there’s joy, create from joy. When there’s pain, create from pain.

It’s not a profound thought, just kind of a reminder. Both joy and pain can be fuel.

I find all this comforting. Last night I was busy worrying if bipolar is going to derail my efforts to work in dance; if I am, in fact, a poor investment for any company, no matter how small.

But I think I can do this.

I can’t go work a desk job when I’m here (and definitely not if that desk job involves phone-based technical support … eee). But I can get up and make my body work; I can get up and be nice to the humans who dance with me and the humans who direct me as a dancer; I can get up and make art, somehow, with my body.

I can plumb the depths of my despair for dances the same way I sweep them from the heights of my joy.

And I can feel this without fighting it; without resisting.

In the car on the way to Open Fly, I think I apologized to Denis for falling apart or something like that.

He said it was okay; that maybe a huge part of the problem is that I work too hard to hold it all together. He said something similar the other night (last night? the night before?), when I couldn’t stop crying on the way home from a movie — that he loves my feelings, that he’s glad I have feelings.

I’m not always glad I have feelings, and I don’t entirely appreciate the fact that my feelings are all about the guerrilla warfare. On the other hand, maybe he’s right: maybe if I would just let go a little more often, there wouldn’t be so much of that.

For what it’s worth, dancing helps with the letting go. It’s hard to imbue your dancing with any kind of real emotional presence if you’ve got your emotions sealed up in some kind of sous-vide container and locked up in a freezer somewhere.

Hell, maybe they don’t call it “release technique” for nothin’, eh?

Anyway. So that’s what’s up, over here. Part of me feels like this is basically so much emotional exhibitionism (but, erm, if that’s so, then what the hell is basically all of modern dance?); another part of me feels like I’m still writing this at arm’s length because being entirely human in so public a context still basically freaks me the feck out.

So, yeah. Not sure if this makes even a modicum of sense. It’s just stuff. But, on the other hand, like Denis always points out: “If they were rational, we wouldn’t call them feelings.”

Soundtrack for My Depression:

Adele, “When We Were Young,” from 25
Adele, “Hello,” from 25
Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah,” from Grace
Jeff Buckley, “Corpus Christi Carol,” from Grace
Leonard Cohen, “Bird on a Wire”
Leonard Cohen, “If It Be Your Will”
Leonard Coehn,”Who By Fire”
Hozier, “Take Me To Church”
Hozier, “Work Song”
The Beatles, “Julia”

…Oh, and basically the whole of Faure’s Requiem, but that’s a playlist unto itself.

…And also, if you haven’t heard Buckley’s version of “Corpus Christi Carol,” OMG, go listen to it. He sang most of it in an exquisite falsetto, clear and  expressive and breathy only in exactly the right moments and sometimes tremulous; the rest in the upper part of his range, beautifully raw. Listen to his cover of “Hallelujah” while you’re at it, because holy. The man was a treasure.

And also, I so need to add “If It Be Your Will” to the contemporary ballet project I’m semi-secretly working on.

Edit: and “Who By Fire.”

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About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Getting along pretty well with bipolar disorder. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2016/07/03, in balllet, bipolar, healing, health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Aww, shit.

    At least the fact that it gets worse in your sleep is evidence of its inherent emptiness. If there was a reason for it it wouldn’t just go up and down like a 90yo viagra addict.

    When mine was at its worst I’d notice a slight delay – only seconds – from when I awoke to when the depression hit me full force again. As if it were a bit slower waking than I was. It was a weird sensation.

    Do you get depressing dreams when you’re depressed? I didn’t. Usually they were quite nice. If I get any sleep during my manias my dreams are usually chaotic and shattered though.

    I spent this morning at Open Fly making dances: one to Adele’s “Hello,” one to Jeff Buckley’s stellar cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,”

    From the ridiculous to the sublime.

    I’m a bit of a Hallelujah nut myself and – depending on my mood – Buckley’s version is usually my favourite. Doubtless you’ve also heard this one.

    I once read a Newsweek article that rated sixty different covers of that song (and they didn’t even mention mine).

    My depression playlist was usually more up tempo and confrontational though. The Stooges, Hole, The Hives, Gun Club, early Husker Du … Nothing like a bit of ‘fuck you’ music to keep things in perspective. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is good too. If only Jambinai had been around when I used to get depressed …

    For mania I’d prescribe Joy Division, Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate, Kate Bush, Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Nick Cave.

    It’s like Keynesian economics. You’ve gotta try to be counter cyclical. Save the Buckley for when you’re flying. It’s pretty hard for me to hear him without thinking about the circumstances of his death (and his dad’s). Mind you, good music often comes to a messy end. Did I mention Joy Division?.

    I can’t imagine ever being so sick I’d want to listen to Adele though. My neighbour played her first album on high rotation until she had a psychotic breakdown and they scheduled her. A few more weeks of Adele and I’d have been in the same ward.

    • Christ yes. I remember when she emerged just after Amy Winehouse died, and thinking she was the East German version of the real thing.

      If it helps, worrying about Brexit works the same way. I wake up, then I remember to be scared.

      • I love this analogy .. the East German version of the real thing 🙂

        Brexit is definitely a good reason to be scared. I admit, I have been getting through the current crisis of complete BS in American politics by leaning on the idea that at least the UK was more or less keeping calm and carrying on.

        And then, Brexit. Oy vey.

      • One solace Americans can take from the brexit fallout is Boris Johnson’s fate.
        See. Bad hair doesn’t always win.

      • OMG, excellent point.

        So there is still cause for hope!

    • Good question about dreams. Mine are often … hrm. Weird, dark, stressful, and violent when I’m depressed, though my depressions (like this one) are very often more like mixed states or agitated depressions, after an initial day or two of “my body does not want to move.”

      The most recent example worth mentioning was a truly cinematic masterpiece of a dream in which I was a member of a band of rebel upstarts defending our desert home against the onslaught of the Death Eaters-Cum-Storm Troopers sent by some repressive, oppressive totalitarian regime (who descended upon us, as they did upon all their targets, with their children in tow, that their children could better learn how to put down a rebellion). There was a great deal of violence. At one point, one of the shock troops’ children stumbled into the place where a group of us where hiding. I strangled the kid, which seemed like the only acceptable option: literally him, or all of us.

      Thank you, also, for illuminating a thing I’ve been trying to make sense of: the fact that I wake up depressed does, in fact, very much indicate that this isn’t actually being depressed *about* anything; it’s just that my brain chemistry is, to use the technical term, wack.

      I find that comforting in a certain way: like, this sort of, “Well, this has happened before, and I’ve lived through it, so it’ll probably pass,” kind of feeling. I’ve been in situations that were depressing, and I suppose that’s worse — this is just BS chemistry depression; that was usually stress-triggering-a-BS-chemistry-depression-that-made-it-hard-to-fix-whatever-the-problem-was.

      I think that at this point The Worst Day is maybe behind me. Today, I would definitely define myself as “still depressed,” but also short-tempered, punchy, and hyper, which is much more like my normal self. I haven’t been able to focus long enough to wash the dishes, but I did take out the recycling and the garbage and organized the dishes that need washing, so that’s progress, heh.

      I like your suggestions for music – both for mania and for depression. I like the idea of using the counter-cyclical approach (historically, I’ve leaned towards the “boil yourself in whatever you’re already feeling” approach, since my feelings are kind of absent so much of the time; maybe counter-cyclical will work better). I’ll have to check out some of the musicians on the list that I haven’t heard yet.

      With regard to Adele, I suppose I haven’t been subjected to her in large doses. I like a few of her songs (some part of me is a sucker for that sort of “Phil Spector Wall-of-Sound” thing that happens”).

      That said, I’m doing a dance piece to “Hello” because the first time I heard it, my brain was like, “OMG, this needs to be a ghost story!” …And then ballet took over, heh.

  2. So I read this and thought….I should write something supportive, but I better go take class first. Because I’m usually Mr dessicated calculating machine, but while I can still feel my feet I’m a whole lot nicer. I might even have feelings! They’re…in the turnouts somewhere?

    You know Adam Smith, as in the economist, was hugely depressed and found that only horses shifted it. The scholar’s malady, he said. So you’re probably on the right track dancing out of it.

    • Good call on doing class first (IMO, that is always the best policy: Job interview? Do class first. Scheduled surgery? Class first. Emergency surgery? Class first, if at all possible?)

      Also, I rather like the description “Mr Dessicated Calculating Machine.”

      I definitely support this theory that feelings are located in the turnouts.

      Do you think that if we work together, the governments of our fine nations will get their heads out of their butts long enough to support our ground-breaking research into the importance of turnout muscles to storing feelings? Which we can research, of course, by dancing. (As for the governmental-heads-out-of-butts part … probably not terribly likely, I suppose, if history is any indication.)

      Interesting about Smith and horses — horses are one of the few things I find nearly as anti-depressing as dancing (swimming is also good, as are paddleboarding, sailing, and skiing … basically, anything that involves moving my entire body and, preferably, feeling like I’m floating and/or flying, I guess).

      I do think that there is much to be said for finding the thing works — I don’t know if I’m dancing out of it, but certainly *through* it, which is worthwhile in and of itself.

      BTW, I finally was able to see your picture on facebarge. My instructors would be pleased with your form, I think, if this one moment is any indication. You arm manages to not look all elbowy, which I have come to recognize as the feature that differentiates dancers who’ve been at it long enough to kind of have some sense of what’s going on from those who are still just desperately hanging in there.

      It looks like an interesting piece of choreography; is that moment one of those things where you sort of scoop under, then up? We used those in a couple of pieces at Mam-Luft & Co, and I like them rather a lot.

      I am, in fact, forced to admit with at least a small measure of chagrin that I like modern quite a lot indeed, regardless of my lifelong allegiance to Teh Ballets.

      • The variation starts facing the left of stage, you extend your right arm, and do a RDJ to the right, ending up in open 4th on the diagonal. Lift the arm up to the ceiling and close 1st. Then scoop ahead with the working arm and follow it into the arabesque.

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