Today, I danced again. Just for a little bit.
I was actually not planning to dance at all, outside of my favorite workout tape, “10 Minute Solutions Hip-Hop Dance Remix”. Silly, I know. I was planning to do each work out – the entire fifty minutes – but Amazon wouldn’t load the video, so in frustration, I went out to my living room to figure out what to do. Did I want to hoop? Did I just want to move? What if someone walked by my large living room window? I looked through my phone for a couple of minutes, my cat Alice at my ankles, mewling, trying to find a song. It actually didn’t take very long. I found a song a friend had recommended a few weeks ago, Rising Waters by James Vincent McMorrow, and just let my body move.
Let me just say it wasn’t awkward… at first. I felt music move through my body and explode out my fingertips, I felt it move my feet in circles and loose pirouettes (let it be noted that I’ve only taken one ballet class and it was as an adult for about six weeks), I felt my hand move through my hair dramatically and my other hand reach out as I stretched, backwards, dramatic, alive, dancer. I didn’t think. I didn’t need to think, not really. Moving was intuition, intuition was moving, moving was art, music was color, and my body was the paint brush. I felt elegant, lively, emotional, and outside of my body all at once. This lasted for about three minutes. Then, the pain started.
I have endometriosis of pelvic peritoneum. That means that my endometriosis lines the wall between my pelvic organs and my abdominal wall. It is on my right side, and I take birth control to manage the pain. The birth control stops me from have menstrual cycles and helps keep my cysts under control. It sometimes does still stop me from physical activities; for example, it makes prolonged sit ups and running especially difficult. In addition, it can sometimes interfere with my desire to dance. Today, it did just that.
I felt a stab in my lower right side, sharp and sudden. I had to stop and check myself over. It was so sudden my breath became shallow for a moment. I tried to continue dancing, but found it continued to speak, trying to keep me from doing movements which freely used my stomach muscles. My feet kept drawing inwards, curling me into a ball of pain and disappointment in myself. I had to stop and sit in my chair, breathing hard both from exertion and pain. All I wanted to do was express myself. I’m still not sure how skilled I am as a dancer, but it’s something dear to my heart. Even right now, listening to McMorrow’s Get Low, I know the motions I would want to put my body through to follow the emotional rhythms of the song, the climaxes, the falls, the heart. It is a song that brings sorrow to my heart remembering the people who I have loved and lost, and I feel I could put a lot of emotion into a dance to it, perhaps moving myself to tears. But how am I to move if movement causes me to catch my breath in pain? How can I freely stretch myself, reaching to the heavens, if I can’t reach my hand up, if my stomach will not bend backwards without that stab?
March is endometriosis awareness month. Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue which grows along the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It can grow anywhere in the body, and like menstrual tissue, still bleeds along with a menstrual cycle. It causes a whole host of difficulties that I will get into in a minute, a list of problems I did not know about when I was diagnosed with it. I had no idea when I was diagnosed with it at age twenty-three that it would prove difficult to live with. (Truthfully, that’s my own fault. I was afraid of the examination required to renew my birth control and so I didn’t go until the pain became unbearable.)
I am one of the lucky ones. Endometriosis effects 2 to 10% of Americans with uterus’s. Women with it are more likely to have difficulty becoming pregnant. Symptoms include excessive menstrual cramps, heavy flow, pain during intercourse, or even pain during normal activities. Many of the women in my support groups are desperate for a solution, having surgery after surgery, taking medication after medication, changing diet and exercising where possible, but are in too much pain to properly do much of anything. Some are even out of work due to the pain of the condition, report that their significant others have left them due to the stress of their partner having a chronic illness, and wonder if the suffering is all in their heads. Chronic fatigue, pain, infertility… again, I am one of the lucky ones. I can still work, and my pain can be controlled with medication.
But today, I couldn’t dance. I didn’t feel so lucky any more.
My hoops lay forgotten under my love seat. I tried to get one out and found that while I could do many things I used to do, I had to stop because of the use of my abdominal muscles. There are many hooping tricks I need to relearn, and muscle memory that needs to be reviewed. For the most part though, I couldn’t do it. I felt like crying, realizing that there was a chance that my plastic circle friends may be doing me more harm than good. Something that had once brought me so much joy was causing me to grasp at my stomach in pain. I felt my body had betrayed me.
Hopefully, I can dance again soon, freely, without stopping for pain. Time will tell.