A Useful Tool for Dancers…and Writers

A Useful Tool for Dancers…and Writers

Ever since starting Dance August mid-January, I have begun taking care of my body more after a 2 1/2 hour dance class. That class pushes your body to the limits, and because of this, the trigger points in my left leg began acting up. I had accepted them as permanent knots that would never go away. My previous dance school didn’t trigger them that much. Fibromyalgia is also notorious for them. After all, I’ve had them for two years. However, knowing that this is the school I want to stay at for a long while, I knew I needn’t not accept that line of thought anymore. I scheduled an appointment with my primary physician; however, she told me the predictable: heat, stretching, better arch support, and a possible professional massage. Even so, I heeded her advice.

I had THIRTEEN muscle knots in my leg.

This is exactly what I use.
This is exactly what I use.

Some were small, others were probably about an inch in diameter. (I am only guessing based on the tender spots I found in my calf that weren’t present in my other one.) When you have muscle knots for as long as I have, those muscle knots develop scar tissue around them to prevent the muscle from tearing. It’s amazing, actually, that I have been able to function in ballet with that many muscle knots. Even so, they were causing me muscle weakness I was not willing to accept. I have also always felt a stretch in my left leg  I could never get rid of during pliés that I never felt in my right, too. I don’t feel that anymore.

My left balance in class has been horrible in adagio. You stand on one leg, flat, while your other leg does something, and no matter what I did, I could not regroup my left balance once I lost it. My right balance, however, had no problem. So I started using my percussion massager on all those knots. It’s very painful, but because of ballet, I have a high pain threshold, which is unusual for someone with fibromyalgia. The knots didn’t really affect anything else in ballet, but I love adagio, and so I am determined to perfect that left balance.

I use this massager all over my body after an intense dance class. It usually prevents that delayed onset muscle soreness after intense workouts.

In any case, having one node on this massager allows for precise targeting of specific tender spots on the body. Since I’ve had mine for two years, it took probably about two weeks to get rid of the majority in my calf. The longer you have knots, the harder it is to get rid of them because of that scar tissue. You have to wear the scar tissue down first before you can get to the knot. Otherwise, this little beauty will get rid of new muscle knots immediately. It really helps me when my fibromyalgia is acting up and my muscles become tense. Stretching doesn’t work. In fact, stretching makes it worse. I don’t know the reason behind this, but it does.

As writers, we spend a lot of time sitting. Many of us sit with bad posture, often slumping over to get our work done, hardly ever taking breaks. So some of us develop knots. Some of us begin to feel tight in our upper bodies and even necks. This happens because you’re restricting blood flow to areas of muscle that become tight. A percussion massager can bring back that blood flow so you can comfortably get back to working on your writing. However, do not use this massager as a crutch to continue bad habits. You need to improve your posture and take periodic breaks away from the computer to regroup your muscles. Blood flow is so important. If you continue bad habits, you’re going to eventually develop tightness in other areas of your body that you don’t want, such as your hips, lower back, and eventually legs. You might need to see a physical therapist once your body gets to this point. Then you will need a deep tissue massage. However, my percussion massager is my own personal masseuse. I don’t need a deep tissue massage, not when this thing can do it effectively.

It’s $99.00. At least when I paid for it. You can get it at Brookestone, or on their website.

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This is my foam roller. There are many different types of rollers out there. Research the types to find the best one that would suit your body’s needs. Mine is black compacted foam, so it’s hard.

Don’t despair if you can’t afford this. There are cheaper alternatives. A foam roller is one. There are many different types of foam rollers, so do your research to see what works best for you. All you do is put the foam roller on the floor, lay whatever area is tense on it, or whatever area is tender, and use your own body weight to roll that tender area back and forth over the roller. After a few minutes, that tightness should disappear. Hand massagers might be effective, too, if you are able to reach those tight areas. I would invest in a foam roller, though. I believe mine was sixteen dollars when I paid for it. I think a hand massager would be great for your neck.

Periodically stretch, too, when you’re taking breaks so you don’t develop knots.

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These are cheap. Research how to use them for upper body strengthening. They can also be used for other types of strengthening. I have stronger ones than this so they don’t snap. I bought mine at Sport’s Authority. These vary in strength. Yellow is the weakest; black is the strongest.

Here are some other tips so you don’t have to spring for a percussion massager if you don’t have long-term knots:

  1. Stretch periodically. I would say every thirty minutes take a break away from the computer for about five minutes
  2. Invest in a theraband to strengthen the upper body. This can improve posture and alignment
  3. Yoga
  4. Core strengthening exercises: crunches, about 50 a day
  5. Foam roller for those hard-to-reach tender spots

Dance class does enough for me in regards to strengthening my body, but I will have to get back to the theraband to have my left leg catch up to my right, strength-wise. Long-term muscle knots can prevent strength from being gained in those areas. Since I had a lot, I have a lot of strengthening that I need to do. Luckily the knots have never affected my pointe work.

I am pleased with my massager. I feel like I finally have my left leg back.

The Dancing Writer’s Departure

The Dancing Writer’s Departure

Let me preface this by saying this is not a departure from my blog. Oh, certainly not.  I am still trying to figure out how to build a following without busting my butt off by commenting on a million other blogs, friending those blogs, with the hopes that they follow me back, even though I understand they have no obligation to do so. I shouldn’t have to do that to build a following, because many successful blogs don’t have to. Having a lot of followers means nothing if I’m not having any interaction. But that is neither here nor there.

Me as Flower Fairy. A simple role, but one that taught me how to really move.
Me as Flower Fairy. A simple role, but one that taught me how to really move.

I call myself The Dancing Writer for a reason, and I think it’s time to talk about ballet, which I don’t do often enough to keep up with the title of The Dancing Writer. I’ve complained about it a little on Facebook and Twitter, if any of you have seen, which, I’ll take the blame for, was very unprofessional of me, but in the heat of the moment, you tend to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and lashing out is one of my faults. I rarely get angry, but when I do, I go from 0-180, which usually ends up in crying that lasts for a few hours. I do get upset, but that upset rarely leads to anger. In this case, I was immediately angry and was considering switching schools the moment I found my name.

To remain as sensitive as possible about the topic, I am not going to bash my previous school. It was a very good school. It was very fun. The teachers were great. I made some good friends there, and I have many positive memories. Being able to participate in The Roar of Love (2013) was one such fond memory I had. However, it is a recreational school, one that places priorities on company members over non-company members, which I don’t think is fair, as not every dancer there can afford the time nor money to be a company member, but it’s probably how the school earns its money to stay afloat–through sponsors and what not. And that school deserves to stay open because it has won many awards for a reason. But it might have been the wrong school for me all along, and I didn’t realize that until this year. I was blind because I started out with private lessons there with a wonderful woman named Rebecca, who made me want to start taking classes there. She was the only reason I did. She’s gone now, but I persisted in spite of her absence, because I was already used to the atmosphere and greatly adored the girls.

I never considered myself a role model to them. I didn’t sign up to be a role model. I signed up to dance. I think once I established myself as equals to them, and took them on as friends, that role model idea went out the window. And I wanted to be equal to them. I didn’t want any special treatment for being the only adult consistently taking classes and being serious about the art form. I also didn’t want the pressure of being a role model put on me. Sure, I could dish out advice to them with situations I’ve been in when I was their age, but really being able to talk to these girls and getting to know them made me realize that it’s possible to be 23 and still be able to relate to girls who are in their late or early teens. I had one who was pretty much a younger sister to me, because she did look up to me and sought me out for advice. However, she left for pretty much the same reason I did, which I will mention soon, and I miss her terribly. Otherwise, the other girls were my friends. Plain and simple. I interacted with them the way I interacted with my friends my age (albeit, I toned down the jokes and language), but I still acted plain silly with them, just as I would with friends of my age–even ones much older than I.

Even so, this year’s casting made me realize I wasn’t going to get any better, not just in casting, but in terms of skill. I have improved as a dancer, but I attribute that largely to the performance experience I had in Roar because it better taught me how to memorize longer combinations without stopping in the middle of one to remember what the next move was. However, without that performance experience, I don’t think I would have gained that betterment in my dance skills. The roles weren’t complicated, but they developed the memorization part of my brain, which I didn’t have when starting the school. They also developed that part of my brain where I didn’t need to think about what move came next. The moves were already in my muscles, so there was no need to think about them. I just did them.

This is Wind. It was my favorite role. I would have loved to have been Wind again.
This is Wind. It was my favorite role. I would have loved to have been Wind again.

Now it’s time to get down to the part that broke my heart. Last year I did not expect to be cast into Roar at all because of my status as an adult, and I was okay with that. I had no reason to expect it, so I had no expectations. However, when I received casting and decided to peruse it out of curiosity to see who received what role, I was surprised to find my name on there four times in three different roles: Flower Fairy, Spring Maiden, and Wind–2 casts. Because of last year’s casting in Roar, I felt this year I had every right to expect I was going to be in Roar–otherwise, it would have been plain cruel to not cast me. I was really banking on getting more challenging roles this year that would better me as a dancer. I could come away and say, ‘Yep! I did that role. I was able to do it, and now I’m confident I can improve as a dancer.’ That didn’t happen at all. I put so much hope and heart into casting and was on pins and needles, as was every girl at the school, about the casting. Ballet is as much of a passion as writing is, even though I have no plans to go pro.

When the cast list appeared in my Gmail, my heart jumped in my chest. However, when I perused the list for my name, I saw it only once. In cast two, as Spring Maiden, which I did last year. At the time the role was slightly challenging because it was probably a 4-5 minute piece and I hadn’t fully memorized it until the last two rehearsals, but I expected something more and didn’t get it.

At first I was angry, because I realized less-experienced girls, both on and off pointe, were getting the roles people at my level usually receive–so I wasn’t the only one upset about casting. All the girls at my level had been shortchanged (except for one), for one reason or another. But I won’t go into detail about that. All I can say is that the school probably depends a lot on sponsorships, and in order to keep those sponsors happy, they have to ensure that their children are happy at the school, lest they lose their sponsors, which are often the ones most active in the school. Casting is a HUGE deal at that school, as these girls are in 4 performances a year, and if they’re losing dancers because of casting, they could lose sponsors as well. So it’s no surprise; however, it’s very upsetting for someone such as me, who devoted two years to the school, was always able to afford tuition, who mostly attended dance classes regularly, and was very serious while in class. I especially worked hard this year, not only for myself, but to ensure I would receive a good role in Roar that would make me into a much better dancer, as I believe the girls are as good as they are because of the performances.

Some tried to persuade me not to quit, as there was always next year, but, not only did I know I was never going to get anything better, I also knew I didn’t want to stick around for another year to wind up in disappointment–again. I take ballet seriously, and I want to have fun with it, so I knew the passion for that school died when the casting came out.

I am not perfect, I still slightly struggle, but I have taken the highest level there, and I was surprised with my ability to keep up. I think I should have been struggling, but I didn’t. Even boys they pulled from an art school because they are in desperate need of boys, who had been with the school for not even two years and had never taken ballet prior to this school, were keeping up with the highest-level class. Granted, their technique isn’t strong, but they were able to keep up with the exercises. So I knew the challenge did not lie in the classes themselves, but in the performances.

So after realizing this, I had broken down in tears and could not be consoled for a few hours. I knew I was never going to get anything challenging beyond Spring Maiden, so to speak, because as the girls that move up in level and more join the company, I knew I was going to be slipped into whatever was left. Being in Roar is a privilege, and not a right, and I was made an exception when I was cast for Roar, but, even now that I have cooled off, I don’t think I should have been expected to be grateful to be cast at all, not when the prior year was better, especially considering I didn’t dance that much in the fall because of depression and hospitalizations. This year, I did dance more, so I was flummoxed. Even worse, I was not given a role en pointe, which would have deprived me of pointe work for three months. That is not a good thing for someone as serious as me who wants to improve.

As bittersweet as it is, I am moving on to another school, one that is a professional and not a performance-based one. At this school, if any of the girls are chosen to participate in The Nutcracker, rehearsal time is outside of class, and so does not eat up class time. Also, they only use certain girls–or boys–when they can’t fill all slots in their professional performance of The Nutcracker, so I won’t have to have any expectations. They also do demonstrations at the end of the year, but this is more for the parents. I don’t think I’d be allowed to be in one, but I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it anyway because I am the one who will be paying the school, so I know I am getting a good dance education and don’t need to prove it to anyone like the kids will have to for their parents. The point is that I can still participate in these demo rehearsals that are actual exercises done in class–not variations of ballet performances. This isn’t to say anything bad about my old school. This is just the reality. My old school may have never been a right fit for me from the beginning, but just because it isn’t a right fit for me, doepain-cyclesn’t mean it won’t be a right fit for someone else. In fact, many adults who really want to do ballet often retreat to the new school I’m going to so they can learn ballet in a more serious environment without being an exception to anything. My old school has an adult class, but it is purely recreational, purely for fun.

I am both nervous and excited. I am nervous because they have a set repertoire of exercises they do every day, so I’ll have some catching up to do. And I am excited because I know this school will help me bring out my full potential as a dancer. I probably should have gone there to begin with. After all, I did an intensive there. Even so, another reason I didn’t go to the school was because during that intensive, fibromyalgia really affected by legs horribly, and I attributed it to the intensity of the work, which is not found at my old school. However, I have learned that it is my ballet tights that aggravate my fibromyalgia, so I simply need to roll them up to my knees, and I am usually okay. I will also let the teacher know about my chronic pain condition. It has not really affected by ballet as of late, but I will be attending, twice a week, classes that are 2 1/2 hours long, so I do expect my fibro to pop up a little bit more. (Of course, my former rhume told me that without ballet, my fibro would be much worse, so you have to outweigh the benefits with the consequences. My fibro is really mild compared to a lot of cases, but I am also very limber.)

I start this Wednesday. Wish me luck! The Dancing Writer

Mike Rowe’s Advice on Working Both Smart AND Hard and My Disagreements With This From the Commenters of the Article

Mike Rowe’s Advice on Working Both Smart AND Hard and My Disagreements With This From the Commenters of the Article

I was originally going to write a post about why the third book in The Stars Trilogy will probably have to be delayed and may not come out until 2016 or whatever (MAYBE 2015…MAYBE), but I found this post by Mike Rowe and decided to write a response to it, especially because of the disconcerting comments below, mostly that millennials are lazy. But who are working your minimum wage jobs? Millenials. So that argument is done with, because we do need people to work minimum wage jobs.

Basically, the entire premise of the article is that we’ve been told our whole lives to work smarter, not harder. Mike Rowe, on the other hand, believes we should work both smart and hard and that physical labor jobs are in dire need of young people like me who went to college, took out massive loans, found themselves unemployed and in debt. I am privileged enough to have parents who are paying for my college. Very privileged, and I acknowledge this, but I do work hard to ensure their money doesn’t go to waste. So I do agree with Mike’s points. What I don’t agree on is that ALL OF US are cut out for manual labor jobs. I have accepted the reality that all of us can’t do anything we want to do, and that includes the jobs Mike is pushing. I wanted to be a zoologist, but chemistry basically killed that dream because it was so difficult for me to learn and understand, and I knew it’d only get worse in college. Was I upset? No, because I’d be even more upset trying to take classes that would burst my stress threshold. Plus, my friend across the street wanted to be a pediatric doctor, but she worked her butt off in college, struggled with science classes, and did not get the GPA necessary to go on to med school. So she trained to be a physician’s assistant instead. I think she’ll be happier doing that than struggling through med school.

The first “job” I ever had was volunteering at a horse stable, hoping to work myself up into getting to an actual job there because I wasuntitled (7) not yet sixteen and so couldn’t legally work. However, the hierarchy of the job was ridiculous. I had been volunteering for two years, but new hires, who had no experience with horses, were basically allowed to tell me what to do, even though I sometimes had to step in and tell them they weren’t doing the job right. When I was old enough for the job, I applied, but never was offered a job, even though I had a good reputation there, and other people, with no experience, were getting hired ahead of me. I ultimately quit because, quite literally, the boss was having some sort of breakdown and taking it out on all of her volunteers by forcing us to work harder than the staff members, who could laze around and still get paid. For example, I was shoveling bedding for the horses into trash bags with three other people. Finding the pitchfork ineffective, I decided to sit down amongst the shavings and just use my arms to fill the bags. A staff member walked by and saw all of us sitting (one staff member actually sleeping, the other volunteer trying to help), and reported us for not doing our job. Here was the boss’s logic: the volunteer and I had to be sent home because we weren’t doing our job, but the staff member didn’t get in trouble because well, she was a staff member, and could do whatever she wanted, when she didn’t help out. Again, she just slept while I was doing most of the work. I had filled ten bags, but I wasn’t even allowed to explain my side of the story. So. True story.

Would I be able to do a job like that now? No. I have a chronic pain illness (fibromyalgia, which is mostly mild, but I do get flares from time-to-time that put it in the moderate status, if, for example, I stand for a long time), one that cripples me, even at my own job. I currently work as a marketing trainee, which can get boring at times, but, from time to time, I do love the job because of the people, my co-workers, and the customers I get to meet. Unlike fast food jobs, I can take the time to get to know the customers, especially if they’re not in a hurry. I’ve also met amazing regulars at the mall who are freaking awesome. And honestly, it is not a job I would mind working at for the rest of my life while doing freelance jobs (I am doing my best to care about making sales now, because my other co-workers have been successful at it, so why can’t I?). I have met very, very few rude people at my job. Sure, they’ll insult the giveaway–but they aren’t rude to me–but I’m so used to it that their insults make me laugh. But, overall, the people I’ve met are very polite, and I’ve learned that a smile from me goes a long way in changing a person’s attitude, and you don’t see a lot of workers at fast food restaurants smiling, now do you? Seriously, a smile can make a HUGE difference.

pain-cycleIn any case, I’ve mostly been doing the mall, and even there I have to sit a bunch of times because within ten minutes of standing, my lower back will start to tighten, as will my hips and groin; the permanent trigger points in my calves will start to tighten all the muscles there, reminding my left knee that it had been sprained at one point; and everything else will follow, from my neck to my upper back, and then I’ll develop a tension headache if I do not sit. So I sit down. A bunch of times. I even have to be careful about what I wear. My slacks can hurt my hips, as do tights, and even skirts with elastic bands. It’s bizarre. So do you really think I would be cut out doing the job of a mechanic, or a plumber, or some other manual labor job? Probably not. Plus, it’s not what I want to do. Quite frankly, I would be miserable. I don’t want to be miserable just to make a lot of money. Mike Rowe posits that those jobs would be rewarding, and maybe they would if I gave them a try, but how can they be rewarding if they would ultimately put me in a lot of pain? Plus, Mike Rowe, who does seem like a great person, acts like earning a lot of money will ultimately bring us happiness. Sure, money pays the bills and allows us to do stuff, but I don’t want to earn money to buy material possessions. I want to earn money to help my fiancé pay the bills, get me insurance so I can keep taking my bipolar meds, buy some groceries, while having enough left for myself to do some ballet–which helps my fibromyalgia, and my rheumatologist said that without my ballet, but fibro would be a lot worse. That’s it. I don’t care about buying some fancy house or car (I would like a car like my mom’s because it’s both affordable with great gas mileage, and I would need one to take me places) or living in some swanky subdivision or doing all these other things that money mongers want to do, that the “American Dream” says we all should do A, B, and C, and that will bring us happiness. Ideas of happiness are subjective for everyone, and making tons of money to put me in the rich status is not. I was fed that Republican crap in high school, that hard work will earn you anything and everything you want–I don’t consider myself a Democrat, just to put that out there. I loved my US Affairs teacher, but I didn’t agree with everything he said–even though I agreed with MOST of what he said.

So here’s where things get a little tricky for me. I am transferring to an online college called Columbia of Missouri, which does have untitled (8)several campuses. Why am I making this move? Quite simply, I do not want to be a teacher. I am passionate about education itself. I think it’d actually be great to work at the CCBOE (Columbia County Board of Education), because you don’t have to have a teaching degree, but I think I have enough knowledge to be able to tell bureaucrats (and that’s what they are) that this is not how we should be treating education because we need to think about the children, and bureaucrats aren’t doing that. So because education is run by bureaucrats, I know I’d be miserable as a teacher. Also, if I went back to my English degree, I would have to take one more year of French, and I have been away from French for one and a half years. I took it before, but that class was the straw that broke the camel’s back and was a huge factor in my first hospitalization. I don’t think I could go back to that class and be able to pass it, because I’d pretty much have to study French all over again to catch up to it.

The online college does not require that amount of foreign language. I desperately wanted to major in creative writing because you could take two internship classes, gaining experience in publishing, but, unfortunately, that is only offered to campus students. So I am stuck having to major in what is ultimately a useless degree; however, I think I can take technical writing and editing classes, so I’m going to try to take advantage of the useful classes, not the useless ones. I love literature, don’t get me wrong, but it’s useless. Plain freaking useless, unless you plan on getting your masters and teaching it at the college level. I don’t want to sink myself into debt. Oh certainly I know I would love teaching at the college level, but I would have to write and publish essays related to my field, and, let’s be honest, I don’t give a crap about writing literary analyses papers, even though I am good at it.

But, to me, you should get a job in what you’re best at. Mike Rowe acts like we can all become competent in the field of manual labor. If we ALL got jobs in that field, then, well, you know where the country would be headed. Manual labor jobs are important. I don’t understand why they are looked down upon, but to assume that we’re all capable of it is like saying we’re all capable of going on to be doctors if we tried our darned hardest.

I am good with words. English has always been my best subject. I want to do something that involves words. I plan to be a freelance tutor, editor, and writer, and I also hope to stay with Southern Siding, even if it’s just eight hours a week (because, hey, those eight hours a week can afford me my ballet tuition, and perhaps I can pull sales out of those 8 hours alone. I am actually aspiring to be hired by them now). But, quite honestly, I am unsure about my future. At the least, right now, I will need to do something that can help me pay for car insurance, gas, possibly payment on a new car, and medical insurance. But, of course, I’ll probably be seeking some sort of editing job as well (my friend found one on an English degree, so why can’t I? I have the experience for it). I mean, there are many possible things for me, even with an arguably useless degree.

I think the ultimate problem is not that the degrees college students are getting are useless. I just think the problem is that there are no internships required in colleges that can help students develop the necessary skills to find a job in their field or something closely related. One of the degrees a commenter says is useless is anthropology. Is it really? Anthropologists’ jobs are to help us understand how the rest of the world lives to show us that just because someone lives a lifestyle we consider bizarre does not make our lifestyle superior. And these anthropologists put themselves among those conditions, people who are so used to our lifestyle. But they do it for the love of people and the desire to teach us about different cultures around the world. Now, to me, that is a pretty cool job.

I will write a post on the third book in The Stars Trilogy, as well as posting two interviews of authors I’ve done and a guest post someone has done. However, from here on out, I am no longer accepting interviews from other writers because that requires work on my part, not when literally every minute of the day needs to be used for my own productivity. Guest posts are fine, because all they require from me is a copy and paste.

Guest Blog: My Writing Path

Guest Blog: My Writing Path

Today I have Ms. Joey Paul as a guest blogger. Remember that if you want to write a guest post for me, drop a line at thedancingwriter@gmail.com. There are no limitations to what you’d like to blog about. Here we go!

Every writer will tell you that there is a moment when they realise that the talent they have is something that can not be locked away inside of them. They’ll tell you that there was a time, be it circumstances or by design, when they realised that they had a story that had to be told. Or maybe a few stories. Every writer starts somewhere and I’m going to tell you where I started.

When I was five years old, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be a doctor, a pediatrician, to be exact. I wanted to work in medicine because I grew up in hospitals and doctor’s offices. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was eighteen months old, which then turned into Type One Brittle Asthma when I was seven. I was determined that that was my career, my chosen path, and nothing was going to sway me from that path. I worked diligently all the way through school, got the grades I needed, and after my GCSEs, I went to college to do A-levels so that I could go to university and then medical school.

Now, as I’m sat here writing this, you know that something happened that steered me from my chosen path. When I was thirteen, I wrote stories with my friends and even planned what I would do with the thousands in royalties I would earn from these stories. I never planned for it to become my job, but life has a funny way of changing things that you thought were set in stone.

My health deteriorated while I was in my first term at college. I ended up dropping out at seventeen and going to work in various jobs until at nineteen, my health went completely down the drain, and I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalopathy (M.E), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the US. I ended up off sick from work for three months, and then finally being medically retired from my job. A few short months later, and I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and a handful of other conditions. I was told that I would never work a conventional job again.

I was living with my best friend, claiming benefits and facing a life of no career, no prospects, and lots of spare time on my hands. This was 2001, and I spent the time whilst learning to cope with all these conditions, flicking through books, playing on the internet, and reaching out to people in similar situations. It was then that I found a copy of one of the stories I’d written at thirteen. I cringed as I read through the “chapters” and the poor storyline. I knew that if I was going to be stuck inside and not work, then I was going to do something with my life.

I spent the next four months pulling apart every chapter of that story, writing and re-writing it so that it was unrecognisable. Once that was done, I started a new one. I wrote a story that had been sitting in my head for years. It took me ten days, and then when I was done with that, I realised I did have something I could do. I could write. So, I pulled up publishing information and started looking for a way to get my books to the point of publication. I didn’t manage it until 2005, when my first book was released.

By that point, I had written one more and had a fourth started. I found my time lost to worlds I had made though imagination and typing. I kept going and although I can’t say that I spent every moment I had writing, I was usually thinking about it. My health conditions meant that I wasn’t always well enough to write, and eventually after a long flare I found myself unable to hold a pen and write more than a few words, a sentence at most. That was when I turned to typing the books. When my publishing contract fell through, I went independent. I created the Bug Books logo and finally released my second book in 2011. My third and fourth followed six months later.

Today I have six books available through the Bug Books label. I employ a graphic artist, an editor, various proof readers and I am writing books eleven and twelve side by side. My health dictates so much of what I can and can not do. I am unable to walk more than a few steps and I use a wheelchair outside of the house. Some days, I don’t make it out of bed for more than a couple of hours. But I still write. The words may not make it onto the screen, but in my head, I’m always writing, always thinking of new places to take my characters and new ways to explore different worlds and new journeys.

I’ve seen ghosts, traveled back in time. I’ve solved various murders, and even plotted a few of them myself. I’ve brought to life a number of characters and I have to say that I love every minute of it. It may not have been the path I chose for myself at five, but it’s a damn good path to be on at thirty-one. I write because I love it. I love creating, I love the beginning, the middle, and the end. I love everything there is to be about writing and I can’t see myself ever doing anything else. I’ve always said that when I run out of stories, then I will lay down my keyboard, but until then, I’ll write on!

Bio: “Joey is a 31 year old disabled writer and part time student studying towards a degree in Health and Social Care. She loves to write and is at the moment working on her eleventh and twelfth books, as well as preparing her seventh book for publication. She started writing when she was medically retired from her job at the age of 19. Her first book was released in 2005, and after a brief time away, her second one was released in 2011 by Bug Books, her own personal indie label.
Joey suffers from a number of chronic conditions, including Fibromyalgia and M.E, and although these have an impact on her day to day life, she doesn’t let them stop her from doing what she wants. She enjoys reading books in the crime/mystery & romance genre, though will occasionally dip into young adult dystopia books as well. She passes the time when she’s not writing by writing about writing, strumming on an Ukulele or doing some cross-stitch. She also enjoys watching TV shows such as NCIS, NCIS: LA & CASTLE. Due to her conditions, she has both good and bad days: the good are spent writing, and the bad are spent thinking up new plots and doing more writing. She says she will continue to write until she has run out of stories to tell, which, if you know Joey, may be a very long time!”

Website: http://www.joeypaulonline.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BugBooks
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B007FXH8LE
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BugBooks

In Honor of Mental Health Awareness Month

In Honor of Mental Health Awareness Month

tumblr_mock2ovc4x1rivzjmo1_400May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I had no idea. I should have known, but I guess with being so busy with all this ballet and writing-related stuff, the world has passed me by. But I’ve been more mood swingy lately, and I’m not sure what’s going. Earlier today I broke down crying because I felt so bad, but now I feel fine–I think. Is all this busyness catching up to this fragile mind, or is Mother Nature about to send me her Gift, even though I don’t think I’m due for this said Gift for another month? I don’t know, but I have a psychiatrist’s appointment next month, so if it continues, I’m just going to try not to let it get to me. I might sleep in later tomorrow. That might help. I might slow down tomorrow too, take a walk on the treadmill–I get to see Man of Steel tomorrow night! Huzzah! But if my mood is about to take a turn for the worst, I don’t want to let it overpower me because I simply can’t because I have this life now, this career I want to develop, and a client who depends on me to whip his manuscript into shape. And I will do it.

But I wanted to write about the breakdown that landed me in my first psychiatric hospital in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve never talked about it for reasons I can’t even think of, so I might as well finally talk about it.

It probably started some time last summer. My body was giving me grief in ballet. I’d be in so much pain during barre exercises that I couldn’t move anymore. My sleep also became spotty. Some nights I’d fall asleep just fine, and other nights it would take hours. I struggled with unrefreshed sleep already because I’d wake up frequently throughout the night and then go back to sleep, but it happened maybe once or twice a week. Those times sucked because I’d have to pretty much take bed rest due to pain from unrefreshed sleep. Eventually I thought I had gotten my sleeping problem under control, until the fall came, and, out of nowhere, I just couldn’t fall asleep.

I’d lie in bed for hours, unable to get myself tired enough to fall asleep, so I’d sleep like maybe four hours a night, and even then they were four hours of unrefreshed sleep. I finally got fed up and got some Tylenol PM, which did help, but the damage was already beginning. In spite of sleeping well, or seemingly well, I was moody and couldn’t understand why. It was also flare season for my fibromyalgia, so I was in pain everyday, but I couldn’t fight it like I was able to when it first emerged, probably because I realized fibro is forever. About once every week or two weeks, hypomania would claim me, which didn’t make sense to me because I felt so euphoric but my sleep was crap.

I didn’t start becoming suicidal until the crashes from hypomania. I had felt so great then and kept wondering why I couldn’t re-claim that feeling, why I couldn’t simply get over the thick despair choking me. My fibro flares weren’t helping either. I just couldn’t believe that the illness was forever, that I was always going to be in pain, and it didn’t help that I was working a lot while going to school, so the stress just made me a ticking time bomb.

My parents also think the Lyrica I was on at the time may have had something to do with the suicidal feelings, and that could have been it–at first. Lyrica can be used to treat bipolar disorder, so I suppose it’s a possibly it could have had an adverse effect on my mental health. tumblr_mifyjn5H7m1r1gj30o1_500 I was breaking down though. I probably broke down at least three times a week, where I’d cry alone in my room and sometimes cut to stop the pain that made no sense to me.

Eventually my friend found my Tumblr and contacted the guidance counselors, who contacted the dean because they can’t force me to see them since their appointments are scheduled. So I saw the dean of students who was genuinely concerned about my mental health as a person, not just a student. She encouraged me to see the school counselor, even though I was waiting on the referral to see a psychiatrist. She also became my ally, my advocate. So I decided to see a guidance counselor who, because of my suicidal feelings, thought it was best I not be alone for the weekend since my parents were going to visit my brother.

My fiancé stayed with me, and I felt horrible the entire weekend. I seriously considered swallowing a bottle of Unisom sleep gels because I couldn’t take the pain anymore and couldn’t stand waiting to see a psychiatrist. I skipped out on work Sunday not only because my stomach felt horrible but because the stress from this undiagnosed mental illness just debilitated me. It was then that I decided the best thing for me would be hospitalization because it would get me in to see a psychiatrist and would get me started on a proper course of treatment. Plus, it would keep me safe from myself, and I figured it’d be a good place to “detox” from the Lyrica.

But, of course, things were not so simple. The Remeron I was prescribed launched me into a severe manic episode. I should have known something was wrong when I felt immediately better THE NEXT DAY after taking it. So it was probably within a week I went manic, and I was manic for the next two weeks before finally being hospitalized again because the psych appt. the first hospital scheduled me was too far out. But I suppose the good thing about going manic on Remeron was that I received what I’m sure is the right diagnosis because antidepressants don’t make you manic unless you’re predisposed to bipolar disorder, or so it’s believed. Wellbutrin, a med I took a few months ago, also made me manic, but it took longer to do so.

But I’m in therapy now and on meds that I pray aren’t crapping out on me. I’ll just have to really gauge my mood now, which is what sucks about bipolar disorder. It’s often a life-long illness and any change in mood that happens for seemingly no reason makes you alarmed.

Letter to My Teen Self

Letter to My Teen Self

tumblr_mc6i6dDtH91rilz3so1_500 I know this is a really old topic, one I’ve seen floating around the internet for a few years, but I thought I’d give it a go, in spite of being only 22. I mean, I have quite a lot to say to my teen self, specifically my 14-year-old self, who struggled with some tough anxiety issues back when she was in the eighth grade. So here goes:

Dear 14-year-old me,

That algebra test looks really daunting, doesn’t it? Algebra’s been the cause of many a panic attack and crying spell at night. Math anxiety has leaked over into other parts of your life too. You cut to deal with the constant stress. You hated that your math teacher couldn’t understand that you needed to take things more slowly.

But guess what? You passed algebra…with an A average. Algebra was so easy from then on out. You managed your anxiety disorder. You went on to do pre-calculus, which was tougher, should have been anxiety inducing, but you stuck it out and got a B.

But let’s back up. You know that book you started in response to your mild depression and anxiety, the book with the witches and witch burnings? Well, it has changed…immensely. It is now a sequel. And guess what? It’s prequel has a publishing contract, so, even though it takes eight years, you  make it. Your dream comes true. And you did it without an agent, the way you originally wanted to do it.

But, 14-year-old-self, things get tougher, worse than your anxiety disorder. You develop fibromyalgia at 21, a disease that came out of nowhere. Fibromyalgia starts to crap out other areas of your life: your sleep, mainly. And from this, you develop bipolar disorder, which manages to make things far more challenging than your anxiety disorder ever could have. But you’re going to survive, and you’re going to come out of it even greater, stronger, wiser, and better. You were born into greatness, and to greatness you will return.

You may not think you want to keep going because of the adage ‘the older you get, the tougher it gets,’ but this isn’t always true. There are going to be parts of your life that are tougher than others. But then there are going to be parts of your life that are greater than others .

You’ve always obsessed over Mr. Right. Well, you meet him three years later, and you’ll be with him for quite a long while. That’s certainly fantastic, right? You have your first short story published at 19. Sounds like it’s getting pretty good. You also start some editorial stints, and you dreamt of being an editor. How can it get better than that?

And even though fibromyalgia and bipolar will come to try and tear you down, to tell you nothing in your life is worth it, you will fight, and you will do a ballet recital and take a chance with your novel. You will land a contract and start another novel.

14-year-old-self, life is full of difficulties, but do you know why we keep going? We keep going because something in us tells us after the storm has passed, the sun will shine brighter than ever. And even when the storm comes again, we’ll just dance in the rain. We’ll be cold and soaked to the bone, but we’ll dance until the sun shines again.

Sincerely,

22-year-old The Dancing Writer

 

 

What Does It Really Mean for Me to Have a Mental Illness?

What Does It Really Mean for Me to Have a Mental Illness?

I’m not on Lithium, thank goodness.
Sometimes I ponder why the most vulnerable of us often find ourselves afflicted with mental illnesses we don’t deserve. Imagine dealing with the death of a loved one. Your depression starts out as a symptom of grief. Soon you come to terms with the loss of your loved one, but for some reason you can’t shake this deep, aching emptiness within you. You try to tell yourself it’s because you really haven’t gotten over your loved one’s death, but then the pain just persists. You can’t push through it, or move on from it. Something dark has grown in you, and you steadily begin to lose yourself. Your appetite dies, your sleep either becomes too much or too little; out of nowhere you think you’re worthless, unloved, unneeded; you might want to die, you might not want to do anything at all. Your symptom has turned into the syndrome. Not only are you grieving your loved one, but now you’re battling another monster known as mental illness.

My fibromyalgia was already bad enough to deal with and depression is a common symptom of pain, but then when does the symptom become the syndrome? My fibro was getting better, but my mental health was declining, and I couldn’t understand why, when before I valiantly fought through my fibro.

But someone like me can only take so much before she breaks.

I’ve learned, through mental illness, what an incredibly sensitive person I am. I don’t even have to know you and your pain will strike something so deep within me that I’m compelled to tears. While I am better, I am still easily triggered by anything that has to do with death or suicide.

When you’re depressed and suicidal, you don’t think how traumatizing the feelings are. You’re used to them. Your brain has tricked you so well into thinking you want to die that you accept being suicidal without question. You want to die. You crave it. You want to end your pain because your illness doesn’t want you to see a way out.

Now that I am better, I look back on those feelings, and a heavy pang spears through my heart. I could have given into those feelings, and I wouldn’t be right here telling you all this. They’re terrifying feelings. I’m terrified that I felt that way. Sometimes I want to cry just knowing I did because the truth is that I am still vulnerable to feeling that way again. All it would take is for one of my medications to stop working, and I could go from screaming that I don’t want to die to wishing I would the next day.

Bipolar disorder is a traumatizing illness. Mental illnesses in general are traumatizing. You start out with one problem, and then for some reason that problem makes you sick, and you wonder why others don’t get sick from the same problem. My brother went through a traumatic divorce, and while he was depressed, it was just a symptom. He pulled himself together and now he’s better. Me, I just cracked under the weight of stress and the depression spiraled out of control until it became its own monster.

But there is nothing I can do but to accept it. I accept that it makes me a deeply sensitive individual. I accept that I could become sick again. But most of all, I accept that it has given me the power to empathize so deeply with other people that I would do anything to soothe their pain.

The Dancing Writer’s Chamber

The Dancing Writer’s Chamber

My messy writing desk...and my cat.
My messy writing desk…and my cat.

I primarily write at this messy desk you see to the left. But I’ll on occasion write in my bed when my body isn’t feeling up to supporting itself on a chair. Every Saturday I’ll probably be writing at Panera Bread, and I’d like to start writing outside when the weather permits. But mostly, that disorganized desk is where I do everything.

I’ve never been an organized person. I try to be, but it all falls apart. But, hey, my messiness has worked for 22 years of my life. I am an organized mess.

So where I write isn’t anything special. I might even write at work sometimes, if lulls permit.

How long do I tend to write? I try to write a chapter a day, so this could be anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, or shorter, depending on the chapter. If I’m really in the mood and I don’t have anything else planned, I’ll do more than one chapter. The most I’ve ever written in a day–besides being manic–was 8,000, and I was on a serious roll.

Tomorrow I plan to write in Stolentime, one chapter, because I have so much stuff to do tomorrow: get my pin number to register for classes at my uni, start designing a t-shirt I will use to promote my book, blog, social media to keep widening my audience, make stuff for the giveaway, and then of course ballet. I wouldn’t be The Dancing Writer without ballet, although I am going to have to start getting on to my boss about giving me my Monday nights. Ah, well, the summer intensive will be here soon, and I will be having that considering I’ll likely be paying for the entire thing ahead of time.

In any case, where do you all tend to write? How long do you write? Do you have word count goals?

The Side Effects of a Busy Week

The Side Effects of a Busy Week

Since this week has been the busiest I’ve had in a while, my fibromyalgia is starting to emerge to punish me in the form of flares that crawl just beneath my skin and fatigue that has me in a chokehold at work. I might not be making any appointments today, but at least my boss knows I have fibromyalgia and will understand.

This exhaustion is why I got depressed in the first place. I hated how being busy negatively affected me. I hated that I couldn’t be content with a busy week because of the fatigue and the pain. I hated this because I’m working toward becoming a teacher, and if I can’t handle a week like this, there is no way I can become an English teacher. But I’m content with whatever happens in the future. I’m not worried about it anymore. I’m taking each day at a time, and if fibro wants to inhabit my body because I’m a hard worker, so be it.

I knew being as busy as I was would eventually do this to me. I had to take ibuprofen during work yesterday to get rid of bear-trap pain. I may also need anti-anxiety meds to calm my body down when it starts freaking out because it’s so busy. I wouldn’t mind those meds at all because it means being able to do more than what my body is currently capable of, and that would be another dream come true.

I would love to go home and work on Stolentime, but what I need more than anything right now is a hot bath and a nap. Maybe some tea. A soft blanket. Something to self-soothe me.

Right now I’m at work and plan to take a break every hour if the exhaustion and pain start to affect my work. Thank God my job is no McDonalds. I would have died already. But anyone who has a chronic illness be it mental or physical can understand the natural fatigue that can creep in because illness itself is so exhausting.

As it were, I need to get back to work. I seriously wish people wouldn’t look intently at the car if they’re not going to sign up for it. This is my territory.

All Writers Must Rest

All Writers Must Rest

I definitely do this for my cat.

Tomorrow I’m taking a break from blogging and social media in general. I’ll probably write an epilogue for When Stars Die, but that is as work-y as things will get. I’m also going to finish a gothic-ish design of When Stars Die’s MC Amelia that I’d love to have on a shirt. The drawing itself sucks, but the paint will totally make it come alive. I’m also hoping to receive a certain item that I can use for a new, better cover design for When Stars Die.

So I’m not exactly taking a break, but I do need one from social media because it can be hectic and trying. Plus, I have 80 followers, so I’ve earned a rest from it. In any case, any kind of art is therapeutic for me and not really work like social media is.

All of us as writers need to rest once in a while and get away from things that start to feel like work to us. Social media is one such thing for me. I don’t want to burn out on it, so I’m disconnecting myself entirely tomorrow. Instead of doing social media during lulls at my job, I’ll be reading or writing. I need to finish a certain book anyway so I can do a review of it and put it here.

Burnout in our line of work is common. Burnout happened to me last summer. It wasn’t just the depression that made me not want to write–it was total burnout. I obsessively write and edit for a long period of time, then go for half a year not doing any kind of writing because I’m so drained from it. My dad is always warning me even our passions can drain us, and he has never lied to me. He’s too right.

Now that I have a contract, it is crucial I don’t experience burnout, so I’m going to allow myself rest. It’s even more imperative considering I’m dealing with fibromyalgia and just got over a bipolar depressive episode. I’m doing my best to learn to not obsess over things. My therapist is helping me too through weekly goals. Not obsessing is one of them. I do find myself obsessing with stats on my website, so I’m pulling myself away and am going to try to train my brain not to worry about stats and just blog and read others’ blogs when I come back Saturday.

I used to be so fast with my life, so set on the future and reaching my goals as fast as possible. If I have learned anything from fibro and depression is that it is okay to slow life down and save the future for another time. So I am slowing down, breathing in, breathing out, and am going to relax with some art tomorrow with no worries about social media: e-mails, my website, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, ect. We all know social media is important, but we all know how draining and trying it can be.

Slow down. Take a break when you feel your nerves becoming frazzled. It’s okay. We’re human and we’re not meant to go, go, go! I’ll see you all Saturday!