Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Art Heals: A Dancer Beats Depression

Now this comes from the local Central MA area. Arianys DeJesus is a 20-year  old young woman living in Southbridge, MA near the CT border. When she was young, she would cry all the time and be really irritable. Some people might think, well, isn't that the short definition of "kid"? Aren't kids always on about something? Can't have that cookie now. Can't play with that toy now. You need to pick up your room. Can't wear that now. You wore it yesterday. On and on go the irritations in the life of a kid. Just think back. Of course if you're still irritated by these things now, you're either still a kid at this moment, or you never outgrew those childish things, which means you might need help. Get it. Now.

In Arianys's case, these weren't mere childish tantrums. She was battling something. And it took a while for her parents to figure out what it was. Depression. According to the story published in Worcester Magazine back in October, Arianys would hear voices in her head that would tell her to do awful things like...kill herself "just really bad things," she said. Now most people are not really aware of these thoughts, but sometimes in a more lucid moment, you might wonder why it is that the world looks so dark and foreboding and you might wonder why your default response is to just pull the covers over your head and say "wake me when it's over", but you push past it and get up and get on with life because, well, what else is there?

Oh. Yeah. Work. Money. Food. Bills. Survival. If you suffer from depression, you may find yourself asking, "So?" When you reach that point or if you've reached that point you need help. Get it. Now.

Arianys figured out what else is there. Before she did, she was being medicated like a lot of people, and hearing those voices telling her she was ugly, she shouldn't be alive, and take ALL THE PILLS. Before she found out what else was there, she contemplated suicide more than once but never went the next step, never stepped over that line that once crossed, you can't come back from. She began to dance. She had started at 4, but her struggles overwhelmed her and she stopped. At first, when she returned to it, it almost didn't take. But then it did. Then the dance had her, and within months, she was off Prozac, and the voices in her head stopped. By 15, she was teaching dance to others. Now, she has a foundation called Dance to Live, which held its second annual fundraiser in October 2013 to help young people deal with and heal from mental illness by connecting to performing arts like dance. There is of course, an exercise component to dance that medical experts say is very helpful, but the expression, the release that creating art allows is equally vital to healing. Other things help as well. If you find yourself staring into the abyss and waiting for the darkness to notice you, it's time to get help.  Just don't be surprised if the therapist tells you to take up art in some form, and don't be surprised if you find it drawing the pain out of you like poison being drained from a wound.

Arianys says, "I want kids to feel what I feel when I dance." Living with her art heals her. Now she's helping others dance to live. Think about that the next time you hear someone dismiss artistic endeavor as some "frivolous" waste of time. Arianys DeJesus will tell you differently.

You can read Arianys's full story here.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

More Later

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