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Two people, one disability

I am in a fight with myself. I want to be the person I was before my disability. I used to be a professional dancer. I loved to dance and perform in front of people. Dancing was part of my identity. But my disability stopped me from being a dancer. I have fibromyalgia. I haven't danced in a long time. Who am I now? Can I learn to be happy even when I have a disability? Can I change the way I think? I don't know but I am now ready to try.

Posted by: Melissa Pym, on 02/07/12

A woman's legs from knee down walking along the beach. Her feet have made footprints in the sand.

I could be at peace with the new me.

I want to end the war, this war inside of me. It's between the healthy, athletic person I was in the past and the disabled person I am now. It's been raging for about seven years and I feel like I am two different people in one body. On a daily basis, it tears me in half and I feel confused, angry and emotional having to deal with so many different needs.

The old me is fighting for my life. The old me wants to be a professional dancer again and to feel the joy of moving my body to music, and the thrill of performing onstage in front of hundreds of people. The reason I was put on this earth was to dance. I knew it since I was five years old and it's the reason I eat, sleep and breathe. Needless to say, the old me isn't giving up without a fight.

Who am I?

There have been times in the past when I've been well enough to dance for small amounts of time in a very limited capacity. But it's been over 16 months since I last hit the stage. It's a long time. It has made me realise my identity has gradually and grudgingly slipped away from me.

If I'm not a dancer, then who am I or who do I want to be? What would happen if I let go and surrendered and accepted my fibromyalgia? If I actually embraced, rather than rejected and reviled the new me with my disability. If the old me didn't have to strive for the impossible of dancing at 100 per cent I might feel less stressed, pushed and unhappy. I might even feel peaceful.

A new me?

Can I become a whole new person that is okay with my disability? You hear and read stories about people moving forward with disabilities, but could I actually be one of them?

I don't know how, but for some reason I feel like the timing is right. In the past I have struggled with limited success trying to make my life normal again.

Please understand I am not actually giving up. I will continue physical activities as much as my pain levels allow and will always hope to dance again sometime in the future. I've just decided not to base my whole life and self-worth on dancing and now want to be open to other opportunities. Is dancing the one and only thing in the whole world that can make me happy? No of course not. I just need to focus on things that do.

Could putting all my focus and support on the new me change my life? It would definitely end this war inside of me and I'm starting to see a new path stretching forward. There's a good chance I could be happier, healthier and in love with life again. And at peace with the new me and my disability.

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Readers comments (3)

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Posted by: Peter Williams, melbourne 02/07/2012 at 09:33am

I went through a similar epiode when i could not play football because of an injury to my spine. Today i dont care so much about football but i find it hard to maintain a positive outlook when i cant exercise at all. Good luck Melissa i hope you can find another endevour that you are passionate about and stay healthy enough to dance now and then.

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Posted by: Trish, Melbourne 06/07/2012 at 01:53pm

Oh Melissa my heart goes out to you and I wish I could give you a big hug. While I feel moved to tears to know that there are others out there who suffer as I do, I also wish that we didnt have to go through it (and our loved ones didnt have to go through it too). I have been sick with an Auto Immune Illness for 5 yrs now and I became extremely disabled (wheelchair bound) and it has been such a hard struggle to be happy inside and embrace the lessons that life is teaching us. I have made a peace that life is just like that and things like this can happen to anyone... and I mean ANYONE... but I am still trying to discover who I am in this new identity and grieve the person who I was. I still cant help but look back, and I know I shouldnt. I thank you for sharing your story and prompting me to write this little post. Please feel free to contact me if you should ever wish to chat. All my best wishes and cyber hugs. The path we walk (not physically) is one of the hardest and scariest ones... never forget to pat yourself on the back sometimes... and I promise I will try and remember too. X Trish

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Posted by: Mary, 27/11/2012 at 09:23am

I have no advice that is likely to be of any use! In my dreams I still dance, and I still run sub-5 minute miles, and I wake up and I am still saddled with a dead leg, and I walk like a pirate. I only ever really valued my physicality, and losing it has been hard. All that I can tell you is that doing things that feel compensatory doesn't work for me (e.g., if I were to dance while using my walking stick/crutches)- they felt ultimately dissatisfying - pretend, almost. I've been able to do other things with much more pleasure- like canoeing, or tai chi- because they weren't like the things I had lost. Good luck.

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