Dancing the dark away

At age 13, I started having problems whenever I would go outside the home. Every time I would go in town or to school I would feel sick. The doctor was at my house every week and he would tell my parents I had the stomach flu. This went on for two years until a different doctor came to the house and told my parents I didn't have the stomach flu, it was my nerves causing all my problems. My father brought me to see a psychiatrist. He made me realize to be able to overcome my anxieties I had to face them head on. Everyday was a struggle. I had to leave school because I couldn't go without feeling sick. I got a job at a restaurant and when I worked I felt better.  No matter how hard I worked it was never good enough in my mind. I always was trying to prove that I was as good as the next person but never thought so.

At 18, my mother was in the hospital with cancer. To go to the hospital was a struggle because of my anxiety and panic attacks. I still went everyday she was there. She died three months later and being the oldest of three children my father depended on me for everything around the house which intensified my already existing anxiety. At 24, I got married and four years later I had a son, I feel I have everything I ever wanted. Because of my anxiety and panic attacks I had no self esteem and never thought anyone would love me. When my son was older he played all kinds of sports. My husband was working and I had to drive my son to practices and games almost everyday. I would start worrying in the morning about how I was going to be able to drive him. Leaving the house was a struggle. It didn't matter how bad I felt, I would never tell my husband or son because I wanted him to have the same as the other kids. When I would get there and was interested in the games, I felt good.

At age 39, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and I was sent to the V.G. In Halifax for 2 weeks. They taught me how it would be if I ended up in a wheelchair. I had struggled all my life with anxiety and panic attacks I was not going to be in a wheelchair if I could help it. I didn't let pain stop me from doing whatever I wanted to do. At age 43 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia; and a year later with osteoporosis and that didn't stop me either. I started line dancing for exercise. I couldn't keep up with a lot of the fast moves because of my arthritis so I decided to teach line dancing to seniors. Here I am thinking I can't do anything because I have no self confidence but I'm still thinking I have to do something or I will cripple up.

I thought, I'll start with the seniors and I won't charge anything, so If I'm no good at it, at least it won't cost them anything. In my first class I had 15 seniors. Within a month it had snowballed to almost 200. The first two years I was on the stage I couldn't feel my arms or my legs I was numb on one side of my body. I was teaching five days a week and my classes were from 20 to 90 seniors at a time. To be in front of 200 people was unbelievable for me and all that kept me there, The seniors made me feel so good. I couldn't believe they liked something I was doing. I was having anxiety and panic attacks but I was having a ball. Every year I organize a Valentine's dance, Christmas dance, Easter dance, year-end party, yard sale, variety shows where we travel to a couple of places with the shows and a trip every year. I can`t travel on the bus with them because of panic attacks, but I take my car. The trips stress me out but it's all worth it when I see the seniors laughing and having a good time. These seniors are having a great time and it gives them something to look forward to,

For myself it has changed my life . In September, it will be our 17th year. Ten years ago I was hospitalized with atrial fibrillation and two years ago I had surgery for bladder cancer. This will not stop me. I love to work with the seniors and I've noticed if I stay home and think about my aches and pains they're real, but when I'm out and doing things I don't have as many aches and pains. My doctor once told me to take breaks when I'm dancing with the seniors. He said the social part is as important as the exercise. I just ended my season with a party and 97 attended and they had a ball.

After my cancer I told my husband I would love to go to Nashville in case I took sick and was not able to go. So we went and we we were gone for a month. We went to the Grand Ole Opry, Elvis place, Loretta Lynn`s place, Dollywood and all over Nashville. We even went to Branson Missouri, Mississippi, and Atlantic City. I only had two panic attacks.

In 1997, I received Maritimer of the Week and I was nominated for Maritimer of the Year that same year. In 2008 I was nominated for the Inspiring Lives award in Halifax. I couldn't even believe this was happening to me. Because of my anxiety and panic attacks I have no education, so I still feel self conscious about writing and speaking in front of people but I'm getting over it. I was asked to speak with the New Attitudes group and I didn't know If I could speak in front of people about my anxiety and panic attacks but once I was there it wasn't so bad. It felt good to know that it might help someone with the same problem. I know how anxiety and panic attacks cripple you, but the more you do and the better it gets.