Hey there.

Welcome to The Black Swan Diaries! Here I talk about it all - ballet and books, mental health and music, food allergies and fighting stigma..and everything in between. Go on, join up. 



Welcome back to Dancervival! This 5 part series is aimed at helping dancers with mental illnesses and cognitive differences live well, cope well, and achieve their dance dreams. Check out the introduction here, Part I here, AND Part II here

Don’t you feel victorious and a little relieved when the teacher finally gives the grande battement combination?! For almost all of us, it means barre is almost over and that it’s time to reset, refocus, put your pointe shoes on and get to work in centre. It also means that we’ve worked carefully through all of the preceding exercises enough to warm our muscles for the fun stuff to come - languid adagio, challenging petit allegro, and freeing grand allegro combinations that prepare us to dance the way we want to onstage - with conviction, abandon, and precision.

In the same way, this third installment of #Dancervival aims to equip you with the tools you need to kick your own bad habits, kick negativity and ableism from the people around you, and kick yourself into high gear when you’re ready.

Here we go!

Getting ready to go back to class after the 9 month hiatus.

Getting ready to go back to class after the 9 month hiatus.


1. Kick your own bad habits

Now that you've gone through all the steps in the preceding installments of this series, you're strong enough to evaluate yourself and see what your bad habits are. Do you give up too easily in class? Do you get visibly frustrated? Are you unkind to others when your symptoms are flaring up? Now, this doesn’t need to be a personal shame spiral. Those are frequent enough when you struggle with mental illness. What it does need to be is an honest evaluation of self and an earnest effort to do better. Think about how you’re managing your symptoms - are you using your coping skills? Are you striving to learn new ones?


Here's where journaling comes back into play - it becomes important and useful to document how you're feeling and how you're handling your symptoms on a regular basis, so that you can identify bad habits. 


2. Kick negativity from unsupportive people


“You’re overreacting”

“Don’t be so dramatic”

“It’s all in your head, just snap out of it”

“Brush it off champ, you’ll be okay”

“Just calm down”

People can be jerks. Negative comments are hurtful to everyone, but they’re especially harmful to those of us who suffer from mental illness. We’re already beating ourselves up enough, we don’t need the extra shove when we're down. However well intentioned, some comments can come off patronizing, harsh, or just downright mean-spirited. If you’ve ever had any of the above quotes (or something like them) said to you, you understand how it feels. It produces a wave of guilt, shame and panic on top of the one you’re already feeling. Listen to me: You don’t deserve that. You're doing your best. You're doing all you can to make it through the day. All you're asking for is a little bit of empathy, and no, you're not asking for too much. 

 Sometimes you’re taken aback right in the moment and don’t know what to say, and other times you’re ready to throw hands as soon as you hear it.

SO...What do you say?

You can, of course, say nothing. That’s a valid choice to make, especially if you don’t like confrontation. As long as you can remind yourself that the person's comments were out of line, and tell yourself over and over again that what you're going through is not your fault, you don't have to see anything.  But if you feel bold enough, here are some examples of things you can say:

“Hey, I understand you’re trying to be helpful, but that feels really dismissive”

“I will be okay, but I’d like a little empathy right now”

“Even if I am overreacting, my feelings are valid”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say to me.”

"Please respect my feelings"

Of course you always want to be respectful, especially if you’re talking to a superior like an artistic director, coach, choreographer or teacher. It may be best to have those conversations in private, saying something along these lines:

“Hey ______ , I know you were trying to be helpful, but what you said felt a bit dismissive and I wanted to chat with you about that. I’m happy to be here and ready to work, I’m just dealing with a few things on my end right now that are difficult, and while I don’t need pity or sympathy, I’d really benefit from some support and empathy! Please feel free to ask me questions”

These simple but impactful statements will not only prompt the other person to examine their language and check their biases - but will also leave you feeling empowered to stand up for yourself and speak out against stigma and ableism.


3. Kick yourself into high gear. 


You've done all the hard work in parts I and II of this series, so what's the next step? Now is time to ramp up your own goals. One at a time, take the next steps in all of your goals. They don't have to happen at the same time, and they don't have to be successful the first time. Just keep trying and making progress until you get it right. 

I knew I wanted to get back onstage in a musical theatre sense - I love to sing and have always harbored dreams of a Broadway career following a ballet career. I don't know what my path is now, but I know that I took a chance and auditioned for a production of The Wiz in Boston. I got cast, and to this day it remains one of my favorite experiences, rehearsal and performance wise. I was paid to be onstage and it felt so good. 


4. Kick Stigma

Get out there. Speak out. Tell your story. Don't let anyone tell you you're less than, or not worthy...you matter, and your story matters. 


only + always love,



The Black Girl Nerd Chronicles: Episode I

The Black Girl Nerd Chronicles: Episode I