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Viv

Overcoming Fear

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Morning everyone :) I've been struggling a bit with 'fear' in the studio at the moment and I was wondering if anyone else has had the experience where, you know you can do it but you're so scared you keep psyching yourself out? And if yes, how you overcame it/are overcoming it.

I'll go first. Yesterday in class we were trying releve passe en pointe and while I could do it decently enough on my right foot, my left foot was a total mess. I've had a history of serious ankle problems on that side, including a dislocation several years ago. Last year I fell (in the middle of my exam and directly in front of the examiner :() and sprained it pretty badly (hello moonboot), then did the rest of the exam on a sprained ankle like an idiot. Even though it's been 6 months, I'm still in physio recovering from it. Everything I do with that leg now my brain is trying to protect me from injuring it again. I feel like I go in with a positive attitude but my brain is so terrified it completely stops me from being able to do the move. It doesn't seem like a conscious fear, it's like I'm telling my body to do one thing and a traitorous part of my brain is sending completely opposite signals. I'm worried because if anything, this is more likely to injure me more, if I'm sort of half doing it or doing it incorrectly.

 

Mostly just looking for other stories of people (or their dance kids) who have felt this total mind block after coming back from an injury. Any stories of how you got over it would also be very welcome :) 

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Hello Viv,

 

First of all, have you been cleared by your physio for the exercises you are doing in class?  It may be that your body is telling you that you have come back too early.  I'm not a dancer but I was concerned when you mentioned that you are still in physio.

 

Many years ago a dancer in a company seemed to be getting persistent groin strains.  During one period of this injury he decided to get done a routine operation he needed on his foot.  During the operation it was discovered that there was a much larger bone spur than expected needed to be removed.  During rehabilitation it was also realised that because of the problem with his foot, he had been favouring that foot unconsciously - hence the issues with groin strain.

 

Nothing to do with dance but a friend who was a radiographer and rugby league fan told me about a player who had a really nasty knee injury that required surgery.  He did make a full come back but retired soon after because he always had in the back of his mind that his knee could go.  So yes, I think it is quite common that your body tells you to look after yourself.

 

Have you discussed this with your physio and teacher?

 

Good luck! 

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I think Janet has hit the issues on the head  fully square on.  Not a lot to add  to that 

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Hmm- this sounds quite familiar - my DS definitely struggled (and struggles I suspect still) with a fear of injury caused by having a chronic hip and foot injury that was *sort of* ignored of the best part of a year. Essentially no one could work out why he had hip pain - he got various therapies that all helped a bit in the short term but it wasn't until he got a new teacher that the problem was solved (he has been doing his barre work standing not quite at 90 degrees to the barre hence he was slightly twisting on one side in almost all his work).

 

Since then I would say he has been extra paranoid, and every twinge and twitch has put him in a panic that he has an injury that is more meaningful than just 'oh I pulled a muscle a bit and now should just rest it a bit til it gets better'. So his work can sometimes be a bit inconsistent as he tends not to put in 100% for fear of 'breaking' something. 

 

As for what helps that sooo hard. On the one hand the Vaganova are 100% of the opinion that if you have any kind of injury you sit out of class. He has never felt pressured to do class if he is in any pain, nor is anyone else. On the other hand the director sometimes seems to me to be driving the students to and then beyond their comfort zones in terms of stamina- almost to prove to them that actually they DO have more reserves than they realise. For example recently DS was made to practise a really tough variation I think 4 times in a row with literally no break inbetween (when previously he would have though once was only just possible). By the time he got to the 3rd run through he said he genuinely thought he was going to collapse and be unable to move. But he did then go on and manage a 4th.

 

I stress completely that this IS NOT WITH INJURY- I am telling the story only to show that sometimes a little pushing CAN be good as it pushes you through the fear. But i wouldn't at all advise pushing yourself if there is ANY chance your injury isn't really fully healed.

 

As Janet says it seems to me that you need to have an assurance from your physio/clinician that your ankle really is up to the task of what you are asking it to you. And more advice from your ballet teacher..... 

 

 

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I was  thrown out of a taxi by a dangling aerial wire about eleven years ago. I opened the car door, in the back seat, and ended up with the only part of me still in the car being my right leg. I felt my ankle twist and knew straight away I had done something. While in the hospital I kept fainting with the pain. It was broken and very badly dislocated. But once the break was mended I just couldn't move my ankle or walk properly. I was referred to physiotherapy and in total ended up, between Orthopaedics and Physiotherapy, needing 22 hospital appointments. The Physiotherapist diagnosed me with having CRPS. Or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It's where the brain thinks your body part is still injured so the body part acts accordingly. Once the cast was off my ankle was no longer broken. But to move my ankle and foot was agony. My foot and ankle swelled like a balloon, and if I tried to move it the whole foot would tremble. It still does sometimes. Oh, and the beautiful insteps/arches I used to have? I now only have it on my left foot. My right foot I can barely point at all and my foot has never been the same since. I sued her and was awarded £15 thousand. Seven months later a little girl fell out of one of her taxis and broke her arm. The door was faulty. Her taxi firm went bust and never reopened. She had tried to make out I must have thrown myself out deliberately [like you do]. Oh and her marriage failed as well. Her new husband had bought her the company as a wedding present only four months before my accident. It used to be such a great taxi firm too.  She now works, I kid you not, as a fortune teller and Tarot Card reader. She wasn't very good at predicting her own future, was she? 

Edited by Lisa O`Brien

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I completely understand where you're coming from with regards to not dancing while injured, and I want to be very clear that I would never (well apart from that one time I did, but I think that was mostly shock and one of the dumbest things Ive ever done, it was only because I was 80% of the way through the exam and not thinking of anything except finishing so I could collapse). When I say I'm still seeing the physio, it's because we're still doing follow up visits once a month to see how the re-strengthening is going. The 'injury' is completely healed, it's just correcting the muscle weakness caused by chronic ankle sprains. I also make sure to tell all my teachers and they know if there's any pain I sit out. 

 

If I was feeling pain doing it, that would be one thing. But in terms of strength and ability there is no reason I shouldn't be able to do it. I can do it fine at the barre. The second I move into the centre my brain just...will not let me do it! It's completely mental (and completely frustrating).

 

As for the point of this thread, it was mostly to share experiences more than getting particular advice :) Thank you so much for sharing your DSs journey CeliB, it's nice to know you're not alone sometimes. If a, by all reports very talented, Vaganava student still struggles to overcome that mental block, it makes me feel like less of a total dork hahaha!

 

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oh I don't think it's dorky at all. It's incredibly common for people to make injuries worse by 'protecting' the bit that hurts and then ending up putting strain elsewhere on the body. The origin of many a back/leg/ankle problem....

 

Maybe it's too soon to go to centre work? I know for example when practising head stand in yoga if I haven't practised for a while or am doing a different variation I have to revert to being near a wall instead of in the middle of the room- I never actually NEED the wall for balance- it's just a psychological prop. Once you have had a few more months of confident barre work you may find you get less anxious about the centre. Or even ask your teacher to stand by and support you (gradually moving from holding her to just having her arm there 'in case' and so on). So that you have the experience of being in the centre without the 'fear' of collapsing with no one to rescue you. Or even wear an ankle brace? I know they aren't usually a good idea as they will reduce the speed of strengthening the ankle but perhaps its better to do the centre with one than not do it at all? (I would check your physios opinion though just to be sure)...

 

And (easy to say I know) try not to stress too much- it can only make it worse.... 6 months is not all that long- DS had the best part of 6 months off when he was 17 and it doesn't seem to have done him any harm. A friend of his from school had an entire year off (age 17-18) when he fractured a vertebrae and went on to get a contract with the Danish Royal Ballet 18 months after. So there's no need to panic too much about the speed of your recovery...

 

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I think you're probably right CeliB :) Time to stick to the barre for single leg work, just for now. I'll also talk to my to my teacher about some nice 'hand holding' to get through it :lol:

 

Weirdly enough, and slightly off topic maybe, I find it a lot easier to work that leg when I can see it in the mirror. When I can't see it, it's almost like I can't feel where the lower bit of that leg is in space. As in, I can feel the foot itself working, but I have no concept of where it is in relation to myself when I can't see it... So I think part of it is the fear of not knowing how to position my weight when I don't know if my foot is directly under me, if it's a little to the left or closer to the right and I'm about to fall over. Maybe barre work will also help train my brain into knowing where my foot is.

 

As for time off, no worries about that, no chance of dancing with Danish Royal Ballet for me! :D Although maybe by the time I'm up to scratch they'll have started the Royal Geriatric Company and I can finally shine... :P

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I injured my ankle a few years ago - part of the reason I started ballet was to strengthen it - and my prioperception went to hell. I'm now having to unlearn a whole pile of bad habits I developed doing iaido (Japanese sword) stuff on it because I was protecting the damaged ankle by shifting too much weight onto the other leg, which throws everything out. I'd have been better off not training until it was stronger. I'd suggest that concentrating on the basic stuff a couple of grades before your level might be worth while to relearn where everything is now and work out the bad habits. 

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You're probably right Colman :( We've already had to drop so much until my ankle is strong enough to support it (e.g. no grand jete till I show I can land regular jetes without rolling) and I guess single leg releves may need to go on the 'no' pile for now

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I've found pre-pointe exercises very useful. (But, you know, consult a professional.)

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You might find it useful doing lots of single-leg rises on your less confident side to really up the strength. I would also suggest standing close to the barre or to your teacher just as a mental prop.

 

I've recently come back to ballet after 3 years off (plus having had a baby) and I'm working hard to get through my Advanced 2 exam. I've always been a fearless dancer but the first time I had to do a triple pirouette after my break I got completely stuck in the preparation and was just too scared to take off! And as for pointework...  What I've found useful is taking several steps back and working there until I'm 100% comfortable. So lots and lots of single pirouettes, then doubles, until I trust my body again.

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Go to the barre practice rising and lowering with concentration on moving through your feet. With good posture and correct pelvis alignment. Feel the rotation of the legs coming from inside the hips! Do it slowly on Demi pointe then on pointe in 1st.

Then at the barre practice releves in 5th all on Demi concentrating on the same things, then releve devant and derrière make sure you are transferring your weight to bottom cheeks on one leg. Don't snatch the foot move your body weight from leg to leg.

lots of practice on Demi before you move onto practicing the same on pointe.

hope this helps

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Viv, do you like water? If you do, and especially if you enjoy swimming, I'd suggest finding a warmish pool and doing some exercises like rises, releves etc on your bad leg in the water.  You can start by doing them at the side of the pool, holding onto the bar(re), then moving away from the side of the pool gradually, until you're able to do them in the "centre" in water.  Although the water is supportive, if it's above waist height, it's also more difficult to balance in water, so you have to use your core too - bonus! 

 

When I had hydrotherapy at hospital after one of my surgeries, there were people in the group who had had ankle surgery, basically starting with walking up and down in the pool, but then progressing on to walking on demi pointe/tiptoe in the water.  Exercising in water is fantastic for strengthening weak joints while supporting your weight.  It's quite hard to fall over in a pool, too!

 

Might be worth a try?

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Thanks Anna C :) I'm not the biggest fan of the pool (chlorine...) but I have found it helps my technique through the resistance combined with weight support. So I may have to suck it up and dive in, so to speak.

 

Really, I think the actual exercises I'm doing are all good. Physio is happy with the strength progress and gives me good exercises, I do one-to-one pilates every week and I have vigilant teachers making sure I'm working correctly with my injury. Physically, the ankle is strong enough to support work on that leg. It's just the blasted mental side that I can't overcome. I feel like there's no exercises for that :wacko:

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