To The Zumba Instructors

I’ve been a student of Zumba® Fitness for 5 years and an instructor of the program for 3 1/2 years. I absolutely love it. Maybe not so much at the moment, but that’s a story for a different day.

The biggest transition from student to teacher is losing time taking classes. Once you begin teaching your own, it becomes very difficult to participate in others. I still love being a student; perhaps more than I love teaching. However, between working, attending college, teaching my own classes, and being a mom there isn’t always spare time.

Lately, I’ve found that when I am able to sneak into another class, the instructor tells me I’m making them nervous. Why? What about my presence is making you uncomfortable? I’m not in your class to stand out or draw attention. I’m not in your class to judge or criticize the way you teach. I’m not in your class to “steal” your material(even though I admit to getting ideas from other instructors). In fact, I always take a spot in the back of the room as a show of respect for the teacher in front of me. You see, I’m a non-competitive Zumba instructor; I wish there were more like me. My sole reason for taking your class is to enjoy myself. To relive those days when I could take a Zumba class for the fun and freedom of it. To remember what it’s like to simply do and not think. To not have to put on a constant show because all eyes are not on me.

So when you see me in your class, please don’t panic. Don’t feel pressured. Don’t feel the need to be a perfectionist. I know I’m far from that! And if you happen to make a mistake, who cares?! As instructors, it’s important to remember that even when we do miss a step or have to wing a move because we forgot our own choreography, our students don’t notice. Just keep moving, even if you have to improvise some moves. They are going to do whatever you do, and that includes me. As someone who never or very rarely takes your class, I’m going to follow every move you make and not question the steps.

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The Ugly

Today was one of those ugly days. The days when you just can’t bear to look at yourself in the mirror. The days when you spend hours trying to re-evaluate your routine and what you can possibly do to make yourself look better.

Today I hated my hair, my skin, and as always, my body. What set me off? A photo my girlfriend took of me sitting on our couch. Stupid, right? Should have been, but as I looked at the weird face I was making because of the unexpected shot and the ridiculous knot of my hair I thought, “I am not an attractive person.” Yes, I post selfies on Facebook and Instagram, but I found myself thinking that my pictures only looked decent because I’ve mastered flattering poses. I’ve learned the trick of looking attractive. I don’t look the same in person as I do in pictures. But does anyone? Who knows. That thought wasn’t on my mind today as I spend hours in self loathing and looking at photos of girls I wish I looked like.

When I have a low day everything affects me at one time. It doesn’t matter what the trigger was. It’s impossible for me to focus on fixing one imperfection at a time. I start falling into this spiral of doom; the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” tornado of torment. It’s not healthy and I know this. Still, I frequently find myself in that place.

There isn’t any easy solution to beating these kind of days. But I still try. I tell myself that it’s impossible to change the past or to completely change your life or to wake up in someone else’s life. I tell myself that without all of the “bad” choices I’ve made, I wouldn’t have acquired the blessings I’ve found. I’ve found acceptance for the most part. You can’t please everyone I’ve stopped trying long ago. I’ve found someone who loves me exactly as I am, scars and all. I have two amazing daughters. I have successful fitness classes. I have friends who would literally do anything to make me smile.

Sometimes the bad just overpowers the good. Sometimes I just have to succumb to it.

My Dark Side

The death of Robin Williams has affected me so deeply. It’s strange be sad over someone you’ve never met. I’ve had moments where I’ve cried over the loss of this amazing man. Learning that Robin Williams suffered from mental disorders hit me in the chest. I know exactly how he must have felt. I’ve been in those dark moments when choices are made. I’ve hated myself. I’ve wished for release.

My name is Amy and I suffer from depression and anxiety. For the first time I’m going to tell my story. Judgments are NOT welcome here. Comments aren’t needed. This is just to hopefully open the eyes of those who overlook the silent struggles.

When I was 7, I used to visit a friend every day to play. I noticed that I looked at her differently than I should…I noticed there was something “wrong” with me. Throughout our many play dates, and play dates with other female friends, I realized that I was attracted to them. At 7 years old I knew I was a lesbian…I didn’t now the word for me then, but I still knew I liked girls the way I should have liked boys. Don’t roll your eyes. People don’t CHOOSE to be gay…we are BORN this way. When I was 13 I had my first sexual experience with a girl. It was one of the toughest moments in my life. How could I want something that was considered wrong?

I found myself in a secret relationship with that girl until I went to high school. There weren’t any other openly gay people in my high school…none that I met anyway. I had also been accepted by the “popular kids” and didn’t want to do anything to mess that up. So I started dating a guy. He would later be the father of my daughters. My relationship with him was off and on for 5 years. He didn’t treat me well but I couldn’t blame him since he knew I wanted to be with girls. He was abusive…not physically but mentally. The scars aren’t any different.

When I was 17, I learned I was pregnant. I was on birth control but as we all know it’s only 98% effective. Guess who was in the 2%? As I tried to accept what I’d just learned, 10 years of hiding myself and the choices I’d wished I had made came crashing down on me. I suffered a massive nervous breakdown on the bathroom floor of my grandparents house. I had to be hospitalized. I did not want to be a mom. I did not want to be with a man. I laid in the hospital bed waiting for the doctor to come in as my mom whispered hateful things in my ear. She told me I was too lie about what was wrong with me. I was not to tell the doctors I didn’t want my baby. She told me I had to knock it off. As a result of this first hospital visit and the keeping of more secrets, I spent my pregnancy being hospitalized due to recurring nervous breakdowns. I was scared about what would happen to me. I felt disgusted with myself for not wanting to be a mom.

When Cadence was born, my life changed. I was confused, happy and sad all at the same time. I ended up suffering from postpartum depression. If my sisters and Cadence’s grandmother(his mom) hadn’t been there to help me in that first year…well I don’t even want to think about what might have happened. I eventually got myself together and became a real mom. But I hated myself. Hated myself for not being true to me. Hated myself for not taking care of me. Hated myself for the way I had felt about my beautiful baby. Hated myself for not being prettier, skinnier, braver. The nervous breakdowns stopped…but anxiety attacks began. They were small but still scary.

My life over the next 3 years is a blur most of the time. I still struggled to find myself. I still wasn’t able to break free of Cadence’s dad. Still hating myself and ashamed of everything in my life that I felt was out of my control. I then found myself in a very familiar position: pregnant. For three months I debated over what I was going to do. This is the first time I’ve ever admitted this publicly: Corrina was almost just a memory. I am not proud of those moments. When I look at her now I wonder how I could have even had those horrible thoughts. But if you’ve never been a lesbian in a relationship with a man because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do…then I don’t expect you to understand. And that’s ok. This is for me…not you.

Fast forward to two years later. I found myself in a relationship with a woman. It was great. I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. At 21 years old I worked up the nerve to “come out.” My friends weren’t surprised. They all had their suspicions. Breathe. Then I told my mother, who also said she had her suspicions. Breathe. Nobody cared that I was a lesbian. A weight should had been lifted off of my chest, but their acceptance made me wish I had came out sooner. The anxiety attacks returned. I hated myself again. Almost a year later my relationship fell apart. I wasn’t the one she loved. She loved another…lived with another..had a life with another. The darkness returned with a vengeance. I suffered a nervous breakdown for the first time in 4 years. My babies laid with me while I cried over something I couldn’t tell them about. They hugged and kissed me and told me they loved me. That’s true love: comforting someone even when you have no idea what’s wrong.

After spending years of bouncing from house to house, I finally moved into my own apartment. Just me and my babies. It was one of the happiest days of my life. No one telling me what to do. No one judging me. I was free. Free to make my own choices and do things my way. It was scary living on my own. There were nights when I would cry myself to sleep. But I was doing it. I was working full time. Paying my own bills. Taking care of my children.

I hadn’t been looking for anything, but I once again found myself in a relationship with a woman. She was fun, a hard worker, loved kids. I allowed myself to put time into this. We would visit each other at work, have lunch/dinner dates or just spend time at my house. Then one night, almost 6 months into this, she drops a bomb on me: she was married. I felt sick. How could I let myself end up in this situation? How could I not know? The anxieties returned. Once again I found myself in that dark place. I cried over my stupidity. I hated myself once again. Maybe if I was prettier, in better shape, a gold star lesbian…maybe everything would have been different…better.

Wawa was the company I was working for. After spending 2 years in the Millville area, I was shipped down to a store on route to the shore. Ugh. What a disaster it was. The store was super busy. The crew was super slow. The combination just didn’t work. I found myself working over time and double time to make up for what my lacking crew couldn’t do. It was exhausting. The anxiety attacks started to return. My stress levels were super high. The only positive thing about this store was Misha. She worked there during the day. Even though she wasn’t exactly my type, I found myself attracted to her. I needed a connection wit someone. I still don’t now how I convinced this amazing girl to spend a night with me, but I’ glad she did. We hit it off. What I thought was going to be a one time thing turned into the best relationship of my life. She was there. She was nice to me. She accepted everything about me. She was the first person I ever told my entire, horrible story to and she didn’t even bat an eyelash. Mish accepted me just as I was…completely broken…and she loved me anyway.

I’ve only suffered one other nervous breakdown in the past 2 years and it was the day I left Wawa. Enough had just been enough. I was crying so hard I was hyperventilating by the time I got home. Mish and my girls were waiting for me. They told me it would all be ok. That we would figure it out.  And somehow we have. I’ve found myself very blessed.

This is not a fairy tale. Every day is a struggle for me. I have no self esteem. I’m insecure and have no faith in myself. I have to talk myself off the edge every single day. I have to convince myself that everything happens for a reason and if I hadn’t made mistakes in my life, I wouldn’t have received the blessings. I smile publicly. I smile every day when people are watching. I’ve become a master at putting on a show. But inside the walls of my house, I am in a dark place. And while I work to get out of the darkness, I thank God every day for the people in my life. You all know who you are. The ones who post on my FB or send me a text message just to check in or the ones who’ve come to my rescue when life was kicking my ass. To you these things may seem trivial, but to someone like me these gestures make the difference between up and down.

I’m not sharing this for pity. I don’t need anyone feeling bad for me. This story is for awareness. If you think someone is struggling, reach out to them. Ask your friends if they’re ok. Send them a message just to say “hi.” You never know the struggle another person may be going through. We all have our silent demons. We’re never alone. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.