In the second of a series of articles documenting the thoughts of local anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold, the founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative explains how dance has helped her
I battled with myself for a long time after being knocked down by bullying and I didn’t see myself getting back up again. Bullying knocked my confidence and made me feel worthless. I honestly didn’t see a very bright future for myself. But something changed for me.
I have always loved to dance, starting ballet and tap at the age of three and dreaming of being a ballerina. But this was always just a childhood dream. I never thought after losing my passion for years that I would find it again during the most difficult time of my life. I never liked dance from Year 7 to 9 (we studied it at school as a compulsory lesson), and I couldn’t wait to get rid of it. When I started secondary school, it was a lot easier to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and I always feared being judged. But at the end of Year 9, I decided to join our school’s dance club and ended up taking it at GCSE, which was definitely the best decision I made.
Going into GCSEs was a difficult transition for me and coming out of a difficult year made it even harder. Year 10 wasn’t much easier, but I started therapy after things became too much and I was struggling with everyday life. My motivation dropped a lot and my world continued to get darker. But having dance classes to go to every day gave me something to focus on. It was a place where I could let go and express myself. My love of dance only grew throughout Years 10 and 11, helping me through the stress of exams and overcoming battles with myself. I suddenly felt in control of my feelings and finally felt like I had some sort of connection with myself in the dance studio.
I would encourage anyone with a mental health illness to find something they can do that they enjoy and can express themselves through. Sometimes, talking can be really hard, and it’s such a difficult first step to take. But I know that dance helped me feel more able to communicate with others about how I was feeling and accept help rather than resist it. It changed my whole perspective of life and allowed me to reach a brighter future, which I am thoroughly enjoying.
Creativity isn’t limited and creative subjects like the performing arts really do have an enormous amount of power to help us change our perspective on life.
You can overcome any mental health illness, but please don’t put pressure on yourself if you’re struggling to express yourself through words. There are so many things that can help you overcome difficulties in your life. This passion might be clear for some people and more hidden for others, but it is there. The words will come… you just have to give them time.