Category Archives: health
It’s funny: when we speak of someone being “unstrung,” we typically mean it in the sense that a harp or a piano that has been unstrung is usually having a pretty bad day.
We don’t typically mean it in the other sense—that a bow (the old-fashioned kind made from wood and/or horn and/or bone) should be unstrung regularly, lest the tension of the string ruin its strength.
I think I’m experiencing a bit of both right now.
It’s deeply unpleasant to miss a week of class. By day three, I begin to suffer from the sneaking suspicion that I’m losing my figure if I eat at all (please note, if you’re new to this blog: this a criticism I apply solely to myself—I’m not generally prescriptive about dancers’ bodies, unless the dancer in question is me). My history of anorexia is still, essentially, history … but I’d be lying if I failed to admit that its voice speaks louder when I’m forced to sit down for a while.
This is complicated by the fact that my internal mirror, my mental representation of my body, is updating slowly: that I’m starting to see myself as this rather athletically-built kind of boy, possibly the sort that runs to fat by current professional ballet standards (though perhaps not by any saner standard in the world).
Likewise, I begin to feel frustrated: I know I’ll have to work back into my body a bit; that ballet in particular is an art that demands constant practice. If I miss class for six days, I, my director, the audience, and even the spiders in the stairwell will know. And I’ll really, really know. My deep rotators are, by this point, slowly morphing back into deep potaters (though I am at least feeling well enough to do simple turnout exercises now, provided I do them lying down or in small batches).
And yet it would be impossible and unhealthy to dance through the illness I’ve had this week—I might have milked a few more classes out of myself, but it’s probable that for every hour I strained to charge forward, I’d pay back a day in interest. The show must go on, but at the same time it’s stupid to feck about with a fever and an aggressive infection that has already colonized your upper respiratory system and is eyeing your lungs. If you have to do a show and you don’t have a second cast, you do it; if you’ve got a slow week of class and rehearsals, for goodness’ sake, just take a minute and heal.
Now is no time to get sick—at least, not sicker than I have been. If there’s a good week to take a hit from North Tonsilia, for that matter, this was it: next week is PlayThink, then it’s tech week for Weeds. This week we had fewer rehearsals than usual, and none that were unusually demanding. There was time to sleep and recover.
Time to sleep and recover also means time to review video of Tenebrae and think about work and consider how to move forward.
It’s still a little weird to think about myself as a professional dancer and as a nascent choreographer. It’s really weird in this way that it’s not as weird as it once was. I’m starting to think about the long game; to consider strategies for working as much as I can for as long as I can. It doesn’t seem as ludicrous, anymore, to think seriously about choreographing projects and so forth.
In that light I should think about trying to avoid, say, choking to death. I sliced up some steak to eat with a salad today (now that I can eat salad again :P), but I failed to account for being pretty much unable to breathe through my nose, still. I wound up aspirating a longish piece of steak in the process of trying to bite through it, and D had to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Obviously, it worked: out came the steak, and after a few minutes I was able to go eat my lunch, which I’d literally just started.
Still, it gave me pause. I’ve managed to choke on things before, as one does, but never so badly that I couldn’t sort it out myself. It was less scary than one might expect: like, the initial feeling was, “Oh, I’m choking, I should sort this out,” followed by futile attempts to somehow dislodge this strip-o-steak, um, psychically or something?
The problem being that by the time I staggered into the living room where D was, I was kind of redlining and started to panic as I realized I couldn’t remember the universal sign for “choking,” which apparently is not instinctive :O
That said, I was still able to make a faint gurgling hiss somehow: apparently that, combined with the usual hand-waving that I do when I can’t find words, prompted D to realize that I was choking.
The actual experience of being Heimlich-ed was interesting: there was a moment of, “This isn’t worki—” and then all at once it had worked and I was holding a disgusting, slimy strip of meat in one hand. Weird. After that there was a brief episode of the physical rage that’s my universal response to physical threats, but in a particularly helpless-feeling fashion that made me sit down on the floor and say some colorful words.
And then I realized it was just that—the same reflex I always have—and that I was fine and D had basically just saved my life by correctly reading a particular form of interpretive dance that I do when my language coprocessor crashes.
Which, in retrospect, is really rather funny. So now I have another amusing story to tell at dancer parties, which are basically the only parties I attend, about how interpretive dance saved the day.
You guys, I swear my life is not normally this interesting.
You may now proceed with the obvious jokes related to choking on huge meat, biting off more than I can chew, etc.
Last night I kept choking on water (and tea, and everything else). That should’ve told me something.
Here’s a quick recap of this week!
Dr. B ordered a shot of prednisone and a round of antibiotics. I was actually still running a fever this morning, and was apparently a thermonuclear reactor last night when I was sleeping. Hmm.
Evidently, that repeatedly-choking-on-water thing is sometimes a sign that your tonsils have decided to annex the greater portion of your nasopharynx in the name of Prussia.
On the upside, my lungs (though fairly annoyed by the repeated coughing fits induced by my tonsils’ aggressive assault on South Pharyngia) have chosen to remain diplomatically neutral. Which is to say that they’re slightly wheezy, but we caught this before “slightly wheezy” could develop into “a goop-filled colony of Upper Tonsilia.”
Also on the upside, the medrol injection has started doing its job, which has both reduced the pain in my throat and made breathing, coughing, and drinking easier.
Provided, of course, that I don’t attempt to do all three at the same time.
So it turns out that my stiffness and disorientation on Saturday was the prodrome of some kind of aggressive respiratory infection. Like, mostly functional on Sunday morning, fever of 101F and raging headache by 9 PM Sunday evening kind of aggressive
As such, I haven’t been in class all week, though I did go to a tech session for Weeds last night. We were shooting video for projections, though, so there was no serious dancing involved … mostly we hung out on various street corners looking mildly threatening, but definitely more threatening than a dance number from West Side Story.
- You guys, I love West Side Story, of course, but can we agree that some of the gangland dance numbers are, well, less than intimidating?
I am almost certainly skipping class tonight as well, because frankly nobody needs to try to dance when they can’t actually stand up, and none of the people in class who remain able to stand up need my germs.
C’est la vie. Sometimes you win; sometimes the microbes win.
After a week of Levofloxacin, which I finished on Thursday, I’m basically back to normal … which is all for the best, since my schedule is about to get complicated.
I took two classes today. BG’s advice: when taking two classes in one day, approach each with a different goal.
My original goal was to focus on technique in the morning and artistry in the evening, but JMH gave us a rather athletic class, so I wind up ultimately just focusing on endurance this evening 😛
On the other hand, I did a billion royales and entrechats, so I’ll be ready for BW’s class on Thursday, though he’ll probably be in rehearsal, so I’m not sure whether we’ll have a substitute or what.
Other things are also looking up. K is trying to organize a partnering class (yaassssssss!), I seem to have a contemporary ballet gig incoming, and the first piece for Culture of Poverty is more or less done. Oh, and I have two named roles in upcoming shows, which is awesome.
Also, my extensions were crazy high today, probably because we had a (visiting? new?) boy in class who was quite good and something in my psyche decided it was important to impress him? But my petit allegro was mediocre. And my adagio was … mixed. And my centre tendu was bleeding awful.
So there you have it. I’m not dead yet.
(n) An advanced step in which—after falling catastrophically out of a turn, jump, or lift—one rises from the ground with such an air of grace and mastery that the audience (ideally, even the choreographer) believes the whole disaster was part of the original choreography. Example: “Mistaknov’s glorious reveille left us questioning whether Seigfried’s variation was not, in fact, actually supposed to open with a glorious saut de chat followed by a fluid, cat-like tuck-and-roll to the knee. Indeed, we wondered if we’d ever seen it done right before.”
I am definitely recovering. Yesterday, I still woke up feeling fairly exhausted, but by late afternoon some of the fog and fatigue had begun to lift.
Every time I do this to myself, I’m stunned by how thoroughly a fairly minor illness can sap one’s energy (or, at any rate, mine). When you know you’ve got a sinus infection but you let it go for several weeks because you know the antibiotics you’ll take to get rid of it don’t play nicely with ballet and you’ve got a show coming up, you lose track of what “normal” feels like.
Anyway, today I feel almost like a human being, which means that by the end of the week I’ll probably be my usual hyperactive self.
Tonight, I’ll be back in class—I’ll do barre and see how things sit.
There was a brief period in this whole process in which I thought, “I wonder if this is what ‘normal’ feels like.” I wasn’t yet overwhelmingly exhausted, but I could sit down for more than five minutes at a time and could also fall asleep easily without having to spend eight hours furiously dancing first.
It lasted maybe a week. It was nice, in a way, but it wasn’t quite like being myself.
Maybe someday when I’m older I’ll find my way back to that place and it’ll feel like home.
Maybe I won’t: we tend to measure ourselves by our peers, and I’ll probably always be a bit of a live wire by that yardstick.
*not an actual ballet term … BUT IT SHOULD BE
But, first: Good Pesach, y’all!
…Assuming that it is in fact still Saturday. Honestly, being off sick has really screwed up my internal calendar. (I dare not even contemplate what it’s probably doing to my internal- and external rotators .__.,)
Dear Northern Hemisphere,
I’ve officially switched to my springtime header, so if winter decides to repeat its coda* yet again, sorry about that.
You may lodge any complaints with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration**, which is clearly losing its battle with the capricious demiurges of weather, who in turn don’t want any snot-nosed dance blogger*** telling them what to do.
Your Humble Danseur
*Prolly the Nutcracker Prince, amirite? Because obvs. Winter. Always showboating. SMH
**These are the folks who run the US weather machines, yesno?
***Who hopes to be slightly less snot-nosed soon, through the miracle of modern medicine?
Yesterday I checked in with my GP, who is awesome on numerous levels (not every doctor closes out an appointment with, “When’s your next show?! You have to tell me so I can get tickets!”). She confirmed my sinus infection and sent me off with a ton of prescriptions—specifically, levofloxacin and pseudoephedrine, plus the usual generic Adderall—which I proceeded to fill at the usual CVS.
I’m sure my local band of intrepid pharmacists think I’m basically a crank addict or running a meth lab or whatevs. (Crank is speed, right? Yesno? Why, of course there’s an answer for that question on the internet.) I can see why they might think that, given my prescriptions and the fact that this end of town is sort of known for that sort of thing.
Really, though, I just want to be able to breathe through my nose and adult.
At the same time, even.
And, sadly, while psuedoephedrine marginally improves my adulting abilities, it doesn’t do so effectively enough that I could, say, skip the Adderall for now. Adderall, meanwhile, does exactly nothing for my congestion, as best I can tell.
So, there you have it.
Normally, the combination of psuedoephedrine and Adderall doesn’t actually make me feel like anything other than a person who can both breathe and efficiently accomplish important goal-directed behaviors pertaining to daily life. Apparently, however:
(psuedoephedrine + Adderall + coffee) * feververtigo resulting from inner-ear wonkiness
= high AF
>_____> o_____O’ <_____<
At least, to be honest, I assume that’s what being high AF feels like. My illicit substance-use history comprises, in short, the occasional glass of wine and a few beers (and never more than two in one day) prior to age 21. At one time, it was because I was that annoying judgmental straightedge kid; at other times, it was a function of fear of addiction; now it’s just basically force of habit. Which just goes to show that anything can become a habit.
- I did get very tipsy at my Mom’s New Year’s Eve party when I was 17, which involved exactly one flute of champagne. I then went upstairs and proceeded to watch Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, because OMFG I was so embarrassingly Serious and Earnest in high school, and senior year was peak Serious & Earnest territory.
- Not that all straightedge kids are annoying and judgmental. Some are awesome and humble and all that. I just wasn’t one of them. Ugh. Can you tell I’ve been watching The Mortified Guide…?
Anyway, I’m just not sure how else to describe the weird state of consciousness in which one is both somehow very, very like awake but also … floaty. Spacey.
Not, like, Kevin Spacey. More like this kind of spacey:
Admittedly, I probably could’ve skipped the coffee … but I decided, as one does, that since I was officially not contagious I should peel myself out of bed and go to rehearsal, and that involved driving, which involved staying awake.
Which was a problem, because awake was the one thing my body absolutely, positively did not want to be. (Actually, there are a whole host of other things it didn’t want to be, but they’re all basically subsets of awake.)
Honestly, the single most alarming thing about this particular sinus infection has been the absolutely crushing fatigue.
Like, driving home from my doc’s office, I was constantly fighting the urge to just close my eyes and go to sleep. Not, mind you, just thinking, “Gosh, I’m really sleepy, *yawn*” but actively having to tell myself:
DO NOT CLOSE YOUR EFFING EYES, MORON. NO. NO. OPEN THEM BACK UP. IT IS NOT OKAY TO BLINK FOR 5 SECONDS AT A TIME.WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
This, remember, is me: the Boy Who Stayed Awake. I do the driving on all our road trips because I can stay awake more or less indefinitely as long as I’m sitting upright (read: I can only sleep sitting up with assistance from modern pharmacology, and have been like that my entire life).
The same person for whom achieving a night’s rest typically involves less “going to sleep“ than “lying there in hope that sleep will eventually trip over me on its way to meet someone in the Pacific Time Zone.“
Like, literally, I only realized last year that people can actually, you know, actually go to sleep.
ON PURPOSE!!! (You guys! I’m serious! What even is that?!)
So having to fight to stay awake … WHILE DRIVING, no less … is something of a novelty.
One that I addressed by drinking WAY THE HECK TOO MUCH COFFEE.
Anyway, basically I floated my way through rehearsal in a state that resembled somehow experiencing that hypnagogic sense of falling through space whilst remaining upright and alert (well … more or less).
Fortunately, the part of the show that we worked last night mostly takes place sitting at a group of tables, and I was able to mark it without actually having to fall on the floor (technically called for at various points, but not necessary when marking). Which is good, because had I made it to the floor it’s highly unlikely that I would then have made it back off the floor.
Then I ate a bunch of chicken-flavored crackers, recopied my choreography notes (you guys, I have never done a piece that involves this much writing: this thing is complicated), and went back to bed. Exciting, right?
Amazingly, I’m pretty sure I actually learned the choreography I needed to learn. See all those letters in circles at the bottom of the right-hand column? Those are 4-count phrases. There are six of them, continuously mixed and re-mixed throughout the piece, comme Rosas Danst Rosas (speaking of which: if you haven’t seen Rosas yet, you can watch the whole thing there … and then, if you’re feeling inspired, you can create your own take on it as part of a worldwide project).
The longer I spend in the rarified climes of the dance world, the more I realize that I am the kind of dancer who learns modern choreography best by, in short, brute force.
Show me a phrase once, and I’ll feck it right up. If I’m lucky, I’ll have shot a good mental video so I run over it again and again in my head and have learned it by the time I’m halfway home.
Show me a phrase, then walk me through it three times, and I’ll start to give it back to you accurately. Let me run it around six times, and I’ll start adding musicality and nuance.
- I pick up ballet choreography much, much faster: usually I need one demonstration, and I’m good. That doesn’t mean I’ll do it correctly after seeing it once, but it does mean I know what I’m supposed to be doing and can hypothetically fix my own errors.
This means, in short, that I struggle at modern auditions, but I quickly become an asset in rehearsal.
The downside is that it makes me very hesitant to rehearse modern choreography on my own, because I’m afraid I’ll misunderstand part of the demo and train myself into a step that isn’t there, or that goes somewhere else, or whatever. I develop pretty strong motor patterns, and fixing them can be a challenge.
I also managed to come up with my own special shorthand notation for the set phrases that are remixed and sequenced throughout the piece:
That felt like rather a stroke of genius, to be honest.
I’m not primarily a verbal learner, but in ballet contexts I use the names of steps (or, well, sometimes the nicknames I’ve privately given them) synchronized to the rhythm of the music (or the counts) as a backup system for when I’m missing a piece of my visual and kinaesthetic maps. This little cheat-sheet of four-counts represents a surprisingly successful attempt to create that same kind of backup system in a modern-dance context.
The sort of tablature of notes further up evolved over the course of the first day of rehearsals, though I’ve refined it a bit since the first iteration. It acts as a framework; kind of a score, if you will, to keep track of what happens when.
At the beginning, for my group, so much of this piece is counting like crazy, then throwing in some small-but-important gesture. Even “PAUSE” has a specific meaning entirely disparate from “HOLD.”
Can’t really do anything today because my health status has rather abruptly careened from “grumpy and under the weather” to “cheerful but really quite ill,” replete with fever and the inability to stand upright without appearing to be either quite drunk or on a sinking ship.
I’m now really, really glad I made an appointment to see my GP back when I was just feeling a bit sinusy and fatigued, because this is ridiculous.
Anyway, being as I’m not able to really do anything at all, I just watched Icarus on Netflix. It was surprisingly good. Worth a watch.
Also, everything tastes weird, which for once in my life is causing me to crave sweets (normally, my cravings are for salty, fatty things). It’s weird, y’all.
… And stays home.
I’ve had a sinus thing going on for a while, and it has finally run me to ground.
I’m just flat-out exhausted despite having slept 10 hours plus per night for the past several days, and since sinus pressure and fatigue are key indicators of sinus infection, I’ve made an appointment with my doctor for Friday morning.
To be fair, I really meant to do this sooner. I got through theater week and the week that followed purely by the good graces of pseudoephedrine, basically, which allowed me to keep going without really solving the underlying problem (which, to be fair, pseudoephedrine isn’t designed to do). Oh, well.
That said, I’m also bored stiff. It’s possible that there’s nothing as ridiculous and pathetic as a dancer who currently lacks the energy to dance. You would think a lifetime of recurrent sinus infections would have inured me to the mental restlessness associated with being physically “on the bench,” but no.
Even though I escaped yesterday evening to help transport some stuff from CL’s old headquarters to our new ones, I’ve reached that point at which one begins to entertain bad ideas (“Maybe I’ll just do barre!”) in order to allay the weird restlessness.
And if this all sounds like so much First World Whining, don’t worry—it 100% totally is, and I know that. It’s not really that horrible to be a sick dancer, just annoying and inconvenient.
Per husband’s orders, I’m playing it safe and most cooling my heels until I can see the doc (though I do have to go to rehearsal tomorrow, because work). With any luck, she’ll declare me fit to fly while we’re getting this sinus thing handled.
It’s super easy!
Just get yourself a nice case of food poisoning or a really aggressive gastrointestinal bug. If you can arrange for it to take hold around the time you go to bed, all the better–by the time you wake up and find that you can’t even keep liquids down, you’ll already have gone hours without eating or drinking!
Don’t worry. I do not, by any means, intend this as actual advice.
I was just really startled when I stepped onto the scale today and discovered that the roughly sixteen hours that I could neither eat nor drink yesterday–that is, the sixteen hours that it took me to remember that I had some really effective anti-nausea meds on hand–coupled with the profoundly minimal amount I have eaten and drunk since then has added up to a literal five pound drop in my weight.
Obviously, most of that’s water weight. That doesn’t make it any less startling as a demonstration, though. Dehydration is for reals.
Also, the wicked dehydration headache (unless the headache is part of whatever led to the, erm, gastrological pyrotechnics) is, you know, kind of 0/10 Do Not Recommend.
Fortunately, between the Ondansetron and my immune system having time to work on whatever this is, I’ve now regained the ability to drink and to eat dry, crunchy stuff like saltines (I’m still afraid to try anything else, thus far, though I literally had a very involved dream about chocolate milk).
I did grit my way through my endocrinology appointment yesterday (though I was very, very grateful for the single-user restroom, and was profoundly nauseated on the way home). Based on my previous labs, Dr. P prescribed a moderate dose of Androgel, which is kind of what I was hoping for. It should prevent the overdosing thing that happened last time I tried HRT.
I didn’t make it to either class or to rehearsal, and I find it absolutely hilarious that earlier in the day I imagined I actually would, somehow, at least make rehearsal. In fact, during the time that I would’ve been at evening class and rehearsal, I was asleep (though I was pretending to listen to podcasts).
I was particularly sad to miss this session, as KW from the company–AKA my Ballet Spirit Guide, since I inherited his tights last year–came in to teach class and do some cleaning and polishing of The Piece.
I hope the girls were okay without me.
Except possibly for the bits with C, I think it’s not too hard for them to mark through the partnered sections.
Meanwhile, I’m not usually very important to their spacing, while their spacing is critical to my ability to do my part. I’m forever running through flocks of girls in this piece, so if their spacing is off, it starts to look a bit like sportsball-sans-ball.
Anyway, while this was certainly the second-worst gastrological upset I’ve had (the worst, bar none, was the time I ate some bad shrimp when I was eighteen), I realized yesterday whilst contemplating my fate at the foot of the porcelain throne that it’s actually been quite a while since anything made me puke.
Also, despite being fairly dehydrated, my resting pulse yesterday clocked in at 53, which is pretty nice, and my blood pressure was 100/60, which is about typical for me. I figured my vital stats would be all over the place, but they were fine.
So that’s it for now. I’m planning to attempt to eat some yoghurt, after which I’ll probably resume “listening to podcasts,” also known as sleeping. BW’s class is cancelled tonight, conveniently for me, so I feel no great pressure to attempt ballet heroics.