Belle Bluestocking on knee surgery, neurodiversity, and finding your Inner Strength
All of our performers have unique perspectives on living with mental health issues and channeling this through their art. For International Women’s Day, we asked members of our troupe to write about womanhood, or their experiences as women. In this blog, dyspraxic dancer and English Literature nerd, Belle Bluestocking, talks about finding her strength through hardship, and rewriting the narrative of being a Damsel in Distress. As a dancer recovering from surgery, Belle knows a thing or two about strength.
I received my trusty copy of Pocket RuPaul Wisdom: Witty Quotes and Wise Words from a Drag Superstar as a gift from one of the most inspiring women I know. I just knew I’d find the perfect pithy summary for what I’m feeling and what I want to share with you all. Namely, that perspective is one hell of a powerful tool.
‘By changing my own mind, the whole world changed’RuPaul
I had a bit of a shitter of a year in 2019, the real cherry on top being knee surgery which stopped me walking – let alone dancing – for two months. Being a dancer recovering from surgery is so frustrating. It’s been nine months and I’ve only very recently celebrated my first pirouette on my healed leg (snaps for me!).
But this unfortunate circumstance prompted me to start questioning my view of things. I had to get over my fear of asking for help, because I needed help with everything. Asking for help is hard for men I know, there’s an expectation that they can handle it all. But it’s hard as a woman because we always feel that we have to prove that we don’t need help from anybody, that we’re not delicate fucking flowers that need protecting. It was so hard being ‘weak’. It was hard always trying to hide what I perceived to be my mental ‘weakness’, but there was no hiding this physical difficulty I was having.
I’ve also finally stopped taking my body for granted. As frustrating as the whole damn process has been, I now REVERE my body and what it has gone through. I’m so grateful I have another chance, to be a dancer recovering from surgery. Now I get up and do yoga every day. Go to pilates every week, even if it means getting up before 6am. Whilst I’m not quite dancing properly again – it’s a bit scary – my body is stronger and more flexible than ever. Someone a long time ago managed to fool everyone by putting out there the perception that women are the ‘weaker sex’. I ask you, what are drag queens doing when they inhabit femininity, but showing how fucking fierce womanhood is?
This newfound strength led me on a journey to seek help when my neurodiversity started impacting my work (my day job – and passion – is working as a script editor in TV drama). Dyspraxia is often described as like having dyslexia but with your hands. It means that time management and organisation is really hard, and that you have a poor working memory. I had this awesome consultation with a woman called Lennie from DYSPLA (an organisation that works with neurodiverse storymakers) and she basically called me out. She told me that I hadn’t managed to do everything I’d done in spite of my dyspraxia, but because of it . Yes, there are a lot of things I’ve struggled with, but no one can be good at everything. There are things that I’m good at because I have an unusual way of looking at things. A different perspective. So the least I could do for myself was to reframe my way of thinking.
Dyspraxic people are particularly hardworking, empathetic people with strong verbal skills.
Actually, 70% of people working in the creative industries are neurodiverse (this includes ADD, autism, discalcula and discographia as well as dyslexia and dyspraxia). Dyspraxic people are particularly hardworking, empathetic people with strong verbal skills. Because I have depression and anxiety, I can put myself in other people’s shoes easily. This means I can tell stories better. Because I have always felt I hard to work harder than everyone else to keep up, I can persevere and organise my thoughts into enough of an order to write this article. And because of all these qualities, I’ve realised I am pretty strong, and pretty brave, and I can get up on stage and use the amazing opportunity Invisible Cabaret has given me to share my struggles through dance. I’m finding my authentic power as a proudly dyspraxic dancer!
So do yourself a favour, and whether you were born a woman or have become one, change your perspective and embrace your STRENGTH! What makes you different – like being a dyspraxic dancer – is what makes you fucking great. And chances are, you’ve probably heard a small voice inside whispering this to you all along. My friend Jane wrote of this: ‘We all have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be’. Take a tip from Ms Austen and listen to that voice!