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Worried about a dancing friend

Striving for Grace

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I'm concerned about a friend in my ballet classes. :) She's an awesome dancer, but I think she's burning out. Today I was telling her that my ankle wasn't doing too well and the doc wanted me to stay off it for at least another week, and she was like "so you're going to be out for at least a month, huh?" When I said yes, she replied "You're so lucky. Why don't I ever get injured? I'd give anything to get out of these stupid classes for even a week!" And she was dead serious. And then jokingly she said "wouldn't it be great if I happened to fall down some stairs or something and mess up my leg too? You'd have company!" And that scares me. :o


She's a beautiful and talented dancer and she has always seemed to enjoy all forms of dance. She's been stressed about events in her life, but she won't tell anyone what those things are and refuses to see a counsellor. I told her she should talk to one of our teachers before she completely burns out if she won't talk to a counsellor, but she refuses that too. I even tried getting her to get a BT4D account and vent/ask for advice online, but again she refuses. :shrug:


I'm worried that she may sabotage herself to get out of dance if she's this stressed. She actually said she envies me because I'm injured, and she's a very determined person who usually does whatever it takes to get the results that she wants. I'm trying to be supportive of her, but I just don't know what to do to help her since I can't force her to talk to anyone. I don't want her to hurt herself! :o


Please help! :o



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Hi Grace,

It's very hard to help people unless they want to be helped. Would you be comfortable about asking your teacher for advice? S/he might have already noticed something is troubling your friend, as most ballet teachers are pretty observant, and might have some experience of dealing with students' burnout.

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I feel like it would be wrong of me to speak to the teacher without my friend's consent... I would be more than willing to go with her if I could facilitate her telling someone about what she's going through emotionally/mentally, but she's being incredibly difficult. I asked her if she would actually injure herself on purpose to get out of dance for a while and she said yes. I told her that she had no way of predicting what the damage would be and it could keep her out of dance forever if it turned out to be really serious. I suggested that she could just take a week off and say she's sick if it's a break from ballet that she needs, but I'm not sure I should have said that because she should face her problems and if she's at home I can't keep an eye on her... but if she says she's sick sh'll need a sick note which means she'll ahve to go to the doc's and maybe she'll be willing to talk to a doc about her feelings if she's already going to be there anyways and then maybe she'll get a counselling referral? A lot of maybes... I'm tearing my hair out, here.

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Some kinds of injuries are nearly impossible to diagnose from the outside. She could choose one and claim she has it for a week. Get a doctor's note too. Every time the doctor touches her there, she could wince in pain. This is not too hard for an enterprising and determined teenager to figure out.

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She's not even a teen. Despite the immaturity of the situation, we're both 23. :yes:

What you say about it being hard to diagnose certain types of injuries is very true, and I'll put it past her (I'll take anything at this point, as long as she doesn't harm herself!) I am, however, letting her know that I'm here for her if she wants to talk, and am hoping that she will... because problems like this just tend to come back, and she can't fake injury for a whole year... If she sees that as a good thing to do, I question whether she really wants a career in dance. Which perhaps she's realized she doesn't. I don't know.

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It sounds to me like she is just depressed, and it may or may not have anything to do with dance. But, unless she is willing to get help, there is little to nothing anyone else can do. This may be something she has to work out herself. It is also possible that she really does not want to dance, which is fine, but she needs help in learning how to make and cope with that decision. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. :blushing:

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Reminds me of the situation in the movie Centre Stage, where Maureen wished it were her that was injured and gave up her spot in the final show. Perhaps your friend is needing a break, or realising that ballet isnt for her, the only thing is that she most likely will only be able to realise this on her own. Just be there for her, And if you get the time maybe try and catch up with her in a non class setting, go out for coffee or a beer and see how she is in that situation it might help to determine whether its ballet thats getting her down, or something more serious.

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I feel like it would be wrong of me to speak to the teacher without my friend's consent. . . . I asked her if she would actually injure herself on purpose to get out of dance for a while and she said yes.


If she really is voicing that and is serious, she is a danger to herself. She is definitely 'hurting on the inside' and perhaps even 'hurting on the outside'. Listening to a friend's cries for help (whether she understands them to be that or not) and acting on them is not betraying a friend's trust. It is being the best sort of friend. Granted, she may not see it that way at first, or maybe ever, but if she really is so depressed that she is self-destructive, I would try to tell someone who is in a position to help her. Even if she is 23 and is an adult. No one can navigate this world completely alone.


You are a good friend to care so deeply.

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I got mad at my friend today because she kept refusing help yet kept saying she felt down and hated ballet and wished she never had to dance again. I marched her over to the student counselling center on campus and waited with her until she got to see someone. When she came out she was crying and I thought "Oh no, what did I do?" But then she hugged me and thanked me and said it had helped so much and asked if I would wait with her again before her next appointment with them.


She also confessed (and she said it was ok for me to post this, she read everyone's posts and thinks that for all the concern you showed for her situation you deserved to know what was going on)- she confessed that she's been struggling with disordered eating. Not quite diagnosable as a full-fledged ED by DSM-IV criteria, but borderline bulimia.


She'll graduate in April and her parents, who own a ballet studio, wanted her to teach for them next year once she's qualified. They've also been pushing her to lose weight because they don't want the school to have a "bad" image, as in, people who see that the owners' dd is not all skin and bone may be turned off from the school. Stressful, yes. Situation improving? Yes. It's only been a day but I've already seen a change in her and am confident that with the right kind of help and support she can get through this.


Mega thanks from my friend and I for your support here at BT4D.

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:):o:) To you both! It may not be a quick and straight path, but hopefully, together you will find the way.
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  • 4 weeks later...

"They've also been pushing her to lose weight because they don't want the school to have a "bad" image, as in, people who see that the owners' dd is not all skin and bone may be turned off from the school."



I think that the opposite would be true. A tutor is a sort of role model of what a dancer is supposed to be like. Parents and students are more likely to want tutors that have a sensible approach to eating and the figure. If there are people in a class who seem too thin, I would worry about a daughter (if I had one) picking up an unhealthy approach to food. Surely dancers need plenty of energy and good health? Women may be especially prone to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies that could be counter-productive to ballet. Their students who feel self conscious about their appearance might drop out of dancing for good. When I signed up for adult beginner ballet, I was told not to worry about height and build.


Perhaps she could have an assertive chat with her parents about differences of opinion re dance careers. After all, we have no problem disagreeing with our parents confidently over other kinds of subjects, like politics!

She could tell them she hasn't quite made up her mind and won't be making her choices until a bit later.

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I was reading a thread on another ballet site where posters were discussing how they felt about not doing ballet earlier in life. Some adult 'returners' said that that they appreciated doing ballet more for having taken a break from it. They had done it for years, perhaps starting because their mums wanted them to do it when they were little. They had felt that they had to keep up and keep on as they advanced. They said that they felt sad when seeing that former classmates who were now much better than them. On the other hand they now knew that they were doing it purely because they felt like it, for the sheer enjoyment, without those other factors raising doubts and taking the fun out of things. Maybe she'd benefit from a break that was long enough to get the fun back and to clarify goals, but not so long as to feel she'd missed the boat.


This reminds me in a way of when people are unhappy with University courses, feeling stressed, feeling that they must not fail and wishing they were doing something else since all the fun has gone out of it. It can sub-consciously feel as though parental love is somehow conditional on success and fulfilling their expectations, but that's not true, it's separate. Students can feel under pressure to go into a family line of work, but ultimately it's your life and you have to live it your way. When we have a subject we're really good at our sense of identity can get caught up with it, but it's not all that we are. We have other talents, qualities and interests. We can have more than one string to our bow. I was once in a job where a senior old member of staff said, customers will tell you that the world will end if something doesn't happen, but the sun still rises in the morning and the earth still spins on it's axis.

Edited by pas de chat
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My friend is doing quite well and is going to counselling. She's got a lot more support now because she's opened up to more people (friends and teachers) and has got a teaching job lined up for after she graduates (not at her parents' studio). Hopefully this will help her to gain some perspective and regain that sense of joy that she used to feel as a dancer. She's been eating healthily, and even though it's hard for her at times, she's working hard to get herself back to a healthy place in terms of body, mind, and spirit.


Thanks again to everyone who showed so much concern and support for my friend! Her healing began with all of you- just knowing that people care about your situation even if they don't know you personally can be a huge relief, as it has been in her case. :thumbsup:

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