Happy Heart!

Well!  I’m jolly happy this week.  I’ve been published and I feel very proud of myself!

Over the gorgeous summer that we had in the UK this year, I took a risk, finished my job at the University and enrolled on a one week’s Dance Therapy Course at Dance Voice in Bristol.

It was pretty amazing, and a little bit life changing!  To enable me to attend I applied to a trust fund that The Somerville Foundation run and was lucky enough to be granted a small sum of money that helped towards the fees for  summer school. Feeling grateful and feeling the need to write, I wrote an article for their newsletter.  Again I was lucky and my article was selected and published in this quater’s GUCH news letter.

What follows is the article I had written, apart from the small amount of editing that the introduction received for the magazine it was published in full as below:

I don’t know who Beverley Downie is but I would like to thank her and the Beverly Downie Memorial Fund for helping me attend one of the most life changing events of my life.

My name is Raychel Hills, I’m 44 years old, I have had 3 OHS, I can’t remember the proper medical terms for what was/is wrong but basically it boils down to, hole in the heart, blocked Aortic Valve with extra muscle/tissue in the Left Ventricle, leaky Aortic Valve (which was left leaky after the OHS to unblock it when I was 16).  Anyway, at the minute, I have a leaky aortic valve which is monitored regularly.  But that’s not what I want to write about, I want to tell you about the summer school that Beverley Downie helped me to attend.

I attended an Introduction to Dance Movement Therapy Course held by Dance Voice – A Dance Movement Psychotherapy centre in Bristol, where I am currently living.

Dance has been part of my life since a young age; I studied Ballet, Tap and Modern Dance when I was a child moving onto Contemporary Dance in my teens and later Physical Theatre in my 20’s as a mature student at University.  Not bad for someone, who, when told to stop dancing, pulled a mahoosive strop until I was allowed back, under the mis-assumption that I would find it too hard/demanding as I got older and I would give it up pretty quickly…… Sure, I wasn’t the best ballerina, or the greatest dancer (my tap dancing is lousy), but it gave me a creative outlet, it made me happy and I had a flair for it.

Then I gave it up.  The last 10 years, I sat at a desk pushing paper about, I did a bit of yoga, I felt tired, miserable, like a wind-up toy running down.  I went to my cardiologist, I had loads of tests – angiogram, stress tests, I got a second opinion, but everything came back the same, yes the valve is leaking a bit more than it has done, it’s getting tired and clunky but there is no reason to replace it yet.  Why was I feeling so wiped out by my day?  I had a meltdown at work, I started psychotherapy, eventually my housemate persuaded me to join her in a belly dance class.  I was dismayed at how much my body had stiffened up, even the simplest of steps hurt! Why was this? But I enjoyed it, I enjoyed moving to the music, learning a new way to move, my balletic arm movements came back slowly, we even formed a troupe and started doing small performances. But something wasn’t connecting with me, something was missing.

This summer I was made redundant from work, what was I going to do?? What could I do?  I hadn’t a clue; all I knew is that I never wanted to spend so much time behind a desk again. Before I left I had a couple of careers counselling sessions.  My counsellor was brilliant; we did a couple of exercises on peak moments in time, both in my life and in my working life.  From there we picked out key words: Communication, Nurturing, Dance, Encouragement… etc… it was the Career Counsellor who suggested Dance Therapy.

I was flabbergasted! It hadn’t even crossed my mind. Well it had about 17years earlier, after I had graduated, I came to Bristol and visited Dance Voice intending to follow up a possibility of working with dance therapy but stuff just got in the way.  So there it was, do I go back and re-visit something I abandoned a long time ago, could I do it again?  So I did some research and found out that Dance Voice ran a summer school, but how could I afford it?  I had some redundancy money coming my way but not much, I took my courage and applied to the Somerville Foundation and the Beverley Downie Memorial Fund for help with the fees for the summer school.  Fearfully I sent off the application, worried I would get laughed at – how can a 44 year old Congenital Heart patient think she can dance?  I hoped my application explained enough just what this meant to me, a chance to experience something different, to learn about therapy in a dance form, how my own experiences in dance were important to me, and how those times without dance in my life were quite dark times for me.  Luckily I was awarded a small sum that helped towards the fee for the summer school.

I arrived fearful, with the same worries: I’m 44, I’m old, I haven’t danced properly for years, I’m plump, I can’t move/dance fast, I get out of breath quickly, I get tired, my energy levels can suddenly slump, etc, etc, etc,

I found my worries unfounded, the six other students were a range of ages, and ability, from different backgrounds: Art therapist, Support worker to Autistic Children, Volunteer at Dance Voice, some like me just curious to what it was all about.  For the whole week we learned experimentally, we found the way Dance Voice works is Humanistic, Person Centred, the dances came from us, our stimuli were music, props, pictures or just listening to ourselves, our own rhythms within  ourselves, just moving through the space.  We learned how the therapists worked with a range of populations, we even took part in a client session with a group of people with a range of physical and mental disabilities.  It was amazing, breathtaking, moving, emotional, challenging.  I watched as two gentlemen did a watching dance (we watch they dance), they chose their music, they gave the most moving dance I have ever seen, moving in their own way, within their limitations, being supportive of each other, it was beautiful. I saw the therapists gently rock and move a lady and stretch her body which was amazing as when she arrived she spent a lot of time hunched up, closed up inside of herself. These are only snippets of what I experienced. I felt privileged to be allowed to take part and dance with this group of people, who welcomed us into their session.  We also had our own lessons of being the client and the therapist, I was amazed to find myself moving quickly and jumping around – which I was pretty sure I couldn’t do anymore, I found myself trusting my partner enough to dance with them with my eyes closed trusting them to support and guide me through the dance.  But the most amazing thing was that when I was observed dancing by the group, my dances evoked a feeling of waking up, of stretching, of coming back to life.  Which was, now I have had time to evaluate the week, exactly what I was doing.  I was waking up, coming alive, reaching out to the possibilities that lie ahead.  I have been client and therapist. I have discovered that Dance Movement Therapy is a mixture of all therapies (art, music, drama, talking) It is person centred, it is moving, challenging, fun, upsetting, it has taught me how I relate to people, and above all when the spoken word is not enough or can’t be used, how feeling is conveyed through movement, how we can communicate making internal external.

So that was my life changing week.  If I were 20 years younger I would be enrolling on the Masters course that Dance Voice run, but thinking realistically I have enrolled in a counselling/psychotherapy course in Bath to train to become a counsellor.  This is what I feel passionate about: people.  How we move through the world, how we communicate, what makes us tick, what happens when we break down, feel overwhelmed, feel happy, how we talk, how we don’t talk. I hope to specialise in counselling for Cardiac Patients one day, I believe that my summer school has given me a good foundation to move forward towards this goal.

So that was the second thing I had written before I started my blog.  Yeah it’s a news magazine for a specialised audience, but you know what?  I don’t care, at least it’s not ‘Take a Break’ or ‘That’s Life’ magazine – (my magazine snobbery knows no bounds….. though I had a secret liking for the News of The World’s Sunday magazine….. 🙂 )

I’m pretty chuffed, if somone had told me a year ago that I would have a piece of my writring accepted to be published I would never have believed them. I’ve had so much positive response from strangers already.  I feel very lucky.

Here’s what it looks like in Print!

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2 thoughts on “Happy Heart!

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