Personal stories of reclaiming life from mental ill health

Trisha: Rhythm of joy

Whatever problems I had before don’t seem to bother me. I’m just on the dancefloor and that’s that

When I’m on the dance floor, the mind might feel tired but the bones don’t, so I find that it’s a stress release for me. It’s a form of expression as well and the dancing replaces going to the gym. Financially, it’s not expensive so you can go on a regular basis and I’ve met so many different people from all walks of life. Some who have experienced divorce, going through the change of life, and the age range is between 30s and 70s.  I met a guy in his 70s and  he’s been dancing for years. Unfortunately, he lost his wife some years back. They used to dance together and he continued dancing. So the dancing knows no barriers. It’s important for me, I quite enjoy it really.

You don’t have to have a partner to go with [because in classes] they tend to mix you around from one person to the other, so you will get to dance with someone, they make sure you go around in a circle when you do La Reda.

It’s good for the figure and it’s good for the mind, so what’s happening is you are getting benefits for the whole body and you’re meeting people at the same time. People from all different cultures and walks of life.  Well, I have a really good friend, Karen, she was there more than 10 years ago, dancing, and she was on her own. I met her and we became really close friends.

I’ve always been dancing. I used to go once a month when the children were growing up, or once every two months. It’s a bit difficult when you’re working full time and [have] growing children but when the they started to get older… it wasn’t just that… when I started to have difficulties in my first marriage I started to get back into it. I realised the benefits certainly helped me through my divorce. You can get dressed up as well and it’s a feel-good factor. I started to go and I thought, ‘Hang on a minute, this is something I enjoy and I don’t need to have anybody to go with.’ So that’s when I started going every week. I think probably about 15 years ago.  I don’t drink or smoke [so] I save my money for dancing. *Laughter.*


At one point I was going of three of four times a week but now I’m a bit tired and I’m doing more studies again. I changed my profession some years ago and, after 30 years of being in the office, I now work with people with disabilities, so now I’ve gone to long hours and shift work. I definitely go about once a week.

At the moment I’m learning kizomba, not zumba, which is like African tango it’s is a lovely dance, very sensual, very beautiful. It reminds me a little bit of soca [a music and dance style from the Caribbean]. If you watch the dancing, there’s an art to it. If a guy’s really good he can make you look absolutely fantastic, professional. At the moment, everywhere I go now, they don’t just do the salsa, they do the kizomba. It’s very popular, especially with the men, because it’s a slow dance and they are completely in the lead. With salsa the lady has a 5 minute window where she can shine but with kizomba you are totally reliant on the guy so he’s in charge and I think a lot of the men like that! *laughter*

Hubby goes sometimes as well but I tend to go with my girlfriends. I’ve met so many people and we just text each other. In the week I tend to go on my own because we have different commitments, it’s difficult to get everybody together at the same time.  I usually come home, get dressed, get showered and then go out dancing.


I lost my mother in 2007.   She rang me, I remember it was three o’clock in the morning, and I’d just came back from dancing. It was funny because she used to reverse the charges but on this occasion she didn’t. When I think back, in hindsight, she must have known something was wrong. My dog was howling, it was quite a high shriek, I remember getting out of the bed and saying to her, ‘Mum, I’m not sure what’s wrong with Missy, I’ll go and put her on my lap.’ She kept barking and trying to jump into the mirror that was in front of the bed. Anyway, I kept speaking to my mum, I didn’t hear her as I was trying to concentrate on the dog.

When I went back to the ‘phone she wasn’t there. I’d just arrived in so I had a shower and fell asleep. When I woke up, the phone was still on the bed.  [Later] my father rang and said, ‘Mummy hasn’t rang, I’ve known that woman for years and if she hasn’t rung then something’s wrong.’  He rang [her house in Jamaica] and sent the lady round that does the cooking and they found her dead, so obviously she was dying while I was speaking to her. She died of a brain haemorrhage and that was really a downtime in my life. I think that that was the first time that I realised that people could suffer from depression. I went down quite badly, I won’t go into that too much but I did. I didn’t come out of the house for probably about a month, a month and a half. I literally just stayed in one room.

We can develop some really good relationships with people. Karen came round the house [regularly] to visit me. One thing that I realised, because I didn’t come out of the house, was you have to have some really good friends around you. Sometimes it’s not even family, it’s friends, and she was there for me, a fantastic person. What I did was go out, dancing actually, and find somewhere to go sort of everyday. I found I was lost in my own little world, I’d forget that I was on the dancefloor and just be dancing on my own. I think, when I was going through my divorce, that was another time [when]  I threw myself into dancing again. I remember my doctor said, ‘Whatever you’re doing, don’t stop. It’s fantastic for your health, you look wonderful for your age.’ So I’d say to anybody, who’s feeling quite down- get on the dance floor.

I was given tablets, which I never took. I didn’t even open the bottle. I can’t speak for everybody and every case is different but I can say that people tend to go straight for the pills. Now when you use those pills you can’t stop them just like that. You have to wean yourself off them. With dancing, I didn’t have to wean myself off of it. The only thing is I was going on a regular basis, going out and coming in and just flopping on the bed because I was so tired!



Now if I’m feeling down, I can always find the energy for going on the dancefloor. I changed a lot, that time when I lost my mother. I changed my profession as well because I thought, ‘Well I’m going to do something differently.’ You know it’s opened a lot of doors for me and I’m really pleased I did. It’s not all about finance, because I’m not earning as much, but it’s about state of mind and certainly I’m in a better place in my life. I have to say that I would recommend to anybody, look at an alternative. Dancing might not be for everybody, it might be different, it might be a case of you writing a book, some people might like walking, everybody’s different but some sort of hobby or pastime that you can do that isn’t too expensive.  It’s nice if you can take it out as well so you interact with others.  So I would say to people, look at your lifestyle, look at what you are doing and try to look at alternatives rather than pills.

At the time, I thought there was no way out. Nothing’s impossible. You can climb your way out. Don’t stay isolated. Speak to somebody, anybody that can help you. There’s always somebody else going through it or been through it. So it’s good to talk because we can help each other. Just talking could be an antidote as well.


People found it very difficult to believe that I could get quite low because I’m such a happy person all the time. I would say be mindful of people around us. Sometimes when you see people putting a brave face on there’s a lot going on, those are the people you have to watch because they never cry out until it’s too late. Nobody is immune to depression, it can come at any time in your life and also any age. I’m at a good place in my life at the moment but, quite frankly, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have children, I have a husband, I’ve been married before, I’ve got a roof over my head. I thank God every day.

When I come off the dancefloor I think, ‘That was a good night, oooh I danced my socks off!’ *laughs* I’ve cleared my mind, whatever problems I had before it doesn’t seem to really bother me, once I’ve come off.  I have to say, my mind’s blank, I don’t think of anything. A lot of the music’s from Brazil, Columbia, Italian, Portuguese, it’s a different language but music is universal. You don’t have to be able to understand exactly what they are saying to be able to dance to the music. I’m just on that dancefloor and that’s that.  I’m just listening to the music thinking, ‘Oooh that’s a lovely record,’ *laughs* ‘Oooh I like that record. Let’s find somebody to dance with.’                  .


Trisha: Rhythm of joy