I remember reading Gelsey Kirkland's autobiography as a kid.
I held her in such high esteem, and the few videos I saw of her seemed like flashes of an ethereal fairy barely bound to the earth.
Gelsey, along with Barkishnikov, her on again off again partner and lover were involved in cocaine, alcohol, methamphetamines, and other drugs. Balanchine himself gave Gelsey her first pharmaceutical to get her through a Firebird performance without pain.
Now Sergei Polunin, one of the brightest and most interesting dancers of this generation, has fallen out of grace from his former position at the Royal Ballet to taking drugs and going on social media tirades.
For all the tutus, brightness, and onstage smiles, ballet has long held a deeper underside of ways to cope with the pressure, competition, and physical toll. Staring at yourself in the mirror for eight hours a day, being constantly critiqued, analyzing yourself as what could be better, better, better.
Which is where psychiatrist come in. When mental health is an issue, there are other options than the maladaptive coping skills of the past. When there’s a problem, people cope. Food, alcohol, drugs, physical tics, all are ways to manage pain. And yet pharmaceuticals are given a terrible reputation for side effects and under researched long term side effects.
The truth is, if you see a psychiatrist, you might not even get medication. Maybe you talk. Maybe you make some healthy changes in your life. Maybe you learn to see yourself in a little happier way. Say something nice in the morning. Look in the mirror and encourage yourself. My non-professional recommendation: dancing in front of the mirror every morning to your favorite music for a good start to the day.
Sometimes depression, anxiety, low self-esteem have taken root for so long that it takes a little jump to get over the hump and back into life. If you do go to a psychiatrist and they recommend a prescription, know it’s not forever - often six months to a year is a typical recommendation. And sometimes everyone needs a little help. Know that making the right choices for your brain is also making the right choices for your dancing.