Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Anxiety and Pole

I've been wanting to make a blog post about anxiety for awhile now but I had so many questions running through my head: can anyone relate? What do I write about? Why is this topic important?

Anxiety happens. Depression happens. Everyone experiences anxiety or depression many times throughout their lives, some people are just more open to talking about it than others and sometimes, anxiety and depression last longer in some people more than others. It happens and it's ok.

I've spent the last four years taking low dose Zoloft for anxiety and depression. I started taking it after having my first child because I was experiencing symptoms of post-partum depression. Upon starting to take the medication, I realized I needed it long before I ever started taking it. Starting at a very young age, I struggled with feelings of being unwanted, unloved and unwelcome. I dealt with some abandonment as a young child and this affected me a great deal. I dealt with some self-destructive behaviors from the age of 14 until I met my husband at 24. Needless to say, I knew for a long time that I had anxiety and depression, however, both those topics are very taboo and often not talked about. Why?

About four or five months ago, I decided I no longer wanted to be medicated. I didn't want my feelings to be suppressed anymore. I hate feeling anxious and sad but I hated the side effects of my medication even more; lethargy, irritability, not feeling anything, just to name a few. So I stopped taking it. And it sucked. So bad. My body went through withdrawals, I was lightheaded and dizzy and irritable. Once those withdrawal symptoms subsided, I felt different. I was awake. I had energy again and I had feelings again. I liked this. I felt alright.

And then those feelings started coming back. I began having anxiety attacks more frequently and hating everything. I wasn't crying like I used to but I wasn't happy. I needed to fix this. Just like with anything else, mental health is important and treatable without the use of medication. I refused to go back on medication.

I started by changing my diet. I quit eating meat on a regular basis, I started drinking more water, eating more veggies. I also added more activity to my day in order to take care of myself. Doing more pole was a huge addition to taking care of my mental health. I'm happy when I pole, when I feel like I'm accomplishing something and I feel strong. I also added yoga to my practice not only to cross train and help my flexibility but to also help me be more in control of my actions and my thinking. Yoga helps me be present and aware of my body, it's a new challenge, this being present but it's good.

When you consider your feelings and why you feel the way you do and then you decide to consciously change them, you do better and you feel better. It's hard. It's really hard to get out of your head when you're feeling anxious or depressed but once you decide to look at your feelings and why they're happening, it's a little easier to change them. Take things moment by moment, smaller goals are easier to accomplish than huge goals.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm Not Sorry

We say sorry a lot. 

Sorry, I mean, we sometimes say things we shouldn't say or don't mean to say.

No. That's not right, let me try again. What I mean to say is that sometimes, we think we're saying one thing but we really mean something else and we don't want to cause anyone any sort of inconvenience for our thoughts or actions so we just apologize for it.

It happens. It happens way too much. You're in class or a meeting or working with a colleague and you ask for clarification on something, it goes a little like this, "I'm sorry, can you explain/show/demonstrate/do that again? I didn't understand the first time." Those are the words that come out of your mouth but what you're really saying is, "I'm sorry for inconveniencing you with my question and I feel like I should justify what I'm about to ask and if you don't want to explain further it's completely understandable." I get it, I'm guilty of apologizing for stuff I do as well, that really doesn't need an apology for.

But what are we really doing when we apologize for our actions? Are we actually sorry about what we did? Do we really feel like we are causing another person harm or inconvenience or frustration? Chances are, we don't actually feel that way at all, sometimes, sorry is used as a synonym for excuse me. 

We live in a world today where inconveniencing someone or causing someone frustration or a little extra work is cause for apology because it's viewed as rude and offensive. Sometimes, people need to get offended by things in order to check them back into reality. Sometimes, others need to be offended by minor inconveniences in order for them to realize that everyone is different and the sun doesn't set on them. 

I'll keep it short and sweet, if nobody is hurt, don't apologize, you aren't doing anything wrong by asking for clarification, giving your ideas, speaking your mind, doing what's right for you or wanting something that's attainable. 

Holly Merlot is the owner/operator of Dahlia Pole located in St. Charles/St. Louis, Mo. Dahlia offers women empowerment classes such as pole and lollipop as well as pole, chair, twerk or burlesque parties. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Do you really love yourself?

Answer truthfully, do you love yourself as much as you love others? 

It's a question I ask women a lot, it causes women to really look within themselves and decide if they really love who they are as a person, not a mother, not a daughter, friend, sister, etc. But really, love themselves as a human, a person.

We're told daily that we shouldn't be selfish, love your kids more than you love yourself. Love your partner more than you love yourself. Love your friends and strangers more than you love yourself. Of course, nobody says it like that. THAT would be mean. The demand to love others comes from the favors, charities, meals and the questions (god, the questions). Naturally, you love to take care of your family and friends, if you didn't, you wouldn't have a family (at least not one that likes you) or friends. There's something fulfilling about cooking a beautiful meal for your spouse and hearing how delicious it was. Or your kids actually saying thank you for cooking dinner and then eating a bite before saying 'yuck' for once (we're not looking for miracles here). It just feels so good to help others feel good. And then that beautiful meal is over and your meal is cold or you have to clean up the kitchen or the kids are being little jerks again, whatever it may be, however little the stresses are, it's still a stress and it still effects you. Can you relate? Maybe not that specific scenario but something similar?

It's the end of the day and the kids are in bed. The house is quiet. The animals are licking their paws loudly and your partner is holding the remote and maybe his balls. And your drained. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. Everybody is happy in their place and the day is FINALLY over. Hang on. Wait. Stop. The day is over and not one  mention of your happiness. Sure your husband came home and asked how the kids were today or how was work or whatever he asks. And you said the kids were fine, Sally drew a horse looking thing at school and Benny did a thing at soccer and Rover shit outside and Allen at the office didn't irritate the shit out of you with his gum smacking today. Routine stuff with routine answers. But the reality is, nobody asked about your day or your happiness or if there's anything you would like to do for yourself. You haven't showered in two and a half days (I really haven't), the gym membership you have isn't getting much use, etc, etc, etc,. 

You have spent your entire day, almost every day, taking care of everyone around you except you. You're exhausted. You're feeling ugly. Your brain isn't working quite as well as it once did. Your nails are starting to look like eagle talons. Girl. Why? Why aren't you taking care of yourself? And I don't mean taking care of yourself to look good for others, I mean you're tank is running on empty and the oil needs a change but you're running on fumes and the oil is burning strong. You're so busy filling everyone else's love tank that you forget about filling your own. 

If you are giving, giving, giving but never receiving, you're eventually going to run out of love to give. And then what? Then you're left with the same mouths to feed, bodies to hug, cheeks to kiss, homework to check and an empty feeling in your soul because you forgot to take care of yourself. There's nothing selfish about taking time out for you. You used to have hobbies that you pushed to the wayside in order to devote more time to your family. Pick up those hobbies again or find a new hobby. Take an hour everyday to take a shower and give yourself a facial with the door locked. Read a book, you used to love to read, pick up a book and devote an hour to reading every night, in the quiet with zero interruption. Ask your partner to take care of dinner and then don't complain when he gets take out or lets the kids eat cereal. Do something for YOU because YOU are important and YOU matter. Your kids and partner and animals and family will survive on their own for a couple hours, they may not like it but they'll get over it. You're not a servant. You're not a slave. You're a person and you are important.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I forgot to be a woman

I'm a pole dancer. But I was a mom first.

I'm Holly Merlot, of course that's not my real name but that's neither here nor there and a topic for another day.

I got into pole dancing about four years ago after having my daughter, we will call her Hazel. Hazel isn't her real name, however, it was on our short list of names for her before she was born. Hazel is a name that I absolutely love, but she's no Hazel. She's a little spit fire, with drama in her mind, passion in her soul and the most independent and strong willed attitude I've ever seen....besides my strong willed nature of course.

Hazel changed my entire world when she entered it. She entered my world October 2011, sometime around the Cardinals World Series win. My then boyfriend and I went to game 6, THE game 6 of the 2011 World Series, of course she wasn't born until July 2012. I found out I was pregnant with her on November 17, the day before my boyfriend proposed to me in the most ridiculous way possible. Nobody believes us, but it's a true story. I cried. I cried because I didn't think I was ready to be a mother. I was scared to be a mother. I had a wedding to plan. What would my family think? What would his family think? None of it mattered though, we got married and had a baby.

Before Hazel, I was in the best shape of my life up until that point. I was running almost every day, I could run three miles without stopping, that was a huge accomplishment for me. I had lost all my college weight, I looked great and more importantly, I felt great. When Hazel came along, everything changed. I gained a ton of weight, I was almost 200lbs when I gave birth to her, that was a 60lb weight gain. Even though I had worked out my entire pregnancy, I just packed on the pounds. Naturally, this led to some self-esteem issues. I felt like a whale. I looked awful. It's true what they say about being pregnant with a girl, they steal the mother's beauty. And boy oh boy did she steal it!

July rolls around and Hazel is stubborn....not unlike her mother. And late.....not unlike her father. I was induced. Twenty-seven hours later, Hazel was born via c-section. C-sections are miserable. Imagine having a watermelon yanked out of a slit in your belly while your guts sit on a table and you're awake the entire time. That should give you a good visual.

Of course I loved Hazel when she was born which was a huge relief to me (another day, another blog). However, I was left with an extraction point in my body that hurt anytime I sneezed or laughed or coughed or moved or breathed. Fast forward to a few weeks and I was finally cleared to exercise again. I was desperately waiting for my pre-baby body to come back, lose all the weight and look good again. My pre-baby body never came back no matter how hard I pushed myself. My hips stayed wide set, I lost all the weight but I couldn't fit in my size 5 jeans anymore. I had a baby. Why did I think I needed to get my "pre-baby body" back? Because everywhere I looked I saw tips and tricks and ways and reasons to get my old figure back so I could look good for society and my husband and because that's the only way I could possibly feel good about myself. Right? Right? No. Wrong. But I didn't have that mind set back then, so I kept pushing myself when I should have focused on nursing my baby and healing. At the end of the day, I still felt disgusting. I was dealing with post-partum depression, trying to acclimate to the huge changes that had just occurred in my life and trying to take care of this little human, all on four or five hours of sleep at a time. It was awful. I finally broke down and told my husband I needed to get out of the house, away from my life, find out who am I in this new role and feel good about myself again. So that's what I did.

I found a deal for six classes at a local fitness boutique. The classes looked fun, flirty, sexy, which was what I needed. So I decided to take a chair dance class that had about 10 minutes of pole lessons at the end of the class. I remember trying to learn the chair routine, it was hard but the teacher was great and it was so much fun. My first swing on the pole was comical, I had no clue what I was doing and it was hard. But I fell in love. I came home that night from chair and pole class and told my husband how fun it was and that I wanted to go back to do it again. I had gotten time out of the house, surrounded myself with other women that were nice to me and complimented me and lifted me up. More importantly, I felt good after. I felt like I was a human again instead of a robot milk machine who's batteries were nearly run out.

Those first few months, hell the first year of motherhood is so hard. It's so, so hard. I loved Hazel with all my heart but I didn't even know who I was anymore. I was just living for this other human and I had forgotten to be a woman. It wasn't until that first chair and pole class that I remembered how to be a woman again. But I needed it. I needed to remember who I was and rediscover myself. I can't be a good wife and a good mother and a good friend and a good daughter and on and on if I'm not good to myself. How can I love my family if I don't love myself too?

I'm still a pole dancer but I'm always a mother first. That will never change. I just have to remember that in order to be a good mother, I need to keep that pole dancer in me, alive.

Holly Merlot is the owner and operator of Dahlia
located in Weldon Spring, Mo. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

And the Dahlia Blooms

Dahlia is owned and operated by Holly Merlot, a St. Louis/St. Charles, Mo native, mom, pole dancer, performer, wife, sister, daughter, yada yada, pole blogger? I suppose I am now.

What started as a hobby, this pole dancing gig, is now turning into, what seems like anyway, a career. I started pole dance classes about 3 years ago. It was September, maybe March, I don't remember, everything was a haze back then. It was shortly after having my first child back in July of 2012, I wasn't sleeping, I was a walking milk machine with an infant attached to my tit. I was overweight. Ugly. Slipping into insanity? Definitely. I needed something, so I found something to do and that something was pole. I took a teaser at the end of a chair dance class and it was love at first spin. Sounds ultra cheesy but it's ultra true.

From first spin to first class, I fell deeper in love and started to look at myself differently than I ever had before. I did the typical college thing, get a degree, get a shitty job gain way too much weight from drinking and eating Jack in the Box at 2am or was it 6am? Doesn't matter. I lost that weight after meeting my husband. I lost all of that college weight and then some. I was skinny but I was weak. I started taking pole classes and that weakness began to turn into strength.

I continued my pole journey, got hired at a studio and began teaching pole fitness to other ladies, who like me, had low self-esteem, not much muscle and needed something to do. As time went on, not only did I get better at teaching and pole dancing but I also discovered my self-esteem hidden deep inside me. I became this woman that looked at herself with confidence, integrity and damn I have some nice arms and legs! I also helped women grow into their own skin and develop that same confidence that I had.

Going into my third year of  pole dancing and teaching pole came a HUGE change. I walked out of the doors of the studio I had been working at and teaching at the previous 2.5 years. I developed that confidence and integrity while working at this studio and it was this confidence and integrity that allowed me to leave. And I did not leave on good terms. What was a very dramatic end to a huge part of my life became the beginning to the next stage of my life, thusly, Dahlia was born.

Dahlia flowers symbolize what I went through upon leaving the studio I had spent so much time at during my early pole days. Dahlias represent strength during times of adversity, standing out from the crowd and taking the path(s) toward life changes. I drew upon that inner strength during a time where I needed to stand up for what was right and make a change to help others regardless of what it cost me. And I did. And here I sit, typing up a blog post about my itty bitty baby of a company. Hoping somebody is reading it. But you are reading it.

Flowers bloom. Moons rise. Suns set. And the poles keep on spinning. I'm still spinning.