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Bad Kitty Everyday Poler Series: Meet Mandy Higgins

By on May 2, 2016

In keeping with the Bad Kitty® tradition of highlighting Inspirational and Everyday Polers, we are proud to share the story of a poler who fits both bills: Mandy Higgins. Mandy is a Chicago-area based pole dancer, instructor, mother, and wife, who embodies the grace, determination, strength, and beauty that is the stuff of true inspiration. We sat down with her to chat about her pole journey:

Mandy Higgins at Midwest Presentational

Mandy Higgins at Midwest Presentational – Photo by Ryan Shi

Bad Kitty®: Tell us a bit about your circumstances. What kinds of challenges have you faced with your health?

Mandy Higgins: In May of 2012 while I was 8 weeks pregnant I had stroke. I spent a week in the ICU and was put on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I still currently have a malformation on the left side of my brain that I have to continually have checked via MRI.  Some of the lasting effects from the stroke are weakness in my right side, memory loss, word recall issues, and debilitating migraines. The migraines have been the most challenging to deal with.  When I get a migraine the vision in my right eye disappears and depending on how bad the migraine is, I sometimes lose feeling in the right side of my body.  When my vision returns extreme head pain and nausea accompany it. At its worst, I was having 2-3 migraines a week. I’ve been put on medication to attempt to control the migraines, but none of them ever worked. Currently I keep a journal to keep track of my activities and what I eat to try and pin point “triggers”.  When I can identify something that triggers a migraine I try my best to avoid it. I’m now only having 1-2 migraines a month.

Mandy Higgins - photo by Don Curry

Mandy Higgins – photo by Don Curry

BK: Have these challenges impacted your emotional health positively or negatively? How so?

MH: I took a serious hit to my self-esteem after I realized how bad my memory and word recall was. For a while after leaving the hospital I would forget what I was talking about mid-sentence. It’s gotten better, but I still struggle with it every day. I’m afraid of sounding stupid when I forget a word or when someone reminds me to do something for the 12th time because I just don’t remember ever talking about it. It has turned me into a very shy person.

BK: When did you discover pole?

MH: Three months after I gave birth my sister, Chris, gifted me with my first session of pole dancing. She would babysit my son while I went to class. It was a gift that I know I’m never going to be able to repay.

Mandy Higgins

Mandy Higgins – photo by KBev Photo

BK: What kind of an effect did pole have on you mentally, emotionally, physically, even spiritually?

MH: Pole made me feel normal. No one knew what I was struggling with so no one treated me differently. Eventually after months of pole the strength in my right side came back and for the first time in my life I started to feel strong. Every time I have a migraine I feel helpless. It’s a constant reminder that I am not in control of my body, but pole gives me that control back.

Dealing with the stroke and migraines left me feeling extremely lonely, but pole has given me an amazing support system. I teach pole classes at Rising Goddess Fitness and I don’t know where I’d be without the women I’ve met there.  I’ve unfortunately had a few migraines while teaching and the amount of concern and understanding I have experienced from everyone at the studio makes everything easier to deal with. It’s impossible to feel lonely when you’re surrounded by your pole sisters.

Pole made me into a whole person again. It’s helped me be a better wife, mother, and person.

Mandy Higgins - photo by Don Curry

Mandy Higgins – photo by Don Curry

BK: What do you consider to be the most healing aspect of pole dancing?

MH: The most healing aspect of pole dancing, for me, has to be the freedom it gives you. You can dance however you want and look however you want, pole accepts you for you. The insecurities that normally limit people don’t exist in pole.

BK: What advice do you have for other pole dancers who may be going through a challenging time?

MH: My advice for others that are going through a challenging time would be to embrace it, learn from it, and try and find the positive. It’s hard, I know it is. It’s taken me forever to get to that mindset, but we are pole dancers. We are used to working hard and getting bruised, but something beautiful is always created in the process. I rarely tell people about my health issues. I always thought it made me weak. This May it will be four years since I’ve had my stroke. My health issues are part of who I am, but not all I am.

Danielle C.

Danielle C.

Creative entity, cat mom, dog auntie, consumer of too much sugar. Pole and lyra enthusiast, amateur foodie, local explorer. One half of Poleitical Clothing. Read my musings at
Danielle C.

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