Bad Kitty® Inspiration Series: Dayna Wetherall
Last month at Bad Kitty® we decided to kick off our Inspiration Series. This series is dedicated to celebrating pole dancers who have beat incredible odds when it comes to their health. And as you might guess, pole has been an integral part of their recovery. Our first interview was with the lovely Tiffany-Rose Mockler. This month, we flew across the pond to chat with the very lovely Dayna Wetherall in England. Dayna was born with cerebral palsy and she is a titled pole dance competitor, mother and one heck of an inspiration.
BK: Tell us a bit about your circumstances. What kinds of challenges have you faced with your health?
DW: During my life I have faced several challenges with my health. I was born with cerebral palsy left hemiplegia so I do not know life without a disability. Throughout my childhood I wore plastic splints on my left leg along with wedged boots provided by the hospital to support my foot and leg whilst walking. Without them I would walk on the outer edge of my foot and it would turn in. This caused many aches and pains and a lack of balance. Once every six months I would be put into a plaster cast from foot to knee for 6 weeks in an aim to straighten my ankle and foot. As you could probably imagine for a child in primary school these sometimes presented difficulties, especially when wanting to join in with all activities in the summer months. Water fights and swimming on holidays were sometimes upsetting. There were many times that I came last in a sports day race, was chosen last for the school teams and worked extra hard to achieve a little of the physical/ flexible ability some had during a gymnastics session at the age of 7. But this is who I am! It didn’t stop me. There are always positives and I was able to find them. It was not all bad. I was able to allow my friends to sign my cast in many pretty colours and I was able to have a red splint to go with my football kit. I had my first of 4 operations on my leg in my younger years when I was 6 years old. My wonderful supportive family was with me every step of the way. Now, speaking as a mum, I understand how upsetting and worrying these trips to the hospital would have been for them. I actually enjoyed the visits to the hospital. The social aspect of meeting new people on the children’s ward was exciting and I had so much fun making the most of all creative activities provided.
BK: Have these challenges impacted your emotional health positively or negatively? How so?
DW: I would say that as a young child these challenges had a positive impact on my emotional health because my family was very supportive. I was always told that I could be whatever I wanted in life and everyone in my family encouraged me to give everything a try. Each experience, no matter how difficult, was recognized as a huge achievement for me and praise was given when due. Teenage years presented more changes and challenges as I began to see myself as different from others and compared myself to the more physically able people around me. Throughout my life I have loved to dance, mainly around the house, at parties or clubs. I feel that dance has the ability to make you feel free. My lack of confidence held me back when it came to developing skills in dance. As I picked fault in my movements and appearance, I picked out more of my weaknesses than my strengths. It was probably the most confused period I have had in my life.
BK: When did you discover pole?
DW: My desire to try Pole classes emerged at the age of 15 when I saw a performance at a car show. Watching these incredibly strong women perform tricks on a pole was mesmerising. I thought about whether to try it out but doubted of my capabilities. After that show I joined many dance and fitness classes instead of trying pole. I left most of these classes feeling uncomfortable, feeling that I stood out from the crowd, looked awkward and worked twice as hard as some with little visible results. The beginning of my pole journey was definitely a step in the right direction for my personal growth; I began to believe in myself. My first pole lesson was a one to one with Gina, the owner of Pole Krazee. Throughout the hour, despite the challenges, I achieved more than I had imagined possible. I felt happy, positive about myself, comfortable that I was safe and supported and left feeling like my mind was clear and calm. That was it, I was hooked! I could not wait until the following Friday to return. Through blood, sweat, tears, bruises and hurdles I made it where I am today. I never imagined that I would receive a silver medal from Trixters Championship, Bradford. I am proud of everything that I have achieved so far, happy that I made it through the competition day without doubt or anxiety and remained safe through my first ever performance. With thanks to Triplex Bex at Trixters, Bradford for holding a Disabled category and Gina at Pole Krazee for helping to make it all happen.
BK: What kind of an effect did pole have on you mentally, emotionally, physically, even spiritually?
DW: Pole has had a very positive effect on me mentally – equally to what it has done for me physically. When starting pole I lacked confidence. I continuously put a lot of pressure on myself to be the perfect mum. I set my expectations of motherhood very high and constantly tried to please everyone else and put myself last. I was struggling with post-natal depression, anxiety and finding my true self. I feel that pole has given me more strength and mobility than any therapy session I have attended, whether that is physical therapies or any other kind of therapy.
BK: What do you consider to be the most healing aspect of pole dancing?
DW: To me the most healing aspect of pole dancing is the clarity it brings to the mind. With pole I get to focus on new goals, have a set time to be me with nothing else to think or worry about for that period of time. As much as I love being a mum, working in a primary school and keeping our family and home together, it is lovely to have me time away from daily life pressures. In addition to all of that, pole has a positive impact on my self-confidence. I notice more of my strengths and achievements and now see my disability as a blessing. I cannot say what life would be like without having a disability as that is unknown to me, but I feel that my disability along with the personal struggles life has presented me makes me who I am today. I feel that I am a more determined, understanding and accepting person because of the paths I have walked.
BK: What advice do you have for other pole dancers who may be going through a challenging time?
DW: The advice I would have for other pole dancers who may be going through a challenging time is to be proud of who you are as an individual. Focus on your own personal journey without comparing it to others and notice your own achievements. Everyone has areas to work on; we are continually developing at different rates. Give pole fitness/ dancing your all, have fun and with motivation, desire and determination you will go far. As the saying goes, why say the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon? If you want something enough, then you should go for it. In my case my recent goal was performing in a competition that had a disabled category. I did not want to be singled out from those more physically able but also understood that in order to be judged fairly my disability would need to be taken into consideration. My instructor and I have adapted many pole moves to suit my body and its movements. Due to high spasticity along with pins and plates in my left limbs there are certain movements that remain impossible at this time. I do not usually use that word as it is my belief that impossible spells “I’m possible” but in this case I will never be able to point my left foot and my left leg will never fully straighten.
I hope that awareness is continuously being raised with regards to the benefits that pole classes can bring to people with disabilities.
The routine I performed on Sunday 6th September 2015 was built up gradually, changed and practiced continuously for around 10 months. With great thanks to Gina, Shelly, Azlee and anyone within the Pole Krazee family that has influenced the routine in any way.
The story behind the routine is based on a doll. This doll has been broken but has also been through many triumphs in her life. She may stumble, but she will never fall. She will pick herself up and continue her journey no matter what comes her way. At times she feels anxious. She will not always look ahead but she will be focused. There are times when her body feels broken and will need extra support or direction (strings in this case). The pole gives her power. It is a magical tool. Once on the pole and off the ground she is free, free to move, let go of all the tension she holds in her body. She takes risks, grows strong and gains more mobility and strength. When it comes time to place her feet back on the ground she becomes unbalanced. Each and every movement takes a great amount of thought as her head and body are not always connecting the way she would like. She climbs a new hurdle and flies! Her left arm does what it has never done before and supports her in partnership with the right side. Just when she feels that she has received as much from her body that it can physically give, there is a surprise. A final act of strength is performed and she reaches new heights. Her goals have been achieved and she rests as a broken doll ready to begin the next chapter in her journey of life.
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