“You asked me to go with you and now you don’t want to go? I don’t understand you,” Erin Bishop’s sister said, clearly annoyed. “My sister and I had a difficult relationship for years, but I was committed to repairing it. I had tickets to see a comedian perform, and I’d asked her to go with me I had the tickets for months, and although it sounded like a good idea at the time, a few days before, I started to experience anxiety about going. The venue was 45 minutes away, and I didn’t want to make the drive. I also started to worry about the crowds. It felt so overwhelming.
“When I called my sister, I made excuses and tried to convince her that she didn’t really want to go. I didn’t want to admit how I was feeling, so I didn’t tell her why I was backing out. Although I felt relieved that I didn’t have to go, I felt bad that I let her down. I gave the tickets to my neighbors, and my sister didn’t speak to me for weeks.
“For 15 years, I struggled with depression, and my sister wasn’t the only person I’d let down. I used to be very social, but when depression set in, I would talk myself out of going out. I became known as the person who canceled all the time. When I was married and my husband and I would be invited to events, I would always come up with reasons I couldn’t go. After we divorced, I dated a bit, but it was hard for me to leave the house, so I quickly gave up.
“In 2014, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, osteopenia, and the autoimmune condition Sjögren’s syndrome. The health crisis made my depression worse. I didn’t go anywhere or see anyone. I went to work, and that was it. I saw my doctor and tried several antidepressants, but not only did they not work, they gave me migraines and made me feel ‘removed’ from my body. I also tried therapy and sleep psychiatry. Insurance covered the treatments, but with my high deductible, they were still very expensive — and they didn’t help.
“Four years ago, my life started to turn around when my sister told me about a cardio drumming class she discovered. To my surprise, she asked me if I wanted to give it a try. Although I didn’t exercise regularly, I was so thrilled that she asked me to do something that I immediately said yes in an effort to repair our relationship. I had never heard of cardio drumming, so I watched a YouTube video, and I learned that it is an exercise class where you bang on a stationary exercise ball with drumsticks. It seemed easy enough. I wasn’t worried about exercising, but I felt anxious about going to a new place and about how large the classes would be. It took me a month to actually go, but when I did, I was so glad.
“The classes were held by a nonprofit organization called the South Lyon Community Cardio Drumming and cost only $5. The choreographed workout routines require the use of a yoga ball, sticks, and a bucket. At the first class, I was just trying to keep up with the instructor. It was hard to learn the moves, and all the squatting made me sore, but the routines had modifications to make them a little easier, and I loved the music, energy and friendly atmosphere, so I kept at it. I started taking classes three days a week, and I would make myself go even when I didn’t feel like it. I knew it was good for me to exercise, but mostly I would go in hopes of seeing my sister there.
“The women in class were so welcoming, and I never felt alone. I met a woman who became my best friend, and I even asked people from work to go with me. After about six months, I started to feel my depression lift. I felt more connected to the world and so much more hopeful.
“On Tuesday nights after class, they had a ‘mental minute,’ when someone would talk about how cardio drumming had changed their life. One day, a woman spoke about the benefits of doing something out of your comfort zone. Her message resonated with me, and she invited me on the stage. I don’t like to be the center of attention, but if she could do it, I could too. I took a chance, and it was so empowering!
“A year later, I was asked to teach a class, and although I was worried, I said yes. Once it was over, I felt so confident. I still teach, and when people tell me they love my routines, it brightens my day!
“Cardio drumming has made a significant difference in improving my other health conditions, including my arthritis, and made me stronger.
Now that I’m no longer held back by depression, I’m loving my life. My relationship with my sister is better than ever — we even traveled to Italy together!”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.