archives, feminism

Bruised but Not Broken: My Journey of Healing Through Pole Dancing.

{Photo credit: Joyce Cristina Rose}


I had no clue I would find love in a badly ventilated, impersonal gym with lighting that makes even the prettiest girl look ugly, but I did.

At first it was a tiny crush, the kind that makes you think Would I be able to do this? Would I be good enough? It turned into unconditional love, the kind that is there even at your worst.

Pole fitness lessons were popping up all over my country. It was not the kind of pole dancing you do in a bar. There is nothing wrong with dancing in a bar. If that is your passion, I fully applaud you pursuing it. If that is not what you are looking for, luckily, there are other ways to enjoy pole dancing now.

Denise Mulder, two-time world champion pole dancer, created a new version of pole dancing, one that focuses more on the athletic aspect than the erotic. When I told people about my new-found love, everyone had stripper ideas in their heads. I did not turn into a stripper. I did become stronger, fitter, and more confident.

I stuck with pole dancing, even got my own pole in my living room, and yet it felt abandoned a lot of the time. I had to leave it as life laid more pressing claims on me. My pole dancing journey was never smooth sailing. It took some falls, some deep falls, some so deep they seemed bottomless and hopeless.

I had a bad relationship and I stopped dancing. I had a burn-out and I stopped dancing. I had physical problems and I stopped dancing. My mom got ill and I stopped dancing. My mother died and I stopped dancing. For a time, it felt like I stopped living. Depression and darkness reigned.  Nevertheless, during each of those falls, I never forgot my friend, and my friend never forgot about me.

The pole had become a constant that would never leave. It did not say goodbye like people did, without reason, without warning. Even when I did not want to be here at all, silently cursing all that is earthly and present, it stubbornly remained, right smack in the middle of my living room. Tucked between my floor and my ceiling, it waited for me to be ready.

When I was ready, if only for 10 short minutes, it freed me of pain by pushing me to my limits. It absorbed my pain like a sponge. It proved to me that I am woman, I am human, and I am real. It told me it’s okay to cry and it’s okay to fall. It does, however, ask me to get up and try one more time, just once more.

Pole dancing sometimes inevitably hurts, but like life, the pain is needed to make the victories more victorious. Nothing in life works without some kind of birthing pain, some kind of “pain, meet persistence” attitude.

When I go back to the pole after some off-time, my body needs readjusting. Calluses need to grow back, muscle memory needs to be reactivated, my brain needs remembering and it remembers by bruising. Over time, the bruises fade and I get better. My callused hands stop hurting and I get bendier, stronger, and more confident.

Like getting better at pole dancing, I am getting better at what life throws at me. I am learning to be a woman without my mother present. It hurts. It’s like being born all over again, and the pole is like a birthing partner.

My mother used to tell me I love pain, and in a way she was right. It’s not why I chose pole dancing, but it colored my past. My ex hit me, he bruised me, and he choked me. Yet, I stayed. In high school, kids bullied me. People wronged me, and I didn’t fight back. In time, I became the pain. I took it deep within me. It found a home in me. Hurt became something familiar.

It became a confidant, just like the pole, but hurt is a false friend. It only uses you as a soldier of darkness. It keeps you from walking, talking, crying, and sharing. It makes you a prisoner of your own mind.

The bruises I will always carry with me, as mementos of who I don’t want to be, who I no longer am, but this new pain, the pain of pole dancing, I use to grow, to be free. I use it to emerge from pain’s shadow, no longer its willing, brainless follower.

Pole dancing shows the faces that make me who I am. I can use those faces whenever I need them in dance and in life. There is the athletic woman, whose strength and stamina keeps building, like a masked vigilante getting ready for battle, but there’s also a ballerina, graceful, poised, and detailed. She knows she can work magic with a single movement of her toes.

There’s a wild woman with eyes that spark fire, and a body that oozes energy. When the wild calls, she is ready to run and play. There’s a little girl, fragile and afraid, but she also has a head full of imagination, ready to write stories with her arms, her legs, and with her eyes. She is ready to show the world how to conquer nightmares with a smile, a nod, and a melody.

I do not need to seek for others’ approval to show those many faces. Pole dancing shows me the only approval I need to do anything is my own.

Pole dancing has been, and I hope always will be, like a mentor to me, like a ninja master telling me I need to learn more, practice more, reach higher, get up, and yet find peace amongst chaos.

I am on my way. I have only just begun. At times leaping, but mostly floundering towards my most inner self, the space where I am flying without the need for wings, independence, freedom, a breath of fresh air, a place to exhale in a world that lives off inhaling. I can survive this thing called life, as long as I have a bit of pole magic with me.


Born with an international soul, an honest tongue, and a love for languages, Joyce Cristina Rose has been looking for a place to feel understood ever since she was little. In words, music, traveling, and dance, she found that place. With a master’s degree in English Literature, a healthy dose of opinion, and a mind that never stops thinking, this Dutch lady wanders and wonders through this world. Teaching, cleaning, working in a factory, translating, travelling, gigging, meeting strangers, reading, and writing — it is all an adventure to her. Her heart is soft like a kitten, but roars loud like a lion when the world needs it. She is currently working on her first novel, inspired by her mother’s fight with ALS. She has previously written for online sources such as music and travel magazines. You can connect with Joyce via Instagram or Facebook.


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