Brigitta Willis, 29, of Mayfield West says when her anxiety was at its worst, in her early 20s, she struggled to leave the house.
"I was scared I was going to die and I would have panic attacks every single day," Ms Willis said. "Every building I went into, I thought it would collapse on me.
"It's weird the tricks your mind can play on you."
Ms Willis is one of the performers dancing in a showcase open to the public in Warners Bay on Friday, which will raise money for Beyond Blue and Where Pigs Fly Farm Sanctuary, while celebrating the positive impact creativity can have on mental health.
Ms Willis, a jeweller, said her mental health began to decline when she was in her late teens.
"I just stopped taking care of myself. I forgot about the simple things like drinking water, sleeping and moving," she said. "I just went through this stage in my life of about 10 years where other than going to work I did absolutely nothing. I sat at home and watched TV."
One show, however, gave her some much-needed inspiration.
"I started watching Dance Mums, and I began dancing at home by myself," she said.
"Eventually something happened where I finally got the courage to say, 'Hey, I need to take control of my life because sitting at home is not going to do me any good.' And I started going to dance classes."
She said the new hobby, which she picked up while living in Sydney at age 25, had been a significant factor in moving past her anxiety.
"It was just taking that first step," Ms Willis said. "In a dance class all you can think about is what's in front of you. Sometimes an hour away from your thoughts is enough to lift you up."
Kahli Saunders, 25, Ms Willis' dance teacher and owner of Lambton dance studio Dance for Fun Newcastle, has organised the Creative Focus Live Showcase.
Creative Focus Live Showcase
- Friday, Novemeber 8
- Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, 39 Lake Street Warners Bay
- Doors open 6.30pm for 7pm start
The event will include performances from her students, live music, aerobics performances, and a raffle.
Ms Saunders, a primary school teacher, began organising bi-weekly dance classes for adults a year-and-half ago to provide a place for people to dance who felt they were too old to learn how, or who had dropped out of classes when they finished school.
Ms Saunders said she intentionally focused her lessons on expression rather than performing moves perfectly.
"I think having grown up dancing since I was eight feeling that pressure to be good and not let your coach down, for me, really took its toll.
"Sometimes it made me feel really body conscious," she said. "My classes are about people making the choreography their own. Everyone in that room is different and that's the beauty of it."
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