Rise and Thrive: A Story of Lyme Disease, Dance, the Negative Side of the Word “Heal,” and Why Hannah Has Never Thought of Herself As Broken & Needing to Be Fixed
I'd love for you to meet Hannah,
Always moving with heart. A heart that comes from a love of all things connection and dedication to family; love of good, beautiful, and full of life moments. Moments that encourage you to lean on others just as much as they lean on you. To do what your body tells you, instead of simply relying on your thoughts.
You know, the ones you can't always trust.
The ones that tell you that you can't not can. That you aren't enough. That until you follow these guidelines, you won't ever be successful enough, healthy enough, and ready. Ready to move, create, expand, and wring yourself dry of those expectations, giving yourself plenty of room for everything in between.
As Hannah puts it so eloquently, "The wisdom of my body is so much louder than the wisdom of my thoughts."
Let's dive in, shall we?
Sometimes a diagnosis can feel like a death sentence. Whether your particular sentence is an injury, illness, or mental health condition, it can feel as though the walls are closing in. It’s as if there’s no escape and no way back to the life you once lived. At least this is how I felt when I was diagnosed with not just Lyme disease, but also heavy metal poisoning, mold toxicity, and a garden variety of parasites.
I was 32, with a three-year-old son, assorted jobs, and a life that simply didn’t accommodate chronic illness. I was devastated. I shook with fear, with disbelief, with denial. Now I refer to myself as the luckiest Lyme patient alive...
Here’s how I got from there to here.
The back story is that my father and sister have suffered from Lyme for 20 years, and I had watched while the illness tormented them and caused our family to fall apart. I witnessed severe depression, crippling anxiety, sleepless nights, relentless pain, my parents’ divorce. So, when I was diagnosed I knew enough to wonder, “Was I about to lose my own life?”
The answer was yes. But I also witnessed my family rise from the ashes—my sister is a healthy mother of three beautiful children and a full-time nurse working towards a master’s degree, and my dad is a world expert in Lyme disease. And me, I find myself rising over and over again.
It hasn’t been an easy journey. I spent six months face down on the floor, with no energy nor will to live, and the last eight years in various states of health and often debilitating symptoms. But the hardest part has been when the outside world closed in on me, insisting that I just need to do this or that. If I could just see this healer, take these herbs, balance my chakras, take a shamanic journey, believe these mantras, and on and on.
When the stevia study about Lyme came out (only proven in test tubes, by the way), I received thousands of emails. Had I read this blog? Had I signed up for this course, cleared away all negative energy? Literally, there’s no end to this kind of “advice.” And though it’s all intended with love and care, it suggests I’m broken and need fixing.
That’s where my beef with the word “healing” comes in. In my book, healing is for paper cuts and broken bones. But me? I am not broken! I’m just challenged by some spirochete bacteria that have made a home in my body. And the more I listen to my own damn body, the less they affect me. But the key is, I had to find my own way to listen.
I have danced my entire life. There are times when migraine headaches, a broken back, body shame and low self-esteem have taken me off the dance floor. There have been months, even years at a time when I couldn’t bring myself out of my own pain to move and be moved. But I’ve always come back. Because the dance floor is where I have learned to let my body’s wisdom and expression do the work. And so, no joke, I have danced my way through this disease, sometimes on my knees sobbing, sometimes blissfully expansive, and everything in between.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because I feel like I’m living proof that doing what we love is absolutely crucial to living a thriving life, no matter what our diagnosis. There’s literally some magic in saying to your (insert condition here) “I am not you!” I am not Lyme is something that has arisen from my belly, spoken itself through my heart, until the words have poured out of my mouth, a hundred times. They’ve poured through my movements and onto the dance floor. I have learned through this feeling myself from the inside out through dance, that the wisdom of my body is so much louder than the wisdom of my thoughts.
Dance combined with Shambhala Buddhism and Hakomi Therapy has enabled me to be me; someone with a chronic illness and some serious injuries who loves her freaking life and is kicking ass at mothering, teaching and loving hard on my family and community. In Hakomi, I explored my unconscious beliefs that kept me from loving myself or receiving love from those around me. Doors opened to find the healing in myself and through my community ways I never imagined, and my body opened to the herbs, medicines and other treatments I was receiving because now I knew I was worth getting well!
But we can’t do it alone. I reached out to my community, on my knees, and asked for help. My husband was a saint, but I still needed help with my son, home, meals, and mostly with my heart. I needed to know my community was still there, loving me, even though I felt pretty useless, unable to reciprocate or show up for them.
And simply being loved, cared for and held, as I was, was the medicine I needed.
Now I teach what I know through my dance classes, groups, and a chronic illness coaching business because those of us suffering from chronic health issues can be so much more than our diagnosis. We can thrive, my friends. So rise and thrive.
Hannah believes with all her heart
That we are all whole as we are. She has studied dance for 32 years, graduated from Naropa University, the Peacemaker Institute and the Hakomi Psychotherapy Institute.
She has been a student of Shambhala Buddhism for over a decade, leads teacher training, facilitates women's groups and workshops, teaches embodied meditation, and Rites of Passage at the Boulder Shambhala Center and Shambhala Mountain Center. She lives in co-housing in Boulder with her composer husband and break-dancing son. Check out riseandthrive.care for info on classes, coaching, groups and to sign up for her weekly blog and playlists.