What is The Balance Point(e) with Dana Stephensen?

The Balance Point(e) has been on my mind for many years now. It’s been a long-held dream of creating a space not only to share my own health journey, but hopefully to inspire others to embark on their own health journey.

I have been a professional ballerina with The Australian Ballet for 10 years, dancing all around Australia and on the world stage in cities such as Paris, New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai and more. I have danced close to 200 shows for those 10 years, not including the hundreds of rehearsals and daily training that has taken place.

Behind the curtain, I have been dancing with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a very common but frustrating auto-immune disease that affects the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland makes chemicals called hormones that regulate many metabolic processes, including growth, temperature regulation and the rate at which your body burns up energy. It’s role is one of keeping the balance in the body, not too much of one thing or too little of another.

 

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Balance with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s is a chameleon of sorts; it flares, it wanes, I feel really high, I feel really low. You go up and down like a yo-you and people can’t quite understand why you are not good today because you were obviously okay yesterday. It’s highly adaptive, switched on by both genetic and environmental factors. It’s different for everyone. There is no quick fix, even medication does not ‘fix’ it and can be even more frustrating/disruptive for some people than taking nothing at all. There are literally hundreds of symptoms that quite likely look like something else. Some symptoms are downright strange and the symptoms often speak differently to your test results. It’s like a massive algebra equation that no one can quite work out.

At the beginning of my health journey, I was a mess. While others could assume I was functioning okay on the outside, on the inside I was falling apart and was at a loss on how to move on from there. I must insist, Hashimoto’s is not a life-threatening illness. I am ever grateful that my health wake up call came from a disorder of the immune system that while tricky and confusing, was not something more serious. Eternally grateful. The impact however was and I can see now that for me, on my journey, Hashimoto’s has been a blessing in many ways.

But back to 10 years ago … I had chronic reflux and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a generalised name for misbehaving bowels – both of these problems ‘required’ medication at the time, even though they unfortunately made the other one worse. I had tonsillitis at least 5 times a year and required antibiotics every time – up until that point I had had only 2 sets of antibiotics in my life.

A body and mind out of balance

I was terribly sad, constantly fatigued, vague, lacking focus and concentration, with little confidence and not even coming close to reaching my potential as a ballet dancer. I had put on 11kg in one year which was a lot for someone with a small frame and who exercised 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. I felt completely out of control of my body and my life. My physical health was essential to my career, but also my passion for dance. Mentally and emotionally I was flailing and for the first time ever, I no longer believed in myself. I spoke of quitting ballet frequently. I still can’t believe that to this day.

As it were, I was browsing in a book shop in Melbourne and saw a book out the front called The Healthy Gut Guide. I saw it was written by a Melbourne Naturopath called Jill Thomas. I had never considered seeing a Naturopath before and I had never considered any kind of Natural Health products or methods either. But that was a big turning point for me, flicking through those pages and discovering that a lot of those words were making sense to me.

All health starts in the gut, Hippocrates understood this thousands of years ago. We absorb anything we eat in our gut; it is home to millions of good bacteria that keep the bad guys at bay; there is a brain-gut connection, what goes into the gut crosses over through the blood stream and affects how we view the world in our brain; and 70% of the body’s immune system lies in the gut wall lining, so what we eat also may affect the body’s immune response. Lightbulbs were going off in my brain – immune, gut health, digestion, affects mood. The possibility…

Where The Balance Point(e) began…

I’ve never looked back since I picked up that book, and nutrition and natural health have been centre stage in my journey back to health ever since. I saw Jill in her clinic 6 weeks later, but was already enthusiastically implementing some of the things she spoke about in her book. I was pleasantly surprised at my first appointment, not only was she a magnificent carer and woman. She walks her talk and she only ever encourages me to do the same.

I was able to discontinue my medication for reflux and IBS almost straight away with her guidance, and to this point have managed to avoid the daily medication that anyone with a thyroid problem is destined to take every day of their lives. Although difficult at the time, in hindsight it’s been a blessing that I took the alternative route back to health. One that hopefully will last a lot longer than anything the medication could provide.

As a young woman in her early 20’s, I had the benefit of time to learn about the disease and my immune system and to proactively get better before it all seemed too far gone. I also instinctively knew, that treating the thyroid was just part of the problem I was facing. Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disease after all, and while it is expressed through the body’s self-destruction of the thyroid gland, the immune system is where the confusion begins. And that is where my healing needed to begin.

Life now

Flash now to this day, and I am writing this in the Sydney Opera House between rehearsals and our evening performance of The Nutcracker with The Australian Ballet. I am a Soloist in the Company now, I have the blessing of enjoying dancing again  and the blessing of health. At my last routine blood tests, my thyroid antibodies have dropped below the auto-immune mark, which means I am still susceptible to the disease flaring up again, but I am technically in a mode of prevention.

I finally enrolled in The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, meaning I am officially studying Holistic Health and Nutrition in a more formal sense, and will graduate as a qualified Health Coach in September 2015 and be able to help others achieve their own health dreams and live their lives with passion and the enjoyment they deserve.

My dream for The Balance Point(e)

It is my dream to inspire everyone to take a greater interest in their own health, in their wellbeing and that it all beings with them. There is a root cause for everything and nutrition, what we feed our bodies and minds is crucial in helping us feel as good as we can. I would like young dancers to take a vested interest in being healthy; breaking the mould that to be a good dancer, one has to be unhealthy, or on a restrictive diet, or beating themselves up on the inside.

Health is not just about looking good or getting more roles, it’s about feeling good on in the inside, enjoying all the things you love in life not just dance, having clarity of the mind and sweetness in your soul. It’s about self-love and self-kindness as well as the love and kindness you give to others. It’s about being healthy now and healthy in to the future.

But I’m not a dancer?

But The Balance Point(e) is not just for dancers, which is why the ‘e’ is deliberately in brackets. It’s for anyone who sees we have a huge ability to change the way we see the world through what we eat and how kindly we speak to ourselves. It’s for anyone who is interested in living a more holistic life, who believes they can live more vibrantly, who knows deep down they are not living their best life and who wishes for a life of more ease not dis-ease. It’s for the inner dancer in all of us, for anyone who believes that after all, life is just a balancing act.

Welcome to The Balance Point(e).

 

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You can read more about my journey here at My Story

I would love to hear from you! Contact me here at Behind the Curtain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  5 comments for “What is The Balance Point(e) with Dana Stephensen?

  1. December 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I am a big fan of your blog and I find your topics very interesting. Looking forward to more posts in future 🙂

  2. Emily
    December 8, 2014 at 5:14 am

    I can’t wait to be inspired and learn more about holistic living!

    • Dana
      December 8, 2014 at 5:25 am

      I’m glad you are inspired! Thanks for your lovely feedback 🙂

  3. Erin
    December 8, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Congratulations on this beautiful blog! As a dancer myself, I’m very excited to follow your journey. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Dana
      December 9, 2014 at 6:32 am

      Thank you so much Erin! I really appreciate your feedback and I am glad you are enjoying what The Balance Point(e) is all about!

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