This interview was originally posted in February of 2015, based on personal experience provided by Donna-Lynne Larson, the producer behind The Hashimoto’s Project: Walk Talk Dance Sing, Unraveling My Hashimoto’s Affair. After watching this documentary, I was inspired to create my own documentary series: The Thyroid Secret.
I recently came across a powerful and captivating artistic portrayal of the Hashimoto’s health journey as told by a group of talented Hashimoto’s patients in a new documentary, The Hashimoto’s Project: Walk Talk Dance Sing, Unraveling My Hashimoto’s Affair.
The struggles faced by Hashimoto’s patients are interwoven with original music and dance pieces.
My favorite song from the soundtrack is a jazzy piece called “Mr. Hashimoto”.
Here are some of the lyrics…
“I’d like to share a story ’bout a little friend of mine
His name is Hashimoto, and he wastes my time
He takes away my dignity he takes away my drive
It’s almost like I’m only half alive.”
The Hashimoto’s Project: Walk Talk Dance Sing, Unraveling My Hashimoto’s Affair
This documentary has an amazing way of bringing out the emotions many of us feel with Hashimoto’s, as well as the transformative process that happens as we find our way with the condition.
If you haven’t seen this amazing documentary on Hashimoto’s, I encourage you to watch it now.
I had the pleasure of corresponding with Donna-Lynne Larson, the brilliant producer behind The Hashimoto’s Project: Walk Talk Dance Sing, Unraveling My Hashimoto’s Affair.
Here’s a transcript of our chat.
Izabella Wentz: Many women in the film expressed the difficulty of finally obtaining a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. It often takes many years of a multitude of non-specific yet debilitating symptoms to get properly diagnosed.
I know I was personally relieved when I received the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s, however, the standard of care did not address most of my symptoms the root causes of my condition, and did not offer anything but taking a synthetic medication to replace the hormone my thyroid gland would no longer be able to produce. The doctors had no answers for me, and I didn’t want to sit by while a part of my body was under attack. This is why I decided to take charge of my health and searched for answers beyond medications. What made you decide to keep searching for an answer?
Donna-Lynne Larson: I was not convinced that my life was going to be lived this way, that this would be “my normal.” The trajectory that I was on was only going to lead to nowhere, and I was not going to settle. I still had too much to do in my life. The haunting image of my grandmother, drugged to oblivion (who had undiagnosed thyroid disease?), was also a powerful force for me to keep searching. That was a path I didn’t want to follow.
IW: Do you think your grandmother had undiagnosed thyroid disease?
DL: I never really found out what her initial “situation” was, although the information I do have certainly points to thyroid issues. We were raised, as most are in my generation and earlier, to defer to the doctor’s assessment and drug plan. My grandma was an obedient, respectful women. Before I had become “awake” to her health issues, she was already too far gone and submerged in the mess of drugs. No one knew to question anything at that time. I was ignorant to all of it…until I met Mr. H 🙂
IW: I love how you took the difficult emotions we felt during our health journeys and translated them into this beautiful and empowering piece of art. What prompted you to produce the documentary?
DL: I had kept a blog, and one morning I received a couple of emails back to back that expressed that “same old same old” story around this issue, i.e. no support, doctors don’t care, feeling crappy all the time, etc., and it suddenly popped into my head, ” I am going to do a film! I am going to talk to people and get to the heart of this matter, and bring this to light.” I didn’t “want” to do this. In fact, I was set to begin work on a fun theatrical project…but somehow this just pulled me, and the other project got put on the back burner. And I had no intention to be in the film at all when I began this creative journey. It was the videographer I brought on board early on who gave me a bit of filmmaking advice and told me that the story needed a central figure, someone that the audience could continue to follow as we explored “unraveling this affair.”
At the core, what motivated me was frustration, the sense of injustice, all the chronic and debilitating suffering, and the absolute absurdity of the whole thing. I felt a deep need for this abusive affair to end.
IW: As you unraveled your Hashimoto’s affair, what changes in your life have you made?
DL: I am most interested in understanding the “why” that dictates all of my actions. I dig in and find ways to excavate my deep (often rigid) beliefs — the ideas and notions that are with me, often unconsciously, that create my life. When I have an inner “aha!,” and I fully grasp/feel its significance, I notice this starts to show up quite naturally in the choices I make –such as the foods I choose, the activities I am drawn to, the people I am spending time with, etc. The education and tools you provide become invaluable for someone like me. As I move out of old patterns, I can better understand my alternatives– what makes sense to me? and what I am intuitively drawn to? These can be scary shifts and changes, but I feel it takes way more courage to hang on to a debilitating condition than it does to change my life and feel better.
IW: I felt like the film was a very powerful transformation in coming to terms with Hashimoto’s, and deciding what type of role it was going to play in your life. At the beginning of the film, the emotion of being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s was very raw, and I could sense the difficulties you and the other women felt. How do you feel now?
DL: I made a pact with myself that if I took on this project, listening to these fellow Hashi-people, and the gifted practitioners in the film, I would commit 100% to my unraveling. It was not an easy process. Believe me, it was challenging mentally, physically and emotionally…and my throat chakra got a work- out!! !!
Having moved through a bunch of blocks ( fears, restrictions, patterns, etc., ), I can tell you I do not identify with this “Mr. Hashimoto” fellow at all. It’s kind of like looking at a past boyfriend or girlfriend and thinking, “What did I ever see in that person?? I can’t believe we were ever together.” That makes me feel very good. It leaves room for more of me. I can step in more fully and “feel” what I need. To take a phrase from the film, ” I’m claiming back a few bits and pieces,” and finding some I didn’t know were there. This “unraveling” takes time, and commitment, but it’s exciting stuff! It fuels and brings me energy.
IW: In some eastern philosophies, the throat chakra, where the thyroid gland is located, is our expressive, creative and listening center. This philosophy believes that lack of expression, lack of a creative outlet, being disconnected from ourselves and not speaking our truth can lead to an imbalance of the thyroid. Is this what you mean?
DL: Yes, the throat chakra is that passionate energy center, “the furnace” if you will, and it connects us to the fire within.
When I say my throat chakra got a work-out, I say that because I don’t want people to assume that I have had a big cheering section while making this film and this just flowed without any resistance. Believe me, although I had no doubt I was going to do this, I had to dig deep to be able to move forward every step of the way. I had no funds, no previous filmmaking experience, struggled with low energy and “foggy brain,” and of course, no one was “asking for this story to be told” (who wants to see a boring thyroid movie? Won’t it put everyone to sleep?) I counted on my few close allies for support, (mostly my invaluable music composer, Jean Tejkel, who is also a Hashimoto’s patient featured in the film) and relied on the strength and sincere generosity of the people who came forward in the film to strengthen my own voice and resolve. While editing, I would hear their stories over and over and I knew that I could not let them down. I remember sitting in front of my computer and telling myself, “If you are going to do this, serve well, don’t hold back or sugarcoat. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain here.” With that, there came some awesome moments along the way. While sitting alone at my desk, putting pieces together, I would imagine the impact a section of the film might have on a viewer, and there were times I would mile, clap, and exclaim, “Yes!”
IW: What is your advice for other Hashimoto’s patients?
DL: I’m not comfortable giving “advice” to others but I am happy to share some things that resonate most with me…
This whole thing, as Jay Lepp points out in the film, can easily become an habituated state. Being unwell can start to become something we identify with. As strange as it might sound, there can be comfort in the familiarity of feeling crappy. So, for me, the first bit of advice to myself: get out of the loop, which includes buying into debilitating notions like “no cause, no cure.” This is my starting point. I had to stop looking outside of myself for answers, looking to others with no vision for my wellness, while in a state of desperation and frustration.
Secondly, I would say all the points made by the speakers in the film, especially related to things that are “shut down” ( voice, expression, creativity, blocked trauma, intuition) are keys to wellness. A pill will not free these life forces…and if you stop and think about it, Hashimoto’s is the ultimate shut down of life force–everything is in shut down mode. Opening up these channels is going to help everyone regain ENERGY and feel much better.
Despite being a professional performer for most of my adult life, I discovered that I could talk up a storm (what woman can’t? ;), but finding my authentic voice was a completely different thing. Reciting the scripted words of Shakespeare, a “man” who lived hundreds of years ago, is not using my authentic voice. Regurgitating family gossip and old stories is not using my authentic voice. It sounds simple, and cliche, but an authentic voice knows what it wants and needs, and knows how to ask for it…and sometimes goes against ingrained beliefs and myths. An authentic voice removes the victimization aspect of this health issue. It took me SEVEN years of walking through revolving medical doctor doors before I had the voice/conviction/clarity to say, “Hey, they’ve not helped me feel one bit better, why am I sitting in this waiting room AGAIN? Maybe it’s time to stop this and find a different door.” It’s pretty obvious that if everyone stopped repeating patterns that aren’t working, we would see a huge shift in how this epidemic is being treated.
One last thing that is crucial for me, especially where Hashimoto’s is concerned, where the symptoms can be so overwhelming and numerous – I try to always focus on “what is working,” instead of what is not. There are draining “uphill” statements we repeat over and over like, ” I want to get out of bed, but I’m too tired AGAIN,” which then turns into, “God, why am I ALWAYS so tired?” which becomes “I am such a loser, I can’t do anything.” You see where this is headed. I try to catch these and find easier breezier downhill statements, as small and insignificant as they might seem–such as, “I’m awake! And blood is pumping through my veins, and my heart beats. This innate body intelligence is amazing.” That is an enriching thought and energizing. It does not tear me down further. As Deni, the Iyengar teacher in the film, says, “You are number one, you love yourself.”
IW: I love that Donna-Lynne, I think it’s so important to see ourselves as a whole person and not just a victim of a disease and be able to take charge of our own lives and express our needs. Thank you for making this beautiful documentary, it really touched my heart and I’m so happy to share it with our readers!
For those of you who are just starting your journeys, I want you to know that you can get better, you can even get to feeling better than you did before your diagnosis, but it will take some work on your part! Learn as much as you can, and take charge of your own health. You may find this post helpful Where do I start with Hashimoto’s, those of you with advanced knowledge may benefit from the following post: 6 Different Hashimoto’s Root Causes.
PS. You can also download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 Thyroid friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter for free by going to www.thyroidpharmacist.com/gift. You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways and helpful information.