Hannah B. On Depression & The Hardest Part of Working With Reality TV Producers

by Hannah Brown
Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten on week 4 of Dancing with the Stars.
ABC/Eric McCandless

The race for the Mirror Ball is on once again in Season 28 of Dancing with the Stars, and this time, former Bachelorette Hannah Brown is taking the stage with her partner Alan Bersten. This week saw Hannah try not to smile while dancing the paso doble and grapple with feeling down. Read on to find out about everything that happened in the week leading up to this performance in Hannah's DWTS diary.

Tuesday, Oct. 1

After last night, I'm still a little irritated about that cheerleader comment. Did I really dance like a cheerleader? It still bothers me a little bit, but it's a new day.

I slept in a little. I hadn't really looked at my schedule, and I woke up — thank goodness — an hour before, and realized I have a master interview. Usually these interviews are your time to pull yourself together. They're usually always used during the show, so you know you'll have one moment to not look like a troll. However, in my true fashion, I didn't take my opportunity and I continued to look like a troll. I got a brush through my hair, though!

I love the master interviews because they're where I can really just shoot the breeze and tell my story about where the week's going to go. I also love when I make the camera people laugh when they're not supposed to say anything by doing crazy stuff. It's my favorite thing ever.

We're doing the paso doble for our next dance, and I am excited but a little bit nervous, because it's a completely different side that you have to channel. It's a very aggressive, intense, passionate dance. The girl is supposed to be the cape for the bull and the guy is the matador. You cannot smile, and for me, my whole life, my first reaction is to just smile through everything. I hate that about me, but especially when I'm performing, I think, Oh, just wear your best smile, you know? In this dance that's the last thing you want to do. I'm a little worried about it, but I'm also excited to have to push myself in that way.

Courtesy of Hannah Brown

Alan's rules for this dance were no smiling, and to let out my inner rage during the dance, which, let me tell you, I've got some going on. I feel like I'm just beating a dead horse, but I have to be honest: There's a lot in this past year that I'm just pissed off about how things happened. Reflecting back on it, I get irritated about it. I get irritated at Alan, I get irritated at people telling me what to say in a freaking interview, or having ideas about me. I did not want my life to be this way. I'm glad that I don't make the master plan because the blessings that I have are more than I could have ever dreamed of, but some of what's come with it is irritating.

Needless to say, I have rage. Many people who followed The Bachelorette know my alter ego Hannah Beast, so let's just say the Beast will be unleashed.

Wednesday, Oct. 2

The paso went so great at practice yesterday and I remembered most of it today, but it's weird. I know the steps, but I don't know how to connect them always. Sometimes my body just moves to it, and it seems like I'm getting it, but my brain is really not. I feel like with dance and creative things, it's like an out of body experience. It's like I'm doing it, but I can't really recall it the next time and I don't feel confident in it. So then when we do it another time, I feel pressure, and then I just blank out.

I was feeling a little bit out of sorts; I was having a really sad day. For whatever reason I wanted to break down and cry. I had a lot of anxiety. Hearing 5, 6, 7, 8, Hannah, hips! — not that Alan's trying to yell at me — it hurts. I'm not trying to take it personally, but I'm really sensitive today. It's not really something that I think Alan deals with and understands, and I don't think I would understand it if I didn't struggle with depression and anxiety.

My gift, and sometimes curse, is that I'm so open about my life.

I've been very open about my mental health — honestly, it's a taboo thing that nobody talks about. I have to think that even though I sometimes get pissed off and mad, there has to be a reason why I've been put in this spotlight right now. My gift, and sometimes curse, is that I'm so open about my life. I feel the need to connect with people and to share because I believe that communication and finding something that we all can connect with is what we all yearn for in this life, and the only way to do that is to start open conversations about things that you sometimes might not be comfortable with. After all, you might just tell it to the right person who's been waiting to feel that security to open up about something they're dealing with.

I have producers on all these shows. I know they're doing their job, they're trying to tell my story, but I sometimes feel like they're trying to tell a story to make my life into a story that they want. What's hard about this all is it is my life, it is my story. I hate being fed things to say. There's something to me that feels slimy to see my name and thoughts being given to me as sound bites. Even if they're essentially true, I just feel like it should come from the heart. The past year has made me sensitive to my emotions being exploited and used to tell a story. I'm scared they'll be used in a manufactured way.

Courtesy of Hannah Brown.
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Shooting our package, we got to go to a rage room. Sometimes it felt really good to just throw sh*t, to just beat printers and wine bottles and coffee mugs and plates. A lot of that felt really good — I really enjoyed hitting the vases with the bat — and it was great to be able to scream openly and just rage out. But then Alan and I talked about it afterwards, and agreed it kind of makes you have more anxiety, just all of the beating of stuff. We're not really aggressive people. It was good and bad.

Thursday, Oct. 3

Today was a really hard day. I have bursitis in my hip area and inner thigh. Everywhere in my body hurts. I got sent this massage gun thing and I started using that in the morning, then I went to practice.

We're trying to get the dance down, but it just wasn't sticking. A lot of the steps in my paso are similar, but they have to have a lot of intensity behind them. You have to know what you're doing or the intensity is lost and the dance is not how it's supposed to be.

I was upset because I couldn't remember it and Alan was being pretty hard on me. I know he's not intentionally trying to hurt my feelings — he's not really yelling at me, he's telling me to get the dance right — but it still is a lot, especially when I am wanting to get it right, too. We had a few moments where we had to take some breaks and work through it, and I think a lot of the emotion was coming from constantly having the cameras on.

It's hard having a camera watch you struggle in many different ways and not having the luxury of being able to settle it off-camera. I talked to our producer Alex and Alan really candidly about how I was feeling and doing and how we could all work together.

Courtesy of Hannah Brown

It's been upsetting for me, I feel like they have seen me at my worst. I hate feeling like I have to stand up for myself and then yelling back and being upset because that's not me at my best and I'm not like that every day. But I feel like the pressure and coming from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette has really been a struggle for me and they're seeing that. But I don't want them to think of me like this and get the wrong idea.

The past year has made me sensitive to my emotions being exploited and used to tell a story. I'm scared they'll be used in a manufactured way.

Alan rode home with me and was like, What's wrong? I was silent because I don't really know how to describe it. Yes, he's been on reality TV and on Dancing with the Stars, but he hasn't dealt with the ramifications of reality TV like I feel like I have. It's hard to really get him to understand why it might just seem like Oh my god, you're just getting emotional about nothing.

But we had a good talk, and went to Erewhon and ate some food. Then I went to physical therapy for my broken body. I needed some TLC on my back and my feet and my hips and my inner thighs... just all the things. They're really tight. Then I had my fitting for my costume, and y'all: my costume is amazing. It's so sexy, I feel so badass in it, and that's what I need for this dance. It gave me more confidence going into this week.

Then my dad got into town late and I got to spend a little time with him before I had to go to bed, because we're going to Disney Land tomorrow (!) and I have to be up at 3 a.m. He's here in town because he wanted to help me get a little more situated. I moved to LA by myself with six suitcases and that's it, so he's being the dad and trying to step in and help. It'll be good to have him here for a few days.

Friday Oct. 4

Today started quite early. My alarm clock went off at 3:30 a.m. I was in the car headed to Disney at 4:15 this morning. But if anything could make me wake up early, it is Disney Land. I'm a huge Disney fan — I carry around a Pillow Pet with me when I get the chance... it's a little extreme. Next week is Disney week, so we're going ahead and starting some of the filming of the packages that we do for each dance. To be able to get some of that stuff done we have to go before the park opens.

I can't exactly say what we filmed, but we did some fun stuff and I got to hang out with Chewbacca and got a really cool lightsaber, and that was awesome.

A great day at Disney. (Courtesy of Hannah Brown)

We were supposed to wrap filming at 9:15 a.m. because we started at a glorious 4:45 a.m. or something really early, but we didn't finish until after 12:30 p.m. I wanted to ride a lot of rides but I was so tired. But I could not leave the park and not go on Guardians of the Galaxy one time. We had somebody take us right up so we could ride it really quickly, and all the adrenaline was great. It helped!

Then I went back home, napped, saw my dad for bit, and then had practice from 4 to 9. It was a good practice, we got a lot of the dance clean and it felt good. I'm feeling better! Then I went and got Chick-fil-A for Dad and I. I have 5,000 honey roasted barbecue sauces now.

Saturday, Oct. 5

I woke up hungry. I asked Dad if he wanted to go to Erewhon and get a steak and egg burrito with me because Alan has gotten me hooked on them. I feel like they help me before dance, but they probably don't. They give me really bad burps, actually.

I drove him over to the studio and let him say hey to everybody. The paparazzi was out there and I gave him my coffee to hold and then I spilled my coffee on his shirt. I kind of feel bad about that. That's what dads do for their kids... they take one for the team. He met Alan and we got to working on our dance and he took the car exploring LA and trying to help me get my life together.

We had a pretty good practice. I can't think of anything that dramatic that happened, but there probably was something because that's me. But it actually went pretty well, and then I had a fitting again for my costume. It's so awesome; I love it. I'm really excited about the whole thing. I got my nails done, they look freakin' awesome. They go with my dance, and they're this cool chrome color. My dad met me there and got a little pedicure. Then I had a facial because I've come to realize my skin hates me. I don't even know how to help it, it just decides to break out.

We had a cast dinner at Delphine and it was great to see some of the dance fam and just hang out in an environment where we can relax, have a drink, and eat some good food in some good company. Then I went home and went to sleep!

Sunday, Oct. 6

Sunday is always camera blocking. I decided to walk to the studios because they're pretty close to where I'm staying right now. At first I thought I forgot my Beast necklace. Alan is very superstitious. I wore this Beast necklace for a week; if I mess up at camera blocking it's because I don't have it on. So I had to walk back home and try to find the Beast necklace. Of course it was in the bottom of my purse the whole time.

Unfortunately, it didn't help. I want to do well for myself, because I've put in a lot of work and hours and also Alan as put in a lot of hours and time and energy into helping me do well. But he is a little intense sometimes and gets very passionate about me getting the dance right. I think he feels like I have so much potential, and he forgets that I am not a dancer and this is all new to me, and I am doing something that is very uncomfortable and scary.

The first camera blocking went all right but not great. I kind of blanked. Alan and I have a hard time communicating in times of high pressure, because for blocking we only have three times to do it. I think it's hard when I've done it perfectly in the studio and then I get to the stage and I get nervous and we had to dance off a ramp. They put the ramp up and it was so steep and I was like, I'm not doing that, and he was like, No, go. Those are times where we really have to work on communication. I think he's seeing that and hopefully trying to adjust, because after our last blocking I knew he was going to be mad at me and yell at me, and I just couldn't handle it.

Trying very hard not to smile during camera blocking. (Courtesy of Hannah Brown)

I was done after that and I just went home. I knew I could have done better, but I was more just scared to hear what he had to say about it being bad, and that's not good. He's actually really nice, but he doesn't always build my confidence. I think he really realized that after the last pass doing camera blocking.

When I got home he wanted to talk on the phone. I think that was the first time I really truly felt that he was understanding of how I'm feeling. It wasn't me having to dissect it for him; he knew exactly how I felt, but it was hard for him to adjust as well. We've had some really good days this week practicing, and there's a huge a difference in how I practice and perform when I don't feel like a disappointment or am scared of his criticism. I hated the way that our last camera blocking went, since it's the last time we perform the dance before performance day. So I wanted to go practice. Alan said he'd meet me there and promised it would go better.

It really helped. I don't know how I would have felt going into Monday if we hadn't done that. As hard as it's been, I think we're both just learning, because we're both putting so much into this and we both want it for each other and for ourselves.

Monday, Oct. 7

Show day! I'm up at 6:30 and starting in hair and makeup at 7:30. This week's look, dance, everything is so different but so fierce and fun, so I have dark smoldering eyes and dark lips and my hair is gelled back with this awesome braid. Our dress rehearsal went well, and I can tell such a difference in Alan today in how he's communicating with me and I'm communicating with him.

He can tell I'm so nervous because when I have a really good dance, like with the waltz to Lover, which we got the high score with, I have a different type of nerves. I know the dance can be so good, and I just want to be able to do it as well as I know I can, and I had those same feelings. I was being crazy throughout the show before the performance just practicing and I'd mess up stupid things because I was all in my head. Then I would get this feeling like I'm a freaking beast, and I get to show that side of me. It was a night full of emotions, and it was so fun to perform.

I'm not supposed to smile in this dance, but I did crack a smile. First of all, my package before we went onstage of me breaking all the bottles in the rage room was hilarious, and I really just had to shut that out. When the lights came on and I saw Alan and we're dancing this dance that we've worked so hard on and had delirious fights about, I just wanted to scream I was so excited. I had to tighten my face and not smile. It was probably the hardest part of the week, but I got through it.

Demi Burnett: Friend of the year. (Courtesy of Hannah Brown)

I'm struggling with some muscle tendon issues in my leg and so it was pretty painful. I have to do a lot of physical therapy this week, so it was great to be done with the dance because I was getting in my head about how bad it was hurting before. But the dance went great, I didn't hurt myself anymore, and we got great scores and good feedback from the judges. I'm just going to have to keep working harder and harder to get that 9 that I wanted so badly, but that's OK.

We've got Disney week next week, and fingers crossed that I get to be a Disney princess. Or Sully from Monsters Inc.... I doubt that's it. We went to Mixology after the show to celebrate. I had a margarita with Peta and hung out with Demi. We watched my dance and my dad was there too. Then I came home and went to bed, because we start again tomorrow!

Reporting by Samantha Rollins.