Hannah B. Breaks Down The Brutal Physical & Emotional Toll Of 7 Weeks On 'DWTS'

by Hannah Brown
Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten on week 7 of DWTS.
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 balancing a tight schedule, a friend's wedding, and some rough injuries before taking the stage to perform a Halloween jazz routine. Read on to find out about everything that happened in the week leading up to this performance in Hannah's DWTS diary.

Tuesday, Oct. 22

After a really long night, we are back at it this morning at 8 a.m. learning our team dance. Our whole team is traveling this week, so we only have this one practice before Sunday's camera blocking to all be together and learn the dance. It's a lot. After that, I have another six-hour rehearsal learning my dance for Halloween night.

Honestly, I'm walking into the day a little upset because last week I got the second lowest score of the week. Everybody else is progressing, and I don't feel like I have — I feel like I'm getting worse, and that's hard. There have been a few weeks where my dances and the song choices haven't really been the best reflection of me, and I am irritated about that. I don't feel like Hannah, and that's really hard, because I worked really hard to stand up for Hannah and I feel like I have slipped away from that in this process. So I'm really focused on getting all this done today.

I'm picking the team dance up really quickly and feel really confident in it, and that confidence helps moving into my practice with Alan. He had somebody help him choreograph our dance, and it was great to have some female energy in the room to show me the steps. I honestly picked up the dance pretty fast: I learned it all in one day and that's usually not the case. I don't know how "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer is Halloween, but we're just going for it the best we can, and it's a fun dance. I feel really good about today, I worked really hard from 8 a.m. and I'm leaving the studio at 6:30 tonight, so it really kicked my butt.

Wednesday, Oct. 23

I am going to 'bama today! I had a practice this morning from 8 to 12; we went over the dance more. It's the only time we had the backup dancers with us before the Sunday blocking because I'm going out of town, and it went pretty well. I don't feel like this dance is too hard, but I still feel anxious about not messing it up.

Then Alan and I headed to Alabama. I slept the whole flight — I always sleep on planes. We got in super late to Tuscaloosa and have a bright and early morning tomorrow to start practicing. But it feels good to be in my home state and in my hometown with that level of comfort that I don't always feel.

Thursday, Oct. 24

Today we're up really early practicing. It's hard. We're both really sore from this dance, because there's a lot of lifts and it's really grounded, so my thighs really hurt. Plus, travel can make you feel a little groggy. We also have to film some of my package for my next dance while we're in Alabama, so I got ready super quickly and showed Alan around a little bit of my hometown. I was so hungry because we were on such a roll practicing that I didn't realize we hadn't eaten since 7 a.m. So I swung through the Chick-fil-A and got us some food, because I couldn't wait until the barbecue later, when all our friends and family got to welcome Alan to Alabama at my house.

The barbecue ended up being so great. I feel like it was just what I needed to be back home. But it's also really hard because I'm not really home, I'm filming for a show. But at least I was in a place where I felt really secure and loved. It's probably the highlight of this experience — just being able to sit on my couch and talk to my friends and my family and have no cares, even if we were being filmed. It was great to just be around friends who know when I'm irritated, who know when I'm nervous, who know when I'm excited, who know me. Just to feel their love and support and pride in me and everything that I've done and that I have been doing is really helpful.

It also makes it a little bit harder to come back to LA and leave home. But we had the best time and the best food! My brother and Alan definitely got along, too. They were talking about what my tendencies were, and they have the same crazy ideas about me. So that was good. I feel like Alan felt pretty comfortable, too. We filmed for a long time during the barbecue and got back to our hotel really late.

Friday, Oct. 25

Last night was a late night, and we're up early again to practice for a bunch of hours, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. We're both feeling pretty good about the dance. For lunch I took Alan to one of my favorite restaurants ever that has Mediterranean food. It was so great to just eat the food that I like and miss and know. Then we got in a car and were driven to Opelika, Alabama, for my best friend's wedding!

Courtesy of Hannah Brown
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My feet and my hands look so bad, so I had a pedicure booked for right before this rehearsal dinner. I actually ended up giving Alan the pedicure spot that I had and I got a manicure, and then he went to rest up because he's not feeling the best. I'm exhausted, but I have a rehearsal dinner to go to. It was so great to see everybody, but I'm really tired to the point of exhaustion. But there is a wedding tomorrow and I'm excited to celebrate my bestie Olivia and cheers to her new future.

Saturday, Oct. 26

It's wedding day, but I have practice at 8 a.m. It's kind of frustrating but necessary, because I want to be present for Olivia on her big day, but I also have to perform on national television, so we have to practice. My feet are really hurting. I don't know what's going on, but I got through the practice. Then Alan had to go back to LA to practice the pros' opening number, and I headed straight to the hotel to get ready for the pictures before the wedding. All the while my feet are hurting so badly that I'm having to ice them because they're getting swollen.

Hannah and the bride, and Hannah and a bridesmaid. (Courtesy Hannah Brown)

We all got ready, and Olivia looks absolutely stunning. She looks like a Barbie bride! I'm so happy for her, but I also feel bad, because I feel very anxious and a little out of sorts with the travel and knowing that I have to dance and just being tired when I want to be completely present for her. But the wedding went great, and she looked beautiful.

At the reception and I looked down at my feet and they're swollen to the point where I can't see my ankle bone. Some of our friends who are nurses were like, "You have to sit down." I literally taped ice bags to my ankles at the reception:

The ice bag situation. (Courtesy of Hannah Brown)

That is not me at all. Olivia and I have always been the first to tear up the dance floor together, so the fact that I couldn't do that with her kind of sucked. But I legitimately couldn't walk. So I partied in my chair as much as I could.

I have to get up at 3:30 a.m. and I'm not going to be in bed until after midnight, so that's going to be challenging. But this is the life I live.

Sunday, Oct. 27

Oh my gosh, I am so exhausted. I'm up at 3:30 a.m. and am beyond tired. I can't believe what is about to happen today. I'm traveling back to LA for our camera blocking at CBS Studios, and I am a disaster. My feet hurt so badly and are so swollen that I can barely put on my big tennis shoes. I've never had this type of swelling before, and flying is not helping. I'm just trying to make it through the flight and sleep as much I can and ignore the pain.

Back in LA, I went to the physical therapist, and she iced my feet and did some compressions and told me to keep them elevated. I'm just laying on the ground anywhere I am — even in the ballroom — and putting my feet up, because the pain is excruciating and it hurts to dance.

But I did my camera blocking! I'm really anxious and early on our timing, but I feel like that has a lot to do with lack of sleep and wanting it to be good so it's making me a little bit tense for the next move. But we got through it, and got through the team dance. Afterwards I saw the physical therapist again, and the swelling in my feet had gone down two inches, so that was good. Alan and I practiced for 30 more minutes to help me sit in the pocket of the music a little more, and I'm feeling a lot more confident about that. My feet still really hurt — my whole body does — so I went to the spa that's open late to do some ice bath and sauna stuff. Then I'm off to sleep, because I have another early day, and we're doing this thing. It's Halloween night!

Courtesy of Hannah Brown.
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Monday, Oct. 28

I'm really sad, tired, and defeated in all of this. There is definitely truth to the fact that maybe there's something missing in my dances like Carrie Ann said. Even Alan said I was insecure, which hurt my feelings at the time, because it's something that I am, but maybe didn't want him to say about me on television. I am probably at one of my all-time most unconfident and insecure places and that really sucks, because I've come such a long way and I feel like I've backtracked a lot.

I think back on the first few weeks when I was scared to do this, and I had so much more confidence then, even going out on national television and dancing. I wasn't as in my head as I am now, and I think it's because I haven't had much positive reinforcement. I'm totally okay with critiques and working hard — I always try my very hardest — but I do feel like my confidence in my dancing is just not there because I'm so anxious about what is going to be said after my dance. I know that's a disservice to me and a disservice to my dancing and not the right attitude to have, but I am terrified and not having as much fun, because I put so much pressure on myself. Honestly, that is probably coming across in my dance as me being a little more stiff and maybe not being "in" the dance, because if I'm being honest, I'm trying my hardest to be, but I'm not.

There is something in my subconscious that's already telling me, Don't f*ck it up, don't f*ck it up. I'll rewatch my dances throughout the week and just nitpick over everything, but at the end of it, I'm so stressed because I know what it should be.

I think I get held to a really high standard on DWTS, but I never felt like a good dancer when I was younger. I was hoping that this experience would help me in that. Even the compliments I get from the judges, I feel like because there's ever been mention of me dancing, I can't even take the compliments because it's like I'm expected to be good, or expected to perform better. That's why I said to Carrie Ann when she asked me a question after the team dance that I have not been performing professionally before this by any means. I'm not an actress, I'm not a singer, I'm not a comedian. I did do pageants, but the time that I won was when I was completely myself and carefree.

Putting on a character to perform is hard for me, it's not natural. I'm just struggling a lot. If I had more confidence in myself, there's no telling what I could do. If I could just breathe, if I could just feel free when I dance, I think it could be something really cool and this could be a really great experience, but I haven't gotten there.

I know I'm on a competition dance show and I should be nitpicked, but it's hard. I'm just hoping that I can get out of this funk and set aside everything to enjoy this. Because I think I could. I just need to breathe.

Watch Hannah and Alan's jazz below:

Reporting by Samantha Rollins.