You’re a career-driven woman who’s always known success in whatever you do.
But getting sick with an autoimmune disorder threw your future plans for a loop.
You turned your attention towards healing and now that you finally feel like you’re in a good place again, you want to get back to accomplishing everything you want professionally and personally.
But this time you need to balance your big goals and your health so that you don’t get sick again.
You’re not sure how to do that because balance has never really been your M.O. And you’re afraid that one miscalculation could snowball into serious health consequences again.
Hey, I’ve been there, too, and I’ve come out on the other side.
Hi, I’m Andrea Hanson, and I’m a coach for professional women with autoimmune disorders who want the success they had before getting sick. They have the skills but not the energy and are afraid that pushing themselves too much will hurt their health. I teach them how to trust their bodies and have the energy to thrive again both professionally and personally.
I planned for early success.
At age 22 I was earning my master’s degree in Human Development specializing in Early Childhood Disorders. I was young, loved learning and being challenged and was ready to go farther in my education. My biggest hurdle was deciding where to apply for my Ph.D. in Psychology. I always knew what I wanted and achieving it was never a question.
I was completely in my zone – until I wasn’t.
One day while sweeping my hair back from my face, I poked myself in the eye. It was a typical Andrea move and I thought nothing of it. But then my vision in that eye started shutting down like a shade being pulled down over a window.
I thought poking my eye had detached my retina. It sounded like a plausible explanation to someone who didn’t actually know what detaching a retina meant.
So, almost blind in one eye, I drove myself (not recommended) to the hospital to see an ophthalmologist.
Life as I knew it changed, but I didn’t go willingly.
After a string of doctors and tests, I found myself in my hospital room staring at a light board displaying pictures of my brain. I was losing sight because of something called optic neuritis. I was told that my brain was “on fire,” and there was no doubt that I had multiple sclerosis (MS).
Everything changed after that moment.
I watched how nurses, techs, and people outside of my family immediately started treating me differently. I was no longer Andrea – I was now “MS.” And there were all these totally normal things that I “wasn’t allowed to do anymore” like taking a hot shower and getting too excited.
And I wasn’t having any of it.
I wanted nothing to do with these doomsday predictions. Even at 22, I knew that these were other people’s fears and didn’t want them tainting my view of what my life with MS would look like.
I refused to see myself as someone whose life would soon be reduced to “coping.”
Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
I took my diagnosis very seriously and immediately started healing my body with disease-modifying drugs, working out, and changing my diet. I left school because I knew this new journey would take healthcare and money – two things in short supply in graduate school.
So I went to work in the calming profession of finance. Just kidding – I was stressing out right away. But I pushed through the stress because the benefits were nice and the pay was even nicer.
I thought I had my new life with MS all figured out. I was doing things that helped my body and my diagnosis, and I was climbing the corporate ladder at work. The challenge excited me and I adapted to this new lifestyle easily.
But I didn’t realize how hard I was pushing myself every day. My natural speed was driving 500 mph without paying attention to how much gas was in the tank. And that’s how I approached everything without realizing it.
Nothing about my life was sustainable for very long.
Keeping up appearances.
My life on paper looked amazing. I had a great job, I made way more money than a 20-something should make, and I lived in swanky Uptown Dallas near the bars and my friends. I was having the time of my life.
But I was also having a lot of relapses in my MS.
It was when I received yet another optic neuritis diagnosis (the 6th or 7th one?) that I found myself having a complete meltdown in my neuro-ophthalmologist’s office. At that moment the façade of my perfect 20-something life shattered and I realized how out of control things were.
Something had to change – this time on my terms.
When I was honest with myself I knew I was sick of the relapses and constantly stopping the momentum in my life for the treatment. Surprise health issues popping up were wearing me down and take priority in my life.
I knew stress was a big problem and I needed my life to have more balance. Naturally, I thought the answer was getting another job – one that had nothing to do with the crazy world of finance.
I didn’t know yet that a “less stressful job” had nothing to do with balance.
I went into research mode and searched for that perfect job that wouldn’t stress me out.
The first book I read was life-changing. Less than 100 pages into the book I knew what I wanted my next career to be: a life coach. It was a way to help people make tangible, lasting changes to their future. I saw what it did for me and I was hooked.
I looked for a different career and found a different mindset.
Because of my passion for education, I was drawn to study at one of the premier life coach schools. I learned things I never knew existed such as awareness of what I was thinking and how to stop being so mean to myself. And the biggest lesson I learned was to take responsibility for how I felt and how I’m not at all responsible for how others feel.
I finally knew why that kid sitting in the hospital 10 years before felt like her life with MS was being portrayed all wrong by the “experts.” I wasn’t being rebellious for the sake of rebellion – I was watching people project their own fearful beliefs onto me and they felt awful.
Not all that glitters is gold.
With these mindset shifts came momentum and success. I became certified as a life coach and then later became master certified as well, I got married, and I went back and finished the master’s degree that I had left when I was diagnosed. Life was new and things were happening again.
Then I had my biggest relapse yet.
I love the feeling of ambition and I had easily slid back into my old habits of pushing myself. I was trying out all these new ideas I learned about mindset, but I wasn’t balancing my energy with my health.
My relapse happened right after I graduated from my master’s program and it took me quite a few weeks of strong medication and complete rest to feel like myself again. Getting sick like that was scary and reminded me that I didn’t have the luxury to push through the stress anymore.
After that last relapse, I realized that the key to having both health and success is keeping one eye on my mind and one eye on my body.
And I knew exactly what I had to do.
I had to teach this new revelation to others living with a disorder: it’s not only about your mindset, but also how to look after yourself while your improved mindset propels you forward.
I wanted to show people these amazing tools I learned that can get them out of feeling overwhelm, fear and whatever else keeps them stuck and not living their true potential.
Since I was living with MS, I started working directly with other people living with the disorder as well. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society contracted me as a coach and I worked with them doing private coaching, leading workshops and speaking. I also worked with the University of Texas at Austin on a research project helping people cope with MS.
Going farther than I knew I could.
While I was working with people with multiple sclerosis I was also building my own business. I wrote two books for people living with a diagnosis.
Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis is for people who are newly diagnosed with a chronic condition and helps them lower stress and set up a mindset for success. Stop Carrying the Weight of Your MS goes deeper into the mind-body tools I use with my clients and teaches readers how to know what their body needs to stay healthy.
I loved working with my clients living with multiple sclerosis. But I started to have the feeling that I wasn’t finished yet.
My mission today.
Today I work with people living with autoimmune disorders who want to see success in their lives professionally and personally. They want to do better at work, make more money, and strengthen their relationships with themselves and other people.
My clients learn how to thrive while living with a disorder.
Most of all, I show them how to balance their attention between taking action and taking care of themselves. I help them create the health and new habits that they’ll keep with them for life.
My clients get re-introduced to dreaming big – something they often feel is no longer allowed once they received their diagnosis.
Today I live a HELL YES kind of life. And I help my clients know that they can have more from life than they ever knew possible.
How do you want to thrive?
If there’s a big dream you’ve stopped yourself from having…if you know there has to be more to life while living with a disorder…if you have the audacity to want to thrive in your life while living with a diagnosis, I can help.
You can find out more about working with me here.
You can have the success you want – even while living with a diagnosis.
I can help.