Monthly Archives

August 2015

growth, life

My story

August 8, 2015
Melissa_story_header

Hi! I’m Melissa. Here is my story to date…

I have long been passionate about health, and have made it my goal to know as much as possible and treat my body well for as long as I can remember. BUT, I grew up in the midst of the low-fat craze, and had so much trouble controlling my weight and building strength as a highly competitive gymnast. I thought I was eating healthfully, but not only was I clueless, I was sabotaging my body. It was so frustrating and discouraging, and I am sure part of why I was CONSTANTLY injured.

But none of my gymnastics injuries could compare to what I would face after a very scary car accident in 2002. In an accident that could have easily killed me, I was lucky to be able to climb out of my car. In the weeks, months and years that followed however, I developed numerous acute injuries and then chronic illnesses. I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue a few months after the accident, but honestly didn’t really believe the diagnosis until I had such an incredibly vast constellation of symptoms that were only able to be linked with these diagnoses.

Over the next 10 years, my life deteriorated to where I became nothing more than a shell of who I once was. At one point I was taking 30 pills a day between 10 medications and 20 supplements. I HATE medication in theory (yes, there is a place for it!), but I had zero quality of life and was desperately searching for a way to function, much less heal. I became a professional patient, seeing doctors around 250 times a year. Not only did the illness destroy me physically and financially, but it nearly destroyed my spirit. I did everything in my power to stay as hopeful and positive as possible, yet I must admit there were many times I wished it would all just end. I often said that a terminal illness would be easier: then there would be an end in sight to the suffering.

Through the years, I tried more treatments than I can list (including osteopathic treatments, acupuncture, myofacial massage, rolfing, chiropractic, allergy elimination [NAET], physical therapy, water therapy, mental health counselling, a very strict elimination diet…) and while I made some progress along the way, it was much more of a cha-cha-cha not going very far. I was ordered by my doctors to quit working, else I would be irrecoverable. When a 28yo woman—much less one still hoping to have a child one day—hears that, it’s no joke. I stopped working for what was supposed to be 6 months, but 5 years later, I was still unable to work.

Along the way, we discovered that there was some very significant toxicity in my home and it was keeping me from getting better. As we worked to eliminate those toxins, I was finally making some small-but-tangible progress. In the summer of 2013, still very ill, I went on a 10-day vacation to Paris. Usually just one day of high activity could wipe me out for easily 6 weeks, but within 24 hours of being in France, I felt the HEALTHIEST I’D FELT IN 17 YEARS (even pre-accident). I felt joy again for the first time in more than a decade. I felt alive again. I felt ME again. And I couldn’t NOT do something in response.

That trip gave me so much hope of a brighter future—one where my illness could be redeemed in a way that could make a difference somehow, somewhere, someway. That was the one thing that had always kept me going… one day God would “redeem that which the locusts had eaten.” As soon as I returned home, I was back in the trenches with my illness, yet I started dreaming of moving to Paris and being ALIVE and WELL. But, that would be no small thing given my life circumstances. Even so, I set out to make a plan to reclaim my life and health.

A few months later, I found out about a fitness and nutrition solution that would truly make this a reality. I was able to get off of most all of my medicines in a few short months. I was able to get in better shape than when I had been a gymnast by working out 25 mins a day at home with a no-impact program. This sudden boost of health gave me the courage to take the leap and move to Paris. Leaving behind my team of doctors, becoming a student again and completely changing my lifestyle could have been a disaster. But, it worked.

Not only did it work, but here I am… THRIVING. My story is very much still being written and I have so much more to go, including helping as many people as possible find health and wellness wherever they may find themselves stuck, frustrated or hopeless.

Now, I am blessed and HONOURED to have the chance to work with people who are embarking on their own transformations. I get to use all that I have learned, experienced and come through to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s always been my dream and the way I wanted to spend my days. I am a firm advocate of daring to do what it takes to be your authentic, beautiful and purpose-fueled YOU.

If you connect at all with me over a love of redemption, second chances, travel and adventure, Paris, healthy living, good food, building a life of meaning and daring greatly… or even a love of art/design/photography and a distain for comic sans and papyrus… I’d love to connect with you! I love community and know we are always better together.


LET’S CONNECT!

Here, I blog about health, nutrition, fitness, recovering from chronic illnesses and the expat life. You can subscribe to this blog and you will get an email every time there is a new post. Just check out the sidebar. >>

I share photos of my the various aspects of my life here in Paris on Instagram, including some special insta-exclusive Paris photo-rides where I explore areas of the city by bike.

facebookOn facebook, you can  “FOLLOW” to watch my story unfold. Or send me a friend request & feel free to private message me if you want to connect more one on one.

facebook Also on facebook, I am building a community geared toward healing, dreaming and thriving here at Project Aimfly.

 

 

 

 

fitness, health

Cize Update: Full Out

August 5, 2015
cize action shots

HAPPY HUMP DAY!
Quick little update: CIZE IS AWESOME. Lol. No, really. I’m already noticing differences in my body (leaning out and toning up), which is the best kind of motivation to keep doing something and being consistent! I’m already having so much fun and I looked ahead at the more advanced videos and they are so legit. Today I started in on the third routine and recorded a little video just after finishing with some of my thoughts.

Did I mention how much I love this program? Cize is where it’s at! I really hate cardio and I wake up every morning excited to get my workout in. I have ONE spot left to join me in the August group currently in pre-season and would love for it to be you! Drop me a comment below if you want it (or find me on social media if that is easier for you).

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Wanna join me? You can even try it for free for a month! Hit me up if you want to join my daily dance parties or get started here and click on “Beachbody on Demand” on the top left.

chronic illness, healing

The Unbroken Chronicles, Pt 1: don’t be a superhuman

August 3, 2015
the unbroken chronicles: healing from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue

ESTIMATED READ TIME: 5 MINUTES


Recovering from Chronic Illness: Acknowledge Your Limits and Stay within Them

Read Part 2 Assembling a Healthcare Team and Plan

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In the summer of 2002, I had a very bad car accident that initiated the process of becoming chronically ill. 11 years later, I was still struggling with these illnesses (fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome/ME) and doing everything I could to not give up and keep seeking answers and health. You can read a little more about where I was in May 2013, 11 years from my initial diagnosis, from my post (You are Not) BROKEN. This is a blog series about that journey and what I did along the way that ultimately led be to being healthier than I was pre-diagnosis. DISCLAIMER: Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are very unique and complex illnesses. I am not suggesting that my path to wellness will work for others. I am hoping by this series that I can encourage others who are ill on their own journeys to wellness. Please be sure you have a good doctor and consult with them!


When I had my car accident, I was a 20-year-old-former-competitive-gymnast-all-A-student perfectionist. I didn’t really know how to set limits and I always pushed to live beyond them. I had finished competing as a Level 10 (the highest level before the competitions you see on TV) gymnast two years prior, and had an over-loaded schedule as I was a double degree student. I was socially active, held positions on leadership teams, coached gymnastics and was getting my As. So when I got in my accident, I continued in my typical type-A style: I got my ducks in a row and called my acupuncturist from the scene. I was actually relatively ok at the scene (other than completely unnerved from having to climb out of my car with another one on my roof), but I knew I needed to get on top of treating what had just happened to my body.

This was not my actual accident, but this is what mine looked like. I was the car underneath. Photo credit: nbcmiami.com

This was not my actual accident, but this is what mine looked like. I was the car underneath. Photo credit: nbcmiami.com

Within 2-3 weeks of starting treatment with my acupuncturist, my pain levels had increased significantly and we had more and more to treat. I then contacted one of the best doctors in the world (no, that is NOT an exaggeration) and arranged to see Dr. Larry Nassar that August while he was working at the USA Gymnastics National Championships. I had seen him before for a previous back injury (significantly more acute to start, but never turned chronic) and he worked miracles for my back. When I returned from that trip, I started seeing TWO osteopaths. They treated a bit differently, so I thought I was just giving my body extra healing. My main Osteopath, Dr. Laura Ramipil (also one of the best of the best), finally told me that I had to chose between her and the other. Basically I was OVER-treating. My nervous system was still too freaked out from the accident to even allow my physical injuries to be treated, and I was doing TOO MUCH. Of course I had the best intentions, but I had to take a step back.

So I slowed my roll a bit, and after about 6 months, she was finally able to start treating my tissue. Trauma is no joke! The kicker is no one told me the MOST important part in preventing my acute injuries from turning chronic: STOP. SLOW DOWN. YOU AREN’T A SUPERHUMAN. And even if you have managed to function in superhuman mode in the past, it CAN’T WORK NOW. No one told me was that I needed to slow it down in ALL parts of my life: treatment, physical and mental activity (if you struggle with these illnesses, you know that mental work = physical work). I was still trying to manage everything that had been in my life pre-accident and that was simply more than my body could handle. When you are processing trauma, be it emotional or physical or both, the body just can’t do it all. It needs time. Space. Rest. I didn’t give it any of that. Instead, I ADDED more to my list as I was trying to get well… which quickly amounted to 8–10 appointments a week between acupuncture, massage, osteopathic and physical therapy.

STOP. SLOW DOWN. YOU AREN’T A SUPERHUMAN.

Three years later, I graduated college and began working as a Creative Director, which is a very demanding job. It wasn’t until 2009 when another doctor (Dr. Charles Lapp, one of the leading fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue/me docs in the world) finally told me: “YOU MUST STOP [working] or you will be irrecoverable.” The word irrecoverable to a 28 year-old is pretty scary. And serious. It was finally enough to slow me down. I stopped working for what was supposed to be 6 months. Several years later, I was still ill, even more so, but there were different reasons for that which I’ll get to in another post. There is absolutely NO WAY I would have ever gotten better if I hadn’t slowed down and made rest a priority. There are so many other things I did that were really important, but without this step, none of it would have ever mattered. I had to work hard at not working hard. If you are like me, and many of you are, you are a type-A go-getter that has always done “everything.” You need to stop. Now. Listen to your body and go at it’s pace—as much as possible it’s non artificially created pace (as in if you drink 5 cups of coffee or a take a stimulant med, you are just creating false energy that is allowing you to push your body beyond its limits). That’s the only way.

Next time I’ll talk about the team of doctors I assembled over the years and the treatments that helped me the most.

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growth, health, life

You are Not Broken

August 3, 2015
You are Not Broken

This was originally posted on my graphic design website back in April, 2013. I am in the process of creating a series of posts about how I became “unbroken;” how I healed from my chronic illnesses. But first, I’ll share this one:


Being that I am sitting in a hotel room in Charlotte, NC for my annual visit to my fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue specialist AND that May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month (what, you hadn’t heard?), I figured I’d do a little blog post about living with this diagnosis.

My journey with fibro/cfs (Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue/Myalgic Encephalopathy) began 11 years ago when I was rear-ended on the way to work. Long story short, I was hit pretty hard and pushed underneath the car in front of me so their back wheels were on my roof. It was terrifying. I drove a little “tupperware car” Saturn Sport Coupe and I had no idea if it’s frame was going to collapse below the weight of the Chevy Malibu that was suddenly imposed upon me. It was definitely one of those moments where you wonder, “Is this how it is going to end?”  I ended up with some pretty intense pain from my injuries, but was fortunate to be able to crawl out the window of my car and walk away.

Fast-forward several years and I had the most bizarre constellation of symptoms. I was still dealing with a decent amount of daily pain in my back and neck, but I was also experiencing migraines 6/7 days of the week. I developed TMJ and my skin became so sensitive it hurt when the wind would blow against it. My eyes would often have difficulty finding focus and depth of field in a large space, and when I got really overwhelmed, they would spasm and rapidly twitch back and forth. I couldn’t sleep at night, and then would fall asleep at work. I never felt like I could get a good night’s sleep, even if I had slept for 8-10 hours. I had difficulty articulating my thoughts and even more difficulty managing multiple tasks/projects at once. My skin would itch, my nose and knees would sometimes go numb, and my hands and feet would always throb and feel swollen in the morning. It hurt to put weight on my feet and felt like I was walking on pins and needles every single morning. I would get so tired that my entire body burned—simple tasks like picking up a glass of water would sometimes make my muscles fatigue as if I had just completed a strenuous workout. And, finally, I had terrible abdominal and chest pain that would sometimes hurt so much I couldn’t stand up straight or take a deep breath (which later I discovered was due to IBS and food sensitivities). Last time I checked, I have battled at least 35 distinct symptoms. Each day was different—some days I would have five symptoms, some days I would have 10, some days I would only have one or two. I never knew when I would be able to get up in the morning or if I was going to make it through the day.

I grew up as a highly competitive gymnast, so I was trained to always push through pain and just work a little harder to achieve anything I set my mind to. The biggest thing I have had to learn through the past decade is that I have to work harder at doing less, not more. I have to constantly ask for help. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do as it goes against every fiber of my being. It makes me feel broken, incapable, and defeated. It is absolutely impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue (the two syndromes are typically present together) what it is like to live, er, feel trapped, inside my body.

It would be easy to give up, and honestly, it is often quite tempting. I’ve been on this chronic illness journey for pretty much all of my adult life and it has cost me everything that the world would call stability. I must constantly remind myself that God will not abandon me, thus He must be up to something here. There must be something good that will come out of this. I even have this art, designed by a friend of mine Jim LePage, hanging on my living room wall that reads:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.”

I need that reminder. Every. single. day. I also need to remember that I am not broken and I am not past the point of repair. I am simply on a journey, albeit a difficult one. Something more lies ahead. I have made progress over these years. Sometimes it is hard for me to see that, but the indicators are certainly there. On the hardest of days, I cling to those indicators—they give me hope and motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

If you happen to know someone with chronic illness, be it fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue, or something other (often hidden) disability, give them grace. For most of us, our lives feel like they are not our own. We will let you down. We will not carry “our fair share” or “our weight” in most relationships, but I promise you we are carrying weight 24/7. If you happen to suffer from fibro/chronic fatigue (or are in the midst of recovering from an serious injury or trauma), my best advice to you is to give yourself grace. Take time to rest. Then take more time to rest. Surround yourself with supportive people that love you regardless of how well they can understand you or how much you can do for them. And never give up.

You are not broken.