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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

community, growth, life

Calling all Dreamers!

July 28, 2015
Dreamers

There are so many times in my life I’ve been knocked down. Be it when I was a toddler and abused by my bio-father. Or when I was a gymnast and always breaking. When I finished 11th, just fractions of a point outside of the coveted Top Ten in my graduating class. When I had a car accident that could have killed me. When I became chronically ill and partially home-bound for 5+ years. When I lost my job due to betrayal from someone that was supposed to be protecting and supporting me. Each punch could have been a knock-out. And honestly, a couple of them almost were. But, I refuse to be less than I am meant to be. I refuse to leave this world without making a difference. I refuse to be overcome.

So here I am. I’m not just living, but I’m thriving. I still have a long trail to forge ahead, and I’ll keep dreaming and proving to myself that I am resilient and can do hard things.

I’ve spent the last week in an awesome group of 500+ like-minded dreamers. Community is so important. In just that week, I feel the momentum, the courage, and the excitement swelling in my bones. I am waking up with excitement each day and having trouble sleeping because I can’t stop dreaming about the future. I’m home here, and for the first time in my life I feel like I’m WHERE I’m meant to be, DOING what I was meant to do. That sweet spot.

I’m looking for other dreamers. Other world-changers. Other brave souls. The ones who don’t give up. Don’t play victim. Don’t stay down. The ones who have a dream to chase. The ones determined to chose what they will become.

All I’ve ever wanted to do was help people. Make the world a better place. Make a difference in the lives of others. I believe my journey has happened for a reason and it’s my _responsibility_ to use that journey and to extend my hand and pay it forward into the lives of others. THAT’S why I chose to become a wellness coach. I’ve learned too much about health, fitness and nutrition as I’ve worked on saving my own life to keep it to myself. Now that things are a bit more settled here in France, I’m diving (back) in and would love for you to join me.

Curious? Drop me a comment, use the contact form or shoot me a message on any social media account. I’m extending my hand to 5 more change-makers for my DO SOMETHING Project group this month, to 2 curious souls in a no-commitment coaching sneak peek to see what the heck I’m talking about, and to another 2 fire-starters for a new coach training!

growth, health, life

The DO SOMETHING Project

July 25, 2015
do_something

Life is full of change. Sometimes its big changes, sometimes its small. But it all amounts to something really important: YOUR LIFE. This month, in the midst of summer vacations and whatever else may be going on, we are committing to DO SOMETHING every day to make our lives more like we want them to be. More healthy. More authentic. More what you imagine when you dream. What will you do today to change your life?

This is something I need in my life. But I know I am not alone. And I want, more than anything, to help others out of the ruts in which they may find themselves. So, I’m asking if I can join with you on your journey, and you on mine?

Starting August 1, The DO SOMETHING Project is going LIVE! We already have a group forming over on Facebook, so all you have to do is hit me up below in the comments or on FB and I will add you! We are committing, together, to DO SOMETHING every day that gets us closer to our goals. It can be small steps. In fact, I encourage you to make them small steps. Lots of small steps = one giant leap toward the life you desire.

“What’s simple to do is also simple not to do. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in the doing of simple things repeatedly and long enough to ignite the miracle of the Compound Effect. So, beware of neglecting the simple things that make the big things in your life possible. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not.”
– DARREN HARDY, The Compound Effect


So here is a little of my story. This is WAY scarier than posting about some of the hard stuff I’ve been through. Because I’m on the other side of that stuff. But this journey is still very much in it’s infancy, and I’ve taken more steps backwards than forward. That hardly seems fair to say when I look at all of the steps forward I’ve taken in the last two years… heck, the last 13 years. But, I was SPRINTING forward, and then… I got de-railed. By myself.

I discovered Shakeology and Beachbody right before the holidays in 2013. I had been following my friend Becka on her journey and I couldn’t not join along. We had both had some tough health issues and I could SO RELATE to her story. Our bodies were different in a lot of ways, but our stories were so similar. I was watching her come alive again and I knew how desperately I was seeking to find life. So, I did it. And, HOLY CRAP everything changed. I was able to drop several more medicines out of my regimen, and ALL of the other supplements I was taking (at one point I was on 30 pills a day between medications and supplements). I got in the best shape of my life, and FAST. It was almost enough to make me upset because I trained so hard for so many years as a competitive gymnast and I struggled SO much with me weight and my ability to build muscle (sidenote: I was eating all the wrong things back then.) That experience gave me the confidence I needed to know that I could do what I was doing: move overseas. I was leaving behind my team of docs that had supported me and treated me since I was 15 years old. I was going into so many unknowns, but the biggest thing I wanted to do, other than find myself and be true to my being, was to prove to myself I could still do hard things.

And I’m doing hard things. I’m learning a new language at the age of 33 (try it. I dare you.). I got a visa and then renewed it (you have no idea how hard that is!). I have been over a year with only a couple of doctor’s appointments when I’ve visited home, aside from my newly-found acupuncturist here in Paris. I’m designing again, working with French clients, and have built more websites in the last few months than ever. Hardest of it all: I was finally willing to do what I needed to do to get rid of the toxicity that had been literally keeping me ill for 7 years. Change is hard. Really hard. And really scary.

But through all of that, I totally let myself get de-railed, for much longer than I would have liked, with my fitness journey. As a competitive gymnast turned chonically-ill patient, getting “back in my body” and feeling strong was so redeeming. So encouraging. So invigorating. It gave me confidence in every other area of my life. This isn’t about being skinny. It’s about being and feeling healthy in your own skin. Being in the kind of shape that allows you to do amazing things like climb monuments or hike trails. To be able to ADVENTURE.

I’m getting back on the wagon. And this time, I’m doing everything in my power to set myself up for SUCCESS. I am reading my personal development books (in English and French). I reconnected with my success partner. I am exercising as much as I can when I’m in the city. Now it’s time to get back to my favorite kind of exercise: the 30-minutes a day in my undies in the comfort of my own home! 😉 You guys, it doesn’t get any easier than that and it WORKS! (kicks self in the butt for stopping)

But more than working out, I want my life to matter. I want to breathe my own significance and spread it as far as I can. I have been searching for the way I could make my life count for so many years. I’m passionate about so many things. If I was a kid preparing to go to college, maybe I’d become a lawyer so I could fight human trafficking alongside the likes of IJM. But, I have lived through a lot. I have learned a lot. And I’ve always been convinced it was for a reason. To prepare me for the next phase. That it would be redeemed in some amazing way. So here is my chance to use my story, my journey, to make a difference.

as an expat, life, travel

365 Jours

July 25, 2015
365_jours2

It was an impressive day—a day overflowing with emotions, expectations, and dreams. Still, nothing was guaranteed. As we say, “go big or go home,” except I had just left my home. I put (almost) all my eggs in one basket called “Paris.” Would it be a renaissance or disaster? Despite all the unknown, I knew that Paris would be more like home than my own. With two suitcases, my cat, few French words and a heart full of courage, I boarded the plane and embarked toward my new life.

The word “risk” is not enough. But is it really a risk when you follow your heart to your true nature, your true self? Honestly, I think the biggest risk is not to act when you know you have found your way.

I gave up a lot to follow my found path. On the other hand, had I stayed in Florida, had I continued my daily life, I would have given up much more. And I would have lost my chance, maybe my once-in-a-lifetime chance, to remind ME.

It had been a long time since I had been healthy enough to work. On a normal week, I had three to five appointments doctor, and I left the States with no provisions or health team in place except the air of Hugo’s Paris: “Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’âme.” (To breathe Paris, this preserves the soul.) A year before I had tasted the hope of life, this conservation of the soul, and I had to chase after it. The race that followed was difficult and winding, albeit clear. There is absolutely nothing simple about deciding to become an immigrant crossing the Atlantic.

“TO BREATHE PARIS, THIS CONSERVES THE SOUL”

Today, after a complete turn around the sun, I think back to last 365 days. Were they as difficult as I had imagined? Yes. Were they as wonderful as I had imagined? Yes, they were even more.

Last year, I wanted to learn the language, find me, see more of the world, and press restart, all while proving to myself that I could do hard things. It had been many years since I felt I could do hard things, or even things, because of these illnesses. If I was going to start over, I had to know I still had in me the girl that was strong, courageous and capable—the girl I felt I had lost many years ago. But what the year had in store for me was so much more than the chance to push restart and find “Mélissa” (the French version of Melissa). In a short 365 days, I created a life that makes my former feel the more foreign. Every day still has it’s challenges, but I try to see them as lessons—always searching for the nugget of gold or the silver lining. One thing is for sure: it has been an adventure and the next year undoubtedly has more defining adventure in store. I can’t wait.