Learn with me as I share my life lessons

I’ve always considered myself to be a strong person, and no, I’m not talking about my guns!

I’ve actually gone as far as wearing this strength as a badge of honour and it became something that I was really proud of.  I wanted to do everything on my own and not have to depend on anyone.  This included not talking to others about how I was struggling or the challenges I was facing.  I kept this all to myself; for fear that people would think I was weak.

When I hit my lowest of lows in 2011, I had no choice but to start to depend on others; my life coach Laurel, my healers and my close family and friends.  I also had to start sharing my struggles which was not an easy thing for me to do after so many years of keeping it all to myself.

When I started out on my personal growth journey, I was doing a lot of reading.  I was so inspired by the self-help gurus who have gone through serious shit in their lives; people like Gabby Bernstein who speaks openly about her alcohol and drug addiction and Robert Holden who grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father.

These amazing people went through all of this and not only came out the other side, but had done so well that they were now helping others to improve their lives.  I thought that if they went through all that and sorted their lives out, surely I could do the same.

I was blown away at how brave they were to publicly share their stories and I remember thinking that there was no way that I could ever do that.  To share my story would mean I would be putting myself out there for the whole world to judge.

Let’s face it; we live in a society where Facebook and Instagram are full of people’s highlight reels while the darker parts of our lives stay hidden.

We talk about our amazing families and vacations and all the great things that are happening but we are hesitant to share the bad days, the painful experiences and the shit that literally brings us to our knees.  We feel that by revealing all aspects of our lives, we will be setting ourselves up to be criticized, judged and rejected.

But an amazing thing happens when we share our whole story, even the parts we deem embarrassing or undesirable.  We start to step out from the darkness, into the light.  There is an incredible amount of healing that happens when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest about those ‘not so nice’ things in our lives.

By owning and sharing our story, we inspire others to do the same.  We make it okay to talk not only about our joys, but about our struggles.

Sharing my story has allowed me to find freedom like never before.  And I hope in doing so that it will help you find freedom as well.

With love,

Mel

All the Feels

all the feelings

For many years, I was the queen of avoiding my feelings.

I used to refer to alcohol as my coping mechanism but recently I realized that it was more than that. Alcohol was actually a numbing mechanism; something I would use to numb and avoid any uncomfortable feelings.

It started out as being something I would use to avoid hurtful or upsetting situations but over the years it progressed into something I would use to avoid the stress of everyday life.

Going through a break up? Grieving the loss of someone close to you? A glass (or four) of wine was always the answer. Having a shitty day at work and need to disconnect? I thought wine could fix that too.

Let’s be honest, feeling the feelings can be hard. Dealing with the painful and upsetting situations in our lives hurts, sometimes a lot. So when it comes to dealing with emotional pain, we often just run and hide and avoid the feelings all together. Because if we avoid it, it can’t hurt us. Here’s where our numbing mechanisms come in.

It’s only now that I’m no longer drinking that I realize just how many things I was numbing. So many unresolved feelings. So many hurtful situations that I never truly dealt with. So much pain that I am still carrying around with me.

Slowly but surely, over the past 3 months, all of these things have been rising to the surface. It actually took me a while to realize what was happening. It started with me just feeling a little off and not like myself. Then the feelings started bubbling up. ALL THE FEELINGS.

Hurt, regret, anger, resentment, sadness, disappointment. Feelings were coming up that I didn’t even realize I had buried. Feelings about situations that I thought I had let go of years ago. How my biological father left when I was just a baby. How mean girls were to me in high school. How much I was still affected by a relationship that ended over a decade ago. How much I missed my Oma. And Mario. And Dave.

The fact that I’m no longer using alcohol as a tool to numb my uncomfortable feelings means that I’ve actually had to start dealing with them. And it has not been pleasant.

But if I’ve learned anything on my journey, it’s that every time we walk through the fire and deal with difficult situations in our lives, we come out the other side stronger and more resilient than before.

I love this quote from Pema Chodron’s book ‘When things fall apart’ ~ “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”

So I urge you to examine your numbing behaviours. What are you using to numb your feelings and how might you benefit from actually feeling those feelings?

With love,
Mel

consent

WARNING: This post contains coarse language and occasional scenes of shit gettin’ real.

I want to start this post off by saying that I am not writing this to get your pity or your sympathy or any of that bullshit. I’m writing this post for the same reason that I write all of my blog posts and the same reason I share such personal details about my life; because I am hopeful that it may help someone gain some insight or perspective into something happening in their life.

Last week was an interesting one, so I felt compelled to share.

I’ve written extensively about my challenges with my weight and about my days as a figure competitor. I’ve written about the negative impact competing had on my self-esteem. What I haven’t written about is my other challenges with my self-esteem and how that affects my day to day life.

My self-esteem and I have a pretty complicated relationship. On the outside, I appear to be pretty confident and have even had people I’ve just met comment about how confident I am. Little do they know about the voice in my head.

The mean, horrible, asshole of a voice that tells me that I’m not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, etc., on pretty much a daily basis.

My self-esteem issues started when I was around 16 and have just gotten worse as time goes on, in part because of my experience competing, in part because of how I was treated in some of my past relationships.

Last week a friend inspired me to start hitting the gym before work again, something I haven’t done since just after my last show in 2010.

I was looking forward to the pre-work workouts but not looking forward to running into one particular individual; let’s call him D-Bag. So what’s my big problem with D-Bag, you ask?

A few weeks after I did my last show in 2010, D-Bag made some comment about how much weight I had gained. A dick move for sure. This little comment, made by some stupid asshole who literally meant nothing to me, changed everything.

Because of his comment, I stopped going to the gym. I figured that if D-Bag was judging me about the post-comp weight gain, everyone else was as well and that thought was just more than I could bear at the time. Because of his comment, I couldn’t even look at myself in a mirror without feeling completely disgusted. Because of his comment, my self-esteem hit an all-time low. So, needless to say, the thought of seeing D-Bag again made me a little queasy.

But an interesting thing happened when I saw him. Rather than feeling anger or hatred towards him, I actually felt sorry for him. I wondered what was going on in his life at the time that he felt the need to cut me down with such a hurtful comment.

More importantly I realized that I spent almost 8 years hanging onto this fucker’s opinion and allowing it to negatively affect my self-esteem. Crazy right?!?

I am a big proponent of the magic of The Universe and how it brings us what we need when we need it. Well, after I left the gym that day, I was on Facebook and someone had posted a quote that read “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. Thanks Universe.

For years, I blamed D-Bag for my self-esteem issues, claiming that it was his comment that sent me into that deep, dark place. In reality, I had no one to blame but myself. I could have brushed off his comment and thought “who gives a shit what this asshole thinks” and just continued on my merry way. Instead, I allowed his comment to negatively affect my life. I allowed him to make me feel inferior.

The truth of the matter is, no one can “make” us feel anything. We are 100% in control of our thoughts which means that only we can allow other people’s opinions or comments to have a negative effect on us. We hold the cards here. We have the power to disregard someone’s hurtful words and move onto bigger and better things.

So my question to you is, who are you giving away that power to? And how are you going to start taking it back?

With love,
Mel

2017 was a tough year for me. In fact, it was the worst year I’ve had since my very non-sparkly 2011.

For most of 2017, I was mourning my breakup with Dave; by far, the most difficult breakup of my life. I wasn’t coping well so I turned to some very unhealthy habits, smoking and drinking.

At my lowest point, I was probably drinking 4 or 5 bottles of wine a week. Coming home and opening a bottle of wine became my escape from the pain.

The more I drank, the more I smoked and what started as ‘the odd cigarette here or there’ turned back into me being a full blown smoker after I worked so hard to quit.

But as you may know, 2017 wasn’t all bad. I lost about 30 lbs and started back at the gym and yoga again. For the months that I was super focused on my health, I definitely saw a decrease in the amount I was drinking but after reaching my goal weight, my motivation started to fall off and I started drinking in excess again.

In November, I went away to Dominican for a week. It was here that I hit my drinking ‘low point’. You might say, “yeah, but it was vacation” but even for vacation, it was way over the top. I spent 3 of my 7 days super hung over, barely even able to eat. I had grandiose plans to hit the gym every day while I was away. I ended up going to the gym a grand total of zero times.

There was one day of the trip that when looking back on it, shows me just how much of a problem my drinking had become. Over the course of this particular day, I am certain I had at least 30 drinks, starting with mimosas at breakfast and not stopping until 2am. Needless to say, 2 of my 3 hangover days followed this particular day.

You would think that would have been enough to put an end to the heavy drinking but nope.

When I got home from that vacation, the drinking continued, as did my lack of motivation to work out or go to yoga.

After pretty much drinking my way through December, I finally decided that enough was enough. I made a promise to myself that as of January 1, I was going to quit smoking and drastically cut back on my drinking.

I decided I was going to go dry for January. Now, I have had dry months before but I found that the moment I was ‘allowed’ to drink again, I was digging out the corkscrew. This time had to be different if I wanted the outcome to be different.

On January 1, I started reading “The 30 Day Sobriety Solution – How to cut back or quit drinking in the privacy of your own home” by Jack Canfield and Dave Andrews. The book is laid out in 30 chapters. Each day you read a chapter and complete the daily action steps. These action steps forced me to get real about why I was drinking excessively and as it turns out, it really had nothing to do with Dave or with my situation at the time.

The book provides practical solutions on how to ‘thrive in sobriety’ whether your intent is to quit drinking all together or just cut back as I was planning.

I will admit, as I worked through the exercises, I was scared shitless. Could I really go away on vacation and not get hammered every day and still enjoy myself? Could I go out with the girls and still have fun even if I wasn’t drinking? I had my doubts.

I didn’t let those doubts discourage me though. I kept working through the solutions, one day at a time. And slowly, something amazing started to happen. My thoughts and opinions about my drinking started to shift. I started to see how much drinking was holding me back and started thinking about all of the amazing things I could be doing in my life if I wasn’t wasting all that time and money drinking.

I started to lay the ground work for what I was going to do once February 1st hit and I set out some ground rules for when and how much I would be drinking going forward.

Some of the rules I’ve implemented are:
– No drinking at home
– No drinking in response to a stressful or difficult situation
– Not using every occasion as a reason/excuse to drink
– When I do decide to have a drink (or two), to be conscious about my consumption. Gone are the days where I would down drink after drink with no regard for how much I had consumed.
– With no exceptions, I will be tracking how much I drink and use that as a gauge to measure my success as a ‘normal drinker’

I finished the book and that combined with my new ground rules, had me feeling pretty confident about February and onward. February 1st came and went with no urge to have a drink. In fact, it’s February 4th and I still haven’t had the urge.

I am super confident that my new attitude about drinking means that things will never, ever, ever go back to the way they were!

rain and sun

Chumbawamba’s 1997 smash hit Tubthumping perfectly describes the last month of my life.  I definitely got knocked down, but I got up again.  ‘Cause you are never gonna keep me down.

The month of August has been incredibly challenging.  In fact, it’s the worst month I’ve had in many years.

On August 3, our dear Mario had a stroke and had to be put down.  Mario has been my best friend and my rock for the past 10 years and he saw me through a lot of hard times.  I always knew that the day that we had to say goodbye would be incredibly hard but I never imagined just how hard it would be.

I was with him in his last hours, talking to him and trying my best to comfort him as he struggled.  I was quite certain that when our vet arrived, she was going to tell me that he should be put down so I spent those last hours just enjoying our time together.

I cradled him in my arms as he passed; a memory that I relived in my mind for several days after.  It was honestly, the hardest goodbye I have ever had to say.

In the days that followed, I was a mess.  I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house but I hated being it.  It just felt so empty without him.

After a few days, Dave and I decided that getting a rescue cat might help to bring some joy back to our home.  On the Sunday we headed out to meet Lynn from Abandoned Cat Rescue who had a cat in mind that fit our criteria; loving and affectionate.

We had only planned to get one cat but ended up with two; Asher who Lynn had suggested as a good fit and our wee Joy who, during our visit, cuddled up in my lap and well, that was that.

The first weeks with the kittens were super stressful for me.  They were both in a new environment and trying to figure everything out which led to a lot of fighting.  Having never had two cats before, I didn’t really know what to expect, and in my state at the time, I didn’t deal with it well.   They’ve now settled down a bit and have brought so much love into our home. 

In addition to Mario’s passing, I’ve also been dealing with a sick grandmother.  On the day we got the kittens, my sister went down to Chatham to say goodbye to her.  I wanted to go but I just couldn’t.  I was so fragile at that moment that it would have broken me. 

I felt an incredible amount of guilt about not going to say my goodbyes but I have said goodbye in my own way.

On top of all of this, I cancelled my trip to Germany with Opa due to the recent string of violent crime happening over there. 

Never before have my head and my heart been at such war.  My head said that I should cancel but my heart told me what Opa had reminded me of several times; that it might be our last opportunity to travel together.

After weeks of deliberation, I cancelled.  It broke my heart to give up this opportunity to spend time with Opa, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around going to a country that is currently experiencing an increased number or terrorism related incidents.

The combination of these things led to three weeks running on minimal sleep, no appetite and many, many tears.  I had taken days off work here and there, simply because I just couldn’t function.

Last Tuesday, I decided that it was time to put my big girl pants on and get my shit together.  I emailed my boss, who was on holidays at the time, and let him know that I needed a few more days off.

So last Thursday and Friday, my only obligation was to take care of myself.   I went for a relaxing float, had a session with an EAP counsellor and had an amazing reiki session.  I watched Netflix, took naps when I needed them, meditated, and had lots of kitten cuddles.

These self-care days ended up extending into Saturday and Sunday and by Monday, I was finally starting to feel like myself again.

I have been through tough times before so I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing when I need some assistance.  More importantly, I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m not afraid to ask for it.

In times of crisis, the most important thing we can do is nourish ourselves.  Self-care is so important and despite what many people think, it is one of the least selfish things you can do. 

By getting the help we need to be able to properly function again we are better able to fill our many life roles.  When I was struggling, I was no good to anyone.  Not to Dave, not to the kids, not to my family and friends and certainly not to my employer.

Taking the time that I needed to sort myself proved invaluable and I’m thrilled to say that today is the best day I have had in almost a month.

 I decided to write this blog not to get your sympathy, but in hopes that if you’re struggling, sharing my experience may help you to get back up again.

xo

My Proudest Moment

B Melissa 071.JPG

This blog post proved to be somewhat challenging for me, as I have done so many things in my life that I am proud of.

After much deliberation, I chose my first skydive as my proudest moment.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am deathly afraid of heights and have been for as long as I can remember.

But contrary to that, I have also wanted to jump out of a plane for as long as I can remember.

My biological Dad was a skydiver and my Mom has jumped many times, so you could say it was bred into me.

I vividly remember the weeks leading up to my first skydive. The nerves.  The doubts.  And most of all, the fear of plummeting to my death.

On that bright, sunny day in 2013, I picked up my friend Melissa and we were off to the most thrilling adventure of our lives. I recall the drive, and how the entire way there, Melissa talked about things like ‘what if the parachute doesn’t open?’ and ‘I wonder if this is a mistake’.

The further we drove, the more freaked out I got, to the point that when we arrived at Skydive Burnaby, I was questioning whether I was actually going to jump.

We went in to the office and checked in and were then forced to sign what is the scariest waiver I have ever seen. After reading about a page of the 8 page document, I just stopped reading and initialed where required and signed my life away at the end.

From there, we went to training, which included a video on what to expect and training on body positioning during the jump.

Then we waited for our turn to come. Most of that time, I sat on a bench, silent, trying not to throw up.

Finally, they called our names over the intercom and it was go time. The walk out to the plane was so unnerving but not nearly as much as the plane ride up.  In a tiny Cesna, we rose at the rate of 1000 feet per minute and in just under 14 minutes, we had reached our jumping altitude.

I remember the sheer terror as my dive master Rick and I made our way to the edge of the plane. One, two, three and out we went.  I think for a moment, I stopped breathing as I looked down at the ground from 13,500 feet.  Free fall lasted approximately 50 seconds and I can honestly say that it was one of the scariest minutes of my life.

Once Rick pulled the chute, we coasted down to earth and landed and there was a deep sigh of relief. I had done it.  I had conquered my biggest fear.  And it was awesome and far exceeded my expectations of the experience.

So, this, my friends, was my proudest moment. The moment I decided to look fear in the eye and say, not anymore…

gold-star

I think we’ve all thought long and hard about our dream job. The job that never feels like work.  The one that leaves us fulfilled and satisfied and always excited to wake up in the morning.

For almost 2 decades, I’ve always said that my dream job would be to be the person who travels to different hotels and resorts in the world and decides how many ‘stars’ they should be given. That is still true today.

Travel is one of my greatest passions and to be able to make money traveling would be incredible.

So if you know of someone who can hook me up with that job, let me know

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