The Laugh Always Spotlight Edition features guest posts from members of the Laugh Always Ambassador Community. Laugh Always has been created to highlight those difficult journeys and to celebrate the badass people that live to share their journey. This is the first edition of the Laugh Always Spotlight!
I want to introduce you to Melissa. Melissa has become one of our first ambassadors and we have been getting to know each other ever since! Little did we know, we are pretty close in distance and in age to one another. It has been great connecting with her so far and I only want to continue to get to know her and learn more about the battle she is facing.
She is VERY creative and her art work is on point. Only by scrolling through her Instagram will you quickly decide this also for yourself. She creates bullet journals and they are amazing!
Melissa has been battling Ulcerative Colitis and Celiac Disease. I personally know a few people in my life who have had a battle with this, and while I don’t know a lot about the disease, I do know it is a difficult journey; especially on the bad days. Please read on for Melissa’s story!
Lord knows I have seen some bad days but thankfully the good days are starting to outweigh the bad! When Lo asked me to guest post on her blog as a part of my ambassador role, I was excited! It has been awesome being a Laugh Always Ambassador as I get to share positivity with others as we travel through our different journeys.
Let me tell you all a little bit about myself. My name is Melissa and I’m 29 years old (the big 30 is only six months away! Lol). I recently got married in May to the love of my life and my biggest support. If it wasn’t for my husband, I don’t know how I would’ve survived my biggest flare up this past year. Also, I’m a Midwest girl. I was born and raised in Chicago then moved to Indiana after college. For my “real life” job, I am a social worker and I enjoy bullet journaling and being creative when it comes to my self care.
My journey with chronic illness started around four years ago when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and Celiacs disease. At the time, I was having some symptoms but nothing that couldn’t be patched up with some medication and a change to my diet. However, that all changed two years ago when my symptoms reared back their ugly head and showed their true selves. For anyone who doesn’t know what Ulcerative Colitis is, it is when the colon becomes inflamed and the body cannot absorb appropriate nutrients. Not only do people affected by Ulcerative Colitis experience malnutrition during a flare, but they also experience multiple trips to the bathroom, the inability to hold their bowels, joint pain, abdominal pain, and the list of physical symptoms go on and on. Emotionally, people affected with UC experience depression, isolation, and anxiety. Today, my colon is back on track of being healthier and happier thanks to oral and IV medications. I still have some bad days but thankfully the good days are starting to outweigh the bad.
One of the best things about my journey is that I recognize how strong I have become over the past year. If it wasn’t for the bad times, I wouldn’t have grown as I have. Not to mention I wouldn’t be as positive as I am today due to what I have experienced. I’ve learned to enjoy the good days more throughout my journey.
It was great having this opportunity and I certainly hope to get to know you all better! Please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or my blog if you have any questions or just want to connect! Thanks for reading 😊
To connect with Melissa and to find out more about her, you can find her on Instagram @these.thoughts.are.mine and her blog is thesethoughtsareminesite.wordpress.com
Thank you for coming to Laugh Always and reading about Melissa’s journey. If you have a journey you would like to share in an upcoming Spotlight Edition, please feel free to contact me through the site here. You can also connect on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with Laugh Always. We would love to add you to our Ambassador group!
Have you heard of “mindfulness”? Do you know what it means? I didn’t quite know what this fully meant until this year. Mindfulness is being present in the moment, and being conscious and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts.
I am a beginner yogi – yogi in training if you will. I have been since 2014 where I will randomly take classes with my friends at local studios. Over the past year, I have been more consistent in my yoga practice, where I have had spurts of consistently attending classes and then even practicing at home. I am not flexible by any means where my entire life I probably haven’t stretched. I never was into gymnastics, still can’t do a cartwheel, and only recently can I touch my fingers to my toe (standing up only!). I played softball and basketball my whole life and in these sports, it did not require flexibility.
I tried yoga for my first time by doing a hot yoga class with one of my friends. She was going pretty regularly and her friend was running the class. I caught on pretty quickly with the poses and the flow of it all. I ended up really liking it! For me, it started out to be more of just another way to workout. It was during a time where I was trying out a bunch of different workout classes. I did classes sporadically until about a year and a half ago, where I really wanted to start incorporating yoga into my work out practice. From reading all of the health benefits, physically and mentally, I wanted to try this out even more. I was very unhappy with my weight that I had put on, and because I run a lot, I thought this would also help me stretch out my body too.
I ended up developing a piriformis muscle issue, and it was hard to bend and hard to sit in an office for eight hours a day. In case you don’t know what it is, here it is blow. It is deep, deep within your glute. Very hard to massage and most times, stretching is how to get rid of it. I had lots of lower back pain and tight muscles in my leg.
By taking yoga consistently for 5 weeks in a row, this issue has completely disappeared. The stretching and the development of these muscles made a world of difference.
This year, I set out to become more mindful. There are various ways that one can practice mindfulness. Most importantly, I wanted to take care of my body and myself because I have spent the last few years with struggling to lose weight and that has created some pretty negative feelings inside of me. I needed to take a step back and realize what my body has gotten me through, and becoming more mindful of myself and self-love will help me conquer my negative thoughts.
Yoga, to me is something that I always go back to. I am not consistent, but I want to be. Every time I take part in a yoga session, whether it is with my friends in a class or at home by myself, I immediately have my mood turn around. If you are stressed, sad, upset, mad, or have any sort of negative feelings, yoga is a game changer. There are amazing health benefits, both physically and mentally.
Last week, I started a yoga challenge for myself and for several others to do 31 days of yoga in a row. This is also meant to practice mindfulness and finally just to love yourself even more than you already do. Yoga and being more “mindful” go together. Both are about being present in the moment. The practice of yoga is being self aware and aware of how your body feels. I want to continue this practice and be more consistent within myself with not only yoga, but with being more mindful as well.
I challenge you to become more mindful within yourself. With everything you do during the day, be present in that moment. Do you drink coffee in the morning? Take that first sip and focus on the smell, the taste and how it makes you feel. When you go outside, notice nature. Notice the smell of the air, the wind or the warmth of the sun. We are so busy these days, that we are always thinking of the next task on our list. Most of us are hardly present mentally in our lives where we are always trying to get our task lists done quickly. We need to make time for our mental health, and focus on being present. Keeping a journal of one positive thing each day will also help as well.
If yoga is something that you don’t believe to be your thing, I would love for you to practice mindfulness. Not only has yoga helped me overcome stress and sadness, but it has helped with so many ailments with my muscles so if you haven’t tried it yet, I also encourage you to do so. If you want to join my ongoing yoga and mindful challenge, I would love to have you a part of it too! You can join the group here.
Until next time – thank you for reading!
Health and fitness has quickly became a forefront in my life. While I have always been active, I used to be one of those lucky girls who could eat and eat and eat and not gain a single pound. Maybe I was unhappy with my weight one day and decided I wanted to lose a couple of pounds, so I could focus on healthy eating and immediately drop weight the following day. Yea – that would be awesome if it stayed like that forever right?!
From high school until I was diagnosed with cancer, I was a consistent weight. I never swayed, never gained weight and barely went to the gym (I had a gym membership though, that counts right?). I did not watch what I ate (I mean my first job was at McDonald’s!) and I was not a water drinker by any means. Being in my early twenties, I went out to bars and drank every weekend. Looking back now, you can say I had a great metabolism!
Fast forward to being 26 and post chemotherapy and radiation and a bunch of other nonsense, my thyroid finally stopped working on me. While at first, it seemed that I couldn’t gain weight fast enough. I had lost a considerable amount of weight during my second bout with cancer, and had dropped to my lowest pant size since MIDDLE SCHOOL. Six months post treatment I was able to start putting weight back on and I started to work out more. After treatment, I started running more on the regular and tried spin classes for the first time as well as other group classes. I also started doing yoga. I finally had a mindset that “Hey, you know what? I should start treating my body with some love. It has brought me this far that I need to give it some love back.” Sure, I had the workout focus, but I was still eating whatever I wanted.
They say that when you are in a happy and healthy relationship, you tend to gain some weight as well. My husband and I met around this time and as we were both very active, we went out to eat a lot and drank a lot on the weekends. While we ran together, went to the gym together, and wanted to lose weight together; our food was just not cutting it. This became a vicious cycle for me, and rather than losing weight due to working out, I continued to gain weight and became the heaviest I have ever been.
A part of this was not my crazy eating and drinking. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism as a result of the radiation I received during my first bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This went unnoticed for a year until I finally brought something up to my oncologist. My thyroid was very under active. I felt as if when I did focus on my eating, my weight just wouldn’t come off, no matter how hard I worked at it. Again, with the vicious cycle, I would get upset and get down on myself and eat comfort food to satisfy my mood.
My thyroid today is somewhat regulated. As of January 2017, I was at my heaviest weight and I felt that I had finally hit my “rock bottom”. While I worked my butt off working out 7 days a week, I was undoing every little thing by eating whatever I wanted during the weekends, including alcohol. My husband and I finally took a hard look at what needed to be fixed and decided to go at this together.
Over the course of five months, I lost twenty pounds and my husband dropped thirty pounds. While we still aren’t at the lowest we desired, we learned to love the process and appreciate our bodies in between. We tracked our calories, tracked every meal and were consistent with our workouts. We were each other’s support system and made time for treats along the way!
I look back on pictures of myself previous to having cancer and I see a young girl who was very thin. I remember at that age thinking I was NOT skinny, and that I wanted to lose weight. I ate whatever I wanted and drank whatever I wanted. I have learned through this process that I cannot focus on past pictures. I will never be a size two again, and that is okay! Looking at pictures of myself as a size two makes me feel like my bones are sticking out of my body. There are so many pictures out there that show people looking thinner by GAINING weight. The number on the scale is simply that, a number. It is all about how you FEEL and how clothes fit you. Of course I wish I could still eat whatever I wanted, but as I grow older I know that can’t always be the case. My body has been through a lot and I need to focus on prolonging my life. Eating healthy and working out is learning to love yourself.
You may not be thin, skinny, fit, or where you want to be right now but know that you have to love yourself to get to where you want to be. There is always time for eating bad food (I am obsessed with chicken wings) but learn to give that to yourself in moderation. I love wine and beer, but I don’t drink these every day. Stop comparing yourself to pictures of other people in magazines or social media. Start using your pictures of yourself! Take comparisons of yourself. Only compete with yourself. Learn to love the process – I promise that you will learn a lot about yourself.
Thank you for reading <3
I am looking to start a Laugh Always Ambassador community! If you want to join a group of like minded individuals to help spread love and motivation to those who need it or if you have a story to share of your own personal triumph, please join us here!