Rising up from the ashes...
Melody studied leadership development and communications in college and was a presenter in Washington DC. She traveled around the US presenting leadership conferences teaching thousands of high school students. She has also presented and led other health and wellness presentations for over 8 years of all ages and group sizes and has taught health and fitness for over 14 years. She is passionate about teaching meditation, health and wellness in a way that leads to true health, healing, self love and kindness. Mel loves and cares about individuals of all ages, backgrounds and cultures and because of the dark days she’s experienced regarding her own mental health journey; she wants to shine a light of hope to anyone who might be currently struggling.
Here's her story in her own words: "I think I've always had ups and downs (like anyone) and have dealt with the residual emotional trauma from sexual abuse when I was younger, but the crippling dark days began a couple years after our fourth child was born. It started with intense physical pain that would come and go. Around that time, we went through a difficult move and the depression hit hard. When we bought our first house, a large, overwhelming fixer upper, I had my first major panic attack and anxiety was something I became all too familiar with. A doctor put me on an anti-depressant to help, and initially, it did help but I also started having racing, uncontrollable, suicidal thoughts that seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was crippling and terrifying; I felt haunted and questioned my sanity. I had unwanted side effects from the medication like low energy and weight gain so I went on and off another couple medications. In the midst of that, I finally opened up to my husband Tom about the suicidal thoughts. Interestingly enough, they would also come and go in cycles. A few days each month, I was extremely depressed, anxious, suicidal and struggling. In the midst of the struggle, I finally learned about PMDD, Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is an extreme form of PMS and realized why the cyclical symptoms were occurring. When we unexpectedly got pregnant with baby #5 the symptoms went away until 3 months after he was born. During the spring/summer of 2019, we put our remodeled house up for sale and planned a move to Arizona. I decided to try going on Zoloft because it is a common treatment option for PMDD and I also thought it would help with the stress of the move. Initially, I felt better but within 2-3 months, the intrusive thoughts went from cyclical to constant and more mild to extreme and violent and I started waking up to them. I reached out to doctors for help and was told I should increase the dosage, that it was in my head and that it was my lack of belief that the medication didn't work. After it took a drastic, life threatening turn for the worse, I knew the medication was dangerous for me and I slowly and painstakingly weaned myself off. I felt so much better but unfortunately the suicidal thoughts didn't go away completely. I learned during a visit with a neurologist NP, after doing blood work and genetics testing that my body doesn't metabolize the chemicals in
Don’t worry, I’m not on that (or any) med anymore, but I didn’t realize it was the initial chemical cause of the thoughts until I went on a different antidepressant 2 years ago, Zoloft (thinking it would help my cyclical symptoms and ease the stress and anxiety of the upcoming move to Arizona). Initially, I felt better and was relieved, but after a couple months the thoughts got more and more frequent and violent and I started waking up to them. I reached out to doctors for assistance only to be told 'to take a higher dose, it was all in my head, and that it was my lack of belief that caused the problem'. After one of the scariest moments of my life where these thoughts told me to do scary and specific things. I closed my eyes tight with tears and tried to pray them away and it then happened a second time. Stronger and more terrifying. I don’t remember what happened next, but I took a nap. I took long daily naps to find escape from the thoughts—thankfully, my husband was home trying to find a job and care for me, his wife who was emotionally/mentally falling apart. When I woke from the nap, I told Tom that it was the medicine and that I had to get off of it. It took long, hard weeks and weeks to get off but when I did, I felt so much better.
Unfortunately, they haven’t gone away completely (yet) but this last year, thanks to a divine, coincidental run in to a friend, when I discovered she was in school getting her masters in trauma informed therapy, I’ve begun a deeper learning and understanding of the sometimes severe impact of trauma. My husband and I started couples therapy, read The Body Keeps the Score (and between the two of us around 100 other books about health and healing), declared this to be my Year of Yoga (I’m on class #73), started EMDR with an amazing psychologist. EMDR is brutally hard, emotional, painful work but it’s slowly helping me heal (combined with many other modalities including meditation, tapping, nutrition, nature, exercise, supplements especially weekly b12 injections, self care, boundaries). I also visited with a neurologist last fall and discovered through genetic testing that my body doesn’t metabolize the chemicals in antidepressants, birth control and opioids and if I take them, initially I might feel better but then it will build up in my system and make me susceptible to all the side effects and risks. That was extremely enlightening, grace fueling and fascinating. I completely believe that medication is absolutely necessary and lifesaving for some and causes more harm and sadly death for others.
The last 6 months, with unexpectedly having to move again and leave a neighborhood we fell in love with, the stress and the emotional triggers took a turn for the worse and the thoughts kept persistently popping up at the worse times with new, scary ideas about how and why I should make my exit. The flare ups (negative emotional responses to painful triggers) are getting shorter and less severe and some huge understandings about the origin of the trauma and the deeply embedded pain and belief it has created has been discovered and is being addressed and healed. I’ve learned so much about trauma, relationships and their emotional impact and healing and I’m so extremely grateful to be around and open up about this with you.
Through this experience, I've gained so much empathy and concern for others experiencing mental illness, MECKA was born. I've felt inspired by a power greater than myself to open up about my struggles, to push through the hard days and start MECKA. I want to help end the stigma and shame felt and associated with struggling in any way. We all have our struggles and that can be something that can connect us and bring us together for the greater good and betterment of our world. When I hear of another life lost to mental illness; my heart breaks. I'm on a mission to spread the message of hope even during the darkest days far and wide. MECKA is a program designed to give tools and a community of love and power to overcome these hard times.