Melissa Battles Social Pressures to Be Her Best Self

As part of our Warrior Crush series, we reached out to Melissa after hearing about her story on Instagram. Like many twenty-somethings, she felt pressured to go out, sleep less, and have fun, even though it was making her illness worse. Like a true warrior, she turned everything around.

I always considered myself a healthy person. I like to eat salads, I exercise, and I’ve never been overweight. So I’m healthy, right? This was my mindset until last August. Even though I checked off all those boxes, I was sick from April 2016 to August 2017. That’s 16 months. I was also 22 and 23-years-old.

My early 20’s were NOT the best time of my life, despite what everyone else was telling me.

This all started when I had bronchitis in April 2016. I was 22 and living my life like your typical 22-year-old college student. I went out to bars and I rarely got enough sleep. Even after I was diagnosed with bronchitis, I continued that lifestyle. Big mistake.

Then came a sinus infection and then a double ear infection. I was coughing so bad at work that people were concerned. I cracked a rib from coughing so hard and I had never been in so much pain. It turned out I also had pneumonia. I wish it ended there. After a few trips to the ER, in June 2016 I found out I had inflamed liquids around my lung and heart which was causing intense pain. My parents made me come home (I was working in the Boston-area for the summer) and I forced myself to rest for 2 weeks. I could barely shower or get the mail without being in pain or losing my breath. This was the lowest point of my life smack dab in what was supposed to be the best part of my life.

After I finally recovered from that episode, I still had some congestion and coughing, but the doctors told me that can linger from pneumonia. So, I figured I was healthy since those symptoms were not as serious as before and the doctor said it was “normal.”  As a 23 year-old I hated being congested and coughing all the time when social pressures told me I was supposed to be “enjoying my 20s” like everyone else. So I continued to drink alcohol and eat whatever I wanted to cope and told myself it was MY way of “enjoying my 20s.” I also told myself that since I was sick, I couldn’t work out (another excuse). The truth was, I wasn’t happy with my health, my appearance, or how I felt. I thought there was nothing I could do about it. I told myself this was how things would always be.

From December 2016 to August 2017 I had at least 6 sinus infections, also defined as chronic sinusitis. I was miserable everyday. It was worse than a cold, but not as bad as the flu, so I still went about my daily life.

In August 2017 I had sinus surgery, and my initial reaction was “I can breathe again!!!” After I recovered from my surgery, I slowly became more active and remembered how much I loved exercising and the feeling I got after. I loved the feeling of NOT being sick. I’ve switched my attitude and now I’m focused on enjoying my life and taking care of my body.. because it f**king sucks when you’re sick.

So I started to pack healthier lunches at work and exercised more. But there were days I felt completely bloated, tired, or had headaches. I was curious as to what caused these minor discomforts. It was nothing like the congestion or illnesses I had before, but I wanted to know what my life would be like without my body holding me back so I did the Whole30 in June of 2018, and it has made me the best me I can be.

I found that gluten makes me bloated and upsets my GI system. I found that sugar does the same and gives me headaches. I found that dairy gives me congestion. And I found that alcohol makes unbelievably congested and also upsets my GI system.

I’m not cutting out any of those food groups entirely (I do try to avoid gluten as much as I can). It is nice to know I have control over how I feel. I can decide if some foods and  situations are worth the aftermath. Drinks with an old friend to catch up on our lives? Yeah I’ll be congested the next day, but worth it. Bagels in the break room at work when I’ve already eaten breakfast? Really not worth it.

I’m here to tell you to ENJOY your 20’s (or any age really!), but listen to your body and don’t listen to social pressures. This certainly can the best time of your life, so don’t waste it being sick by not taking care of yourself. Take care of yourself in a way that makes you happy. If you’re trying to avoid a food group because it doesn’t make you feel good, make sure what you are eating satisfies you. I avoid gluten but I try to find delicious recipes and brands that don’t make me resent how my body operates. Turns out, I actually prefer sweet potato buns to bread buns! If you’re trying to exercise more and be happy with your appearance, do workouts that make you feel GOOD. If you are miserable on the elliptical at the gym, find a way to move that makes you smile. I’ve found this by doing spin class. I get a rush during and after the class. Then, it feels like I’m working out because I want to, not because I have to. It doesn’t feel like a chore.

Now I’m “living my best life,” (words I used to say when drunk-eating buffalo chicken) meal-prepping foods that my body likes, and working out with a smile. This is the best me.

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