On the Outside Looking In
I came to this work from my own healing journey.
I spent my early teenage years until my early 30’s lacking love and confidence in myself. I was in a state of disempowerment, and I didn’t realize it and couldn’t even imagine that I had the ability and power to do something about it.
Several powerful key moments of my life were the catalysts of my healing transformation that helped me to turn it around. I went from living with chronic physical and emotional pain into living in pleasure and living a life aligned with my Divine Feminine embodiment.
Looking at me, one might say; but how could she have insecurities about her body and lack of confidence and self-love? According to societal standards, you can see that I’m blessed with a thin body and I have nice features. I grew up with two loving parents and two sisters. I graduated from the local University and was teaching art at the local high school. From the outside my life looked happy and normal. On the inside, I cursed my body for putting me through monthly menstrual pain. I struggled in silence for years. I believed that my period was dirty, shameful and something I needed to hide. This monthly pain in my body caused me to disconnect from it, myself and my femininity.
Also, I didn’t know what I was feeling emotionally, I was disassociated from myself and when I did understand my emotions I was afraid to express them. I perpetuated the disconnection by drowning myself in alcohol, numbing myself even more, and depending on it to keep up the façade of a life I was deeply unhappy in.
Also I was desperately looking to receive love and connection in partners who also did not love themselves. Those relationships caused me to put their needs first and to give and give until I was depleted and resentful. I continued that pattern of heartbreak and alcohol addiction until a routine PAP test was abnormal with cancerous cervical cells that scared me enough to open my eyes and begin to appreciate myself and my body a bit more.
Falling in Love with the World
In 2009 when I met my husband I was fully invested in making overall lifestyle, health and nutrition changes. Only six months after meeting, we got married, and I left my whole life and previous career as an art teacher, and moved to Athens, Greece. In the new environment and newfound love that actually met me in the love I gave and returned it, I got the opportunity to explore and discover myself, to heal my unhealthy associations with alcohol, to delve into finding my femininity, my confidence, and self-expression and reconnect with my body.
Discovering meditation to connect with my inner world and emotional body as well as artistic photography as a way to self-express were some of the key tools of transformation.
Although everything about the country was astounding, it was the water that I was most drawn to and inspired by artistically because of its ability to reflect emotions. As I began discovering and reconnecting to myself, I began to feel a strong connection to water because of its feminine qualities.
I grew interested in how our thoughts, feelings and emotions play a critical role in our physical well-being. Considering that our bodies are 80% water I dove into exploring that connected relationship of the inner self and nature, specifically the element of water, in a series of photographs titled “Sea In Yourself”.
By studying and examining water during “Sea In Yourself”, I learned by quieting my mind through meditation how to connect to my own feelings and emotions. I dove deeply into my own “reflection”, uncovering emotions that I previously felt I couldn’t access.
Although I found these tools that helped me connect to my femininity, emotions and spiritual self, I still had issues concerning my physical body.
Another pivotal moment was the day my husband and I accidently found ourselves on a nude beach. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone, right?! This experience put me on this lifelong path of cultivating self-love, acceptance and body positivity.
A flood of apprehension and shame arose when I got undressed. I had a decision in that moment that really changed my life; I could leave my clothes on out of fear and embarrassment or face the fear of being completely vulnerable without any clothes on. It was symbolic of my life-clothes became my masks, but being nude, I couldn’t hide, and was faced with the real me.
I realized that I deeply wanted what I observed from those nudists: comfort in my own skin, self-confidence, non-judgement, sincerity, presence, freedom, and empowerment. And because the nudity was innocent and natural, I understood that my body was not being objectified or sexualized, maybe for the first time.
Stripped from my many masks I could connect with my body authentically and begin to know and love it, and myself.
During that healing process with my body, I conceived the idea of The Unleashed Project. It was a 4-year journey photographing participants, in the nude, covered with self-applied body paint, to bring awareness and acceptance to body positivity and self-love. If you are inspired to reach an empowered state with your own body as did the 108 participants in the project, learn more here.
That four year chapter of my life helped to shift a few conditioned beliefs. That beauty is defined by how women look, act, dress, and express. That women compete, are jealous and over-independent to instead feel the healing power of women uniting and supporting each other.
Like A Virgin
I am grateful I had came such a long way in connecting and loving my body because it prepared me for what was coming next. At this point my menstrual pain was increasing in frequency and intensity as were the doctors visits.
I felt confused, angry and helpless towards my body while I searched for a diagnosis. Often times doctors dismissed my pain as just having a “bad period” when nothing was found from medical tests causing me to question what I felt in my own body. Enduring debilitating chronic pelvic pain was traumatic to my nervous system, emotionally stressing, mentally disrupting, and interfering in the intimacy with my husband.
After 24 years of menstrual pain, I was officially diagnosed with advanced stage 4 endometriosis. It is a disease that affects the uterine lining to grow outside the uterus and shed during menstruation within the pelvic cavity causing painful lesions, scar tissue, infertility and many other secondary symptoms. 1 in 10 women suffer from this incurable chronic condition and search on average of 7-10 years to get diagnosed. Please learn more here.
After a 6 hour surgery, I still had 6 months of recovery ahead of me. Since intercourse was not an option, intimacy became more of a challenge. The realization that my husband and I needed to cultivate our love in a new way lead us to tantra.
We hired private tantra coaches, went to tantra retreats for couples, and studied from books. By utilizing tantra practices I felt touched for the very first time, haha, like a virgin.
My body was waking up in a new and tantalizing way but I still felt like there was something more, so I started searching.
I realized I was still learning lessons through conditioned patterns of pain. When I decided to make a shift, I then found the work of Caffyn Jesse who promotes “Pleasure on Purpose”. My whole body tingled with resonance as I watched her videos supporting bodies finding health and wholeness through Sexological Bodywork. I was in awe and aspired to live in pleasure! In that moment I enrolled at The Institute For The Study of Somatic Sex Education and began learning and embodying the work facilitated by her, Corrine Diachuck, and other mentors.
Applying the sexological bodywork practices in my own life brought complete transformation to loving my body, interconnectedness, self-expression including sexual expression, true intimacy with myself and relating with others, conscious communication, pleasure on purpose and so much more.
I felt like I was a butterfly finally feeling safe enough in my body to break out of the cocoon and use her wings to fly. I learned the power of my emotions, to feel them is to heal the body, the body is a vessel of wisdom and how to listen to it and apply it. I gained agency in my body. I understood I am a sexual being and my expression is welcomed and shameless. I brought hidden parts of myself out of hiding in the shadows. I learned how to set boundaries and what consent feels like in my body.
All my life circumstances that led me here where now being healed on a deep somatic level.
Once I was trained and certified in this trauma-informed, one-way touch, equipt with all the tools and techniques to support women in their own embodiment, I began weaving my own personal touch into my 1 to 1sessions, events and workshops.
That personal touch is the sacredness and sweetness of the teachings of the Ancient Greek meaning of my name, Melissae, meaning bee priestess, that guides and inspires my work.
As my life’s path and purpose have been revealed to me, I realized the secret codes and ways of the Melissae have been there with me all the way.