Melissa Porter, PsyD – Mind Shark
Professionally, I am a licensed psychologist who works in the field of crisis intervention. My team helps individuals find a reason to fight today, to make sure they have a tomorrow. I teach at several colleges, provide mental health sensitivity training to the State Police recruits in New York and serve on an institutional research board to ensure ethical treatment in psychological research.
But just like the rest of the 1DOS team, there’s a bigger story to tell…
I grew up in an Albany, NY suburb, and was an active child. I was a tomboy, playing softball all through my elementary, middle and high school years. In high school, I tried out for the JV cheerleading team as a joke and… joke was on me, because I was accepted on the team and loved every second of it! By my teenage years, I was no longer stick-thin, but would never have been called overweight. I grew into curves and wouldn’t say that I had any specific “body-image” challenges. I gained some weight in college (as all fans of beer and parties do), but had enough of a buffer that it didn’t significantly impact my activity or health. However, I wasn’t very active in college. Looking back, I thought I was, because I would go to the gym and was on a recreational basketball team. But I don’t think I ever moved enough to sweat– so I can’t imagine I was doing much good for myself, and I wish I had taken full advantage of my 20’s, given my later-found love of running and circuit training.
While I don’t think anyone would have ever called me “fat,” I was never quite happy with my weight or body. I always saw areas for improvement. I was self-critical, and it would impact my self-image and self-worth, but never enough to make a drastic lifestyle change. I was certainly too fond of alcohol and party-food until I was about 25, although I was also in school studying psychology, which created a bit of a contradiction in my lifestyle: physically neglectful but committed to my emotional needs.
During my grad school years, I moved to Boston and got married. And then very quickly afterwards, divorced. I was living with my ex-husband for financial and logistical reasons, as I had just a few months left of grad school and would be returning home to Albany, NY. Those were several of the toughest months for me, as I was not doing well emotionally and lost a dramatic amount of weight. For a 2-3 year period, my weight fluctuations reflected my level of stress around school, divorce, move and family struggles, until I returned home to the Albany, NY area. I let go of external expectations and returned to a previous relationship with my college boyfriend, who is now my husband and father of my almost-5 year old daughter.
Over the past several years, since the birth of my daughter (November 2012), I have become more involved in my physical and spiritual wellness. I returned to my Christian faith, finding a new faith community which more closely aligned with my beliefs and goals. I moved into a professional role that allowed me greater flexibility and time with my family. I became more involved in mindfulness and meditation. I joined a gym, started running more regularly. I set my first goal: run a half marathon before the end of my 20s. I accomplished this 3 weeks before my 30th birthday, in May 2014.
I was more active than I had ever been in my life, but was gaining weight rather than losing it. I gained 20-30 pounds in a year, and my primary care physician was not concerned or alert to the changes. I was fighting to move in the right direction, but then was dealt a devastating blow: fertility issues and a failing thyroid.
I am here because I have experienced firsthand the need to care for both mind and body. I have discovered how a failing body can contribute to depression, anxiety, fear, and rage. I have questioned my faith, and felt betrayed by my God and my body. And, as I work my way through, I remind myself each day that I am in control. I am not weak, I am strong. I am stronger than infertility and a thyroid won’t keep me down. I have run two half marathons, and 3 Ragnar relay races. I have improved my endurance and speed when running, and with the addition of Orange Theory Fitness, I also feel stronger than I ever had.
As we join forces on the journey ahead, you can expect me to share my story and my resources to help you all learn more about how your feelings, thoughts, doubts, past experiences continue to shape your health and wellness. I am here to help you use physical strength and wellness to care for yourself emotionally; I am here to help you use mental wellness to combat physical ailments and limitations.