Melina is just Melina, there are a million adjectives we could use to describe her, but that may compromise her essence. And we think that is what speaking to Milena was really all about. The raw, enigmatic, candid essence she reverberates.
She is an invisible illness advocate and speaks freely about Endometriosis, Neuropathy and Ehlers Danlos. She’s not shy to share how painful sex can be or how much it hurts to bleed and not to bleed with endometriosis.
Her message is raw. Not that it is unpolished like a diamond in the rough. No. To compare her to a diamond would do no justice. She is a unique soul, much like the Paraiba Tourmaline, only found in Brazil, coincidentally, Milena’s home country, and rare due to its unique bright and striking, turquoise hue.
The discovery of this stone is quite interesting since it resonates with how Milena eventually came to discover and manage her Endometriosis pain, and finally get the diagnoses of her other chronic illnesses. Getting a diagnosis gives you validation, but for Milena, it was more about taking her health into her own hands and fighting for that diagnosis to empower herself to manage her pain effectively.
As rare as the Paraiba Tourmaline
To understand her story, let us tell you a little bit about this striking stone. Thirty years ago, in 1987, a miner, Heitor Dimas Barbosa, believed there was much more that lurked beneath the enigmatic hills of the Brazilian State, Paraiba. Similar to this miner, Milena knew from a young age that there was more to her pain than “it’s just normal,” the phrase repetitively said to her by OB-GYN’s.
Every time Milena left a doctor’s office with more questions than answers, it only fueled her journey to discover what was truly behind her pain. Similarly, Barbosa kept digging away under the Paraiba Hills until he discovered the strikingly beautiful Tourmaline, with colors unlike any other tourmalines out there.
Milena’s first discovery
Milena may have discovered her endometriosis at a much younger age, were it not for birth control. The first year she had her period, she only had it three times, the following year, the bleeding didn’t stop, at which point she went onto birth control. Ironically, the birth control allowed her to lead a ‘normal’ life for a few years, not experiencing the endo pain that revealed itself later in her life.
“I probably went for six to seven years without having a period, and it was the most wonderful seven years of my life.” She shares about a time she didn’t experience the endometriosis pain, however, mentally, it affected her and she “felt like a boy.”
When discussing typical endometriosis pain, such as the cramps, back, and ovary pain, she mentions that she has discussed this with her doctors “all her life.” A question she has asked repetitively is “why does it hurt,” to which she never got concrete answers.
Milena shares the painful truth about having sex while having endometriosis and how excruciatingly painful sex was before discovering Pelvic Physical Therapy. She used to ask OB-GYN after OB-GYN why she bled after sex, and the answers would range from, “Oh, it’s normal” to “every girl goes through that.”
“No, that’s not normal!”
And Milena didn’t accept that. She kept on digging to find her truth. Her discovery. Eventually, she found a gynecologist specializing in Endometriosis, and upon doing an ultrasound, they discovered what was conveyed to her as only a “mass.”
Without much answers or clarity from her doctors, Milena underwent surgery to remove the mass, however, soon the pain returned. She also went through chemical menopause, which left her in a state which she can only describe as “not myself” for about six months.
“It was literally torture; I felt like I was going insane… I would just sit in the bath tub and cry from depression…”
Yet, the endometrial tissue kept growing back, and her OB-GYN was out of answers. This led her to her chronic pain management doctor who she still sees weekly. And like Barbosa, Milena kept digging, until she found the medical practitioners and teams that work with her and listen to her.
Fibromyalgia & Neuropathy
Milena experienced the pain of upper-body fibromyalgia she is diagnosed with today, at the early age of thirteen. Fibromyalgia is a deeply misunderstood chronic disorder. For years it was seen as a ‘mental’ disorder, and it’s common for sufferers to hear the phrase “it’s all in your head.”
Reading medical journals and articles, it will tell you that this condition is more common in adults and that as well as the stigma surrounding it, is likely why so many children, just like the thirteen-year-old Milena, go undiagnosed for years while living in pain.
“People tried to make me feel like it was all my head; like I was lazy and didn’t want to work. That I had a low pain threshold, when in fact I have a high pain threshold, that’s the reason I have a lot of these injuries, because I push myself past the point, because I am so used to tolerating pain.”
It wasn’t until Milena’s doctors really focused on her endometriosis issues, that the fibromyalgia finally came to light. Practicing yoga has been a method of managing her fibro pain similar to her birth control, and might be why she hasn’t always felt the pain as intense in recent years as she would’ve normally.
While undergoing the induced menopause treatment, Milena started feeling an almost indescribable, deep agonizing pain in her bones which was at first dismissed by her doctor as something she may have read online and she was “now imagining the pain” as only a mental feeling as a side effect of the treatment.
It wasn’t. It was Neuropathy. This pain didn’t end with the 6-month chemical menopause, and she still deals with neuropathy pain continuously.
Yoga as her healer
Milena started doing yoga as a constructive outlet to cope with various mental illnesses. Besides having positive physical benefits, yoga was improving her mental strength and mindfulness.
However, her journey may not have necessarily always included the right teachers, and sometimes that meant being pushed beyond her physical limitations.
“It’s either gonna completely heal you and help you, or it’s gonna injure you.”
Today, as a Yoga Teacher herself, she speaks about her passion and how she ensures to never push her students beyond their individual limits and capabilities.
“I think the most important thing as a teacher is to make sure my students are never injuring themselves or sacrificing their bodies.”
With all she is doing, it ‘s hard to imagine how she can fit more into her schedule. Instructing classes, maintaining an honest and inspiring Instagram account and having already completed a 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training, as well as various other Teacher Training programs and workshops, Milena keeps herself busy.
However, in a little more than a week, she is traveling to Costa Rica to further educate and empower herself on her Yoga Teacher Training Journey with a 300-hour program, and we cannot wait to see the how she will integrate this program into her journey!
Milena openly shares that she is a yogi that uses prescription medication. She sticks to her routine and ensures to take her medication on time every day.
“Self-care is something I advocate to everybody, and I think it is when we stop paying attention to how much we are caring about our own body, especially as a chronic pain person, we get into the deepest cycle of our pain because we haven’t been giving our body what it needs. Even if it is just a little bit of attention.”
Milena has been using the CBD Infused Gel since she discovered Blue Ridge Hemp in January to manage some of the pain associated with endometriosis, such as the lower back pain. “When it’s your back, you lose mobility.”
“If you are having a bad cramp day, just put it [the CBD Infused transdermal patches] on the low[er] abdomen area, almost on the bladder, depending on which side hurts more and then I would say using the Calm & Relax Roll-On would really help, because I think we get so much of our pain because we start psyching ourselves up and we get in even worse pain because we are stressed out about pain.”
She also swears by the CBD Infused Gel for the neuropathy pain that starts in her legs and spreads to her feet and hips; her partner applies the Gel to her legs every night, which numbs her pain enough to help her fall asleep. Something that has been a dramatic, positive change to her pain management routine!
“I use everything!”
You determine your journey
Milena getting diagnosed with endometriosis, fibromyalgia and discovering neuropathy may not have been physically beautiful discoveries such as Barbosa’s discovery. However, it has shaped her journey and added to the powerful, ‘go-get-it’ vibe she exudes, and that IS beautiful, just like the electric bright blue and green glow of Barbosa’s Paraiba Tourmaline.
“Living with chronic pain, you either battle through it or you surrender to it, and you kind of lose yourself in it.”
When asked what the best advice is she would give us, or any pain or chronic pain sufferers out there, she answers without hesitation, “to keep moving.”
Milena is an empowered individual, and there is no changing that. Speaking about the ‘Spoonie’ concept, her bravery to face her invisible illnesses shines through. Milena determines her day, not her spoons. She is her own woman and has battled through her chronic pain to be able to share her wisdom with us.
And if you really want to know Milena, then know this: “I don’t need your cure, I need your support.”