Growing up I always loved theme parks – especially roller coasters. As I’ve gotten older though, they slowly started to become less and less appealing. Shouldn’t that work the other way around?
Not when you LIVE a roller coaster. Although that statement is applicable to so many areas of my life, where it is most obvious to me currently, as I reflect on some of the earlier years of my young life, is in school.
I LOVE school right now! Michigan is my dream school and being here has been even better than I had ever imagined. The teachers are wonderfully talented and inspiring. My peers and class mates are kind and supportive while being driven and focused. Ann Arbor, in general, is a beautiful city to live in and I’ve met some absolutely stunning people outside of the school environment who have made living life significantly more enjoyable. Roller Coaster? What roller coaster?
From the time I was born, all the way through the third grade I LOVED school. I always had fun and looked forward to going each day – summer got boring and snow days were a disappointment. Through 4th and 5th grade the upward roller coaster took a small dip – girls started changing (both physically and emotionally) and boys started noticing these changes. Recess drama and school buss bullying ensued.
However, it didn’t last long because I went to a middle school which had a focus on the arts and I absolutely THRIVED there! I was in my element – orchestra, show choir, musical theater, morning news shows, lots of music, lots of friends, and I could go on and on. In 7th grade when my world at home slowly began to crumble and break apart, school was my safe place.
Sadly, that all changed in high school. I was thrown into a dog eat dog world – an ocean of all the girls and boys I had previously attended elementary school with, their friends, and very few of my close confidants from middle school. Add in my classmates increased interests in alcohol, drugs, and sex and I was (or at least, I felt) remarkably alone. “Mean Girls” was no longer a humorous movie to watch on Saturday night – it was my life 7am to 4pm every singly weekday. I had friends – but the friendships only went but so deep. There are actually only 2 girls from my high school who I still keep in touch with and still see occasionally.
School wasn’t safe anymore. And due to the circumstances being what they were at home, home wasn’t safe either. I focused on dieting and exercising to help control stress and depression. Cue the yo-yo weight trend. Insert worsening depression and all the lovely things which accompany it. I loved God, but I was angry because I didn’t think that He (or anyone else, for that matter) could love me.
After the hell that was my 4 years of high school was FINALLY over, I thought that I was free. I went to a Conservatory thinking I had left all my issues – high school, family, depression – behind me.
I was wrong. I was so, so VERY wrong. I absolutely HATED being at this Conservatory – even worse than high school. The people and students there were so nice but I didn’t feel challenged musically. Everyone drank on the weekends and lots of people smoked. It felt like it was all about the party-ing. At the time I was in a relationship which, although was great when it started out, became very controlling and unhealthy. Not to mention, the things at home that I thought I could run from just by moving 3 hours away weren’t lessening at all and were still very much a part of my every day life. Depression and anxiety increased to the point where they were out of control. I was crumbling under the weight of my own world. God felt so distant. In order to control the depression and anxiety symptoms I began running at least 6 miles a day, often times as many as 10. But it never felt like enough. Hence the start of the extreme dieting and self inflicted harm.
I literally hated myself. And I felt like I had to hide all the pain I was feeling. The performances didn’t begin and end on the stage or when my violin came out of it’s case…my entire life, every single aspect of it, was a performance.
At this point in my life I was riding the most intense, painful roller coaster – and riding it without a seat belt, barely able to cling on for my life. I couldn’t hide my struggles forever and eventually bits and pieces began to surface.
Most of you know the rest of the story – the downfall into severe anorexia, taking time off from school, being hospitalized and put into treatment, etc etc.
I’m still on a roller coaster – we all are. However, through my struggles I discovered the best seat belt possible – raised in a Christian church and family, I finally made my relationship with Christ personal and took it as my very own. And because I have this unbreakable, unfailable seat belt I can take the twists, turns, and flips of ANY roller coaster.
Not to fear – I am unbelievably happier right now than at ANY previous time in my life. Life isn’t necessarily any easier than before – I still struggle with food some days, depression and anxiety are present but, for the most part, very well managed, and my family? Well, they’re still the same as they were before. Gotta love ’em, for better or for worse!
My surroundings have changed dramatically, yes. And they are SO much healhtier than before. Struggles are still present. But what’s changed the most is my heart. My heart is protected. God is my seat belt. I can ride the roller coaster with my hands thrown high up in the air. I can enjoy the highs and still manage to find peace even in the lows, twists, and turns.
Life is good! God is Great!
“Life’s a roller coaster. Best damn ride in the park. You don’t close your eyes, hold on and wait for it to be over, babe. You keep your eyes open, lift your hands straight up in the air and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.”
― Kristen Ashley
“All the bruises, all the wounds, all the bumps on the head, all the scars, just so I can take that and I can write all these things, and sometimes I say “God, I don’t want to be in this roller coaster anymore.” But when I think about it, if I’m not right here, then where the hell would I be? On the sidewalk? I wasn’t born to stand on the sidewalk, I was born to fly around crazy in the sky!”
― C. JoyBell C.
This is my truth. And I am not ashamed.