I do believe that “God can make straight your crooked lines”… I am tempted to worry about judgement from the outside world-like anyone else, but I’m more scared of someone wilting away in the lie that they are alone or doomed for a life of despair. So I share my life in hopes of reaching someone where they’re at. And if my story of fumbling for joy leads them to the Healer… Glory to God!
The reason I changed my blog name to “Fumbling For Joy” is because it sounds more true to my life than “The Bridge to Joy” 😉 and my own personal growth wasn’t a quick or easy transition. It wasn’t always pretty or graceful and some days I fell on my face. I searched for happiness in all the wrong places which, pretty much, makes me an expert in screwing up. Or something like that.
Most of my teen years I had this cloud over me. It hazed the way I looked at the world and my circumstances. While internally sad, I was good at appearing happy (in therapy it’s called pushing your emotional button.) Yet, I felt like I was waiting for something really bad to happen. I worried excessively about everything. I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when, this alleged bad thing was going to happen to someone I loved. Or to me.
Junior year I went to this amazing Christian retreat where at the end I made a public vow to respect and love myself in front of a whole room of teenagers. After the weekend I came back to horrendously stressful teenage drama at school. I forgot instantly the amazing faith filled experience I had just encountered, and back I was, in the pits. Devil-1, Spring-0. I figured that happiness and healing were for others and I was doomed for this reality of heartbreak; that all I had experienced on my retreat wasn’t real.
By junior or senior year I had convinced my parents that I was truly depressed and that I should be medicated. I was hurting myself with the choices I made. I was continuously feeling hopeless and empty. I was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 17. I could barely get out of bed and I believed I should be punished for my existence. I was in hell and I didn’t care what happened to me.
I heard through the grapevine that there was a magic pill that would make the clouds go away. One of my friends took said medication. I tried a couple different versions of these happy pills, but all my troubles went unchanged. All it did was make me even more drained than I already was. I’d come home from school some days and lay down by the front door and crash. I could nap anywhere. My lifestyle didn’t help with any of that. I was a night owl with a sugary caffeine addiction. I was an extrovert who went out every weekend and most week nights. I did not want to miss out on a thing… Whatever I could do to escape the “blah” I did. I hated to be alone unless I was sleeping. Sleep became a powerful way to just shut off life for a while. Things just felt so heavy…all the time.
I thought about doing choir, but the long gowns and churchy sound completely bored me to tears. My parents tried to talk me into swing choir like my older sister Leah, but singing and dancing did not fit in with my vibe I had going on. And the possibility of not being picked or being good enough crushed me and I had no courage to take that chance.
In art, there was no right or wrong, it was just my perspective. It was therapeutic and took me to my peace. I let my parents know that I wanted to attend art school for college and they were trying to figure out how to make that work for me. No one in my family had gone to college but they all paved their own paths in spite of that. It was going to be a financial pain for my parents to send me and we were trying to qualify for grants or student loans. My creativity was all I felt I had. Having to take prerequisite classes seemed like a huge waste of time to me. I wanted to spend my life doing what I was passionate about and only that. A technical school seemed the perfect for me. Get in, get out.
On a Sunday afternoon in the winter of my senior year, my friend Lacy and I were driving on our way to the library to work on a school project. She drove a cute jeep wrangler and I sat side ways in shotgun talking to her about the events of the night before. We were laughing and chit chatting while about to pass through an intersection. The light turned yellow and I recall my reality in slow motion as the white truck turned in front of us. My thoughts were: “It’s icy out; we may flip over” and “I’m not wearing my seatbelt”. And maybe a four letter word. I saw Lacy slam on her breaks (or shift down?) and before I knew it life sped back to normal speed and then my face was in the windshield. I smashed out my front teeth on the rearview mirror and as I crunched down involuntarily on the pieces of my teeth, I screamed as the blood poured into my mouth from the gaping wound on my forehead. I remember thinking how disgusting blood tasted and how it was all over my amazing vintage cowhide jacket I had bought from a thrift store!
Lacy, who was not wearing her seatbelt either, hit the steering wheel before her head hit the windshield. I couldn’t believe it. All I could do was scream. I don’t even remember how we got out of the jeep. I just remember that people laid us on the sidewalk and a nearby neighbor gave me a t-shirt to hold on my head to stop the blood. I recall the ambulance ride and how attractive the male EMT’s were, and I was mortified that I was missing part of my front teeth which felt like jagged shards in my mouth.
Once at the hospital we couldn’t get ahold of my parents for hours. No one could find them because they had been in a movie. I gave the ER nurse my brother Mikey’s phone number and he came to the hospital to give permission for medical treatment. He didn’t know what he was walking into because the hospital only told him I was in an accident, but they couldn’t say if I was alive or not. I remember how he had to leave the room when they started the stitches. I still don’t know if he got sick or if he couldn’t handle seeing his little sister getting stitched up. Maybe both? I do know that my skull was showing under the flap of skin that was lacerated from my forehead. I probably would have thrown up too if I had seen it myself.
Finally, my parents came in the door after I got my stitches… I was so nervous to see their reaction. Would they be mad at me for not wearing a seatbelt? Or for ruining my smile they had paid so much for with braces? I was not prepared for them to walk in that door. I think I would have preferred anger. My mom immediately gasped and turned away clinging to my dad who looked so painfully sad and broken to see me like I was. That memory will be forever burned into my brain. It broke my heart to see them so worried. My mom was sobbing and said.. “Oh honey, look at her face!” and I was like: “It’s not as bad as it looks. It doesn’t hurt.. I’m okay!!” I could feel their pain. I could see it in their eyes that it could have been so much worse. So much worse. My parents could have lost their youngest child in a car wreck. I had been so selfish for not wearing my seatbelt and for thinking I was invincible. I also realized that I did care what happened to me.
I had my teeth repaired a couple of days after the accident. The laceration on my forehead paralyzed half of my face for a handful of weeks while my nerves healed. I looked a little like “Cave Man Lawyer” from Saturday Night Live until the swelling went down. I would crawl in bed with my mom when my dad was working overnight on the railroad. I had these horrible dreams of hitting that truck whenever I closed my eyes. The dreams went away about 6 months later but I recall sleeping next to my mom at age 18, those first couple weeks after the accident, just needing to be close to her. It made me cry when I thought about the worst happening. I felt so much guilt for putting my mom through that scare.
I stopped going out as often as I used to the rest of that year. I don’t think I was making a conscious effort to change, I think I just became more withdrawn as the months went on. I became very introspective and stole away to coffee houses for hours to write and try to process this whole “life thing” and what it meant for me.
One day in the Spring of senior year, I got a letter that would change my life. I was accepted into art school and was getting a scholarship! I could hardly believe how happy I was!!
All the stress of trying to figure out how we were going to pay for college was wiped away after I received notice I would be getting a settlement from my accident which was nearly the exact amount of my college tuition. It seemed like a dream come true… like it was meant to be.