WARNING: THIS POST REFERENCES MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUICIDE.
Some people may think that I’m opening a wound by bringing up my past, and that’s not what this is. I have moved on from my past, and I have healed from my past. I am not the same person that I was in my past. Even though I made mistakes and continue to make mistakes, I serve an amazing God that shows me grace when I deserve it least. If you are struggling to move on from past mistakes, know that God loves you. He will forgive you, no matter what you’ve done, and He will help you forgive yourself.
If you are living with a mental illness or having suicidal thoughts, I beg you to talk to someone about it. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Read to the very end of this post. I pray you’re encouraged.
I’ve been raised in church, and growing up, I rarely missed a Sunday service, but being a Christian hasn’t given me a perfect life. No Christian has a perfect life. I accepted Christ and got baptized when I was 7, shortly after my parents got a divorce. I was told that Jesus could save my life, and with how much I was already getting bullied in the 2 years I had been in school, and feeling the guilt of my parents’ splitting, that’s all I wanted – for someone to save me.
I don’t remember having an actual father-daughter relationship with God, because no one showed me how to until later on in life, and I didn’t have a good example of what an earthly father-daughter relationship looked like since I only saw my dad every other weekend, so I fell away from my faith for a lot of my childhood. I was in and out of schools all of my childhood because of how much my mom and I moved. I was always the new kid. Because we had no money, I was the poor new kid, which made me the perfect target for the meanest kids in whichever school I was in at the time. The second school I went to in my 3rd grade year, I remember being on the bus and a couple of 5th grade boys making fun of my Winnie the Pooh backpack. I laugh about it now, but back then, it crushed me.
The bullying was “tolerable” until my mom remarried when I was 11. The man that she married was not who we thought he was. After months of watching my mom being verbally, emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically abused, we packed our things and left while he was at work without him knowing. During the time my mom was being abused and bullied by her husband, I was still dealing with bullies of my own.
When I was in 7th grade, the same school year that my mom and I left her husband, there was 1 girl in the popular circle that took me in and tried to make me feel included, even though we both knew that I was at the bottom of the popularity totem pole, as even the kids that were considered nerds either didn’t know who I was or like me for whatever reason. She was one of my only friends in my grade. There was one day where something special was going on and all of the students were told to gather in the cafeteria, so I sat with that girl and the rest of the popular kids at their table. I finally felt like I might actually be included and welcomed into a friend group. As soon as I sat down, one of the popular guys looked directly at me and said “What is she doing here? She doesn’t belong with us.” I completely shut down. I didn’t say a word to anyone for the rest of the day, and all I could think about for the rest of the year was “What AM I doing here? Why was I even born? I’m worthless.”
That was the first time I remember having an actual panic attack that extended past generally constantly feeling anxious, and was the first of countless panic attacks that I would experience. That was also the last year that I was in that school, because my mom and I moved back to the town we were in before she remarried.
I realized at this point that I had the opportunity to reinvent myself at my new school, and after everything I had gone through, my 8th grade brain thought it would be a good idea to tell little white lies about what I liked to do, how good I was at something, how expensive my clothes were – you know, dumb, irrelevant things that mattered to 13-year-olds – just so I would have a chance of fitting in for the first time in my life. Some kids throw parties and drink underage while their parents are gone to fit in. Some kids hang out with the wrong crowd and do things they shouldn’t to fit in. I decided to lie. It seemed like the most harmless option at the time. Obviously, just being myself wasn’t good enough. I wanted to be someone else so bad.
The lies worked for a short time. I was still the new kid, but I was at least the likable new kid. I actually finally had friends; some of them were even more popular kids. A lot of people knew who I was, and I was pretty well liked; or so I thought. My freshman year of high school was when everything started to unravel. The lies I was telling to 1 girl were exposed to the school by some of her other friends that she was talking to about me. Not only that, but people started adding to the lies and things that were said with things I never said, things I never did, and started spreading rumors about me – saying that I lied about something, even though I never did. There were even a couple things that I sarcastically joked about that were taken seriously and added to the list as a lie. Things that were taken out of context were added to the list as a lie. Things that were truthful that people didn’t believe were added to the list as a lie. No one knew what was a rumor, what was an actual lie, what was a lie that was exaggerated by classmates, or what was the truth. I was so lost mentally that I didn’t even know. I couldn’t remember 3/4 of the things I had told people, whether they were truthful or not, and I almost genuinely didn’t know who I was anymore. I was officially the girl-who-cried-wolf, and I did it to myself. I was chased into a bathroom one day by girls yelling “LIAR” at me and telling me to kill myself. Even my own guidance counselor told me to my face, and in front of my mother, that I was never going to amount to anything because of the things I had done.
No one was on my side. Even some of my own family wasn’t on my side. I wasn’t on my side. I was depressed. I hated my life. I knew that what I had done was wrong, and I admitted that and genuinely apologized to the very few people that I had directly lied to and hurt with what I had done. I wanted to move on. I had been truthful, and all I wanted was to start over. After apologizing, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with the main girl I had lied to and she forgave me. She knew my past and understood why I did what I did, even though that didn’t make any of it right. Obviously, we weren’t going to go back to being best friends immediately, but she forgave me, and I was so thankful that she gave me closure when no one else would. All of the other students in my grade that had heard the rumors were not so quick to forgive. Even though they personally had absolutely nothing to do with any of it, even if I had never said a word to them before, they made themselves a part of the drama to feel included, to make me feel excluded, and I walked into my sophomore year with zero true friends and zero opportunity to make new ones.
Every single person I ever tried to talk to was warned by people who pretended to be my friends to stay away from me. There were a couple girls that I thought were real friends, we’ll call them Jessica and Lauren, that I’m pretty sure the second I left the room were plotting how they could ruin my life every chance they got. When Jessica approached me about our “friendship”, she said to me “Lauren told me not to be friends with you because she said you’re a compulsive liar.” I had never lied to Lauren. Or Jessica. Even though I was no longer lying to anyone and had apologized for the things I had said and done, I couldn’t escape the rumors or the loneliness. I missed so much school because the stress of my situation was causing me to have migraines and panic attacks that were so terrible I couldn’t get out of bed most days, and I was happy to stay home sick – away from the people that were making my life a living hell.
I thought the only way to prevent myself from feeling what I was feeling was to just end it – to stop feeling entirely. To get life over with, and to save everyone from myself. I was going to make everyone happy and do what they had been telling me to do for months – kill myself.
On November 10, 2010, I got home from school, locked myself in my room, and thought about what I was going to do with my last evening. My schedule said I needed to be at musical practice soon, but I wasn’t following my schedule anymore. While I was sitting on my bed and hating myself, a voice in my head very different from my own spoke to me and said “I love you.” I immediately knew that it was God, only because those 3 words were not something I ever would have said to myself or thought to myself at that point of my life. No one else was saying it to me, either, but they were 3 words that I so desperately needed to hear. I had never heard the voice of God before, and I had strayed away from Him so much since I had gotten baptized that I never thought I’d hear it at all. An indescribable sense of peace came over me, and I wept. Not teared up a little bit – full on bawled to the point where no sound was coming out of my mouth. Jesus saved my life that day.
He is the only reason I am writing this blog post. He is the only reason I am still here to talk about all of this, and I don’t take that for granted.
That was at the beginning of my sophomore year. At that point, there was no just up and jumping back into my faith. I had been away from God for so long that I basically had to completely start my relationship with Him from scratch, because I had no idea how to have a relationship with Him in the first place. I was not perfect at “being a Christian.” I stumbled and failed a lot. I’m still working on my walk with God every single day of my life, but that was the starting point of me wanting to seriously change my life for Him.
My junior and senior years of high school were basically spent trying to survive until I graduated and all of the people that were being mean to me moved away for college and I never had to see or hear from them again. People were still bullying me because of things left over from my freshman year, but I was doing my best to block them out and to heal.
I started my YouTube channel at the end of my junior year, and ended up dealing with plenty of bullies again – this time it was people that I didn’t know through online comments. At first, reading negative comments was really tough, just because I hadn’t fully healed. Now, I see those comments and my first instinct is to pray for those people. If they’re going through a personal battle so tough that the only way they can expel their frustration is to hurt a person they don’t know while hiding behind a screen, they need grace and they need compassion before they need anything added to their battle.
I had 1 true friend my junior year that stayed by me through everything and genuinely liked me despite the rumors and despite what I had done. Ashley, if you’re reading this, thank you for being my friend. My senior year was the best year of high school. I had real friends. Friends that were at my wedding years later; one of which was even my Maid of Honor. Erin, Briar, and Jamey, if you’re reading this, I love you and I miss you. I will forever be thankful for your friendship.
Since high school, I have had plenty of rough patches to go through, I still fall short, and I still make not-so-great choices sometimes. The only difference is that now, exactly 8 years later, I have found my true identity in Christ – not in my mistakes, not in my downfalls, not in my past, and not in the things that other people say about me. Because I heard the voice of God today 8 years ago, I have gotten married to the most amazing man, moved to a state that feels more like home than anywhere I’ve ever been, made real forever friends that are constantly cheering me on, loving me for who I really am, and holding me accountable, and I found my calling for this season of my life.
I have made it a point to live my life in a way that would make God proud. That doesn’t mean that I have all of the answers; in fact, I probably don’t have most of them. I am not perfect, however, I am more intentional in the things that I do and the things that I say. I have been so blessed even just in the past year with incredible friends, an awesome job, and a church that is constantly helping me grow.
My first and middle name together literally (the true definition of the word “literally”, not like, so, like, just literally, like, literally) mean “flowers from ashes”, and I don’t think when my parents named me that that they realized it would end up being a perfect representation of my life thus far. I have been burned, charred to a crisp, by other people and by myself. But I have bloomed again, like a wildflower, and it’s all by the grace and the healing of God.
I want to add: if you’re reading this, and you’re one of the people I hurt in school with things I did or said – I am sorry. I will always be sorry. Forgive me. If you’re reading this and you’re one of the people that bullied me and said things about me behind my back – I forgive you. I forgave you a long time ago. You don’t deserve my forgiveness for some of the things you may have said to me or about me, and I don’t deserve forgiveness for some of the things I did, but because God has forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it, and He’s forgiven you when you didn’t deserve it, I have forgiven myself, and I have forgiven you.
I would also like to invite you to support this brand. wildflower, has been a gigantic motivation through this process of finding the courage to share my testimony. Sharing parts of my past that I’m not proud of, but that I’ve moved on from, with the chance of being ridiculed for my mistakes again is not easy, but that’s not what this is about. I have been pruned and shaped and replanted and grown through Christ. I am not the same person that I was from 2008 to 2010. That’s what my life story has been, and that’s what this brand is all about. Liana, the owner, is such an incredible person with an amazing heart for people and for Christ, and I want her brand to be supported as much as possible. Please, go support her. Not only is this the softest sweater you’ll ever put on, but it represents something so much deeper than just words printed on a piece of material. Every time I wear this sweater, I think of how triumphant I am through Jesus, how I am His child, and how deeply I am loved by Him. YOU are so deeply loved by Him, and I pray you never forget that.
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