This I Believe

Julie - Mountain View, California
Entered on October 31, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

Fighting the Current

One day, when he was in eighth grade, Chris woke up, unable to hold up his own head. From there, it took two and a half months to diagnose him with the rare muscle and nerve disease that almost took his life.

Twenty-four years later, Chris stood before the forum filled with high school kids. As our speaker for the week at Christian camp. Every night, after we were tired from playing games, we came into forum to worship God and hear him tell us about growing up with the disease, from being stuck in a wheelchair for his senior prom, to his fight to regain his mobility. For a week he talked about pain and struggle, and trying to fight against a disease that not only attacked him physically but mentally as well.

“If I could go back and change that day, prevent this from happening, I wouldn’t.” Chris’ words rang in my ears. Earlier in the week I would have been shocked, but this week he had shared how much his struggles meant to him.

For that week, I saw myself within Chris. I saw my struggles within his. I saw my pain within his. It was just one week during the summer before my senior year of high school, but it was a week in the middle of my relapse of depression. I had been diagnosed once, when I was ten years old, and now, at seventeen, the demon was back. Coming to the camp, I was broken and empty. I no longer found joy or beauty in the things I used to live for. Even my friends were no longer rocks in my lives, but just another leak in the bottom of my quickly sinking boat.

For a year I would go home and often cry myself to sleep, not really knowing why. I put on a mask each day of happiness so people around me couldn’t see my vulnerability. Every day, I tired myself out trying to be stronger than I really was, and it only made me unhappier.

Before me, stood a man with twisted arms and legs, a lump on his neck, and a hobble for a walk. He wasn’t trying to hide anything. Before me, stood a man with a smile and a pure love for life. Never knowing it, Chris gave me a new hope. I had spent a year under the stress of grades, theatre, and a circle of friends that was splitting. But hearing Chris speak about his trials made me realize that mine were nothing more than conquerable.

Through Chris I learned from my pain, and that without it, life would be trivial. The low points make happy moments more glorious. Struggles make a person stronger; they shape our fears and outlook on life. I learned that through past events, I had developed a fear of abandonment, but I also learned that no matter what happened, I was never alone. This knowledge taught me how to avoid future struggles and gave me hope to get through troubling times.

It took bearing my tattered soul to complete strangers at a camp to find a home, to find friends, and to find that rock I needed to rest myself on before I continued rowing my boat back to shore.

If I could go back and change one thing in my past, I would go up to Chris and thank him.