I was born and raised in a Christian home and came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the young age of five. At this time, I did not fully grasp what being a Christian meant and only knew that I did not want to go to hell. As I got older, I began to realize what truly being a Christian meant and I was not sure if I was ready to make the big lifestyle change that is required. So, I continued to live my life with the title of Christian but without any of the changes, it required. I was a good kid and did what I was supposed to, but I did not read the Bible on my own or pursue a relationship with Christ as I should have.

When I started middle school, I was ready to make the change into an “active” Christian. I began reading my Bible and other devotionals, praying regularly, growing closer to Christ, and even helped to lead my FCA (fellowship of Christian athletes) group at school. I used the time at practice, games, and meets to minister to my teammates and others. As I grew closer to Christ, I became a threat to the devil, and he attacked. I started to become depressed I could not figure out why I was feeling this way. I was having all of these negative feelings and thoughts and could not figure out why, as far as I could tell I had no reason to feel this way, so I put on a smile and pushed on. Soon it got worse and I began to cut myself to help hide the pain that I was feeling. I was ashamed of myself for feeling this way and cutting was a way of punishing myself for something I believed to be my fault.

As I started my freshman year of high school I was determined to stop cutting so I threw myself fully into academics and sports and did very well in both so that by the end of the day I was too exhausted to do anything but sleep. Throughout the first semester of this year, I was sexually harassed and abused causing me to feel worthless, ashamed, dirty, belittled as if I was only an object to be used. I stopped reading my Bible, praying, and even going to FCA because I believed that I was no longer worthy; everything I had was put towards academics and sports to help buy back my worth. As I succeeded with good grades and being a top varsity runner on the cross country and track teams, I felt like I was helping to buy back my worth and was not just a thing to be used.

As my Sophomore year rolled around, I began to have all kinds of injuries that limited my ability to run causing my times to drop. I tried to hide my pain and push through, some of my injuries I could diagnose like shin-splints and a stressed IT band and I would use typical strategies to fix them, but there were others that I could not such as how my feet and legs started to go numb. I desperately tried to get back where I was the year before but continually fell short. I mentioned the numbness to my parents, and we began to visit doctors but with no result. My depression began to creep back into my life as my sense of worth was fading. I felt useless and like a disappointment to everyone I knew. I lived in fear of someone telling me that I was not enough and confirming my thoughts. By the end of the year, I began cutting myself again and trying desperately to find my sense of self-worth. But still, I told no one and continued to wear my smiling mask.

The beginning of my Junior year was no better than my Sophomore year it was worse. My times continued to get slower and I had almost every injury in the book. I had multiple braces I would wear every day in addition to the insane amount of KT tape and other wraps I would wear to help with the pain. I began to become numb when sitting or standing too long as well as when running and at times after a run or race I could barely walk because of the pain and numbness. I continued to see doctors for the pain and numbness, where I was poked and prodded at and still, there were no results. All of the tests came back negative and the doctors would either say that they did not know how to help me or that I was faking it and there was nothing wrong. This caused my depression and the horrible memories of my abuse to get worse. I started to withdraw from my teammates, friends, and family, I started cutting myself deeper, and more often than before, and began to have suicidal thoughts. Close friends and family began to see through the slowly formed cracks in my mask and knew something was wrong but was unsure what it was or how to fix it. Even those I didn’t know well knew something was off.

I began to crack under all of the self-made pressure and the past I was unwilling to confront. I started to talk to my amazing coach and tell her little by little about what I was struggling with and about the abuse I had experienced. She began to mentor me and help me through. My coach knowing, I was a Christian, and being one herself one day asked me a question that would change my life. She said to me “Holly, what is your life’s foundation build upon?” and I answered quickly that it was running. She paused then asked me a follow-up question saying, “What should our foundation be?” I thought for a moment, then, it hit me like a ton of bricks, I answered “My foundation should be built on my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.” Then I began to cry. She gave me a sympathetic smile and held me until I was ready.

From that moment I began to try to rebuild my life’s foundation on Christ, I was ready for a change. I began to see a counselor and take medication for my depression and abuse. This was by no means easy and I had many times where I would slip back into the old routine of cutting and living a lie but now I had people to help me get back up when I fell and to hold me when I was hurting. I began my Senior year of high school with a much better arsenal than the edge of a knife. Although my spiritual and mental health began to improve the pain and numbness with my legs got worse and started to spread to my hands and arms as well. It was at the point where if I sat or stood in one place for too long, they would go numb up to my hips and when I was running it was even worse. At the end of each race, I would have to have someone catch me because I could no longer stand and could not catch myself with my arms because of the immense pain and numbness. After the race, it would take me 30 minutes to an hour just to get to the point where I could walk again than about 12 additional hours for the numbness to completely subside. Not only that but I was becoming very sensitive to touch to where having someone hug me or even the water from taking a shower hurt immensely

During one cross country race, that year about a mile in I felt a slight, sharp, throbbing pain in my right foot, but I decided it was just my regular pain and proceeded to finish the race. At the end of the race when the most intense of the numbness subsided and I could walk, I tried to put pressure on my foot and screamed out in pain and had to be driven in a go-cart to my car for my parents to drive me home. I soon found out that I had broken my foot in the first mile of the race but did not know it because the pain from the numbness was so strong and intense it blocked out the majority of the pain from the broken bone. When my parents and I realized that my unidentified pain and numbness was causing me to not be able to realize what pain was physically harmful and what wasn’t. So, we started digging to try to find out what was going on.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with Amplified Pain Syndrome (AMPS) where my nerves react negatively to unharmful stimuli in my case any type of touch or physical activity. I then began therapy at home for my AMPS, but fairly soon it was clear it was not helping. So, I was put on the waitlist to get into the RAPS (rehabilitation for amplified pain syndrome) program in Kansas City. I was finally able to get in Christmas break during my freshman year of college. I participated in extreme therapy 8 to 9 hours a day 5 days a week for 4 weeks with other therapies outside of that. Some parts began to get better and improve such as the pain to touch and the numbness in my hands in arms. As I graduated from the program, I had to tools I needed to move forward.

The journey for me so far has been filled with ups and downs but I am still pushing forward. I could never have made it without my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who was and will be with me every step of the way. I am still fighting depression and trying to come to terms with the abuse I experienced in the past, as well as continuing to get well physically but I know that I can do it because God with never leave me or forsake me. He never promised it would or will be easy which I know it won’t be, but He will be there and that is all that matters.

I am now in the middle of my Sophomore year of college and will soon be entering the Nursing program. I hope to graduate with my BSN and RN degrees and move to Uganda, Africa, and become a missionary nurse and adopt as many kids as I can! I want to live my life for Christ and spread the lifechanging gift of Salvation in Jesus through faith!