#MondayMemories (Letter to my 6th Grade Teacher)

Dear Ms. G,
(My only teacher I had ever had to use the term MS.)

Remember me? I was that chubby little red-head who wore the clear framed glasses 2 sizes too large. You know… they had the little white daisies on the sides? I couldn’t seem to find a picture with me IN those glasses, but anyway, it was 1986 and I was at my prime of childhood awkwardness.


You may not know this but out of all of my teachers I liked you the best. That out of all of my teachers you taught me the most. I don’t remember squat about the books we read or your school forte… MATH.  YUCK. But what I do remember of you was learning a valuable lesson that would later teach me about life.
You see, I had never been chosen by anyone in school for anything. When it came to kids choosing me to be on their team for whatever dumb sport we were playing in gym, I was the one they didn’t have the choice on. They just got me. Last goes with team whose turn was last. It’s okay. I hated gym anyway.

But you know, those kids who always seemed to get out of school work and run errands for teachers? Up until I got into your class, I was never chosen, but for whatever reason you picked me. Not just once, but a few times! I remember even thinking to myself, could I possibly be a “teachers pet”???? Oh how I wished to be disliked by everyone for a reason like that instead of the multiple reasons they already had.

The seasons were changing and the bulletin board needed updating. So you chose myself and another girl in our class to cut out several letters for the board. To this day I cannot remember what they even said.  I hoping to remember one day,  now that my good childhood memories are slowly coming back.
Now let me tell you, you have no idea how big of a deal this was for me. First of all, I LOVED art. The closest thing I ever got to art while attending St. Hyacinth School, was a xerox copy coloring page that had pictures of the saints or bible characters on them. I never got lucky enough to have a teacher that valued art as a subject in my dear old catholic school.  But here was my chance. Not only did you,  my awesome teacher choose me,  but you gave me a project you thought I could successfully execute.

I can see myself now, sitting at my desk earnestly cutting away with my eyes laser focused on my scissors.  I was going to give you the best letters EVER. They were going to be WAY better than the other girl’s letters for sure.  So with excitement and unfortunately no attention to detail, I handed them in way before the other girl.  The next day when I arrived at school, expecting to see my work stapled to the cork boards, I quickly realized you hadn’t put them up yet.  SO I sat down at my desk, and reached for my first book of the day, and I found a ziplock baggie with the letters I had cut for you.

In the bag was a note that said:

Please look at the edges on the letters. You can do much better than this. Please take your time and fix them.
Ms. G

Now at first, I was really, REALLY upset. Questions of self pity flooded my mind like “Why wasn’t anything I ever did ever good enough?”But regardless of how I felt, I took my time to recut the letters more smoothly and later that week you hung them up as you intended.  What you don’t know is that entire season I remember not wanting to look at those letters because of my feelings of failure. (probably why I cannot remember what they said)
You didn’t know how my mind saw things back then or why, but I didn’t have the emotional capability to look at the situation simply for what it was.

Instead I saw it as:

I screwed up because I was a screw up. I remembered myself as the fat, dumb 6th grader who couldn’t even cut correctly.

For years this memory haunted me.

But today,  as I am now slowly peeling paging back and looking straight on to my memories as they were,  I see that it wasn’t rejection you showed me.  Instead, it was that you BELIEVED in me.  You wouldn’t have given me the task if you thought I couldn’t do it. Yes, you saw I rushed through it and knew I could do better.

Because you gave me a chance that day, I DID DO BETTER.


You CHOSE me AGAIN even when I didn’t meet your expectations.

So Ms. G, even if it wasn’t intentional, you taught me that one day I would have to grow up and enter into situations where there would not be anyone to tell me to try again. EXCEPT FOR ME.  This taught me that I would have to look at my failures, my pain, my past straight on (sometimes for seasons or even years) and even though things aren’t always as fixable as your letters, that I can still TRY again. And even DO BETTER.

Because of you seeing that potential in me, I always had the stepping stones to one day see potential in myself.

Thank you Ms.G


Chantel A. Szyka

(btw, I’m still trying to cut)


A New Day Has Come

It was a seemingly non-eventful moment in life, while driving in my car a few weeks ago when a bit of clarity hit me.

These words…
“I’ve been waiting for so long, for a miracle to come… Everyone told me to be strong. Hold on and don’t shed a tear.”
Recognize those words? Well if you don’t, it’s time to get real with your inner cheese ball side and listen. Cause there’s some good stuff to be heard and felt.

But, although I had heard this song at least a thousand times, my profound clarity came from a feeling and not the words you just read.

Ahhhhh. This is one of the many steps into finding a true Acceptance of myself.

That Celine Dion can sure belt it out. “A new day…….haaaaaaass…….Come….” You know it and you wanna sing it.

The Def Leppard, Cindy Lauper, Dixie Chick, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion,  top 40hits, cover band loving crazy chick inside of me that said I really do love this damn song!

Yep. I do.

And it’s ok if no one else understands the pure joy of shamelessly singing Celine Dion at the top of their lungs on a summer morning, in a VW bug with the windows all down. Because for someone like me, who lived most of my life waiting on the world to tell me who I am, what I should be, and what I should like, took a stand for her self and owned something out loud she loves to herself. (now you 😉)

To most, this may seem like a really minimal silly victory. But in my life it says volumes of how far I have come. Because for me, and many others like me it’s about living in the now, and realizing how special moments of peace can be. Clarity just keeps coming and it’s amazing. I’m just bursting with new stories to share. That’s what this blog is going to focus on.

But I do think it’s important to share some bits along the way of what brought me to here -today.

Although it’s been a life long really, my story, my journey of true healing and acceptance began just a decade back. From the outside looking in I looked like a woman who had it pretty good. 31 years old, 3 spectacular kids, and although we struggled to accomplish financial success without college degrees, we finally had figured out a way to buy own our home. Thank you to the bubble bursting housing market that gave everyone loans. 😬

To celebrate our 10 year anniversary we decided to throw the wedding we never had. My husband Mike and I renewed our vows in October of 2006. I had the cake, the hall, the pastor, my kids, family and friends. I finally had my day. I had gotten everything I thought I wanted out of life. Now it was time to just live. Raise our family, have fun, and grow old together.

But in the few short months following, in April of 2007 I collapsed. I couldn’t breathe. I was on my stairs, head in my hands and thinking I was really going to die.  Mike came home to my frantic inconsolable struggling with heart pain and palpitations. He didn’t know why I was so weak, and so scared. He didn’t know about all the starving, the purging, and the boxes of laxatives I was ingesting on a daily basis.

What he knew was I worked out a lot because I struggled with body image. What he knew was I struggled with depression because of a multitude of experiences I had in my past. But what he really didn’t know was if I didn’t get serious help I was literally going to die. That after engaging in serious eating disorder behaviours since I was 12, my then 31 year old body was turning on me. My body was saying enough is enough and my mind was screaming why are you even doing this???!!

So it was that day in April I finally got real and said I needed help. That was the beginning that led me to today. I signed myself self into Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital and began the journey of change and healing. The photo below is one of my original notes from my very first process group. I haven’t looked at it since.

Until today.

It’s a lot to read. It’s wonderful to know that I have survived most of this and although I have had a lot of relationship casualties along the way, the ones who are here by my side today understand  that this process doesn’t happen over night. That grace saves people.

That change and healing happens by taking 10 steps forward and 9 steps back. And sometimes the steps are huge, and other times they are found in a song while driving to work.

My recovery journey as my life has not been a straight line. It has been a crazy rollercoaster of tears, heartache, drama, and lots of hurt. Digging up memories to figure out the whys and how’s have been the best and worst part. People dont get that hurt people can hurt people. Hurt on my part and hurt for those in it with me. That eating disorders or any addictive behavior is just an effect of the real issues. But unless I crossed this bridge first I would have never gotten to today.

Thank God I’m still here. I felt ashamed for quite sometime that I had to enter a treatment facility to regain my life. But it saved my life and opened the door to learning how to live. Shame stole so much from me. It even tried to steal my recovery. But  I am grateful for it all and especially for today.

To anyone who reads this. Thank you for joining me on this new beautiful journey.

A new day has come.