But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
The train keeps chugging along. Chug, chug, chug. All around the train it’s dark. The train keeps chugging and it stays dark. No light, no light. Where’s the light? Where’s the light?
My eyes open and I stare at the ceiling. Will there ever be light?
My chest tightens with anxiety. Desperate to find some relief, I reach over for my pen and journal. “I have no relief from my fear,” I scribble.
I need to study. I muster all my energy to get out of bed and sit at my desk. I reach for my Russian book. Did I do it? Am I guilty? I need to think about this. My hand stops in midair.
Just pick up the book.
I reach toward the book.
I need to think. I need to think.
I pick up the book anyway. I flip to the page I need and start reading, all the while ignoring my thoughts. I answer the first question, then the second. My brain already feels tired.
I can’t go on. Jeez, I can’t go on any further. I need a break.
I stop and breathe for about a minute and try to ignore everything going on in my head.
All right now. Focus.
I answer another question, and then I struggle to answer one more.
I’m guilty. I’m going to hell forever.
I can’t stand this anymore. I gotta go watch T.V. and forget about everything.
I walk over to the living room, plop on the couch, and turn on the T.V. Basketball’s on, so I watch that.
Please, Jesus. Take my anxiety away.
It’s deep in the second half, and it’s a good game. A player makes a jumper to tie it up with 50 seconds to go.
All those theologians–what would they say? Would they confirm that I’m guilty? C.S. Lewis talks about the grace of Jesus, but he also talks about sins and damnation. Jonathan Edwards believed in the security of salvation, but he also shouted about sinners in the hands of an angry God. I think they and any other reasonable pastor would console my anxiety and tell me of Jesus’s grace, but they don’t know the severity of the names I’ve called him. If they did, would they potentially tell me they’re not sure what my fate is?
Forget about it. Just focus on the game.
I focus on the game for about a minute and a half. But then the anxiety builds up. My stomach feels slightly sick, and my head feels so much pressure that I think my skull’s going to cave in. I try to avoid thinking about my worries, but I can’t. The floodgates open.
I’m going to hell forever.
My palms get sweaty and my heart races.
There’s nothing I can do about it.
Tears come to my eyes.
This can’t be right. I know deep down it’s not right. Why can’t I believe? Help my unbelief.
But I still feel just as anxious.
I can’t do this. It’s been three weeks since this started, and I can’t focus on my homework anymore, I can’t focus in class no matter how hard I try, it takes every ounce of energy I have to get out of bed in the morning, and I can’t fall asleep at night, my grades are plummeting, I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, I can’t even focus on conversations I have with my roommates, going to church makes me feel worse because I feel God’s judgement weigh me down every second I’m there.
I sit in bed thinking and staring at the ceiling. My eyes see the ceiling, but my brain is focused on my thoughts.
Thank God I have today off. I’m going to chill for a bit. I’ll study for my Russian final later.
My phone rings.
Who’s calling me?
I pick up.
“Ross, it’s Megan. Where are you?”
“You’re supposed to be taking the Russian final right now! It started thirty minutes ago. You weren’t here, so I asked to go to the bathroom so I could call you.”
“I thought the final was scheduled for Saturday.”
“No, it’s today. Come over here now!”
My heart is already racing. I click off the phone and hurriedly put clothes on. I grab my bike and fly out the front door. Once I get on the road, I race down the street and down the hill towards class. I get as close as I can to the building housing my final, throw my bike on a bike rack, and fumble with the lock. I sprint up another hill, throw open the heavy door to the building and take two steps with each stride up the stairs. I open the classroom door, sweaty and out of breath, and half the class looks up at me from their tests. My professor motions at me to just take a seat. I do and the T.A. hands me the test. I take a second to catch my breath.
I can’t believe I just did this. I’ve never just straight up misheard a test date, especially a final. He’s bound to have said it multiple times in class. I was trying to pay attention. How did I not know it was today?
I take a few seconds to try and get over my mistake. But I’m mad at myself.
This is embarrassing. I can’t believe I did this.
Despite my mind protesting to keep thinking about how upset I am, I open the test and start working. Not long after I start, the first person leaves. And then several leave. All of a sudden, I’m working with one other person in the room. Somehow I finish before her, and I hand my test to the T.A. I’m somewhat relieved the other girl is still in there because otherwise I’d probably have to explain why I was so late. I walk down the stairs shaking my head, still in disbelief I was so convinced the final was scheduled for Saturday.
Thankfully I studied some the past two days. I don’t feel like I did too bad. That could’ve been much worse. But still, how did I do that?
I pedal back to my apartment, my mind still buzzing with confusion and anger. I open the door, set my bike against the wall, and walk to my room. I throw my backpack on my bed in frustration, not realizing my roommate is sitting on his bed reading.
“Bad day?” He says.
I shake my head. “I had my Russian final today. I thought it was tomorrow. Megan called me thirty minutes into it to ask where the heck I was.”
“That sucks. Did you bomb it?”
“I don’t know. I actually think I did okay.”
“Why’d you think it was tomorrow?”
I shake my head again. “I don’t know. I haven’t been sleeping in class. I thought I was paying attention. I could’ve sworn he said multiple times it was Saturday. I’ve never done anything like that before.”
“Well, at least you didn’t miss it.”
“Yeah. No joke.”
I sit at my desk chair and exhale. I stare at the wall for a second.
“You all right?” my roommate asks.
“Dude, I can’t…I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live like this.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been struggling with depression on and off for the past several years. I’ve just been dealing with it ,and I’ve made it through okay. But I’m tired of living like this. I can’t do my homework, my grades are falling, I can’t concentrate on anything, I have very little energy, it takes me forever to do anything.”
“I noticed you seem down the past few weeks.”
“And I keep having thoughts that I’ve committed the unpardonable sin. You know what I’m referring to?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“I know it’s ridiculous. I just can’t get it out of my head.”
We sit in silence for a few seconds.
“So what are you going to do?” my roommate asks. He’s a proactive type.
“I’ve been thinking about going to Recovery on Monday nights at church. I keep thinking I should do it, and I never do it. I’ll go on Monday.”
“All right. I’m holding you to it.”
I jump in my car, a little nervous about the journey ahead.
I gotta try something. I gotta start somewhere.
As I’m driving I feel relief that I’m finally taking this first step, but I’m also nervous it won’t help.
Gotta try something.
I park, get out of my car, walk to the church, and open the door.
I don’t know anybody who’s going to be in that room.
I walk into the room. There’s about 25 people here altogether. I don’t know anyone. Everyone is standing around the room in groups talking to each other. I take a seat in one of the chairs that’s been set out. I sit for a few minutes by myself, and then someone stands at the front of the room and calls for attention. Everyone takes a seat.
“Welcome to Recovery. We’re glad you’re here this evening. We’ll break into small groups in a minute, but first I want to remind everyone that we’re here for each other, to listen to each other, not to judge, not to necessarily delve into all the details, not to try to counsel each other. Like I said, we’re here to just listen and support each other. For those maybe here for the first time, we don’t share who we’re seeing for counseling or make any recommendations for counseling. We have books on the table in the back. We recommend those books. They’re all available on the internet. So, guys will break into small groups on this side of the room; girls will go to that side. Find three or four people sitting next to you and make a group.”
I look around and make eye contact with two guys sitting next to each other. They motion to me and one other guy and ask, “You guys want to join us?”
“Yeah,” I respond.
“Sure,” says the other guy.
We move our chairs into a small circle.
“How y’all doing?” one of the guys asks.
“All right. How are y’all?” I say.
“Not bad, not bad. So, what do you say we get started? If it’s okay with y’all, I’ll go first.”
He describes what he’s going through. We listen, and when he’s done his friend and the other guy in the group give him some brief encouragement. The other two guys do the same, and those listening offer encouragement. They look at me to indicate it’s my turn.
“Well, I’ve been struggling kind of on and off for the past several years with depression. I’ve just lived with it and pushed through it and done okay. I’ve wanted sometimes to try and get help, but I didn’t know how to go about it. Things have gotten worse lately, though, and I knew I had to do something to try to get better, so I figured I’d try Recovery. I don’t know what my next steps are, but I have supportive small group leaders at church and a supportive roommate. So, I’m just trying to start this process of finally doing something to get better.”
“Thanks for sharing, man,” the other guys say.
“Thanks for coming,” one says. “Just keep at it.”
We sit quietly while the two friends chat for about a minute. Then the guy from the beginning gets up at the front and calls for attention. We all move our chairs back into rows and listen.
“Is there anyone here tonight who is here for the first time?” he asks.
I raise my hand along with two others.
“So, to celebrate your starting this journey, come up to the front, and I’ll give you one of these coins.”
I walk up to him, and he hands me a plastic blue coin. On one side is written “Grace for this journey.” On the other is written 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I thank him and sit down. After a few more orders of business, he dismisses us. I walk back to my car and start driving home. I feel good for finally taking the first step, but the meeting didn’t help as much as I wanted it to.
Why don’t they want people recommending counselors? That’s what I think I need and I don’t know where or how to find one.