I sit down at the edge of my bed.
What if North Korea bombs us? What if it happens?
My chest and throat tighten.
I’m going to feel a blast and then I’m going to die.
It’s fine. Nothing bad is going to happen. Everything’s okay.
But what if?
Tears well up in my eyes.
I don’t have any control over this. I wish I had control. Then I wouldn’t have to worry. Mom and Dad are downstairs. We just played board games. They aren’t concerned about this. I shouldn’t be either.
But what if? Whatifwhatifwhatif?
I sit at my desk in English class. I bend down and grab my book and my journal for the start of class. As I reach back up toward my desk, the big gash I got in my elbow from yesterday’s football game brushes against the side of the desk. I wince a little and put my books on the desk.
What if someone else touched the desk with an open wound right where I did? What if I just contracted AIDS?
I don’t think that’s how it works.
But if someone’s open wound did touch right there? What if they had AIDS? If the virus is there, wouldn’t I catch it?
I’m already exhausted from the football game. My head feels heavy. I put my head in my hands for a second to rest.
“Are you okay, Ross?” my teacher asks.
I lift my head quickly. “Yes ma’am, I’m fine. Just tired from yesterday’s game.”
“I imagine you are,” she says sweetly.
I may have just gotten AIDS.
I’m too tired to even concern myself with the thought further. But I know it’ll come back, even though I don’t want it to.
I wake up. My body and my head feel slightly tight.
I just woke up. Why am I anxious?
I open my eyes a little wider and look around.
I have AIDS.
My head hurts just from the anticipation of what’s coming.
No, no. Why? Why is this going on? Why won’t it go away?
I’m going to die in the coming years. There’s nothing I can do about it.
I wish I hadn’t touched that stupid desk. Then this wouldn’t be happening to me. Why won’t these thoughts go away? Just go away.
My alarm goes off again.
I gotta get ready for school.
But all I want to do is sit here and cry.
I gotta be the best. Nobody else works as hard as me. I’m going to be the best football player on my team. In three years, I’m going to receive scholarship offers. I’m going to play Division One college football. I can’t waste a day. I can’t waste a minute. That’s my motto. If I’m not working out, I’ll be watching highlight videos of college recruits online. No one works harder than me.
Someone knocks on my bedroom door. “Hey, man, you want to work out at T.J.’s today?” my brother asks.
I pop up from my chair and head over to my dresser for my workout clothes. “Yeah,” I respond.
Yeah, I’m dead tired from working out all week. But I work harder than anyone else. Plus, I’d feel lazy if I just sat at home. Can’t have wasted time or else someone else might be getting better than me.
I put on my workout clothes and look at the clock. I still have an hour before we leave for workout.
Let’s see. What can I do to be productive until workout?
Something in my head tells me I’ve already done pretty much everything I could do to learn about the game of football today. But I start listing everything off in my head anyway.
Did I watch highlights? Yes. Did I read up on offensive strategy and play-calling? Yes.
My head hurts. I’ve been studying all day.
Did I study some film of myself from last year? Yes.
I gotta do something productive, though. Doesn’t matter if my brain hurts. I work harder than anyone else. I’ll watch more highlights.
My brother starts the car. “Man, I hate having a black car,” he says.
“Shoot, man. I’m already sweating bullets from practice,” I reply. I wait for a few more seconds and then fall into the passenger seat.
“The seat is hot, but I don’t care. My legs are dead,” I remark.
We drive off. It’s the normal drive home, but today I feel even more exhausted than usual.
I work my butt off. I work harder than just about anyone on the team. I should be proud to be tired.
But I don’t feel proud. Today I just feel so exhausted. Tears well up in my eyes just because I’m so tired.
I was tired last year, but I had friends who I could talk about football with and joke with. No other sophomores in my class care about football as much as I do, and they don’t get my sense of humor.
The tears are almost coming out.
Dude, you’re in the car with your brother after football practice. Man up.
I take some deep breaths to prevent my tears from coming. I feel a weird pit in my stomach. As we keep driving it gets worse. My brother is blasting the radio, which comforts me a little since it makes any distress I’m showing a little less noticeable. A song from his iPod ends and a new one begins.
Oh no. Not this song. Not right now.
It’s “Deteriorate” by Demon Hunter. The melancholy melody begins, and I frantically try to breathe deeply to prevent myself from crying.
“I need a heart that carries on through the pain when the walls start collapsing again. Give me a soul that never ceases to follow despite the infection within.”
Something in the lyrics resonates with me, but I ignore it. Just get through this song and something more upbeat will come on.
The next song begins. Thank God. This is better.
I start singing along. The pit is still in my stomach.
I brush my teeth and then head to the bedroom. My brother is already on the bottom bunk playing on his phone. I climb the latter to the top bunk and plop down.
Twenty minutes pass. I don’t hear my brother anymore. I peep below and see he’s asleep.
Is this my life now? I thought things would be better by now, but they aren’t. Things just seem to be getting worse and worse. I don’t connect with anyone here. I don’t really have any friends. I feel like I’m about to burst, and I feel like my chest is an anchor. I can barely sit up.
Tears are coming. I try to stop them, but I can’t. Two fall down my cheek, and then all of a sudden I’m blubbering. I try to stay silent. I don’t want my brother to know I’m crying. A feeling of pure terror comes over me.
My life is over. Things are never going to get better.
The darkness of our room seems to grow darker. There is no light in my life. I shake and then stop myself.
God, why are you doing this to me? I hate you. Why would you do this to me?
My weeping softens a little, but I still feel as though nothing but terror surrounds me.
“Oh, God,” I whisper through my tears, “Please help me. Please, Jesus. Please help me.”
I look up at my alarm clock. It’s 3:52 in the afternoon. I’ve been laying here for the past twenty minutes just thinking. I should probably get up.
I stay where I am, though.
God’s gotten me through a lot. I went through that terrible time of depression in high school, and he got me through it. I didn’t come all the way out of depression, but he brought me out of a lot of it. I’ve always thought that if he could get me through that then he could get me through anything. When this whole blaspheming the Holy Spirit thing started I didn’t think anything could get me out of it because I literally thought God left me. I really did think I had no hope. But maybe he can prove me wrong. Maybe he can get me out of this too.
I feel energized. I almost feel happy. “Wow,” I whisper, “I haven’t felt this way in a while.”
The feeling quickly dissipates, but a tiny bit of it stays with me.
Say it. Tell God you believe.
“God,” I whisper again, “I believe you can heal me, so do it.”
My phone rings.
“Hi, is this Ross?”
“Hey, it’s Sarah from the Counseling Office. So, I talked with our supervisor and he said we can offer you counseling free of charge since you’re serving as an intern at church.”
I breathe a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God! Thanks for letting me know.”
I put my phone down and breathe another sigh of relief.
“Who was that?” my roommate asks.
“The counseling office at the church. They said I don’t have to pay for counseling, because I’m interning for the church right now. Thank God. I thought I was only going to be able to afford one or two sessions. They were about the cheapest counseling I could find, and I want to do it with Christian counselors.”
“There you go. God’s opening doors.”
I walk up the stairs to the counseling office. I’m sweating and nervous. I open the door.
“Hi, are you here for an appointment?” The receptionist asks.
She checks me in, and I sit down. How do I tell my counselor that I’m terrified I’m going to hell? I guess I’m just going to have to spit it out.
The door to the back opens. I recognize the guy from the online profile. “Hi, are you Ross?”
“Yes.” I shake his hand.
“I’m David. Nice to meet you.”
We walk into a room with two chairs and a sofa. “You can have a seat on the sofa,” David says.
I sit down.
“So,” David says, “Tell me a little about yourself. Why are you here?”
“Yes. Uh…” I say nervously. “Well, uh, I’ve been having problems with depression for several years now. Since sophomore year of high school, to be exact. And it’s been worse lately. My grades have gone down, and it’s really affecting my life. So, I knew I needed to come to counseling.”
“Okay. I admire you for taking that step. Have you gone to counseling before? You’ve said you’ve been affected by depression for several years. Have you gotten on any medication?”
“No, I’ve never done either of those things.”
“What made your depression flare up again?”
Tell him about blasphemy of the Spirit.
“Just adjusting to coming from a small college to a big university. I haven’t been able to find a friend group that I really feel like I’m a part of.”
“Sure, that can be tough. How’s your relationship with God?”
“It’s okay. I’ve just been feeling lately like God doesn’t love me or doesn’t accept me.”
“Why? Because of something you’ve done? Or because you feel like you don’t do enough things to please him?”
“Kind of both. I don’t feel like God will accept me unless I’m doing a bunch of things for him. Sometimes I feel like I’d have to be the next Martin Luther King to please God.”
“Son, God doesn’t love you because of the things you do for him. The reason you’re going to go to heaven someday isn’t because of your works. You’ll go to heaven because Jesus died for you and you believe in him. Do you realize that?”
“I do. I mean, I know it in my head. But it’s like my heart won’t accept it.”
“This is a process. You started it today, but it’s going to take time. You’re not going to walk out of here with everything solved. Have you ever tried journaling about your thoughts and feelings?”
“A little, yes.”
“I recommend it. Keep a journal with you. Write like David writes in the Psalms. Pour out your thoughts before God, both the good and the bad. Ask him for more faith.”
“I think that’ll help me. I’ll do that.”
“Okay. You mentioned you did something to prevent God from loving you. Tell me a little about that.”
“I called him some bad names. I mean, they were just thoughts in my head. They were involuntary thoughts. I didn’t want to curse him, but it happened in my thoughts.”
“I don’t know. Calling him the devil.”
“Have you read Romans?”
“Paul says in Romans that he is convinced nothing will be able to separate us from the love of Jesus. No sin, nothing. Not even calling him bad names in your head.”
“I know. Like I said, I know that in my head, and I believe it, but my heart won’t accept it. It’s like it just won’t take, you know what I mean?”
“I understand. So, you said these were or are involuntary thoughts you have. How much do involuntary thoughts bother you?”
“Have you ever heard of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?”
“Have you ever considered you may have it?”
“No. That never occurred to me.”
“Do you know anything about it?”
“I’ve heard it’ll make you do things like count a certain number of tiles on a ceiling or something.”
“It can manifest itself in many ways, and it manifests itself a little differently in everyone who has it. For instance, one of the symptoms is involuntary or obsessive thoughts like you described. Another is feeling the need to wash hands every time someone touches dirt or something they perceive is dirty. Or, a person might feel the need to check the stove or a door over and over again to make sure it’s closed. Those last two examples would be considered compulsions.”
“Actually, I do check doors and stoves before I leave my apartment or go to sleep. Like, I’ll spend fifteen minutes doing it sometimes.”
“Those are compulsions. It sounds to me like you are dealing with more than depression. Your OCD may have fueled your depression. I’m going to email you some online material to read about OCD. We can discuss it next time we meet. I think it’ll really help you.”
“Sounds good. Thank you.”
We both stand up and shake hands. I say bye to the receptionist as I walk out of the office. My mind feels stuffed with all the information I just received.
I just wish I could believe what God says. Why won’t His truth stick? I try to make it stick, but it just won’t. I’ll just take things day by day and keep plugging forward. We’ll see what happens.