As an undergraduate student I began talking with a counselor about the painful experiences I had growing up. As hard as it was to talk about them and deal with feeling depressed from time to time, it was helping me. When I went to graduate school however, I found myself upset over very insignificant things; a perfect example of this came from a friend of mine who found her mom crying in front of the open freezer because she couldn’t decide what vegetable to make for dinner. I was encouraged to see a doctor about it, but was too afraid to; I was afraid to be ‘sick’ but I was also afraid the doctor would say I was fine and to just “keep keepin’ on”.
I had a difficult time with serious topics. Attending church and being with hope-filled Christians especially made me feel alone. I feared judgment and shame as a believer and as a person preparing for ministry. But I couldn’t care anymore; apathy had set in as a numbing agent. I didn’t see suicide as an option, not because I was against it; those things weren’t registering at that time anyway. It was because I was so fearful of the physical pain. When I heard of someone who attempted suicide, I actually saw them as courageous in a way.
As you can imagine, any advice to cling to God, or know God loved me seemed to be phony and untrue. I was angry with God and thought life was a cruel joke inflicted upon us. To truly be with me one would have to sit in the pain with me, and I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to do such a hard thing. However, a couple of friends helped me a great deal by doing just that. One told me she thought it was good that I was finally letting myself be sad. Another friend simply told me she was worried about me. They didn’t try to make me laugh or tell me it would pass. They didn’t offer those trite or faithful platitudes I would have used before experiencing this for myself.
What they did was listen and respond to what I said, not asking me to be where they (and I!) wished I would be. Having someone listen to you well brings more healing than ‘cheering someone up’ for awhile will ever do (many people will try so they won’t disappoint you but it just makes them feel even more alone and misunderstood later). I will never forget those two friends and how they helped me without knowing if they were saying the “right thing” or not.
We often talk about needing our experiences of suffering to mean something so they are not ‘in vain’. For me, I do not believe that my depression was given to me for a reason, but because we have a God like our God, I have been able to turn it around to receive great healing. When I am able to use my story to help others or understand my own problems better, I have an experience of redemption I can scarcely live without. I think this is my theology of the cross too-God didn’t want Jesus to be crucified but God was sure going to do something with it–redemption, healing, and of course, salvation.