It’s a long commute home on any day, but this day it was longer. This particular day I was driving down the same road, but on a different journey.
There is a road that I jokingly call the “long road”, because it is the longest of 3 country roads I take to get home after I exit the interstate. On this day, it was as if the “long road” had turned into the long, dark, twisted entrance to a cave; a cave I’d once been in and thought I’d never go back. I’d been there nearly twenty years prior, when first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I’d left college, going home to my parents, because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had been misdiagnosed by the college medical staff as “depressed”, but it was more than that. I was depressed at the time, but the medicine they gave me, anti-depressants, made me feel worse. So I dropped out of school and went home. By the Grace of God, my mother is a psychologist, and my father a counselor. They helped me find an amazing psychiatrist whom I saw, once a month (or more, if I needed to) for over 12 years. He said I reminded him of his daughter. He was a great doctor.
So there I was, on that road, headed for that cave again. Why? Because my friend was there, and I would not let him navigate that cave alone. I couldn’t drive fast enough to get to him, I was concerned and interested to see how he was, but not scared. I was never scared of him. I was scared for him. I knew that whatever he was facing, though different than what I faced, he would need me, and I would be there for him. Most importantly, I was bringing help. This time, as I entered that cave, I had Jesus with me.
I knew my friend’s smiles around others were faked because that’s what I used to do. I faked happiness for years so that I wouldn’t worry anyone. I just wanted everyone else to be OK, and not to pay attention to me. I wanted to melt into the background, go unnoticed, and just hide under a rock someplace. I saw this in my friend. I heard his words, and like a time machine, they took me back twenty years. Back to when I’d said those exact same words. “It’s like I am putting on a show for everyone”; “It’s exhausting”; “I don’t want to do this anymore”. I’ve known my friend more than 14 years, and saw though that fake happiness like his smile was made of glass. I saw through to the worry and pain he was in. I didn’t understand it and neither did he, but I would be there to try and figure it out with him.
I drove down that long passageway into the cave and found my friend. In this cave you never know behind which rock, or which corner, another scary thing is hiding. I knew because, like I said, I was in there twenty years ago, trying to sort it all out. For example, I would take a medication that was supposed to make me feel better. These medications can take 6-8 weeks to really start working. So I took the medication diligently, and for one month I was more depressed than ever. Fail; on to the next one. “Everyone reacts differently” my doctor said, “we have to keep trying”.
Around the next bend, I’d be prescribed something to help me sleep, but it only made me completely wired with a bad type of energy. So much terrible energy, that there was no way I could sleep. In fact, it gave me awful panic attacks. Fail; on to the next one. I felt like I was trying every medicine under the sun. But I had to keep trying.
There is light at the end of this cave; you can get through, and you can overcome. Not only that, but I think, after twenty years, I finally know why God allowed me to wander into that cave to begin with. So I could help others. So my cave becomes a blessing. From dark to light, from walking through hell to helping others. Amazing. Amazing realization for me but my friend still has a long way to go. So do many other people who find themselves at the mouth of this dark cave.
But I will be there with him every step along the way. On the other side of this cave is the rest of his life. I know because I’ve been thought it. And who knows, maybe I’m still walking through that old cave of mine, but now I have my faith, my God, and Jesus. And that makes all the difference.