A few months ago, I had a scary experience that kept me awake for most of the night. Out of the blue, *Helen, a friend I met online sent me a chat message that simply said, “If you don’t hear from me again, just take it that I’ve killed myself.”
Maybe this wouldn’t be scary in itself if I had people who knew her that I could reach out to. I texted and called but neither got a reply nor did my calls get picked up. I didn’t know anyone could call or text to help out; I didn’t even know where she lived. It was the most helpless I’ve ever felt in a long time. In the end, all I could do was pray.
Thankfully, she didn’t go through with it.
She had made a mistake in school that was most likely going to set her back all the way to square one, amongst other things. It was already having a negative impact on her at home with her parents and I guess she didn’t see any point in living anymore. For a lot of people, there’s nothing pleasant about hitting rock bottom.
Thankfully, she’s way better now and nothing makes me happier than seeing her happy, smiles on her face and bright hopes for the future.
I could totally relate with what she went through; an early brush with failure saw me repeat a class in my first senior secondary school year. It was shameful, especially considering that my mother teaches and I basically had all I needed to pass – except being in the right class for me. At a point, I just wanted to off myself even if it was to avoid the beatings and constant scolding. I couldn’t appear to do anything right after that; even having a smile on my face became a crime. This only stopped when my sisters told my parents about the dangerous thoughts I harboured and they changed their approach.
A close friend of mine, Segun was told that his admission into the university was secured by whoever ‘helped’ him with certificates that weren’t his. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a blow if he was still in year one but we were finalists at the time. His GPA was very good and he already knew his posting for National Youth Service only for him to be blown away at the final clearance point – through no real fault of his. Seeing all your friends graduate while your own BA stood for – Begin Again – knocked the wind out of his sails.
However, I can talk about Segun with smiles now because he’s done with his degree and youth service. He didn’t wallow in depression and self-pity but got up, dusted himself and ploughed on with the support of his close friends and family. His story and many others were all I could arm myself with in encouraging Helen to see that she wasn’t alone in her struggles and it definitely wasn’t the end of the world.
People sometimes ask what would be so bad that would make someone consider death as an escape but depression is a very terrible thing. Moving on from unpleasant life episodes take a lot encouragement from people around you and also from the experiences of others who went through similar situations and pulled through. To those who fall in the latter category, the ‘you have no idea how I feel’ speech doesn’t cut it all the time. It’s alright to feel the way you feel but it’s alright to fight as well. It’s alright to ask for help and it is not a sign of weakness. You can fight and you can make it through.
I’ll never discount the immense help that the word of God can be in such situations. I don’t know about you but faith has seen me through crazy situations. Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom in order to realise that God is the rock at the bottom. In the gospel of Mark the disciples got into a storm when they were trying to cross from one end of the lake to the other. With the waves knocking them from all angles they surely thought they were going to die till they saw Jesus walking on water towards them. All they needed to hear for them to calm down was, “Don’t worry. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
It’s like you’re trying to get somewhere and it seems like you’re stuck in the middle of all sorts of problems and nothing is going your way. You’ll be scared, you will worry but try not to let it all overwhelm you because Jesus is saying, “I’m right here with you!” He’ll always show a way out of our storms. For Peter, it was even to leap out of the security of the boat and walk on the water to go to Jesus. Even when he began to sink, Jesus was there to help him up. Someone once said, “I’d rather be a wet water-walker than a dry boat sitter any day!”
You or someone you know may be sitting in the boat in the middle of a storm. Talk to trusted friends, or even someone new who can help. If you need help with counselling, seek it as well; look for sources of strength and carry on!
PS: If you happen to know anyone who’s going through a tough time, especially if their trials are self-inflicted, tough love isn’t the answer. Never turn your back on anyone at that point even if it seems justifiable; that’s not what they need. Oftentimes, the ‘victim’ has already learnt lessons and is already going through a lot of self-hate and the onus is on us to really show some love and encouragement in order to turn them around.
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