“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.”
The line repeated over and over.
The lid starts coming off…
“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.”
Smile; just smile.
Just for a while.
No one will notice.
It’s all in your head,
You can control this.
I’m not fine.
The thoughts come.
And when they come,
I am done.
The voices get louder and louder.
There isn’t anywhere to go,
I’m swallowed whole.
Then the tears…
They burn and they sear
Down my face…
I am a disgrace.
Then a knock.
Knock. KNOCK. KNOCK.
Then a whisper,
“Hey, I’m here.
I am near.
I want to hold you,
I know what you go through.
Come to me.
Let me carry you for a while,
Let me show you that I delight in you
Let me tell you that I love you.
No matter what, I am satisfied with you.”
And so I do...
I start to run,
At His feet I am undone.
And the pain…the pain begins to fade,
I am wrapped up in His embrace.
I am held.
I am safe.
It’s real this time.
I _am_ fine.
Fine because I have a God who wants to know me,
Fine because this thing does not have to control me.
All I have to do is nothing at all,
But gaze at the cross
To the One who conquered it all.
One night in 2017, the words above flooded my mind as I sat through another panic attack. I couldn’t understand why my struggle with anxiety and depression was back with such a vengeance. Things had been so good. Yet there I was, drowning in my emotions. Just as the sweeping lie “I’m all alone” was pinning me to the floor, I felt the Lord’s presence—He was in the dark room with me, whispering His truth over me.
My struggle began when I was 15. I started having these negative feelings I knew weren’t normal, but I was filled with so much guilt and shame that I refused to tell anyone. I felt hopeless, alone, discouraged, and thoughts of suicide were the shame-filled soundtrack in my mind. I used athletics, church involvement, school, and friends to create a mask of perfection and to stay distracted from my thoughts. I was the “good kid.” The weight of my reputation fueled my struggle with anxiety and depression even more because I was so afraid of being found out and shattering the “perfect” image I had created. I felt like I was a disappointment to God, which hurt even worse because I longed to have a relationship with Him. I didn’t believe He would accept me. I thought I was too broken and too messed up.
At age 17, I encountered God’s love in a way I hadn’t before, through the person of Jesus. It was at a camp where I was with a few of my friends in Colorado. One day, as a group we took a long hike up a mountain trail. When we arrived at the top, we sat down in an open space overlooking the vast expanse of the rocky peaks. The sight took my breath away. The leader’s voice broke into the silence, “He loves you more than what you see.” Tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. I was in awe of the scene that was before us, yet the Creator of the universe loved us more...He loved me more.
Later that day, the same leader shared John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” He was talking about Jesus. My worst fear of being rejected didn’t come true. Jesus was the friend I had always longed for, and He didn’t need the perfect, put-together person I made up. He wanted the hidden parts, the parts that were depressed, anxious, and ashamed. I finally trusted Him with my long-kept secrets. I began to see through my pride and to see my deep need for a Savior. He met me right where I was and loved me as I was. He saved me. When I returned to school that year, I told my family and friends what was going on, and began building my support network by seeking help from counselors and other professionals. I didn’t have to go at it alone anymore.
Now, at 24, I am working for Athletes in Action as a yearlong intern, and as much as God has grown me in my relationship with Him, there are still times I struggle with the emotional turmoil of anxiety and depression. I buy into the lie that I must not be praying enough or I must not have enough faith, desperate to answer the lingering question of why I’m still struggling. The emotions and thoughts I have don’t always match up with what I know is true. The hopelessness that arises doesn’t match the truth that my hope is complete in Jesus. I get frustrated and angry with myself; I cry out in despair; I doubt His goodness in it all, but He continues to show up and love me as I am. He is patiently present with me. He’s not concerned with the why as much as I am. He loves me. Athlete, this is true for you, too. He loves you wherever you are in your journey.
He loves you wherever you are in your journey.
Psalm 139 is ascribed to David. In it, he begins, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all of my ways.” The Creator of the universe knows you uniquely and intimately. He formed you and understands all of you.
In verses 7 through 10 David says,”Where shall I go from your Spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there! If I make my bed in the depths, you are there! If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me. Your right hand will hold me fast.”
When your anxiety is welling up inside of you and the thoughts are overwhelming, remember He is always present with you. He will never leave you.
When it feels like no one understands, He does. When it seems like no one cares, He does. Darkness tries to shut you up, but He invites all that you are into the light. In verse 11, David continues, “If I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Nothing is too deep, too dark, or too scary for God to love. You do not need to hide from Him. He is not the voice of shame that plays so loudly in your mind.
Athlete, He sees you. You have access to the Hope that will never leave you. When you are struggling to believe that He cares, that He is good, that He is faithful or that He is just, look at Jesus. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see God’s love on full display. He entered into your suffering, He died for your suffering, and He conquered your suffering. The cross shows you how much He loves you and the lengths to which He would go to bring you into His presence. When the waves of panic, of tears, or of numbness come, I pray God uses those moments to take you into deeper dependance on Him. Let those feelings be a reminder to run to Him rather than hide from Him.
To the friend or family member of someone struggling with a mental illness, I want to leave you with this quote: “Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious mind over it? In short: who can take away suffering without entering it?” (from Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen).
Friend, look to Jesus as your example. He is the better friend. He compassionately entered into all of our suffering and laid down His life for all of us. He called us His friends. Listen, try to empathize, and seek to understand your friend’s struggle. Mental illness is hard to understand and it can be even more difficult to explain. Your presence in your struggling friend’s life speaks louder than anything you say. I have had many friends come alongside me in my journey, and I would say their consistent presence, caring questions, and listening ear have meant the most. Pray with your friend and pray for her. Remind him who he is and Whose he is. And for your own heart, trust God with your friends. He loves them more than you do.
- Pray Psalm 139.
- What do you need to bring to the light?
- Where are you struggling to believe in God’s love?
- Invite the Spirit’s presence into this moment, and look at Jesus. Consider His life, His death, and His resurrection. Read Matthew 28:1-10.
Circling back to the poem at the beginning, I’m not fine because I’m fixed—I still struggle with the emotional weight—but I am fine deep within my soul because God invites me to know Him and He tells me I am fully known by Him.
If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts or self harm, please tell someone. There is no shame. Call the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you have questions for Naomi or want to talk more about the content of this post, feel free to reach out. Email the author at email@example.com. To read the original post and more, visit the AIA Basketball blog.