I remember what it was like, being terrifyingly, nightmarishly depressed. I remember one morning in college in particular. I was 19, and had just fallen for someone, call him M., harder than I’ve ever fallen for anyone before or since. I remember waking up, and feeling the freedom of that split second before you remember everything, before the heaviness settles down. I remember thinking: This can’t go on. And then feeling it go on.
It sounds melodramatic now. Certainly, it was. A little unrequited love, and here I’m walking around like the firing squad is arriving at dawn. A well-meaning friend, playing the comforter, told me I needed to just “get over this pseudo-obsession with M.” and move on.1
Score 10 for common sense and 0 for compassion. I couldn’t get over it. I knew M. didn’t have SSA, and I knew he would never be my boyfriend. But we could be friends! Not just any friends: epic friends, Biblical friends, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, David and Jonathan. You who’ve been there, you know what I mean. It was the dream of the Best Friend, my soul’s twin, who would understand everything, fill every hole in my heart.
It’s not that he wasn’t interested in me; it’s that he wasn’t obsessed with me. There was no reason we should have been friends, we were nothing alike, but I was ready to remake my whole personality, like what he liked and laugh at what he laughed at. Seeing him talking and laughing with other guys hurt me almost physically. Not knowing where he was for a night put me in a panic, because he might be secretly be becoming Best Friends with somebody else.
That was hell. Melodramatic or not, it’s the truth. I’ve never hurt worse, or for longer.
I wish I could tell you exactly how I got out. Every time I pray Psalm 86 in Compline, I think of that time:
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart
and glorify your name for ever;
for your love to me has been great:
you have saved me from the depths of the grave.
At the time it felt like I was carrying the heaviest of it. I was the one who had to decide to let go of my David-and-Jonathan ideal, to acknowledge that no man (or woman!) could ever fit that God-shaped hole.2 I was the one who had to decide not to see him every chance I got; not to avoid him, but not to seek him out either. I had to let the friendship die. It never was one anyway.
But there was Father T alongside me, on the phone or in person, helping me not to give up, and there was Jesus in the chapel, with words of healing if I could stop my clamoring long enough to hear them.
So the hurt died down, day by day, until it was gone, and peace came. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come quick, but it came. The year after that I met Sal. The only reason I knew how to be friends with him, without trying to make him my everything, without destroying myself, was what I had learned from M.
Will you believe me if I say I’m grateful for every second of it? The Lord heals, and sometimes only fire will do the trick.