Unchained: Fear of Going Ballistic in a Public Place

 Here I am in a well-visited bookstore. I sit with a book on one knee (The Name of God is Mercy by Pope Francis) and my smart phone on my other, typing this.

I don’t know if it’s from my Starbucks mocha that I’m still nursing, or if it’s from losing my temper with my two little boys this morning after my younger one’s basketball game.

But I’m suddenly having flashbacks of the mental ward and how I was kept in there against my will — a prisoner cut off from the real world.

I recall pushing my face against the barred window, straining to get a glimpse of some trees or grass.

The feeling of helplessness. Madness. Panic in being trapped.

Now here I am. I’m free. My body. I can go wherever I wish. I can sit here at a bookstore and read while the old, the young, the obese, the hot eye candy, the children pass by, consumed by their Saturday afternoon.

A staff member walks past me, unaware of my thoughts. My feelings. My darkness.

I can simply lash out at anyone — anything — in an instant and ruin lives. Ruin my own. Forever.

The thought scare me. They cut through the medicated complacency that I enjoy.

This book could help me. The entire religion section could. The self help section could. Even the half-nude women on the car mags, on the literary mags, on the _______ mags.

Oh well, just my thoughts. Don’t mind me.

Or should you?

~t

Photo by Topaz


Send Them an Angel: The Less Fortunate at Christmas

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I was driving through a neighborhood street on my way to church about a month ago. I noticed a house that seemed deserted: The garage door was up, revealing torn and battered walls. At one time, the front door was open, revealing an empty living room with battered, torn-up walls.

I thought nothing of it. Just another foreclosure. And I continued passing the house on my way to and from Mass every week.

Recently, though, there was a mountain of stuff (rather, junk) piled in front of the house, taking up the whole front part of the driveway and side yards. What a friggin’ mess, I thought. This is a complete eyesore! Where is HOA when you need them?

On my way back from Mass a couple weeks ago, something made me turn my car around and go back to the house. I saw a Dora the Explorer pink kids’ suitcase sticking out of the rubble of broken furniture, scraps of wood, and old papers and files. I even saw an old battered photo. (I couldn’t bring myself to look more closely at it; it was heartbreaking enough to know that someone’s memory was among this.)

While surveying the destruction, I noticed a stuffed animal and a pink play kitchen. Obviously a little girl had lived here. Where was she now? Where was her family?

One time in college, when I was a Bible study leader for a non-denominational church, I contemplated quitting because I felt I didn’t have what it took to “lead” others spiritually. One young guy in my group, a former Satanist and drug addict, told me I belonged with them as their leader because I “felt.”

I felt.

In other words, I had a gift of seeing people for how they are and accepting them. However, that has come to be my curse. I feel so much for others that it consumes me like a fire.

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What I was seeing in the pile of a family’s discarded life affected me like nothing else. My heart began hurting for the family, especially for the poor little girl who was probably forced to uproot suddenly with her family.

I guess my point to all this is that, had I not stopped my car, I would never have seen those mounds of “junk” as anything other than junk. By stepping outside of my own selfishness, I entered a spiritual state that, I believe, showed me a glimpse of what Jesus sees.

Even if it were .00000001% of the beatific vision of heaven, it was enough to make me lose sleep and to be preoccupied day after day about this poor family.

So, during this holiday season, whether you’re surrounded by family, friends, presents, and tables of food; or whether you’re alone in an empty house with no Christmas warmth, please pray for those whose lives aren’t as blessed as yours.

And please pray for that family wherever they may be.

~t

Photos by Topaz


The Reality of Suicide Attempts

 

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A family event yesterday caused me to spiral downward in a most drastic way. Before I knew it, what seemed like such an insignificant event brought me to the point to where I locked myself in my room for two days, refusing to eat. My two young sons didn’t know what to think; I imagine I hurt them a great deal with my irrational behavior. I was trying to prove a point to my wife, but the children were the ones who got caught in the crossfire.

I reached rock bottom this evening. I read in a mystery novel recently about a character committing suicide by swallowing Drano, a drain cleaning product made mostly of sodium hydroxide (lye). They sell it at any store like Walmart, so I was planning on making a trip there to pick up a bottle.

However, something told me to research it online — on my phone, of course; I didn’t want my family seeing the search terms “drano suicide” in the browser history. After my Xanax-and-booze attempt, I wanted a sure-fire way to kill myself.

What I read shocked the hell out of me. I found out that the most painful form (among many, I’m sure) of a suicide attempt is swallowing lye. If a person does indeed die from it, it could take days or months. The reason is that it burns the mouth, tongue, esophagus, and it also burns holes into the chest cavity. Years of painful surgeries would most likely be required.

That settled it. I was fortunate enough not to be turned into a vegetable for taking 40 Xanax pills mixed with tequila. (However, my memory has suffered somewhat — I can trace it back to that fateful night.)

From what I was reading, the human body is tough and harder to kill than people realize. For instance, slitting one’s wrists wouldn’t necessarily kill them. It may just damage the tendons and nerves in the wrists instead.

I remember the nurse at one of my hospital stays telling me about a man who once put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. The barrel of the gun wasn’t where it should have been to kill him. Instead of blowing his brains out, the bullet traveled right behind his eyes. He survived, but he was permanently blinded.

There were other deterrents that I came across: hanging oneself could just cause permanent brain damage; jumping from a high place might only cause permanent injury; overdosing on aspirin could only damage the kidneys, lungs, and liver instead of resulting in death.

After learning all of this, I became

1. disappointed and

2. scared.

Soon after that, my sons came into my room (I let them in) and asked if I could play outside with them. I said no because I was sad. My youngest left the room saying, “Daddy doesn’t want to play with us.” It broke my heart, but I was still too inwardly focused to do anything.

God knew I wanted to do the right thing. Before I knew it, I was outside in the dark, playing tag with my kids and having a great time.

If you are considering suicide, please remember this:

*Suicide is often messy, and the rate of success is not very high.

*If you by chance are successful, your loved ones (and you DO have people who love you) would be devastated for the rest of their lives.

My cousin committed suicide, and my aunt was never the same. Many say it caused her early death.

Hopefully this post will prevent your attempt. I pray it does.

~t

Information taken from the book Here Comes the Sun by Gayle Rosellini & Mark Worden

 


Sunday Musings: The End of Our Lives

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Next Sunday is a solemnity called Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (colloquially known as Christ the King). It is the end of the Church’s liturgical calendar and is a time to reflect on the end of our lives on earth and on the second coming of Christ. (The priest in my old parish once called it “a funeral of sorts — our funerals.”)

Today’s scripture readings reflect and foreshadow these events. Daniel 12: 1-3 says:

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

In Mark 13: 24-32, Jesus says:

In those days after the tribulation,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light…

He will send out the angels

and gather his elect from the four winds…

The priest at Mass this morning talked about how we should get rid of sinful habits in our lives so that we will be prepared to die and face the Lord. He also talked about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the attacks in 2001 on the Twin Towers in New York.

“Do you think anyone was thinking: ‘I’m prepared to meet my Maker’? Probably no one.”

We all have daily struggles. Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive amid all the stress and hardships of daily life. I know it is for me. However, we must hold to the promise that awaits us. This will get us through the tough times. As the adage goes:

Those who persevere through a storm often find a rainbow.

So, in conclusion: Am I ready to meet my Maker if I should die today?

Are you?

~t


Sunday Musings: All Saints Day

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This is a section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass. It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

About a month ago, I was reading an excellent book called Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. (I highly recommend this book to Catholics as well as people curious about or interested in the faith. It is changing my life chapter by chapter.)

The writer suggests taking notes at Mass each Sunday. Before Mass begins, he says to pray the following:

God, show me one way in this Mass that I can be a better version of myself this week.

This prayer and my notes have helped me tremendously. This morning God revealed to me that I need to strive harder to be a saint (which all Christians already are); but, I need to look to the canonized saints from history, ones whose lives were filled with Godly virtues, to do my best for God each and every day.

Give it a try!

~t

 

 


The Interlock is Off: Getting the Breathalyzer Removed From My Car After Six Long Months

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The day finally came. Last Wednesday, I finally got my interlock device removed from my car.

The device is a breathalyzer attached to the ignition of my car that I had to blow into before I could start it. If the interlock registered any alcohol on my breath, it would not allow my car to start.

The court ordered me to have it for six whole months. Six months! So frustrating since my accident and charge had nothing to do with alcohol; it was a result of my medication. (You can read about the events leading up to this post here.)

Since the court didn’t specify if I needed a camera mounted on the inside of my driver’s side windshield, the interlock company was forced to install one. The camera, of course, was to make sure that I was blowing into the device and not some “sober” passenger.

Talk about embarrassing. For half a year, I made excuses as to why I couldn’t drive my friends around. I used my wife’s car whenever my family would visit to avoid them (and me) the shame.

I understand that, yes, there are convicted drunk drivers that need these interlocks. And, yes, the devices save lives. But for me? My situation? Ridiculous.

The judge I was assigned to made everyone get an interlock who was convicted of a DWI (driving while intoxicated), regardless of the source of intoxication.

Sadly, while serving my court-ordered labor detail (which I plan to blog about in the future at some point), guys would go right back to drinking and driving as soon as they got the interlock removed from their cars. One guy even bought a home breathalyzer kit so he would know how much booze he could consume hours before he had to operate his vehicle.

I remember having conversations with fellow “inmates” on the Chain Gang (the term by which some of us referred to the sheriff’s labor detail that we were on) about how we wouldn’t have even been there if MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) weren’t headquartered in Texas. According to my lawyer, they have been responsible for the ultra-strict DWI laws here in the Lone Star State.

Of course I think drinking and driving is wrong, as did the guys I spoke with on my labor detail. But, MADD has left no gray areas that some of us were stuck in; it’s either black or white. Heck, nothing is black or white anymore.

So, take it from me. It doesn’t pay to even drive while buzzed. For the interlock device alone, I paid nearly $100 per month for six months for “maintenance fees,” excluding installation and removal fees. (Not to mention thousands of dollars for my lawyer, thousands owed to the DPS (Department of Public Services) for the “reinstatement of the privilege to drive,” and several hundred dollars in court fees.

By the way, I just noticed on MADD’s website that “drugged driving” is a target of theirs now.

Conclusion: Don’t end up like me. Be careful.

And, don’t attempt suicide in your car ever.

~t


Self-Pity

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I received a comment on one of my recent posts that really hit home. You see, when I started this blog (as mentioned in the “About” section), I had the intent of beginning a ministry to help others who suffer from mental illness. Being faith-based in nature, my aim was also to help people know God.

Well, by perusing my own posts for the last, oh, several months, I was hard pressed to find much, if any, encouragement from myself.

In other words, I’ve been sulking in self-pity for the longest time. I realized it, but I didn’t seem to care. I didn’t feel the need to make any adjustments. King David used the Psalms to gripe about things, and then he threw in a praise to God at the end, I would tell myself, half-believing the justification.

Also, my posts have gotten shorter. Why? I ask myself. Because I’ve been selfish. I drag myself before the computer, I whine and complain, and then I log off, putting in my “time.”

I’m glad Jesus’ ministry wasn’t like that.

I’m FAR from being like Jesus. Really far. At times I try–

See, I just caught myself before the full-on “woe is me” stuff came out.

Thank you, dear commenter, for bringing my self-pity to my attention. I listened to you because:

  1. you were sincere,
  2. you were loving, and
  3. you know what I’m going through because you suffer from it too.

The truth be told, I came back from the psychiatrist this evening. He’s trying to adjust my meds. Things aren’t working out too well. For some reason, when I leave the psych’s office, I feel like cutting loose with sin. The doctor told me I suffer from hypermania (whatever that is), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which explains why I feel the world is crashing down on me when I give in to the tidal wave of lustful thoughts and feelings).

The person who left the above-mentioned comment recommended a book entitled The Temperament God Gave You. I ordered it, and it arrived a few days ago. I like what I see so far. I’m so glad a Catholic book on that topic is available.

Dear readers, the only inspiration and positive thoughts that I have for you this time aren’t necessarily Christian nor are they from the Bible. An hour ago, I was sulking in my big, fluffy chair in my so-called library, and I pulled down my copy of poems by Emily Dickinson. I opened the book to a random page and found something called “Hope.” I posted it on my Facebook page, but you can read it below:

HOPE
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

~t


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