New Q&A Section: Is It Hard Being a Catholic While Suffering from Mental Health?

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Someone emailed me at my address recently (thepsychword@gmail.com). They asked a simple question: Is it hard for you to be a Catholic and to also suffer from mental illness?

First off, I would say to read some of my earlier blog posts in order to get a gist of my answer.

However, yes, it is difficult at times. But at other times it’s quite easy and even fun.

For instance, we just got a new priest at our parish. The former one retired. He was from Mexico, and he could hardly be understood. He let everything go in the Mass: bad music, no crucifix above the altar, clapping during Mass, etc.

Fortunately, our new priest, a much younger Hispanic man (I live in San Antonio, Texas, so, as I’m an “Anglo,” I’m in the minority), is a great homilist and is taking great measures to add more reverence to the Mass.

I guess I digressed, but oh well.

Having a new priest breathe new life into out parish makes me very happy. I am also going to be a catechist (teacher) on Tuesday nights to second graders! I am extremely excited to get out of my comfort zone by doing this.

Yes, I still have my struggles when I do not feel like praying or even opening my Bible. However, I have to fight through it. A lot of times I’m unsuccessful, though.

But, as they say, making the effort is half the battle.

Or, what usually happens is that I slide by until I feel that drive again.I know this isn’t the best advice and I’m probably not the best example for all of you, but, hey, I’m human and suffering with depression and bipolar personality.

I hope this is a good enough answer for you. It’s Sunday night, and I wanted to get this response posted for you, dear inquirer and reader.

Have an incredible week, everyone! I’ll try to as well. It’s a lot of up and down for me. Pray for me as I pray for all of you.

Also, keep the questions coming. You can drop me a line at thepsychword@gmail.com.

~t


Movie: The Road Within

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I just discovered this movie on Netflix. As I always say, I don’t get out too often, so most of you may have already seen this film. Not only do I like indie films, but I especially keep an eye out for ones that explore aspects of mental illness.

This particular film caught my eye because it qualifies as:

  1. a “buddy flick” – and I love those, and
  2. a movie dealing with characters who suffer from some sort of metal illness.

The Road Within is about three young people who don’t know each other, but they all escape from the same wellness center (I’m trying not to use ‘psych ward’). The main character, Vincent, suffers from Tourette syndrome; Marie is anorexic; and Alex, who they pick up at the last minute, has severe OCD. So severe that he constantly wears latex gloves and opens and shuts car doors exactly five times before entering.

They steal/borrow Vincent’s father’s Mercedes and head for the coast to spread Vincent’s mom’s ashes. Along the way they encounter adventures and moments of self-discovery and heartfelt sharing.

It’s not the typical buddy-movie formula: these characters are deep and they’re hurting. They just want and need some help and someone to love and understand them.

I didn’t realize this before watching the movie, but I didn’t know that anorexia was a disease of the mind. I was ignorant like most people probably are.

Alex tells his new friends that his OCD keeps him trapped inside a world of rituals that he cannot escape. He even pays a gas station attendant to chase him out of the store to make it look like Alex ran away without paying. He later confesses to his friends that he did this “to look cool” and to feel normal for a change.

Vincent explains that his Tourette syndrome is like a sneeze: you can’t stop the tics and outbursts of vulgarity no matter how hard you try.

One moving scene in the film shows Vincent’s dad confessing to the boy’s therapist where he went wrong:

It’s awful to say, but I was embarrassed by him… I wanted a different boy. And he knew it. He could see it on my face.

This film doesn’t offer any answers or self-help advice. It’s just a movie about three individuals who are not like the majority of society and how they learn to cope with and eventually rely on each other. I highly recommend it.

~t


Should Christians Watch Game of Thrones?

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deviantart.com

As always, I’m a bit behind when it comes to the latest movies and TV shows. For instance, I finally broke down and watched season 1, episode 1 of Game of Thrones last night. Season 6 just premiered recently, so that shows you how much and how often I watch TV. But everyone seems to love the show, including Christians, so it piqued my curiosity, despite the gratuitous sex, nudity, buckets of gore, and extreme violence that I had heard about and read about.

However, after listening to a Catholic radio program where the hosts mentioned that they watched the show regularly, I thought, What the heck. If they, respected Catholic hosts, watch it, then maybe I should give it a try.

I have always been a fan (not quite geek-boy status) of anything involving the fantasy genre. I played D&D throughout high school, skipped college classes to play Dragon Warrior on my brother’s Nintendo, played World of Warcraft religiously (until my free trial ran out!), and now I am an avid player of the Pokemon card came with my sons.

Regarding Game of Thrones: Boy, was I disappointed. The show is well-written, a serial where the story arc expands over an entire season. And, yes, I’m aware that it was only the very first episode of six seasons so far. Nevertheless, I was sickened and appalled.

Am I telling you not to watch Game of Thrones? No. You can make up your own mind. Am I telling Christians not to watch it? No. Pray about it and follow your own conscience and convictions.

Here are the reasons that I will not watch a single episode more:

 

The Gratuitous Sex

Seriously, I haven’t seen so much doggie-style humping since I took our new pet to the dog park. I mean, it makes The Discovery Channel seem like Sesame Street.

There was even one scene where a fair-skinned maiden from one kingdom was married off to a barbarian. He practically ripped off her clothes, put her on her hands and knees, and started ramming her. Mind you, the whole time the young woman/girl was sobbing (rape, anyone?).

And the pointless nudity. Oh, man. In particular: The scene where the brother is caressing his younger sister’s nude breast? I thought that was only found in the manga that I saw when I lived in Japan. Sheesh. Was I aroused by all this? You may be wondering. Not really, just perplexed.

 

Severed Heads Rolling Everywhere

If I wanted to see chopped-off heads impaled on spikes or gory beheadings, I could just watch Daesh (ISIS) videos on Youtube. I mean, come on. Do the American people want to see more of this in their nightly entertainment? We have become neo-Romans in that case.

If you want to read about the above-mentioned points, then read the Bible! There, I said it. But, the Scriptures are based on true events. Does that give you the right to say the Bible is acceptable and Game of Thrones is not? No. Not really. But Thrones is written for shock value I believe.

Even the website DenOfGeek.com mentioned that the series is full of “gratuitous violence” by the way.

 

And, finally, to a lesser extent…

 

The Portrayal of Religion

In season 1, episode 1 (the only episode I’m going to watch), there is a scene that begins with what looks like a Catholic church, bells tolling away. Inside, stained glass is seen from a distance. Images of Jesus or the saints? I highly doubt it. Turns out it’s a pagan temple resembling a church in architecture (to me anyway). The priests look like they’re the latest incarnation of the Nameless Ghouls in a Ghost video, complete with paper-looking miters emblazoned with pentagrams. Oh, brother, I thought. Really? It’s a fantasy world. At least be creative and make it look like a funky fantasy temple, for crying out loud.

 

And there you have it. So, you decide. You have read my take. As they say in the fantasy world: What say you?

~t


How (I Think) I Ruined Easter for my Kids

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twiniversity.com

It was a day that my wife and I had been preparing for. Easter morning. Our two sons, both on the brink of still believing in the Easter Bunny, awoke at 7:00 am to search for their baskets.

Let me backtrack a bit. Friday night, I took a full dose of an antipsychotic drug that my doctor had prescribed. I had held off on taking it due to its potency (even after cutting it into fourths).

As a result, I awoke on Saturday morning as a zombie, not able to get out of bed or form a coherent thought. It also happened to be the morning that we were supposed to go to the animal shelter so the kids could walk and play with their favorite dog, Bee. It was their second time to walk Bee. She saw my boys approaching and became so excited, jumping up and down inside the cramped kennel.

See, I was supposed to go with them on Saturday, but due to my medication, I had to cancel that morning. My youngest son, who is 8, came to my bed. “Daddy, are you coming?” It was nearing the time that we were due to leave. “No, buddy. Daddy’s not feeling very good.”

My son sighed. “OK. Next time I guess.” And he and the rest of my family left. I remained in bed where I lay passed out from my drug-induced slumber.

The effects of the drugs were so great that they lingered on even into Easter morning. My heart was not into the tradition of watching the boys look for their Easter baskets that “the Easter Bunny” had hid the night before. When they finally found them, I was thinking about crashing in my bed and certainly not thinking about my kids’ joy in discovering their baskets and opening the toys inside.

I dragged myself to Mass that morning, not wanting to go because of the crowds; one of two days that the “C & E” (Christmas and Easter) Christians would attend, swelling the attendance and leaving the sanctuary standing-room only.

I hurried back home for the egg hunt that my wife and I always do for our kids. Reluctantly, I helped her to hide plastic eggs around the backyard, the whole time my head spinning around and focused only on the thought of my comfy bed.

Kids can tell. They know when something’s not right. Our kids, 8 and 10, wouldn’t let on that daddy’s heart just wasn’t in it; but they had fun, and my wife made up for it.

Afterwards, my sons wanted to hide eggs for my wife and me to look for. At this point I flat-out refused. My wife talked me into in (in front of my sons, I might add). I went through the motions, forcing smiles and filling my own basket with plastic eggs.

Finally it was over. I immediately went back to bed and tried desperately to sleep off the meds. I was awakened at dinnertime, the whole day pretty much gone.

Here it is Monday morning, and my heart aches for my two sons. They seemed to have fun, but their daddy didn’t display the interest that he normally does.

Yesterday is gone. I can’t get it back. My sons are getting old enough to remember things like this. Their days of innocence when they didn’t realize what a jerk I was have come to an abrupt halt.

If only I could make it up to them. I want to blame the damn pills, but it was my decision to ingest them Friday night. It was for a good reason, I keep telling myself. But at what cost? My sons’ 2016 Easter is now a memory, and I wasn’t at the top of my game.

As my boss says when I linger in the office too long after class: “Your kids aren’t young forever. Go home.”

Try harder next time, I tell myself. That’s all I can do.

~t


Divorce and Marriage: Things Missed and Things Taken for Granted

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Source Unknown

My sister posted this on her social media account recently. It speaks for itself and needs no introduction:

 

As the one year anniversary of my divorce is approaching, I’ve made a list of things that I miss and that were taken for granted while being married (beware: it’s a long list). I’ve become an even stronger person and I’m doing great at handling everything. I’m Supermom. smile emoticon

-Having someone give me their honest opinion about anything.
-Having a date for every function.
-Family nights.
-Going to dinner somewhere other than McDonalds.
-Sending out Christmas cards from the four of us.
-Knowing certain little things/quirks about him that no else knows.
-Reminiscing about the 25 years we spent together.
-His friends and family.
-His sense of humor.
-Countless numbers of ‘inside jokes’.
-Being silly and immature together.
-The smell of his cologne.
-His back rubs.
-Having an adult conversation with someone in the house.
-Helping the kids with homework while I do house chores.
-Our own language/lingo.
-Spending 7 days a week with my kids.
-Having someone to share my good and bad news with.
-His muscles to lift heavy objects and move furniture.
-When I’m sick or injured (I’m clumsy), having someone to run errands, make dinner,    take the kids to their activities and laundry.
-Knowing that I have someone to grow old with.
-Our family summer vacations.
-Having someone ask how my day was and hearing about his.
-The security of a two-income household.
-Both of us watching the kids open presents on Christmas.
-Decorating the Christmas tree and talking about the significance of each ornament.
-The kids having both of us together at their birthday parties.
-How easy it was to get things done and being a ‘team’.
-His health insurance.
-Having someone clean out the vacuum cleaner (ha ha).
-Having someone to help with car maintenance.
-Fixing things around the house.
-Helping me take care of the dogs and their vet appointments.
-Sitting down as a family at dinner and hearing about the kids’ day
-Sitting on the deck and drinking a beer on nice summer evenings
-And most of all: Missing him.

~t


5 Reasons Not to Kill Yourself

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Credit: Topaz

Disclaimer: This post is ultra-serious. However, as they say, with us crazies it’s either laugh or cry. Well, today is a laugh-or-cry sort of day for me (hence the topic of this post), so please forgive me if I seem flippant about this whole topic. At least it’s kept me from crying.


My psychiatrist has had me on about five or six different types of medication for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Seroquel has left me groggy and in a zombie state of mind for who knows how long (My short-term memory has suffered — I can’t even remember what activities I did with my kids yesterday.)

I have decided to go off all of my meds except for Xanax and Klonopin (two benzos — uh oh). The Klonopin is supposed to provide more stability to aid my Xanax which is more short-term.

I could be setting myself up for something major. I don’t know. All I know right now is that I would rather have a clear (depressed) mind than one that is hazed and spaced-out.

I’m typing this while being on sub duty at my school. Things got so bad with my groggy and forgetful side effects from my meds that my doctor wrote me a note stating that I should be on light duty at my school for a month. Hopefully it doesn’t come back to haunt me professionally.

Talk about feeling useless. All around me today, teachers are upbeat, full of energy, chatting away incessantly, and having an overall grand time in life.

Me, I’m relegated to my empty classroom. I am typing this post instead of throwing up my hands in surrender and quitting everything in life — even my family. It’s that bad.

Which brings me to this blog post. 5 reasons not to kill yourself. Here goes:

 

1. It Takes Effort

All the research involved in how to successfully take your own life (and, believe me, I know) is overwhelming, and, if you’re already on the brink of suicide, why would you want to spend the effort doing all that research? It’s too hard.

And what if you fail in your attempt? Which brings me to…

 

2. You Will Probably Fail

This really sucks. Believe me, it’s happened twice to me already. The first time was traumatic to my wife, children, mother, and to my bank account. Not to mention my reputation and career.

There is a very good chance that your suicide attempt will fail. Need some statistics? Then Google some. They’re out there. And you don’t want to be hooked up to a feeding tube living out the rest of your life as a vegetable. (Couldn’t they just unplug me? You may ask. It’s much more complicated than that.)

 

3. Someone Will Miss You

Someone will. Who, you ask? I don’t know. But someone. Not only that, but that one person (or two, or three, or…) will slowly start to die from the inside out. I know. I watched my aunt slowly waste away to nothing after my cousin killed himself.

I’m beyond caring, you may be thinking. My pain is too great. Well, then, imagine that person saying, “[your name], I love you.”

 

4. What Awaits You? / Are Your Really Prepared For The Great Unknown?

If you’re a person of faith, wouldn’t it be against your religion? Wouldn’t you go to hell? For you atheists, what? What makes you think something better awaits you “on the other side” or wherever you think you go? Or, do you subscribe to Ozzy Osbourne’s theory that, after you die, you’ll be merely a turd flushed down a giant toilet, gone forever. [paraphrase]

Isn’t watching your favorite movies or drinking a nice craft beer under a shade tree better that being flushed into the big septic tank in the sky?

 

5. The Little Gems Hidden Throughout Every Day

You know what I mean. Biting into your favorite chocolate candy bar. Ordering pizza and watching a new movie on Netflix. Taking up a new hobby like bass guitar, not because you hope to ever join a band, but because you love the thumping pulse of the bass, and you like to feel the satisfaction of playing the intros of your favorite songs.

There are other gems: Feeding newborn kittens from a bottle at the local animal shelter. Treating yourself to a coffee and pastry at Starbucks. Curling up beside the fireplace with a good book.

Go find your nugget.

~t

 

 


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


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