Author Archives: Topaz

About Topaz

I'm a college teacher, writer, and faithful Catholic. I do my best to juggle all of these while dealing with my mental illness -- a constant thorn in my flesh.

Rainbows & Unicorns: The Formula for Perfect Blog Posts

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No, I haven’t lost my mind.

I came across this Bible passage on someone else’s blog recently:

Let us not become weary in doing good,

for at the proper time we will reap a harvest

if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

It is an incredibly inspiring verse, enough so that it made me meditate on each word and phrase — something I rarely do these days.

Then I started thinking: What a fine blog post this would make. Throw in a nice, warm piece of Scripture, add some inspiring words (maybe from my therapist), and, presto, a blog post is born.

Not to make light of Sacred Scripture or anything, but, to me, there’s definitely more to it than that. People can express themselves in any way that they see fit. I’ve noticed that my posts tend to hover around the darkish portions of life, completely negating the original intent of my blog which is to inspire and prayerfully help others grow closer to God.

Why do you hover and brood over dark things, Topaz? Well, because that’s life. That’s all. A lot of things complicate my life and I suppose they make me who I am and make me write about what I do.

Heck, I started this blog post to discuss how banal so many blogs out there are. A lot of them are like Facebook updates or sprinkled with memes that wreak of generic spirituality and inspiration.

I guess another reason I’ve decided to write this is because today is my oldest son’s birthday (and I’m relieved to say that he’s still in elementary school — they grow up so fast). I wanted to be a tad bit encouraging in honor of him.

I’m not particularly depressed right now. However, my buspirone and trifluoperazine are making me pretty dang sleepy. I was about to collapse on my bed after getting home from work until my wife told me to do something fun. I guess writing blog posts is considered fun. (Like most things, I find writing hard to do, like a chore that I need to get done but I keep putting it off.)

So, hopefully, the Scripture will inspire you and that you’ll have a good day.

I can honestly say that at this moment I’m glad to be alive.

~t

 


Trapped Under Ice

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I read this last night during my private devotional. It’s Psalm 8: 5.

What are humans that you are mindful of them,

mere mortals that you care for them?

Somehow, though, I wasn’t able to fathom how much God loves me and how he cares about me as I’m just a speck in the universe. I try to grasp these concepts with my finite mind, but I just can’t seem to.

I have been suicidal for the past two days. I don’t know if it’s from my new meds or if it’s from job stress. I mean, I look around at all that I have — a loving family, a good job, a nice place to live — and it does nothing to me. I don’t feel any differently.

I know that I’m supposed to take heart and believe in the Gospel, but it’s just too darn hard when I don’t see it. Where is God in all this? Why doesn’t He help me?

All I’m left with are my thoughts. Thoughts that wander throughout my empty head and through the empty life that I’m feeling.

I guess what I mean is that God exists; I just don’t see or feel His presence anywhere.

It sucks, really.

~t


The Mother of All Suicide Attempts

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On January 3rd of this year, I received Last Rites from a Catholic priest while I was on a ventilator in the hospital.

I’m still alive though.

My sister told me that I was unconscious for almost a full day, but while the priest was performing the rite, I woke up. She said the thought of that whole scenario really freaked her out. She is an unbeliever, but who knows for how long. Personally I don’t think it was mere coincidence either that I awoke as the priest was performing Last Rites on me. I remember opening my eyes, but I couldn’t talk due to the giant tube down my throat. I thought maybe he, the doctor, and the nurse knew something that I didn’t. Was I about to die?

Waking up, I remember being disappointed to know that my suicide attempt was unsuccessful. Perhaps the end that I so desperately wanted was still to come.

Last Rites (not what it’s called anymore) consists of prayers, consecration of oil, and the other two steps that I obviously couldn’t take part in: confession and receiving communion.

Why and how did I end up here? Well, I remember being depressed about a lot of things; I was home alone. I thought it would be a good idea to end it all by swallowing three bottles of prescription pills and then sitting in my idling car with the garage door down, sucking in the carbon monoxide.

The next thing I remember was waking up with the priest praying over me and putting oil on my forehead.

After I got out of the main hospital and then the mental health facility, my therapist asked me if I saw a bright light (i.e. near death experience). I told her that I had not. At least I didn’t recall anything like that.

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know what I’ve been going through. I can’t preach at you since I’m guilty of attempting recently. Obviously God doesn’t want me to die yet. I think I’ve finally learned my lesson and won’t attempt anymore.

I think.

If you’re thinking about killing yourself, just remember that success is never guaranteed. You might wake up in pain with doctor and hospital bills coming out the nose. It’s not worth it.

Reach out to a friend, a family member, or even a suicide hotline.

~t

 


Back to the Psych Ward

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I checked myself into a hospital last week. My suicidal ideation was just getting too bad. I found myself touching the blade on a pocket knife to see if it was sharp enough.

That scared me enough to go back into a psych ward. Although they are virtually prisons, I knew it was the right decision.

I forgot just how bad and claustrophobic the units are. When they took me inside my unit, all I saw was a tiny day room with locked hallways where people slept.

The only good thing is that it didn’t reek of urine. I had a panic attack and began crying for them to release me right then and there. The head nurse had to take me into a private room and calm me down.

After about ten minutes, I accepted the fact that I was not leaving any time soon. A single TV showed an ancient cowboy movie with the sound turned down. People were either sitting in vegetative states or they were stumbling around muttering to themselves.

This isn’t what the pamphlet showed. It never is.

A schizophrenic black guy in a Batman t-shirt came over to shake my hand and tell me not to touch his stuff. I saw nothing nearby, so I guess he meant the stuff in his room.

I eventually decided to play dominos with a guy who tried to hang himself. He said his neck still hurt. A great guy; I’m glad he didn’t succeed.

As usual, time in a psych ward is quite interesting. I couldn’t fully enjoy my stay since my anxiety was in full swing, and I was feeling claustrophobic as hell.

I was released the next day. There was no treatment or adjusting of my meds. Just turned loose.

Another thing I noticed were all the Bibles on the tables in the day room. They were turned to either Psalms or Proverbs. It reminded me of the saying:

There are no atheists in fox holes.

I am so grateful for my freedom. I cannot stress that enough.

~t


In Hell: My Dark Times

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It really sucks to be down in the dumps.

For the past several months, I haven’t had the desire to do anything; staying in bed all the time was the only thing that I wanted.

I am thawing though. The rock bottom was hit again, nearly putting me back in the hospital. One thing that my psychiatrist told me was that mental health inpatient facilities were “prisons where they can monitor those who are suicidal.”

He told me the same thing would be to stay home and get rid of any guns, sharp objects, and pills. I took his advice and decided that inpatient wasn’t a good choice.

Anyway, I was on lithium and one other drug that made me so jittery and paranoid that I couldn’t leave the house. Even after I quit using them, the effects were still in my system.

I was a recluse, afraid to do any activities with my family or to even go out of the house. Just the mere thought of going to the store frightened me. All of this was after I quit using those two medications by the way.

I even had to be put on light duty at work in a non-teaching capacity. That stressed out my supervisors because they didn’t know what to do with me. There was no way I could teach classes with my paranoia and feelings of claustrophobia.

I missed Mass several times and have only started going back. One time I went to church and, once I sat down in the pew, I had to get up and leave.

The bright side is that I’m scheduled to be back in the classroom next week. This is a major step for me. I feel that I’m ready, and I’m mentally preparing myself. My current meds are acting fairly well.

This has truly been a dark night of the soul for me. My only link to God was when I would lay in bed begging him to heal me.

Since then, I have started going to Mass again, reading the Bible, and reading devotionals. I am slowly but surely climbing out of my pit, and it’s so hard.

But I’m doing it.


Jade the Healer

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Baizley

Purple is the color of bruising, of healing…

-musician/artist John Baizley

 

I feel like a little middle school kid, rushing to his diary to write about that cute girl at school who was nice and talked to him. I feel that way because that’s what happened today.

I’ve missed work since late last week because of agoraphobia-type anxiety. It was the worst. I suddenly couldn’t find it in me to do the job that the government hired me (pretty good money) for.

What did I do?

I stayed home. Slept. Drugged myself up and slept the days away. I made excuses to my wife, and I started the God-awful process of finding a therapist who would write me a note so I could miss work and not get in trouble for it.

By the way, if you have a therapist and he tells you to follow-up with him, be sure to DO IT. Or else you’ll be screwed months down the line when you need something from him. Like a note for work. Ugh. Trust me on this. (That guy was a whack-job anyway.)

So, I started the search for a new therapist. Through the years, I have yet to find the one that’s right for me, and most of them are like least-common-denominator material, if you know what I mean.

I didn’t care who I got: man, woman, whatever. My sights were low: I just wanted a damn note! That wasn’t too hard to ask for, was it?

The first lady, seemingly straight out of high school, did my “in-processing” yesterday and was far below stellar in the personality department.

Note?

“I do in-processing. Not notes.”

Damn.

This morning I went for my therapy appointment, someone they “placed” me with, like it was a dating match site or something.

I sat there in the waiting room, praying that I would just get my note for my employer after a 45-minute chit-chat session.

Then she came to get me.

I’ll call her Jade. The beautiful blonde beam of sunshine came out to shake my hand. She seemed fresh out of grad school, yet with years of experience tucked under her belt. A curious one to say the least.

It’s not like I was suddenly in love, but it sure beat the individuals who passed as “therapists.” Jade was enthusiastic, very glad to see me, secure, and sincere.

She told me something that I haven’t forgotten:

Normal is a setting for washing machines.

That’s all. No one is “normal.” Even she has episodes of panic attacks.

We also did some mindfulness activities at the end that made me gush.

Gush?

Oh gawd. Do I have a crush on my new therapist?!

~t

 


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