Category Archives: Catholic

To The Fearful of Heart: Be Strong and Do Not Fear

be strong

I’ve been having a hard time lately. My wife and I are to the point where we actually hate each other and are bringing up divorce. My faith is at an all-time low, and I have no friends to talk to.

We bought our dream home last year, and now it looks like we’ll have to sell it and get two apartments: one for me and one for her and the kids. I honestly can’t afford two apartments plus child support on my salary, so she will have to get a job before any of this happens.

I’ve been thinking about suicide again. I know I’d be able to see my sons anytime, but it wouldn’t be the same.

I’m not being recognized at my job no matter how hard I work…

Et cetera, et cetera.

So what did I do yesterday morning? I went to Mass. Every nerve in my body said No! Stay in bed and pout.

But I refused to listen.

I prayed on the way, God, please give me a jolt of the Holy Spirit and show me what to do about everything. My life is a mess. It’s too hard to go on.

I’ve asked God to show me certain things about myself during Mass, and he always has.

This time I was desperate. I was at the end of my rope. Actually I still am.

The first reading during Mass was God’s answer to my prayer. It was Isaiah 35:4-7:

Say to the fearful of heart:

Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God,

he comes with vindication;

With divine recompense

he comes to save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall see,

and the ears of the deaf be opened;

Then the lame shall leap like a stag,

and the mute tongue sing for joy.

For waters will burst forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the Arabah.

The burning sands will become pools,

and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

The first two lines spoke to my heart. My heart is full of fear. However, God says to be strong and not be afraid. He doesn’t say that He will do these things for me; rather, I need to make the decision to be strong and stop being afraid.

It gave me peace and hope. Later that day, my son was scheduled to sell popcorn for the Boy Scouts in front of a supermarket. I went with him, and we ended up having a good time.

Normally I hate Sundays because it’s like I’m just waiting around for Monday morning to come. But it was a good day.

Then at 8:00 last night my wife and I ended up fighting again.

I want to lie right now and say that I kept that Bible verse close to my heart for the rest of the day, but I really didn’t. I ended up forgetting about it.

But the good thing about God is that we can repent and believe again.

Then I went to work this morning to find out that I was passed over for a promotion for no apparent reason. So I forgot about the verse yet again.

But now I’m sharing it with you. Hopefully you’ll remember it.

~t


Another Celebrity Suicide…

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Dear media: Stop giving out the suicide prevention hotline!

I saw the news this past week on my favorite music blog, MetalSucks, that yet another celebrity had succumbed to suicide. Her name is Jill Janus, and she was the singer for a metal band called Huntress. She was only 43.

I don’t expect many of you to know who she was. Heavy metal has so many subgenres that there are literally thousands of bands out there that are listened to by fans of this type of music.

Haters: Topaz, you’re just another hypocritical Catholic. Heavy metal is of the devil.

Topaz: Thank you for your free advice.

I’m writing this post because I’m saddened by another celebrity person taking their own life.

I’m saddened that the metal blog (where I first read the news) ended their article by saying something like, “Please, please. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call this toll-free hotline: XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

I’m saddened by the comment section where quite a few people said things like Why didn’t she reach out for help? Why wasn’t she on medication? Why wasn’t she in therapy?

I’m saddened and angered by the ignorance of those “normal” people that just don’t get it.

They’ll never understand.

Because they’re not like “us.”

They don’t have the disease that is mental illness. Jill suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and dissociative identity disorder, according to a 2015 interview.

Am I against suicide hotlines? Sort of. They don’t work for me. I’ve used them several times.

Am I against medication and therapy? Of course not. I’m partaking in both.

What angers me is that people don’t realize that there are many instances where mentally ill people CANNOT reach out for help because they are too enshrouded in darkness. Their minds are telling them that there is no other option but death.

This is why I have attempted suicide more than once. Two of those times I passed the point of no return (only to miraculously end up alive).

With Jill, I don’t believe that she was always in that dark state where she couldn’t think clearly. I’m sure there were times when she was partying and having a great time, enjoying life.

So, since there will always be suicides because the disease of mental health is too overpowering at times, is there any hope for “us”?

Yes. I believe that we sufferers should seek treatment such as medication and therapy when we ARE in a right state of mind; don’t wait until it’s too late. If you suffer from any of these damn diseases (depression, bipolar disorder, etc.), go to a doctor before you slip and fall headfirst into the deep, dark pit.

Had Jill been on a regimen of medication and therapy, then I think she would still be alive today. Instead, the world has lost another talented individual, and her friends and family have lost someone very special.

In conclusion, don’t give out the suicide hotline to those who are not “normal.” Instead, grab them by the fricking hair, kicking and screaming, and drag them to the doctor! Check up on them several times a day! Watch them take their medication! Drive them to therapy!

Because a phone number isn’t gonna do a damn thing for someone who is already too far gone.

~t


Regret Is Eating Me Alive

galveston

Galveston Island, TX

I felt the need to write. I have started several novels over the years, one chronicling my suicide attempts and hospitalizations. I just can’t seem to make myself sit down and write them. That’s the problem.

So I have this blog. I sit myself down right now to write, but I don’t really have anything encouraging to say. Ha. That is usually followed by what turns out to be an encouraging post.

I started this blog in hopes of offering positivity to those who suffer mental illness among other things. The Catholic part comes from my faith tradition, which I am trying like mad to hold onto. (Most days I’m a religious hypocrite.)

I wanted my very own ministry (‘apostolate’ in Catholic terms), but it turned out that I’m just as broken, sinful, and run-down as the people whom I wanted to encourage.

So, here I am talking about how miserable I am. I suppose I could give a lesson on what not to do.

As a father and husband, I use my own dad as an example of what not to do. See, he was a real prick during my childhood. The problem is, I’m turning into him, whether I like it or not.

OK, here’s what not to do. This week we took a family vacation to Houston, about a three-hour car trip. See, I have a decent job, but we’re not exactly rollin’ in dough. So we went to Houston because there are fun things there for our kids like NASA, the beach, The USS Texas battleship, etc., etc.

Our friends go to Hawaii. Spain. The Bahamas. We go to friggin’ Houston. But I digress.

I got angry several times and my wife and I fought. I’m sure it hurt out two children.

Now we’re back home. This evening I drove my two sons to their friend’s house for a sleepover. They had their little bags packed with all of their pool gear, swim wear, and change of clothes. On the drive there, I yelled at my youngest son for something really stupid. This was just before we arrived at their friend’s house. I didn’t apologize. I’m sure I hurt my son and put a damper on things.

Here it is, Friday night. My favorite day of the week. And I feel like crap. I’m fighting severe depression even though I took my meds for the evening. I feel guilt weighing me down like barbells on my shoulders.

On top of that, I’ve been stealing from my own mom. I use her credit card at will. She is retired by the way. She tells me to stop, but I don’t. My sister gets involved and texts me angrily. I take offense and delete her number. I even unfriend her from Facebook.

My life sucks now.

And now I sit here on this Friday night, pouring out my guilt and screw-ups on this blog. I could be partying (yeah, right) or enjoying a good movie. My wife is in her room, not to be bothered (ugh).

I decided to look through the Bible for passages about regret. I pored over lots of passages. One I found shows the nature of God (Genesis 6:6):

And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.

This shows that God experiences regret. I think of myself in this Genesis passage, and then I think that God has every right to strike me down and send me to hell where I belong.

Then I read this passage from 2 Corinthians 7:10:

For Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

How do we get to the point of having Godly grief? I sure wish I knew. At least this is a compass setting for me. It’s something I can pray for, because I have no clue how to achieve it.

Tonight I cut up my mom’s credit card information. It’s a start, right? We have to start somewhere.

Baby steps. Hey, whatever it takes, my friend. Baby steps are alright.

Whatever is holding you down at this time, take baby steps to improve your situation. That’s what I’m doing.

Overeating? Eat a little less. Bad father? Give your kid a hug. Bad husband? Clean the kitchen. Missing too much work (like I am)? Take it one day at a time. I will be there Monday. 

You get the idea.

Now, I’m going to go salvage the rest of my Friday night.

~t


Blessed Are The Misfits

hansen

Let’s see. How can I sit down right now and write an encouraging blog post for you? As you know, I’m not the most encouraging blogger. I kinda suck.

Anyway, I’ve been reading a book. Actually I’ve read it, but I’m reading it again. That’s how good it is. The book is Blessed Are The Misfits: Great News for Believers Who Are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They’re Missing Something. For short, I just call it Blessed Are The Misfits. You can tell from the title just what kind of book it is.

I won’t get into the details too much, but it is a perfect book for someone like me. The author, Brant Hansen, spends time describing how introverts and “weirdos” like he and I don’t really fit into the whole Church culture. (He’s coming from a Protestant viewpoint by the way.)

What I like is how he says that, even though we don’t fit in or aren’t “fired up” to share Jesus with people, we as Christians still have an obligation to love people.

To love people.

This is super hard for me because I generally don’t care much for humans. I have to work with them and teach them, but that doesn’t mean I like them.

Topaz, how can you call yourself a Catholic when you hate people?!

I try to love them. I also fall short a heck of a lot. That’s where God’s grace and effort on my part come in. Here is an excerpt from the book:

I know I don’t fit in. But I also know I’m supposed to love people, even those who will never, ever understand me and don’t even want to.

Obviously he’s talking about the “popular kids.” You know. The happy cliques, the look-at-me types, the ones who I went to school with, and the ones who I have to work with. (Nope. The popular cliquish people are also found in jobs in the adult world. It doesn’t end in high school. *eye roll*)

Hansen says at the end of an early chapter:

He [Jesus] knows this world is both cruel and inhospitable to Him and His people. But He told us God “so loves” it anyway.

He even plans to rescue it.

This is what I get from everything so far: I don’t have to force myself to become an extrovert in order to be the best Christian I can be. I just have to deny myself and try and love people. Because Jesus loved people. He still does. He even loves the people on heavy metal blogs and websites that talk about how they hate Him and that the Church He founded is a pile of garbage that we don’t need. (It breaks my heart, but I still visit those metal blogs and sites because, well, I love metal.)

Anyway, I hope you got something out of this post today. If not, then just remember to love people because God loves people. Even if it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to do. And try to love the misfit types and “different” types too. Because God does.

~t


Uncontrolled Anger & Stryper

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You lie in the graveyard,

you’re rotting away.

— B***hole Surfers, “Graveyard”

Well, my friendship with Shiela is officially over. We totally ignore each other in the halls at work now. I started it and she followed suit.

I can’t express how angry it makes me feel. I got home today and felt like going out somewhere just to physically bully someone. I want so badly to verbally abuse Shiela, maybe ask her how the wine tastes in her coffee tumbler. I’m even thinking about telling her supervisor that she drinks at work. But then I think, What can she get me on? There’s got to be something bad that she knows about me. My gosh, we were best buddies for over a year.

I’ve been extra angry and depressed at home especially. I actually hosted Sheila at my house a few weeks ago and waited on her hand and foot. I served her (frozen) vegan pizza and her favorite wine, pinot grigio. I even gave her a pillow and covered her with a blanket when she passed out on my floor.

Those days are over. And I cannot accept it.

Luckily, last Friday was the CD release date for my favorite Christian rock band Stryper. It helped somewhat listening to the words this past weekend (especially since I skipped Mass).

These lyrics from “Sorry” especially spoke to me:

Sorry

It doesn’t always make it starry

Maybe next time be more charming

so you don’t have to say sorry

I should have treated her with kid gloves at all times instead of texting her something that was “questionable” (see previous posts).

How was I to know how sensitive she was?

I pray that I’ll awake from my coma and start to enjoy life again. I pray that I can love Shiela even after what she did to me. It’s so hard but I’m trying.

~t


Mental Illness 1, Sheila & Topaz 0

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Sheila and I had planned a happy hour after work last Friday. We were both really looking forward to it after a long week of being “in the trenches” (teaching).

We went to a place that Sheila recommended. Since she is a vegan, the restaurant was a vegan Mexican place. I didn’t know anything like that existed. It was in the artsy part of the city.

The decor was made up of the Virgin of Guadalupe statues, banners, and renditions of local artists’ interpretation of the Virgin. The place was a total dive, but that’s what gave it its charm. I told Sheila that I didn’t know if we should pray or eat: the centerpiece of our table was a religious candle of the Virgin, the kind that you find in barrio shops for a dollar.

It turns out that this place didn’t serve alcohol; they hadn’t applied for a liquor license yet (they were under new ownership). Disappointed, we left in search of a microbrewery in the same vicinity. After sitting down, Sheila complained that they only served beer. Duh. It’s a microbrewery, I almost said.

So then we went next door to a trendy coffee shop/bar where everybody was pretty and handsome; definitely there to be seen on a Friday evening. As we perused the menu (they had spirits!), Sheila suddenly grabbed me and headed for the door.

“That woman [the waitress] was laughing at me. I have to get out of here.”

I was aware of the waitress the whole time, and she was not laughing at or doing anything to offend Sheila.

So we sat outside on the patio, trying to decide what to do and where to go. Sheila had become totally silent. After several minutes, she said, “Let’s head back to our cars.”

Walking to our cars, Sheila’s eyes began to tear up. She wiped them with the back of her sleeve. “Why am I cursed?” she sobbed, looking up at me, her nice blue eyes now red with tears. “I’m not supposed to be happy,” she said, her voice choking up with more emotion.

I didn’t know what to do. From experience, I’ve learned to be a good listener. In Sheila’s state of mind, she wouldn’t have heeded any advice I offered her. “I’m going home,” she said, dejected.

All I could think of was to say, “Call me if you need anything.” I got in my car, and we were off, going separate ways, back to our miserable lives all alone.

How I wished that I could have persuaded Sheila to join me back at the vegan place. We could have brought a bottle of wine (BYOB was okay there) and enjoyed ourselves.

Instead, I left Sheila for the evening.

I know what it’s like to have paranoia and to think lowly of myself. I still do. But medication and therapy have helped me tremendously. I still have my moments, however. But Sheila is unwilling to seek any sort of treatment.

I’ll continue being her friend. Hell, I’m the only friend she has besides her two cats. I’ll continue not because I’m trying to “save” her, but because she’s my friend.

~t


My Friend of Misery

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I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty.

— Pope Francis

I made a new friend at work. I’ll say her name is Sheila. It’s a wonder that we found each other. You see, Sheila suffers from depression and suicidal ideation just like I do. We didn’t know this when we started chatting daily and visiting each other’s classrooms.

Sheila seemed meek and shy. I could tell right away that she was introverted almost to the point of misanthropy.

After talking casually for several weeks, she started confiding in me. “I have a drinking problem.” “I suffer from depression.”

I also started opening up with her. It turns out that we both have spent time in psych wards for suicide attempts and depression.

Sheila and I are at the point to where we share everything with each other — because we have each other’s trust.

Today we were on the topic of suicide. We were discussing how different methods wouldn’t totally work. A bullet to the head might turn one into a vegetable instead of being fatal. How swallowing Drano could only burn your insides and not kill you. How pills don’t work (because we have both tried them).

Then our conversation took an eerie turn. Could we go to the Netherlands and take the euthanasia drug? Surely not. They wouldn’t give it out for healthy people’s suicides. What about Oregon? Nope. same thing.

Then Sheila said something that — well, I should have been shocked or red flags should have gone up, but they didn’t.

Sheila said, “As soon as my two cats die, I’m checking out.” Then she made a cutting motion across her throat with her index finger.

All I said was, “How?”

“I’ve been researching about hiring someone to kill me. Either that or jumping off a bridge into traffic.”

The thing is, I did nothing to persuade her from those plans. I didn’t step in like a friend should. I didn’t report her to 911.

Instead I empathized with her and told her I felt the same way. I even asked her if she would someday fly to Amsterdam with me so we could take the euthanasia pill together.

I know that I failed as a Christian. I know that I still have a shot at persuading her to live though.

But what about my agreeing with her? That certainly isn’t the Christian thing to do.

Oh, and Sheila is an alcoholic. She drinks wine at work out of her coffee tumbler. On Fridays we go out for lunch and we both slam beers.

I have the time of my life with Sheila — in a totally platonic way. But at the same time I am starting to believe that God put me in Sheila’s life to help her. And helping her I’m not.

Could you pray for me? Could you also pray for Sheila? Her parents have passed away, she doesn’t communicate with her siblings, and she has no real friends except for me. She has no one to live for.

Right now we are partners in misery yet we both are the only ones who can make each other laugh. It’s a tough situation because I love our friendship.

But at this point I guess I don’t love her enough to reach out to her as a Christian.  The scary thing is, I don’t want it to ruin the fun we have.

The suicidal downward spiral feels like a water park slide: looping down and around until we go crashing into the water, all the while laughing and giggling like two kids under the summer sun.

Except we’re under storm clouds and I’m doing nothing about it. I want to feel ashamed of myself but for some reason I don’t. You have every right to judge me, but at this time I just ask for your prayers. That I can be a man of God and help this poor woman.

~t