Category Archives: Friendship

‘Joker’ Movie: A Wake-Up Call to America

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I’ve been seeing in the news that the Joker movie is already stirring up controversy, and it hasn’t even opened in theaters yet.

The main complaint, one example is here, is that the movie centers around a white male with mental issues. Thus, the critics contend, it will encourage more white males with mental issues to commit crimes, most notably active shooter crimes that have become so prevalent in the U.S.

I happen to be a white male with mental issues. Does that mean that after I see Joker, I’m going to purchase an assault rifle and body armor and kill as many people as possible in the nearby mall/restaurant/movie theater/supermarket/etc?

Of course not. That’s profiling. And in America, we ALL know that profiling is wrong.

Do I think the movie Joker, about a white male loner who gets beaten down by society, thus turning him into a mass murderer, is going to trigger more people like me to commit crimes?

I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I think everyone is missing the point. In the previews, Arthur Fleck, who becomes Joker, is told by his psychiatrist that she will not meet with him anymore. Maybe because he is not improving. Is she giving up on him?

I think the point is that this demographic needs help. MY demographic. I have had three psychiatrists in my life who have literally kicked me out of their offices, telling me never to come back because I “wasn’t improving.” I was told by more than one therapist that I “didn’t need medication” because I “just needed to change my thinking.”

I think society gives up on people like us too easily and quickly. Might I remind everyone that mental illness is a disease. My sister’s friend recently committed suicide even though he had a family that did all they possibly could to help him.

Unfortunately, the young man was just not able to see the love being poured out to him; he was not able to realize how devastated his family and many friends would be if he took his own life.

My sister, her friend’s father, and everyone else who is “normal” (Therapists hate this word, but I don’t care) did not understand that the young man was enveloped by a dark cloud that prevented him from seeing clearly. It’s not that he didn’t care about hurting his loved ones; he was not able to realize it.

Perhaps the controversy surrounding Joker needs to be a wake-up call to society: People need help. “White males” with mental issues. Those who are bullied. Misfits. Loners. We need help.

Professionals need to care more. Teachers need to intervene more. Family members and friends need to engage more. Strangers need to care more.

My personal issues have caused me to be an outcast my whole life. I still have scary flashbacks from when I was bullied during my childhood. They won’t go away.

We, just like Arthur Fleck in the beginning of the movie, are merely people who have been crapped on by society. Instead of banning the movie, why not use it as a teaching moment for American society?

And you “normal” people: Do your part. Be nice to weirdos. Try talking to that outcast/loner kid at school. Don’t be so quick to kick us out of your psychiatry offices.

Maybe it’s not guns that are the problem in America. Maybe it’s the neglecting of those who are not “normal.”

~t


Purified by Fire: Summer Challenges in the Middle East

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Well, I’ve completed three months here, so I’m officially one-fourth of the way from finishing my deployment.

Things are up and down all the time. It’s fun when my friends and I get a chance to leave the compound (We have to have a “battle buddy” when we leave), but other times it’s depressing to be stuck inside the tall barbed-wire walls.

When I first got here, I heard a few variations on how people end up on this compound in the Middle East. Things like: You either end up as a hunk (meaning all there is to do is work out); a chunk (becoming a couch potato); or a drunk (there is access to “tea”).

I heard one officer explain it this way: After a year, you either weigh 300 pounds or you can lift 300 pounds (meaning there are only two things to do on the compound: work out or eat snacks every night in front of the TV).

With my fragile personality and my mental issues, I tried working out at the gym which is pretty modern; it has everything that one would find back in the States. It gets old, however. So then I started taking walks around the compound which takes about 30-35 minutes – except I would do it right after work when the temperature was/is 110-115 F (43-46 C).

Why would I choose to walk in the heat of the day? I was silly and pretended that the hot sun was burning off my fat. With an average summer humidity of only 10%, it really wasn’t that bad.

That was back in June and July. Then I got a membership to the “tea room” where I ended up spending up to $200 per month on “tea” that I would binge on during the weekends. I never expected that I would become a “tea addict” in a country where it’s officially unavailable. I never did this in the States. Why was I doing it here?

Simple. 1) I was bored. 2) My family wasn’t here.

I’m having to ration my psych meds because I don’t know if they would clear customs if/when my wife ships them to me. Maybe that’s why I turned to “tea.” But that only helps on the weekends. During the week, I’m all alone to face my demons at work and to deal with life in Auschwitz (as my combat veteran friend refers to the compound).

The Army chaplain on the compound means well, but, no offense, he’s an Evangelical Protestant who graduated from Liberty University (the home of Jerry Falwell). Needless to say, he appears pretty phony and insincere.

The Catholic “Mass” happens every week, but since it’s so hard to get ordained priests to come to this location, most of the time lay leaders give their versions of homilies and distribute the consecrated hosts. The majority of the parishioners are Filipino laborers, so I have trouble making friends with them; I feel out of place and have trouble finding things in common with them.

I have a Catholic Bible app and a Rosary app on my phone, but with no one to hold me accountable, it’s hard to maintain any kind of spiritual life. Since the Qur’an is legal here, my friend who’s on the path to conversion loaned me a copy. I have read parts of it and find it comforting.

(By the way, some trivia: Mary is the only woman mentioned in the Qur’an by name, and she’s mentioned more in the Qur’an than in the New Testament.)

I finally confided in a friend at work (the one who is converting to Islam) about my depression, and she told me I’ve got to get hold of myself, give up “tea,” and start exercising again.

I agreed with her. I’m at that crossroads where either path could determine the course of my future. I choose the good path. No more “tea” for me. I honestly do not like exercising, but my friend encouraged me to at least walk around a sand “track” that is outside the gym, after dark of course so it’s not scorching hot. I think I will give that a try.

My youngest son just started middle school, so both of my sons sit together on the bus and go to the same school again. I try to Skype with them whenever I can, but with our schedules and the time difference, it’s hard.

My point, I guess, is that God is always with you and will use unlikely tools and people to help you in any situation, whether you’re in your own country, in a country where your religion is forbidden, or in a country where every religion is forbidden.

Hang in there. It will get better. I’m living proof.

~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


Blessed Are The Misfits

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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


Missing My Friend

 

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How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.

Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

– The Eagles, “Hotel California”

I’ve blogged about my friend from work, Sheila. She suffers from several mental disorders and is an alcoholic on top of all that. We are kindred spirits and have become best friends.

I never knew that I could have a totally platonic friendship with a female. To be honest, I can’t be certain if Sheila is straight or not. She’s never talked about any past relationships, she’s never been married, and she dresses in loose blouses and loose pants everyday at work. Not that that’s a bad thing or anything. It doesn’t matter to me. Somehow, this is the first time that I’ve actually thought about it.

Well, for the first time, our friendship is in serious danger from my perspective.

See, Sheila has a classroom with her own private closet (All other classrooms have to share a closet with another classroom). Several times, in jest, she’s mentioned that she could “jack off” in her closet and nobody would ever know. This was the first sexual comment that she had ever made. Being a lonely celibate male, I took mental note of those comments. I couldn’t help it.

One evening last week, out of the blue, I thought it would be funny if I texted Sheila the words, “Are you jacking off?” Her immediate response was, “What???”

After that, I never heard from her. She avoided me at work for the remainder of the week, and she is not answering her phone or texts this weekend. Usually when she gets drunk, she blocks me on her phone for small infractions that I’ve done. For example, when one of her cats died, she thought I didn’t show enough compassion to her.

I’m thinking that she has blocked me again.

I never meant to offend her. And, by the way, would that comment of mine really offend her?! After her references to masturbation, would she really shun me for joking about it in a text??

I’m at a total loss. I’ve been depressed and full of anxiety this whole weekend. Yes, the days that I live for, Saturdays and Sundays, I’ve spent down and out.

I miss my friend. If I can build enough courage to go into work tomorrow (My social anxiety makes it hard for me to attend work sometimes), the first thing I’ll do is apologize to Sheila.

I didn’t realize how much I needed her friendship. No one else on earth understands me the way she does, and vice versa.

Sheila, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to offend you. You have been planning your suicide for when your last remaining cat dies, and I don’t want to be a trigger.

Come back to me. I need you.

~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