Category Archives: Prayer

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.

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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


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


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

 

 


Why Christians Need Flannery O’Connor

A snapshot of Flannery O’Connor beside her self-portrait

I recently came across this opinion piece on CNN’s website. The title caught my eye since I’m interested in all things Christianity and, being an English teacher, I can’t help but admire and love the works of O’Connor — not to mention the fact that she was Catholic.

Before reading anything in the Belief section of the website, I always scan the credentials of the writer to see from which angle the topic is being viewed. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked to find that this piece was written by a leader associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why would the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission be praising an odd, peacock-obsessed Catholic writer?

There was only one way to find out.

I do hope you take the time to read the following article. It is a sobering critique on American evangelical Christianity and how so much of it is feel-good, seeker-friendly entertainment to justify our sense of entitlement, all the while avoiding that dreaded “s” word: sin.

The following is the original column by Russell D. Moore in its entirety:

 

On my Christmas list of gifts to buy my evangelical friends, there’s a little book of prayers.

This is less predictable than it may seem, since the prayers aren’t from a celebrity evangelical preacher, but from a morbid, quirky Catholic who spent her short life with pet peacocks and wooden-leg-stealing Bible salesman stories.

But I think Flannery O’Connor’s newly published “Prayer Journal” is exactly what Christians need, maybe especially at Christmas.

The book, recently discovered in the writer’s papers in Georgia and now published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, reproduces the handwritten notebook prayers scribbled down by O’Connor during her years as a student at the University of Iowa.

The prayers are jarring because they are so personal and raw, clearly not written to “edify the saints” in a published manuscript. They are, well, just prayers.

Part of the rawness and authenticity of the prayers come with the way O’Connor refuses to sentimentalize her personal relationship with Jesus (thought it’s clear she has one). She is here constantly aware of her own fallenness and of the seeming silence of the God to whom she pours out these little notes.

O’Connor notes that her attention is “fugitive” in prayer. She confesses that hell seems more “feasible” in her mind than heaven because, “I can fancy the tortures of the damned but I cannot imagine the disembodied souls hanging in a crystal for all eternity praising God.”

She is constantly second-guessing whether her prayers for success as a writer are egocentric, or a genuine striving to use the gifts God has given her.

Moreover, O’Connor is constantly aware that she is a sinner, and she can’t get around that. Perhaps the most widely publicized sentence in the book is her confession that she “proved myself a glutton, for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There’s nothing left to say of me.”

Even when she’s confessing sin, she seems aware of her sinfulness in doing that. She says of sin, “You can never finish eating it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited,” but, she immediately concludes, “perhaps that is too literary a statement; this mustn’t get insincere.”

O’Connor’s prayers are hardly “inspirational,” in the sense that many American Christians want: a model of the “victorious Christian life” where “prayer changes things” and we’ve got “joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts, to stay.” That’s why we need them.

American evangelicalism, my own tradition, rightly emphasizes the biblical truth that the gospel is good news, that our sins are forgiven in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We rightly emphasize that the believer now has a personal connection to God, accessible in prayer through the priesthood of Jesus himself.

But sometimes we forget how hard that is in this time between the times.

Some of our worship services are so clean and antiseptic, led by grinning preachers and praise bands, talking about how happy Jesus makes us, that we forget that the Spirit prompts us to “groan” at our sin and the suffering all around us (Romans 8:22-23). This is especially true at Christmas, with so many evangelicals forgoing the dark longing of Advent to go straight to the tinsel-decked rejoicing of Christmas.

Some Christians, then, can wonder if something’s wrong with them when they feel as though God seems distant, or when, despite all the smiles at church, they still feel guilty for the way their hearts don’t seem to match up with their hymns.

But the good news isn’t that we are all put together. The good news is that though we’re wrecked and fallen and freakish, Jesus loves us anyway and has made peace for us with God and with each other. That’s not something we always feel. We see it by faith.

O’Connor, elsewhere in her letters, writes of what it means to agonize over one’s sin, to wonder “if your confessions have been adequate and if you are compounding sin on sin.” She concludes that this agony “drives some folks nuts and some folks to the Baptists,” while noting, “I feel sure that it will drive me nuts and not to the Baptists.”

Those of us who were “driven to the Baptists” can benefit from a book of prayers that remind us that the Christian life is exactly what Jesus promised it would be – the carrying of a cross.

We can be reminded in prayers such as these to remind ourselves that between now and resurrection we will never be, in ourselves, anything other than sinners. That’s why we need a Christ.

It’s only when we grapple with the darkness of a fallen cosmos, only when we’re honest about the fact that all our efforts look more like Herod’s throne than Bethlehem’s stable, that we can sing “Joy to the World.” Flannery O’Connor wasn’t an evangelical Protestant, but we need her.

We need her, especially perhaps, as we pray for peace on earth, goodwill to men, for Christmas in a Christ-haunted world.

 

(Source: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/15/why-christians-need-flannery-oconnor/)

~t