Tag Archives: blogging

Self-Pity

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I received a comment on one of my recent posts that really hit home. You see, when I started this blog (as mentioned in the “About” section), I had the intent of beginning a ministry to help others who suffer from mental illness. Being faith-based in nature, my aim was also to help people know God.

Well, by perusing my own posts for the last, oh, several months, I was hard pressed to find much, if any, encouragement from myself.

In other words, I’ve been sulking in self-pity for the longest time. I realized it, but I didn’t seem to care. I didn’t feel the need to make any adjustments. King David used the Psalms to gripe about things, and then he threw in a praise to God at the end, I would tell myself, half-believing the justification.

Also, my posts have gotten shorter. Why? I ask myself. Because I’ve been selfish. I drag myself before the computer, I whine and complain, and then I log off, putting in my “time.”

I’m glad Jesus’ ministry wasn’t like that.

I’m FAR from being like Jesus. Really far. At times I try–

See, I just caught myself before the full-on “woe is me” stuff came out.

Thank you, dear commenter, for bringing my self-pity to my attention. I listened to you because:

  1. you were sincere,
  2. you were loving, and
  3. you know what I’m going through because you suffer from it too.

The truth be told, I came back from the psychiatrist this evening. He’s trying to adjust my meds. Things aren’t working out too well. For some reason, when I leave the psych’s office, I feel like cutting loose with sin. The doctor told me I suffer from hypermania (whatever that is), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which explains why I feel the world is crashing down on me when I give in to the tidal wave of lustful thoughts and feelings).

The person who left the above-mentioned comment recommended a book entitled The Temperament God Gave You. I ordered it, and it arrived a few days ago. I like what I see so far. I’m so glad a Catholic book on that topic is available.

Dear readers, the only inspiration and positive thoughts that I have for you this time aren’t necessarily Christian nor are they from the Bible. An hour ago, I was sulking in my big, fluffy chair in my so-called library, and I pulled down my copy of poems by Emily Dickinson. I opened the book to a random page and found something called “Hope.” I posted it on my Facebook page, but you can read it below:

HOPE
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

~t

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It Was a Good Week

Credit: Stock Free Images

…nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A.

                                                           –Ice Cube, “It Was a Good Day”

I really enjoy reading blogs. Not just the ones on WordPress, but in other regions of the blogosphere as well.

I have to admit, I am drawn to those that are humorous or that cheer me up. No offense to those who have dark, serious content (ahem); it appeals to a part of me for sure. The other part of me, though, really wants to feel good and smile sometimes (Yes, I have been known to smile from time to time.).

I was kicked to the curb recently by yet another psychiatrist who claimed that my particular health insurance was a “headache.” I’ve also been having lots of trouble adjusting to my new medication: I am constantly in a daze, and a few days ago I mistook a red traffic light for a four-way stop. Luckily my wife was beside me; without her scream, something terrible could have happened.

Back to the point of this post. I wanted to write about the positive things that have been going on in my life. God reminds me ever so often to count my blessings.

This was a good week. For one, I was off the whole week, my stretch of R & R before the fall semester begins later this month. My sons are still on summer break, so we’ve had a terrific time. Some of the highlights include: spending the day at a water park, one of the few places that all four of us really gel as a family — and where my wife and I laugh and play like kids; having an afternoon snackfest at Starbucks — another place where my wife and I forget our “problems” and chit-chat endlessly while sipping our Frappuccinos, our kids silent as they wolf down lemon pound cake and double fudge brownies; a trip to the aquarium (My sons are obsessed with sharks, so watching them squeal with delight made my wife and me extremely happy.); and yesterday I was able to attend church for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary since I normally work until late at night on Thursdays.

Sure, there were moments when things weren’t “perfect,” but I chose not to dwell on those times. Plus, the enjoyable family time we had far outweighed the problems. I officially go back to work on Monday, so I still have a few days left of my break. I did have to take some naps in the middle of the day due to my medication, however; but, overall, it was a really good week.

Years ago, I attended a teaching conference in Seattle. The highlight of that weekend was visiting the cemetery where Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon, are buried. I went there as an excited tourist, snapping photos of the beautiful headstones, but I left in a much more somber mood after reading the inscription etched on Brandon’s grave:

Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

So, even if you’re going through a lot and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, count your blessings. Savor every moment with loved ones. Find things that put a smile on your face. Because, in life, unexpected things happen.

~t


The Thorn in My Side

Credit: Carl Heinrich Bloch

Things have been pretty difficult for me lately. I made the mistake of going off my medication because it was making me too groggy to perform my job. At first I felt like, “Wow. I’m doing all right! I’m glad I got rid of those blasted pills.” However, weeks later, my mood began spiraling downward: I no longer desired to interact with colleagues and students (which is unacceptable since I am a teacher), and the time I was spending with my wife and kids was starting to suffer.

In a panic, I resumed the normal dosage after being off the meds for so long — a big mistake. Needless to say, it’s been a rough couple of weeks.

As a way to cope with all this, I felt the need to share some things with you.

I believe that God put it on my heart to begin this blog. Before I post anything, I pray about it and let the draft sit for a few hours just to make sure that it meets my/God’s standards. I have messed up a few times, though. For instance, I thought by posting censored images of pornography that I would, in essence, be smacking people in the head with a wooden staff, waking them up to how degrading and inhumane porn is to the women who are displayed — and to women in general.

I also thought that by throwing in a few cuss words here and there, it would make me “relatable” to non-religious people who read my posts. I have since come to my senses; I should “not conform to this world.” (Romans 12:2) Rather, by trying to be a good example of a Catholic and upholding God’s standards, I can “be transformed by the renewing of my mind.” (Ibid.)

Anyway, I believe that God allowed the thorn of mental illness to be stuck in my side, and, by surviving two suicide attempts, He has allowed me to live in order that I may share my experiences with the world.

Maybe it’s a result of quitting my meds cold turkey, or maybe it’s because they weren’t working properly, but since I started blogging, my heart has felt like it is ready to burst with fountains of tears. It’s a feeling that I’m used to experiencing, but not on a constant, day-to-day basis.

There are so many people whom I am meeting in the blogosphere and beyond, individuals whom I wish more than anything I could hug and comfort. I have sobbed from reading their blog posts, and I have cried during our correspondence. How I wish I had God’s healing power as the apostles had in the Book of Acts. I wouldn’t attempt to be like Jesus and perform public miracles or anything. Instead, I would visit these poor people with broken hearts and broken spirits and heal them in private, avoiding any limelight or fame. These feelings of yours are not healthy, some might be thinking. But only God knows the answer to that.

When I was in graduate school, and before I became a Catholic, I led a small Bible study through a non-denominational campus ministry. It was a small group that I shepherded: only about four other members. They have gone on to become professional artists, engineers, and physicists, but back then, we were just a ragtag band of emotional outcasts who needed each other. I include myself because, although I was chosen as the leader by the pastor, I was “one of them.”

One time, a member who went on to become a physicist heard through the grapevine that I was thinking about quitting leadership. “You can’t quit,” he told me, tears welling up in his eyes. “You are a true leader in ways that you cannot imagine.” I didn’t know what he meant, although the encouragement was nice to hear. However, due to such low self-esteem, I never considered myself a leader.

Another time, a member who is now supporting himself as a very talented artist in California told me as we were driving, “You know why we follow you? Because you feel. You really feel.” Again, I appreciated this, but I didn’t (couldn’t) fully comprehend it.

It was after years of seeking God and praying to find Him that I discovered that my ability to feel and suffer with those who were hurting was perhaps connected to my being diagnosed with mental illness. I’m not saying that only those struggling with mental illness can most effectively help others. However, it helped me to begin learning about this stranger who was myself.

I used to pray daily that God would take away my illness and make me normal. When I was hospitalized, though, I learned from one of many counselors that there is no such thing as a “normal” standard by which to measure others, including those with mental health issues.

My favorite time to pray is at night. I go into the walk-in closet with my Bible and saint cards and gaze at the crucifix above the doorway. After learning that St. Dymphna was the patron saint of those suffering from mental illness, I bought her saint card because it had a special prayer on the back. I soon discovered that God was communicating with me through the words in the prayer (the bold words in italics are mine):

…Give those whom I recommend the patience to bear with their affliction and resignation to do Your divine will. Give them the consolation they need and especially the cure they so much desire, if it be Your will. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen. (Prayer to St. Dymphna)

If it be Your will. These five words pierced me like a silver-tipped arrow. God will cure me or leave me like this according to His will. But why would God leave me in this condition? Doesn’t He help those He loves? Does that mean God doesn’t care about me? Quite the contrary. St. Paul struggled with a mysterious thorn in his side and pleaded with God to remove it. However, God’s response was: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

For some reason, God is allowing my illness, my “thorn in my side,” to remain. Perhaps He will remove it at some point. Perhaps it will be there for the rest of my earthly life. I do know that St. Paul was able to accomplish great things for God and His Church because he was forced to rely on God and His strength, and what an awesome strength it is to have!

On a related note, if you’re suffering or hurting in any way, don’t keep it bottled up inside. Tell someone. Tell me. Call a help line. Do something. Please.

And be assured that even Jesus needed comforting during dark times in His life. (Luke 22: 41-44)

~t


In Which Today’s Post Disintegrates into a Whiny Rant

Credit: pillthing.com

One stressful thing about starting a blog is that readers expect it to be updated regularly (quite a relative term). When I can’t think of anything after coming off a three-day string of posts, I’m too hard on myself when, in fact, it’s not really surprising to people: Oh, a guy dealing with mental illness? Of course he’s gonna be consistent. Just like all those young blondes that marry Hugh Hefner do so out of love.

Today, no attempt at a deep, profound flash-fiction parable that would rival those of Jesus. No stab at a Tony Robbins-style pep talk/kick in the pants. I’ll just write about how I’m doing or what’s going on.

Okay. Here goes.

I’ve been really frustrated with my bad luck regarding psychiatrists. I know they are overworked in this country due to a shortage and a big need, but when I see my psychiatrist, it would be nice if he would try to act like a doctor. I’m reaching my limit with conversations like this:

Me: Doctor, I’ve been on these meds for three months and I still don’t feel any better.

Shrink: Well, what do you want to do?

Me: Um, I’m not sure. I was hoping you would help me out with that.

Shrink: Well, if you want to change medications, then change them.

Me: (long pause) Do you think that would help?

Shrink: You tell me. What do you want to do?

I mean, I know doctors are busy, but I don’t think it would be asking too much for them to at least pretend that they care. At least the preceding conversation didn’t dissolve into the one that I’m about to show you. In the next one, I had just come out of the hospital after my second suicide attempt, and this was the first time for me to meet with my doctor after that:

Shrink: So, you tried to kill yourself again?

Me: Um, yeah…

Shrink: (throws pen against wall) I thought we were making progress. I can’t trust you any more!

Me: I’m sorry. I was trying… Can you help me?

Shrink: No. You don’t listen to me. Go and be your own doctor. Go on.

This still makes me angry when I think about it. The shrinks in these two situations are both from the same country. (At least no one can say that I don’t give second chances.) It’s not like the American ones are any better, though. This next exchange happened during one of my hospital stays:

Shrink: …….and then take this one to counter the side effects of that one. And then this one will stop the weight gain from that one…….

Me: Wow, doctor. I’ve never taken eight kinds of pills at the same time. I’ll have to get one of those weekly pill containers that old people have.

Shrink: (takes off glasses and glares at me) You want to get better, don’t you?

Ugh. I told the second story about the psycho-shrink to our family practitioner during my annual check-up. He told me that psychiatrists are basically one step away from being patients themselves. By the end of med school, he said he had accurately predicted the ones who would pursue psychiatry.

Actually, I didn’t intend to whine about shrinks for this entire post, but, since I am, I might as well talk (whine) about therapists while I’m at it.

I had to change my therapist during my first hospital stay. She was very nice and intelligent, but, seriously, none of us could distinguish her from our fellow patients. For starters, her attire: It was like no one had told her that Woodstock was over.* Some were actually convinced that she was sampling the product in the hospital cabinets.

Then there is the therapist from whom I’ve recently parted. I’m not kidding when I say the following took place during every session:

Therapist: So, have you and your wife had sex yet?

Me: Um, no—

Therapist: NO??!! ShoutshoutshoutshoutMaslow’sHierarchyOfNeedsshoutshoutshout………

My current therapist is pretty good. I haven’t run into any problems (yet). What’s funny is that she is pro bono.

In the hospital, the lecturers and nurses kept telling us that medicine alone would not help us get better: We needed a combination of medicine, therapy, exercise, coping skills, hobbies, etc. Isn’t that the truth.

Since this post disintegrated into a rant, I’ll share this link that I posted yesterday on Facebook and Twitter as a source of encouragement. It also includes a healthy dose of Christian faith which I, ahem, somehow left out of this post.

Actually, ranting like this is therapeutic. Maybe I should become my own doctor.

~t

*You know you’re getting old when you feel the need to explain Woodstock.


At the Psychiatrist’s Office

crowded

This morning I had an appointment with my psychiatrist.  I don’t like having to miss work, but at least I didn’t have to take the whole day off.

The waiting room is quite an adventure.  I always dread walking into the lobby after I sign in.  Avoiding any eye contact because a lot of the patients are scary-looking, I take the nearest chair available.  Sometimes I have to walk around until I find one that’s vacant.

One time I sat down in a (seemingly) empty seat only to be berated by a young woman who was built like a UFC cage fighter.  Not wanting any trouble, I quickly got up and found another place.

Sadly, in this day and age, I never know where someone’s anger is going to lead them.  I’ve seen too many news stories about road rage or (fill in the blank) rage.  The last thing I need is having a knife or a gun pulled on me by a mentally unstable person.

Today, like most times I come here, there was an obese blonde lady who started going off on the receptionist because the employee “was rudely talking on the phone with another patient” while the blonde lady was paying her bill.  I sort of get used to the “F” word being thrown around at full volume.  Such is life in a crowded psychiatric waiting room.

I just wish there were more psychiatrists in this country.  Due to a shortage, doctors can only spend a few minutes with each patient because they are so overbooked.  This morning, though, after quickly adjusting the dosage of my meds, I was able to slip a question in.

“Doctor, would it be a good idea to start a blog about my mental problems?  That way I can interact with people who have the same problems.”

“Absolutely not,” he stated, nearly cutting off my last two syllables.  “For a more stable person, yes, but since you are on shaky ground, I would say no.”

Then the Holy Spirit took over.  “Well, what if I made the blog positive?  With a theme of faith and hope?”

My doctor stared at me for a moment.  “I suppose that would be okay.  Just nothing dark or depressing.  You’re still staying away from that black metal, right?”

My cheeks became warm.  He remembered my taboo fascination with a very underground genre of heavy metal.  “I’m still in the process of weaning myself off.”  The energy and raw emotion in black and death metal had drawn me to it, but I was in the process of giving it up.

Even my wife, who isn’t even a Christian, has begged me to stop listening to extreme metal.  It will take you to a dark place for good, she always says.

Anyway, I have revamped this blog to make it more “positive” because, after all, it’s my new *gasp* ministry.

St. Dymphna, patron saint of mental illness, pray for me!

220px-St_Dymphna

~topaz