The title says it all. I may be back, or I may not.
The title says it all. I may be back, or I may not.
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.
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.
Someone emailed me at my address recently (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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 email@example.com.
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!
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:
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:
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.
In the Catholic tradition, today is the Solemnity of the Holy Family. This morning at Mass, the homily really struck me; the Spirit called me higher in my own life: fatherhood, marriage, my responsibility as the head of the family, and so on.
During the homily and after, not once did I try and justify myself. Normally I would only pick and choose what to apply to my own situation, in my mind knowing that my wife is a non-believer and that’s why my kids are not being raised in the Catholic faith.
On the contrary.
Amen, I was saying to myself, listening to the points that were being driven home by the priest. I’m gonna start getting my kids involved in my parish. I’m gonna live out my faith to the very best of my ability so my wife will see the Holy Spirit in me.
All these are good things, right?
Well, before I even walked through the door after getting home from Mass, my wife blurted, “You need to fix the refrigerator ASAP. It’s not cooling properly. Call your brother.”
I always go to my younger brother for any handyman-related problem. A firefighter/paramedic, he has that manly “gift” that somehow bypassed me.
Before I called him, I took a drink of bottled water from the fridge. It seemed cold enough. Then I opened the freezer and took out one of those plastic bricks that substitutes for ice in our cooler when we go on picnics. “It looks like it’s working.”
That set my wife off the deep end.
So there I was in a yelling match with her while the kids were in the very next room playing. You’re really putting today’s homily into practice, I kept thinking to myself.
Without playing the blame game, let’s just say that I could have prevented the huge argument.
A heart check from God? Probably. It really sucks, though. What sucks most is that I haven’t seemed to learn anything from our 12+ years together.
Like the rock band Extreme lamented in the 90s: “Am I ever gonna change?”
I’m sitting here in front of the computer feeling dejected. How did this happen? Probably being confined to bed rest for the past four days hasn’t helped.
But what about the nice family dinner we had tonight? There we go. It’s balanced out now.
No, wait. the picture-perfect Catholic families who I unfriended on Facebook. It’s their fault, attending every parish function in their Sunday finest; praying the Rosary out loud on the living room floor every. Single. Night.
What I wouldn’t give to have a Catholic wife. One that wouldn’t dismiss images of the crucifix with the wave of a hand: I just don’t understand that, she utters, passing my bloody and pathetic God on the cross. How gross. They should ban those things.
The kids were “christened” in a Shinto shrine. They cannot go through catechism classes at my parish because it’s “too weird.”
Picture-perfect Catholic families: Count your blessings.
Picture-perfect single Catholics: Don’t you dare marry anyone other than a faithful Catholic.
Lukewarm pew-warmers who show up for cultural reasons: Get your heads out of your rectal cavities and get with the program. There’s more. Lots more.
Don’t end up like Topaz: carrying a full-grown paralyzed woman on my back while trying to survive The Hunger Games. (You’re comparing your wife to a paralyzed deadweight? That’s not very Catholic.)
Shut up and go back inside your glass house.
Oh, back to my introduction.
What about the Xanax I took to make me feel
alive like living? That went straight out the window as soon as you caught hell for giving the kids an after-dinner snack. I hate it when she stares me down.
I put up with seven years of people staring me down in that giant Pachinko hall they call Tokyo.
Husbands, don’t yell at your wife and kids to hurry up in the morning as you’re all getting ready for church. Wives, don’t nag at your husbands for taking too long to get ready for church in the morning.
Just be thankful that you share the same faith. The same religion.
And count your lucky stars that you’re not trying to live out that God-awful “Coexist” bumper sticker.
Here I go again on my own,
going down the only road I’ve ever known.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.
–Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again”
I am a member of the Knights of Columbus, and we had our monthly council meeting last night. The officer installation for the 2014-15 fraternal year took place in June, so our July meeting was the first time that our new officers took their positions (I continued as an officer).
This means that our new grand knight (chairman) assumed his role as leader of our council. The only reason he “got the job” was because no one else wanted it; too much responsibility and pressure. (In a lot of cases, grand knights are retired guys because they have the most time to devote).
Well, we officers and regular members knew it was a bad idea because… um… let’s just say he wasn’t the right type to lead a K of C council. Problems started right off the bat: He never bothered to learn the ins and outs of the office of grand knight; he shouted and berated guys who had the floor during meetings; it was “his way or the highway;” etc.
Needless to say, this caused an enormous amount of tension in the air every month, not to mention the fact that members have stopped volunteering for fundraisers and various other projects due to an apparent drop in morale.
At the July meeting, I merely sat there and observed the circus around me, ashamed at what the council had become. Last month, I went off on the grand knight and had to be calmed down by another officer. At that point, whenever I would think about or see K of C guys, I would get panic attacks and start to hyperventilate.
Last night, at the September meeting, all hell broke loose.
I won’t go into the details, but there was a controversial proposal from the floor which created a battle line immediately. Shouting ensued. Words with venom dripped from a portion of these godly men’s mouths.
After the meeting, I was confronted by some of my “friends” about my stance on the particular issue. It led to harsh words and defensive body language all around. I left in a huff, shaking and gasping for air, ready to physically assault someone.
It was as if I were drunk: I don’t recall everything that transpired during my raging panic attack. I loudly cursed at a friend and officer in the lobby of the parish community center. I stormed to my car, not looking back as my friend chased me down. I didn’t acknowledge him until I got to my car.
My complete meltdown was taking place. I could not stand up. Leaning on my car, shaking, you would have thought English was not my first language: I was having trouble forming words and uttering sentences.
I remember breaking down in front of my friend, confessing all of my mental issues. I was a blubbering mess. I kept repeating the refrain, “I don’t want to go to prison.”
I was on the verge of seriously hurting someone.
I would love to tell you that my friend hugged me, told me everything would be okay, and that I went on my merry way.
That’s far from what happened next.
One of the new members and officers, an arrogant, loud-mouthed stocky Latino guy strutted over to me in the dark parking lot. His actions and expressive speaking style reminded me of a pissed-off prison inmate.
“You know, I don’t appreciate the way you talked to me in there. You don’t know nothing about me. I’m a man. You disrespected me.”
(Mind you, we are two practicing Catholics and officers in the K of C, so this will definitely amuse you anti-Catholics out there.)
Lots of talk. Lots of swagger. Chest puffed out. Intimidating?
Not in the least.
I’m 6’5″ tall, 220 pounds, and skilled in aikido which I practiced in Japan. This guy was expecting me to either cower before him or run away.
Instead, I got in his face (Well, his face was in my chest).
Accusations, threats, and macho shouting progressed until my friend stepped between us.
Latino’s smart-ass taunts got me more worked up; I was already a basket case, pushed to the brink of insanity.
To make a long story short, he eventually walked away to his truck and left as I kept yelling, trying to provoke him into come back and taking a swing at me.
What did I learn from this?
That I have a lot of soul-searching to do. That both the Latino guy and I need to repent. That I wasn’t being like Jesus.
That my illness had struck again and I’ll have to leave the council out of shame. That I’ll have to find another parish to attend. That I’ll have to start over yet again.
I have since officially resigned from my officer position, sent a heart-felt apology to the Latino guy, and sent myself into permanent exile from this K of C council and parish. Possibly an indefinite exile from the Church and religion for a while.
I never, ever imagined this happening. This K of C council was full of my brothers in the faith. I looked forward to every meeting, every function, every volunteer opportunity. Because it was a brotherhood.
But it happened.
Here I go again.
(Photo by Topaz)