Tag Archives: Catholic

The Mother of All Suicide Attempts

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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.

I think.

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.

~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


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

 

 


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


Should Christians Listen to Ghost?

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Ghost (formerly Ghost BC in the U.S.) is a hard rock/metal band from Sweden. I started listening to them when I discovered their debut album, Opus Eponymous, on iTunes; it was rated best metal album of 2010. Back then my Catholic faith wasn’t very strong, so I looked past the whole anti-Catholic/Christian/religion image of the band.

Their music wasn’t run-of-the-mill rock/metal; it was good: a retro 70s vibe, and the mood and lyrics were haunting, like my Halloween trick-or-treating experiences from my youth.

However, the more my mental illness was taking me to those dark places (as mentioned elsewhere on this blog), the more I realized that, tongue-in-cheek stage gimmick or not, Ghost’s lyrics and inverted crosses just weren’t conducive for my walk with God.

Now, before you brand me a “typical Christian right-wing-nutjob-prude,” consider this: I have been a metalhead since the 80s. My first concert was KISS, and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil was the first cassette (an early version of a CD for you young’uns out there) that I ever owned. One of my favorite live shows in the past couple of years was Kvelertak at a hole-in-the-wall booze hall in Dallas. My latest CD purchase was Cattle Decapitation’s The Anthropocene Extinction.

And I own all of Ghost’s CDs. I even have tickets to see them live in October.

And you still call yourself a Catholic, Topaz?

Yes, I do. And that’s why I finally came to the realization that I had to write this blog post and (reluctantly) cut off ties with this band once and for all.

Since their debut album, I have used every excuse to listen to and jam out to Ghost’s CDs.

Oh, fans say, the Satanic Pope imagery, ghoul robes, masks, and Satanic lyrics are all part of the fun. It’s no different than watching a horror movie.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But my conscience is finally taking the bull by the horns… since my intellect sure as hell isn’t.

Lucifer

We have come

For your praise

Evil one

These are the opening lyrics from “Con Clavi Con Dio,” the first track off their debut album. Oh, it gets worse than that.

I’m not here to rail against Ghost or to tell you not to listen to them. Believe me, up until today, I have found every excuse to listen to their songs. Hell, I even had two different Ghost t-shirts up until last year when my wife finally made me get rid of them.

I could quote all kinds of Bible verses about reasons not to listen to this sort of band. But I like the simple mathematic formula-style argument that my college students are so fond of:

Blatantly Satanic lyrics + anti-Catholic/Christian imagery = not a good idea for Christians to be involved with

I keep telling myself: Just go to the show. You’ve already bought the ticket. It’s on the mezzanine level! Take some Christian tracts and go under the guise of “meeting sinners where they are.”

But that’s just a bunch of BS. I would be going for my own selfish reasons whether I wanted to admit it or not.

Plus, with my fragile state of mental health, anything dark or negative sends me over the cliff. (Actually, I was just there this afternoon, contemplating suicide again.) As I said, I could quote all sorts of verses; however, there is one quote by Alice Cooper, the classic shock-rocker, that states it better than any verse I can think of:

Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.

~t


Not-So-Holy Family

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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?”

~t

 


Picture-Perfect Catholic Couples

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.

Happily.

Unified.

Yuck.

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.

~t


A Terrible Day for Two of Us

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“Why are you here? Just go. Change to another class.”

“He won’t even let us go to the bathroom.”

“Your writing is boring. It puts me to sleep.”

“If you leave early again, I’ll call the police.”

“You have no chance in here. I will fail you.”

I couldn’t believe these false accusations against me. I sat in the HR director’s office with the dean and associate dean; this wasn’t happening. I was just in this office a year ago for some other BS!

“Your students don’t want you back in the class,” the associate dean told me.

I sat there dumbfounded, my backpack and school bag beside me on the floor in the spacious office. The associate dean bum-rushed me as soon as I walked in the door this morning. “We have a meeting with the dean and the HR director in ten minutes. It’s bad. Bring your bags and all your stuff. Leave your gradebook.”

That could only mean one thing: I would not be going back to my office. I would not be coming back to my job. Why? What had I done?

Like the paranoid fool I am, I began frantically thinking about anything illegal that I had done. I hadn’t picked a fight with anyone. I hadn’t molested any students. What did I do that was so bad??

The dean and her associate walked me to the HR building; we walked in single file. I was last. The long walk. I had just watched a documentary the other day about life on death row.

The dean decided to have mercy on me. The next logical step was for me to get a week’s leave without pay — a method that the college uses to get rid of people since termination paperwork is too time consuming. However, she suggested that I receive yet another written warning instead.

Plus, I got pulled from the class. I would now be doing lowly tutoring work with the educated rejects in the writing center who languished away for minimum wage. At least I could keep my other two classes: the ones I actually liked. The one I got pulled from was an ESL class full of rich, spoiled international students lucky enough to make it to a U.S. college. A lot of them had powerful fathers who knew how to pull strings for their kids back home.

I got back to my office. My colleague and good friend, Rebecca, a Spanish professor, was sobbing in the next office as she packed all her books and knick-knacks in boxes. “So today is your last day?” I said.

“Yep.” She fell apart again. I had never seen her pretty blue eyes so red, puffy, and full of tears. Oh, what I wouldn’t do for such a loving soul as Rebecca.

The new dean and her associate don’t like Rebecca for reasons unknown. We don’t know why because Rebecca is one of the most respected, sincere, hardworking faculty members at the college. The new deans are essentially putting her out to pasture at some rinky-dink satellite campus ten miles away.

Rebecca is a good, faithful Methodist. Even though our Christian traditions vary somewhat, we always found common ground on the essentials of the faith.

She was only given one week’s notice about being “shipped down the river.” I wanted desperately to give her some sort of memento. Not a Starbucks mug or anything ordinary and cheesy. All I could think of was my Divine Mercy prayer card that I kept in my wallet.

I didn’t want to see her open my petty gift in the envelope that I made with a piece of printer paper stapled along both sides.

She told me later that it was the most thoughtful gift that she had received in her short time at the college. In my note that I included with the card, I tried to encourage her with Romans 8:28 which says:

God works for the good of those who love Him.

Rebecca probably had no idea what the Divine Mercy chaplet was. It didn’t matter. On the front, underneath the picture of Christ, are these five words:

Jesus, I trust in you.

“At least I’m not the only one having a terrible day,” Rebecca joked between sobs after I told her about my third written warning in two years.

She initiated a hug right before leaving her office for good. I was nervous because Rebecca is very attractive. Anyway, we hugged, and I’m glad we did because she’s my friend and I’ll miss her greatly.

~t


Here I Go Again On My Own

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.

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


Everything is Meaningless

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I’m sitting here in my home office surrounded by a Catholic calendar, a crucifix, and various prayer cards featuring great saints through the ages. Knights of Columbus plaques line my walls.

My two beautiful, healthy sons are asleep in their bunkbeds. My loving wife has just gone to bed.

But I don’t feel anything.

I am empty, confused, angry, suicidal, dejected.

You can have all the Bibles, crosses, religious stuff, and everything else: the “NOTW” stickers that I see on the backs of so many cars, et cetera, but it is all meaningless.

Just like the wise teacher states again and again in Ecclesiastes.

Today I had to go outside to the far edge of my campus where I work because I had to get out of the building. I was on the verge of killing a student who had pissed me off with his smart-ass tendencies. (Sorry for the potty mouth — but it’s a big, bad world.)

I had to get away. There is a nature park on the grounds of my college campus. I sat there on a large rock and cursed at God the whole time. Cursed at him for the hand that I was dealt in life.

It takes EVERY OUNCE of my strenth and sanity EVERY DAY to “keep my head above water” in regard to my mental illness. Most other people hover above the water, floating around, singing and humming, enjoying life, enjoying work, enjoying being alive.

Not me. I curse God for giving me this depression/suicidal ideation/insecurity/anxiety/bipolar tendencies.

If you’re a nice church-going individual, I don’t expect you to be reading this far. Just take heart, you say. Have faith.

Ha.

If only it were that simple.

Last month, one of my favorite comedians of all time, Robin Williams, committed suicide due to depression. The nation mourned and paid tribute. Countless articles about depression and suicidal thoughts appeared on all sorts of blogs and news sites such as CNN, Huff Post, and Yahoo.

That’s all fine and great. But what about now? After the storm has blown over, people will just go back to forgetting about us. The articles will be fewer and fewer.

But know this: If you’re in the same boat as I am, I will never forget you. If you are reading this, whether you’re Catholic, atheist, whatever, I am with you in the crappy hand that life dealt to you before you were even born. I am at the poker table with you, crying and blubbering over the worthless hands of 2s and 3s that we’re holding.

Suicide hasn’t appealed to me as strongly in the past two years as it did today. A nice flowing river runs directly behind the nature park at school. I’ve read that drowning is an excruciating death. How bad could it be, though? Inhale a few breaths of water, keep my head underwater, and voila: freedom.

You’re a Catholic blogger, Topaz. Be more positive, some of you have told me.

It’s a cold, hard, motherf****r of a world, and right now, I’m being crapped on by laughing vultures.

same ol’, same ol’.

Hey, normal Christian/Catholic person out there, be glad that you’re “normal” (I’m not supposed to use the world “normal” because it’s relative. But I couldn’t give a s%@& right now.).

If you have time, pray for the poor bastards like us who have to talk ourselves out of suicide and dark depression before our feet even hit the floor after waking up every morning.

Remember us.

I’m out.

~t

(random photo by Topaz)