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.
I came across this Bible passage on someone else’s blog recently:
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
It is an incredibly inspiring verse, enough so that it made me meditate on each word and phrase — something I rarely do these days.
Then I started thinking: What a fine blog post this would make. Throw in a nice, warm piece of Scripture, add some inspiring words (maybe from my therapist), and, presto, a blog post is born.
Not to make light of Sacred Scripture or anything, but, to me, there’s definitely more to it than that. People can express themselves in any way that they see fit. I’ve noticed that my posts tend to hover around the darkish portions of life, completely negating the original intent of my blog which is to inspire and prayerfully help others grow closer to God.
Why do you hover and brood over dark things, Topaz? Well, because that’s life. That’s all. A lot of things complicate my life and I suppose they make me who I am and make me write about what I do.
Heck, I started this blog post to discuss how banal so many blogs out there are. A lot of them are like Facebook updates or sprinkled with memes that wreak of generic spirituality and inspiration.
I guess another reason I’ve decided to write this is because today is my oldest son’s birthday (and I’m relieved to say that he’s still in elementary school — they grow up so fast). I wanted to be a tad bit encouraging in honor of him.
I’m not particularly depressed right now. However, my buspirone and trifluoperazine are making me pretty dang sleepy. I was about to collapse on my bed after getting home from work until my wife told me to do something fun. I guess writing blog posts is considered fun. (Like most things, I find writing hard to do, like a chore that I need to get done but I keep putting it off.)
So, hopefully, the Scripture will inspire you and that you’ll have a good day.
I can honestly say that at this moment I’m glad to be alive.
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.
My psychiatrist has had me on about five or six different types of medication for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Seroquel has left me groggy and in a zombie state of mind for who knows how long (My short-term memory has suffered — I can’t even remember what activities I did with my kids yesterday.)
I have decided to go off all of my meds except for Xanax and Klonopin (two benzos — uh oh). The Klonopin is supposed to provide more stability to aid my Xanax which is more short-term.
I could be setting myself up for something major. I don’t know. All I know right now is that I would rather have a clear (depressed) mind than one that is hazed and spaced-out.
I’m typing this while being on sub duty at my school. Things got so bad with my groggy and forgetful side effects from my meds that my doctor wrote me a note stating that I should be on light duty at my school for a month. Hopefully it doesn’t come back to haunt me professionally.
Talk about feeling useless. All around me today, teachers are upbeat, full of energy, chatting away incessantly, and having an overall grand time in life.
Me, I’m relegated to my empty classroom. I am typing this post instead of throwing up my hands in surrender and quitting everything in life — even my family. It’s that bad.
Which brings me to this blog post. 5 reasons not to kill yourself. Here goes:
All the research involved in how to successfully take your own life (and, believe me, I know) is overwhelming, and, if you’re already on the brink of suicide, why would you want to spend the effort doing all that research? It’s too hard.
And what if you fail in your attempt? Which brings me to…
This really sucks. Believe me, it’s happened twice to me already. The first time was traumatic to my wife, children, mother, and to my bank account. Not to mention my reputation and career.
There is a very good chance that your suicide attempt will fail. Need some statistics? Then Google some. They’re out there. And you don’t want to be hooked up to a feeding tube living out the rest of your life as a vegetable. (Couldn’t they just unplug me? You may ask. It’s much more complicated than that.)
Someone will. Who, you ask? I don’t know. But someone. Not only that, but that one person (or two, or three, or…) will slowly start to die from the inside out. I know. I watched my aunt slowly waste away to nothing after my cousin killed himself.
I’m beyond caring, you may be thinking. My pain is too great. Well, then, imagine that person saying, “[your name], I love you.”
If you’re a person of faith, wouldn’t it be against your religion? Wouldn’t you go to hell? For you atheists, what? What makes you think something better awaits you “on the other side” or wherever you think you go? Or, do you subscribe to Ozzy Osbourne’s theory that, after you die, you’ll be merely a turd flushed down a giant toilet, gone forever. [paraphrase]
Isn’t watching your favorite movies or drinking a nice craft beer under a shade tree better that being flushed into the big septic tank in the sky?
You know what I mean. Biting into your favorite chocolate candy bar. Ordering pizza and watching a new movie on Netflix. Taking up a new hobby like bass guitar, not because you hope to ever join a band, but because you love the thumping pulse of the bass, and you like to feel the satisfaction of playing the intros of your favorite songs.
There are other gems: Feeding newborn kittens from a bottle at the local animal shelter. Treating yourself to a coffee and pastry at Starbucks. Curling up beside the fireplace with a good book.
Go find your nugget.
Nighttime depresses me. That’s when the demons come out. Don’t say that around the kids, my wife tells me. I don’t. I whisper it to her after they have gone to bed.
But she doesn’t understand. That’s why she is downstairs watching old reruns of Friends and I am upstairs in a dark room, praying that God will let Satan and his demons come after me. If you’re gonna let them come after me, then let them come; I’m tired of my life, I tell God.
Then a thought drifts through my bleak mind: A person in a third-world country would give an arm and a leg to have what I have. A good job. A nice house. A healthy family. Parents who love me. Et cetera.
But, what “normal” people (like my wife) don’t understand is that it’s all meaningless without a sound mind.
Again I tell God to turn the demons loose on me. Let them devour me once and for all. A dark, quiet room would normally freak me out, but the air feels almost tranquil right now. Almost like the night that I put myself to sleep with pills and tequila, never expecting to wake again.
“Who else do we turn to?” St. Peter asks Jesus in the Gospel of John. “You alone have the words of eternal life.”
In the Psalms, King David laments again and again; he always seems to find comfort in the Lord, though.
Lately that comfort escapes me.
My new psychiatrist (the first one I’ve visited since January) put me on a slew of new pills that leave me irritable and groggy. Just doing my basic job at work takes everything I’ve got. Other teachers have fun and are so relaxed and easygoing.
It must be nice.
I pray that I can be like that. I have prayed daily for that. But I’m getting tired.
As I end this post, the coyotes (real ones; not ones in my mind) begin howling. They will howl throughout the night, signaling the darkness of night that I fear.
I use the automated phone service of my pharmacist to renew my Xanax. Every 20 or 30 days, I call them up and get a refill without ever having to speak with a human; I don’t even have to see the doctor.
All that changed a few days ago.
A few hours after ordering more Xanax from the CVS robot, I got a call from the pharmacist. Apparently the doctor finally looked at my charts and realized I hadn’t been in there since 2012.
“You’ll have to see the doctor in order to get a refill,” she explained.
I was pretty desperate because I pushed back a car inspection appointment in order to see the doctor the following morning.
The receptionist even had to check my insurance card again since it had been ages.
I really thought the doctor would just write me a script and send me on my way (since that is what he has always done). This time, however, things went a bit differently.
He was actually hesitant.
“Are you still on Effexor and Lamictal?” He studied his iPad screen as he spoke.
“Um, not any more. I’m on Zoloft, Trazodone, …” My words trailed off. He’s tricked me! Just like a cop.
Then I remembered that he was the one who had prescribed those medications. My paranoia got the better of me obviously. I had already confessed, though, so the secret was out: He now knows about the medication from my psychiatrist.
“You know, you really don’t need Xanax with all those others. We need to get you off the Xanax.”
“But I still get panic attacks when I drive and stuff.”
“Then I’ll prescribe a month’s worth and then we’ll see.”
Not what I wanted to hear.
What if I’m addicted to Xanax? I very well could be. I don’t have enough time or money to go into a rehab program. What will my wife say?
When I first moved back to the U.S., one of my first stops was at a small clinic next to my apartment complex. The only doctor in there told me she didn’t prescribe Xanax because I would “end up in the Betty Ford Clinic like all those Hollywood stars.”
You’ve made your bed. Now you must lie in it.
I was inspired to write this post after reading an article about a former CNN reporter who struggles with panic attacks. Although both of ours stem from PTSD, my experiences seem to pale in comparison to the reporter’s; witnessing an electric-chair execution of a convicted murderer is something that I cannot fathom.
I can trace my PTSD back to my childhood. I lived in constant fear, wondering when my dad would explode with rage and begin beating my mother and me. Even now, when someone is walking too closely behind me, as the reporter states in the article, I “feel as if [my] world is ending. [My] heart is racing, [I] begin to hyperventilate, every nerve in [my] body is exploding — it seems [I’m] about to die, and [I] have an overwhelming sense of doom.”
Luckily, I now have medication and coping skills such as breathing techniques and prayer that help me when I get panic attacks.
The worst attacks come when I’m driving on a wide-open interstate or highway, however. The above symptoms usually force me to pull over to the side of the road. I have often been late to work or late getting home as a result.
I can trace this back to my college days when I used to fly single-engine airplanes (Cessna 150s and 172s). One time in particular, I made the huge mistake of making a solo cross-country jaunt without feeling totally comfortable with my instruments. Who needs instruments when it’s a clear day? That’s what landmarks are for.
However, I failed to realize the consequences of a recent flood in the region: Once I got in the air, a uniquely-shaped lake had become completely unidentifiable. Seized with panic, I tried to figure out which way was which. I had to make it back to my tiny airport which had no control tower. It didn’t help that (a) the short runway resembled a postage stamp tucked away in the hills and (b) my precious fuel was being depleted.
I will probably always struggle with these panic attacks. What encouraged me about the reporter’s story, though, were his words toward the end: “For those going through anxiety issues, I have a message: You can get better, you can work through it. It may be therapy, medication, or just the realization that you aren’t alone.”
You are not alone. No matter what you are struggling with.
You can get better. There is hope.
When I was very young, I remember my dad picking up each of our two cats, Amber and Dawn, and swinging them by the tail. He would laugh hysterically as they flew through the air and landed on the front lawn.
At another point in my childhood, my mother used to babysit a little 12-month-old boy. I vaguely remember my dad slapping the boy for no reason except to watch him cry. He would even pick the boy up by his hair; I’ll never forget the contorted, screaming face of the innocent little boy dangling above his playpen as my dad laughed like a madman.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had thoughts of kicking, hitting, and torturing cats, small dogs, and other defenseless creatures.
I think about capturing a rabbit or stray cat and holding it captive, beating it and watching as it suffers and dies.
Until I told my sister a few days ago, no one had ever known this about me. (As I’ve mentioned before, my sister is the only person close to me who can fully relate to everything I go through.)
My sister then shared a link with me about Harm OCD. I had never heard of it. It totally described me:
Harm OCD is a manifestation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in which an individual experiences intrusive, unwanted, distressing thoughts of causing harm. These harming thoughts are perceived as being ego-dystonic, which simply means that the thoughts are inconsistent with the individual’s values, beliefs and sense of self. Harming obsessions typically center around the belief that one must be absolutely certain that they are in control at all times in order to ensure that they are not responsible for a violent or otherwise fatal act. (Source: ocdla.com)
Here are some common intrusive thoughts experienced by those with Harm OCD:
- I will suddenly snap and violently attack:
- My significant other or ex
- My child (especially common in Perinatal and Postpartum OCD)
- My parent or other family member
- My nephew/niece/godchild
- A disabled or ill person
- A baby
- A friend
- A stranger
- I will fail to respond to disgusting violent or sexual thoughts appropriately and will reveal myself to be a monster.
- I will suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to push someone into traffic, jump out a window, or experience some other impulse that will result in me being responsible for my death or someone else’s death.
- I will be overwhelmed by harming obsessions and have to act on them to relieve the pressure.
- I will lose my sanity and commit suicide. (Source: ocdla.com)
Here is another definition and example:
This is a particularly disturbing OCD subtype as the person has thoughts, feelings and even urges of violence to themselves or others. They can be quite intense, and they often feel like they are on the verge of doing the violent act. They feel absolutely terrified much of the time. Many of them feel like killers and develop a personality that says they are a killer of some sort.
I’ve done therapy with a guy who was convinced he was a serial killer. Of course he’d never hurt a soul and he never would, but I could not convince him of that. The obsessions were powerful, continuous, and 24-7. They were so persistent and tenacious that he had given up all hope of resisting them. They had also become quite strong in that the illness was actually telling him or ordering him to commit the violence. (Source: robertlindsay.wordpress.com)
This morning, I told all of this to my psychiatrist. I’ve never seen him at a loss for words. He finally said, “You have to see a therapist before I see you again. Normal people don’t do things like that.”
Last week, one of my colleagues gave our family a hermit crab with the full aquarium/habitat and all sorts of accessories. My two sons were ecstatic at the idea of finally getting a pet. However, little did we know that hermit crabs were nocturnal, so we never saw the little guy; he was holed up in a wooden tunnel all the time.
As soon as I got the creature home, the raspy voice of my illness began whispering in my ear: Now’s your chance. The kids are already bored with it. Torture and kill it. Take it back to work and get rid of it. No one will ever know.
I did just that. I waited until late at night, and then I put the crab and shell into the water dish. It kept trying to climb out, so I held the crab under the surface for a solid minute. I pulled it out. No movement. Nothing.
It felt like I had just snorted a line of cocaine: Adrenaline raced through my body and made me feel invincible; all my worries were gone. I was in control!
After half an hour, I began to feel extremely guilty. Looking over at the aquarium where I had placed the crab under a tuft of moss inside the wooden tunnel, my heart began to ache.
Right before bed, I went over to the habitat in a corner of the living room, removed the tunnel and picked up the shell. The crab moved! Its legs flung out, and I supposed it was getting hungry.
I went to bed relieved, happy, and sad.
My doctor told me to get rid of the crab because I couldn’t be trusted with a pet in the house. I told him that the crab earned my respect for being so tough and surviving the attempted drowning.
He doubled my Lexapro and asked if I wanted to get some in-patient treatment.
For the first time since I’ve been seeing him, the doctor didn’t shake my hand; rather, he rushed out of the room, telling me goodbye over his shoulder. The door between the offices and the lobby were closed and locked immediately.
And I staggered out of the lobby with a handful of prescriptions, not knowing what to expect from myself.
I’m still terrified.
(Photo by Topaz)
Sometimes my illness amazes me.
I was in church just yesterday for the first Sunday of Advent. It was a joyous Mass. I loved hearing about the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament alluding to the day in the future when Christ would establish His Kingdom for all people.
I served afterward by helping my brother Knights of Columbus sell Advent wreaths in the narthex.
What a happy, faith-building day. I love Sundays because I can seek refuge for a few hours in the house of the Lord (a.k.a. the hospital for sinners).
But today (Monday) sucked. My doctor recently put me on Lamictal to stabilize my mood since the Gabapentin wasn’t helping, and suicidal ideation started to rear its ugly head again.
I’m sick and tired of being at the mercy of my emotions. It’s like Texas weather: In 30 minutes it goes from one extreme to the other in the blink of an eye.
The demons came again last night. It never fails. the closer I get to God, the stronger their offensive.
I had one of those dreams that seemed to last all night. My family and I were in a public place, like a shopping mall or a maze of connected warehouses, and I had prior knowledge of either a terrorist attack or a rampaging shooter attack.
I remember grabbing my two little sons and hoping that I could get them out of harm’s way. The worst part of it was that I had no idea when or where the attack would take place. It was like being forced to play a diabolical game-show version of Russian roulette.
In the morning, my wife said I was struggling and whimpering in my sleep for a good portion of the night.
After a hellish day at work, I came home and announced to my wife that I was going to skip dinner. I had no appetite whatsoever. I sat in our walk-in closet which doubles as my own personal chapel.
I prayed, I meditated, I read Scripture.
I can’t give up.
Getting no response from God, I sat there, massaging my temples with my eyes closed. Suddenly a slight feeling of hope entered my soul, as tiny as a grain of rice. That was all I needed, though.
I can’t not believe in God and His promises. When life drags me through a puddle of crap, it sure is comforting to know that there is a greater power waiting to rescue me and make me clean again.
Like the saying goes: When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.