Tag Archives: mental illness

‘Joker’ Movie: A Wake-Up Call to America

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I’ve been seeing in the news that the Joker movie is already stirring up controversy, and it hasn’t even opened in theaters yet.

The main complaint, one example is here, is that the movie centers around a white male with mental issues. Thus, the critics contend, it will encourage more white males with mental issues to commit crimes, most notably active shooter crimes that have become so prevalent in the U.S.

I happen to be a white male with mental issues. Does that mean that after I see Joker, I’m going to purchase an assault rifle and body armor and kill as many people as possible in the nearby mall/restaurant/movie theater/supermarket/etc?

Of course not. That’s profiling. And in America, we ALL know that profiling is wrong.

Do I think the movie Joker, about a white male loner who gets beaten down by society, thus turning him into a mass murderer, is going to trigger more people like me to commit crimes?

I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I think everyone is missing the point. In the previews, Arthur Fleck, who becomes Joker, is told by his psychiatrist that she will not meet with him anymore. Maybe because he is not improving. Is she giving up on him?

I think the point is that this demographic needs help. MY demographic. I have had three psychiatrists in my life who have literally kicked me out of their offices, telling me never to come back because I “wasn’t improving.” I was told by more than one therapist that I “didn’t need medication” because I “just needed to change my thinking.”

I think society gives up on people like us too easily and quickly. Might I remind everyone that mental illness is a disease. My sister’s friend recently committed suicide even though he had a family that did all they possibly could to help him.

Unfortunately, the young man was just not able to see the love being poured out to him; he was not able to realize how devastated his family and many friends would be if he took his own life.

My sister, her friend’s father, and everyone else who is “normal” (Therapists hate this word, but I don’t care) did not understand that the young man was enveloped by a dark cloud that prevented him from seeing clearly. It’s not that he didn’t care about hurting his loved ones; he was not able to realize it.

Perhaps the controversy surrounding Joker needs to be a wake-up call to society: People need help. “White males” with mental issues. Those who are bullied. Misfits. Loners. We need help.

Professionals need to care more. Teachers need to intervene more. Family members and friends need to engage more. Strangers need to care more.

My personal issues have caused me to be an outcast my whole life. I still have scary flashbacks from when I was bullied during my childhood. They won’t go away.

We, just like Arthur Fleck in the beginning of the movie, are merely people who have been crapped on by society. Instead of banning the movie, why not use it as a teaching moment for American society?

And you “normal” people: Do your part. Be nice to weirdos. Try talking to that outcast/loner kid at school. Don’t be so quick to kick us out of your psychiatry offices.

Maybe it’s not guns that are the problem in America. Maybe it’s the neglecting of those who are not “normal.”

~t


Purified by Fire: Summer Challenges in the Middle East

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Well, I’ve completed three months here, so I’m officially one-fourth of the way from finishing my deployment.

Things are up and down all the time. It’s fun when my friends and I get a chance to leave the compound (We have to have a “battle buddy” when we leave), but other times it’s depressing to be stuck inside the tall barbed-wire walls.

When I first got here, I heard a few variations on how people end up on this compound in the Middle East. Things like: You either end up as a hunk (meaning all there is to do is work out); a chunk (becoming a couch potato); or a drunk (there is access to “tea”).

I heard one officer explain it this way: After a year, you either weigh 300 pounds or you can lift 300 pounds (meaning there are only two things to do on the compound: work out or eat snacks every night in front of the TV).

With my fragile personality and my mental issues, I tried working out at the gym which is pretty modern; it has everything that one would find back in the States. It gets old, however. So then I started taking walks around the compound which takes about 30-35 minutes – except I would do it right after work when the temperature was/is 110-115 F (43-46 C).

Why would I choose to walk in the heat of the day? I was silly and pretended that the hot sun was burning off my fat. With an average summer humidity of only 10%, it really wasn’t that bad.

That was back in June and July. Then I got a membership to the “tea room” where I ended up spending up to $200 per month on “tea” that I would binge on during the weekends. I never expected that I would become a “tea addict” in a country where it’s officially unavailable. I never did this in the States. Why was I doing it here?

Simple. 1) I was bored. 2) My family wasn’t here.

I’m having to ration my psych meds because I don’t know if they would clear customs if/when my wife ships them to me. Maybe that’s why I turned to “tea.” But that only helps on the weekends. During the week, I’m all alone to face my demons at work and to deal with life in Auschwitz (as my combat veteran friend refers to the compound).

The Army chaplain on the compound means well, but, no offense, he’s an Evangelical Protestant who graduated from Liberty University (the home of Jerry Falwell). Needless to say, he appears pretty phony and insincere.

The Catholic “Mass” happens every week, but since it’s so hard to get ordained priests to come to this location, most of the time lay leaders give their versions of homilies and distribute the consecrated hosts. The majority of the parishioners are Filipino laborers, so I have trouble making friends with them; I feel out of place and have trouble finding things in common with them.

I have a Catholic Bible app and a Rosary app on my phone, but with no one to hold me accountable, it’s hard to maintain any kind of spiritual life. Since the Qur’an is legal here, my friend who’s on the path to conversion loaned me a copy. I have read parts of it and find it comforting.

(By the way, some trivia: Mary is the only woman mentioned in the Qur’an by name, and she’s mentioned more in the Qur’an than in the New Testament.)

I finally confided in a friend at work (the one who is converting to Islam) about my depression, and she told me I’ve got to get hold of myself, give up “tea,” and start exercising again.

I agreed with her. I’m at that crossroads where either path could determine the course of my future. I choose the good path. No more “tea” for me. I honestly do not like exercising, but my friend encouraged me to at least walk around a sand “track” that is outside the gym, after dark of course so it’s not scorching hot. I think I will give that a try.

My youngest son just started middle school, so both of my sons sit together on the bus and go to the same school again. I try to Skype with them whenever I can, but with our schedules and the time difference, it’s hard.

My point, I guess, is that God is always with you and will use unlikely tools and people to help you in any situation, whether you’re in your own country, in a country where your religion is forbidden, or in a country where every religion is forbidden.

Hang in there. It will get better. I’m living proof.

~t


Sunday Musings: Hurting My Children

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  • I leave for the Middle East in four days. I will be gone for most of next year.
  • I was in a road rage incident with my two sons yesterday. My 12 year old was begging me to stop, but I didn’t listen to him. I didn’t stop until I rammed into the car that had made me angry. The police came, and I was in trouble. Luckily it won’t affect my business trip.
  • This is not how I wanted my kids to remember me. My oldest isn’t even talking to me.
  • Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. I went to Mass to beg God’s forgiveness. The four Advent candles were lit in front of the altar, reminding me that God’s forgiveness is complete.
  • I tried to make sense of the readings. Hebrews 10:5-10 says Jesus overcame the power of evil that separates us from God. He became our bridge back to God when we fall into evil.
  • I got up and left before communion. I couldn’t stand it anymore. On my way out, I prayed in front of the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She was looking down at me as I asked her to pray for my forgiveness. I touched her cloak before I got up and left.
  • I can’t forgive myself.

~t


I Won’t Be Back For A While

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I’m gonna take a holiday,
Be somewhere far away,
I won’t be back for a while,
For a long long time.

— Hanoi Rocks, “Oriental Beat”

Topaz has been doing better. Back in July, his supervisor (who is also his friend), challenged him to remember this single word: believe. Topaz made a poster with that single word for his office wall at work.

In autumn of this year, Topaz volunteered and was selected at his job for a very long business trip to the Middle East. He can’t be any more specific than this. This has shown that Topaz has been growing and overcoming his mental health issues (with the help of medication of course).

Topaz isn’t healed, nor has he “arrived.” He is simply trying harder and doing better than he has in years. He praises God for this. Through His help, Topaz has become more self-reliant and confident in his abilities.

Will this very long assignment halfway around the world change him more? Perhaps. We will just have to check in later and find out.

Today happens to be the third Sunday in Advent. Topaz was especially struck by this reading. It is Philippians 4:4-7:

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Topaz has a long, exciting journey ahead of him. He will keep you updated (he doesn’t post very often though).

~t


Regret Is Eating Me Alive

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Galveston Island, TX

I felt the need to write. I have started several novels over the years, one chronicling my suicide attempts and hospitalizations. I just can’t seem to make myself sit down and write them. That’s the problem.

So I have this blog. I sit myself down right now to write, but I don’t really have anything encouraging to say. Ha. That is usually followed by what turns out to be an encouraging post.

I started this blog in hopes of offering positivity to those who suffer mental illness among other things. The Catholic part comes from my faith tradition, which I am trying like mad to hold onto. (Most days I’m a religious hypocrite.)

I wanted my very own ministry (‘apostolate’ in Catholic terms), but it turned out that I’m just as broken, sinful, and run-down as the people whom I wanted to encourage.

So, here I am talking about how miserable I am. I suppose I could give a lesson on what not to do.

As a father and husband, I use my own dad as an example of what not to do. See, he was a real prick during my childhood. The problem is, I’m turning into him, whether I like it or not.

OK, here’s what not to do. This week we took a family vacation to Houston, about a three-hour car trip. See, I have a decent job, but we’re not exactly rollin’ in dough. So we went to Houston because there are fun things there for our kids like NASA, the beach, The USS Texas battleship, etc., etc.

Our friends go to Hawaii. Spain. The Bahamas. We go to friggin’ Houston. But I digress.

I got angry several times and my wife and I fought. I’m sure it hurt out two children.

Now we’re back home. This evening I drove my two sons to their friend’s house for a sleepover. They had their little bags packed with all of their pool gear, swim wear, and change of clothes. On the drive there, I yelled at my youngest son for something really stupid. This was just before we arrived at their friend’s house. I didn’t apologize. I’m sure I hurt my son and put a damper on things.

Here it is, Friday night. My favorite day of the week. And I feel like crap. I’m fighting severe depression even though I took my meds for the evening. I feel guilt weighing me down like barbells on my shoulders.

On top of that, I’ve been stealing from my own mom. I use her credit card at will. She is retired by the way. She tells me to stop, but I don’t. My sister gets involved and texts me angrily. I take offense and delete her number. I even unfriend her from Facebook.

My life sucks now.

And now I sit here on this Friday night, pouring out my guilt and screw-ups on this blog. I could be partying (yeah, right) or enjoying a good movie. My wife is in her room, not to be bothered (ugh).

I decided to look through the Bible for passages about regret. I pored over lots of passages. One I found shows the nature of God (Genesis 6:6):

And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.

This shows that God experiences regret. I think of myself in this Genesis passage, and then I think that God has every right to strike me down and send me to hell where I belong.

Then I read this passage from 2 Corinthians 7:10:

For Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

How do we get to the point of having Godly grief? I sure wish I knew. At least this is a compass setting for me. It’s something I can pray for, because I have no clue how to achieve it.

Tonight I cut up my mom’s credit card information. It’s a start, right? We have to start somewhere.

Baby steps. Hey, whatever it takes, my friend. Baby steps are alright.

Whatever is holding you down at this time, take baby steps to improve your situation. That’s what I’m doing.

Overeating? Eat a little less. Bad father? Give your kid a hug. Bad husband? Clean the kitchen. Missing too much work (like I am)? Take it one day at a time. I will be there Monday. 

You get the idea.

Now, I’m going to go salvage the rest of my Friday night.

~t


Mental Illness 1, Sheila & Topaz 0

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Sheila and I had planned a happy hour after work last Friday. We were both really looking forward to it after a long week of being “in the trenches” (teaching).

We went to a place that Sheila recommended. Since she is a vegan, the restaurant was a vegan Mexican place. I didn’t know anything like that existed. It was in the artsy part of the city.

The decor was made up of the Virgin of Guadalupe statues, banners, and renditions of local artists’ interpretation of the Virgin. The place was a total dive, but that’s what gave it its charm. I told Sheila that I didn’t know if we should pray or eat: the centerpiece of our table was a religious candle of the Virgin, the kind that you find in barrio shops for a dollar.

It turns out that this place didn’t serve alcohol; they hadn’t applied for a liquor license yet (they were under new ownership). Disappointed, we left in search of a microbrewery in the same vicinity. After sitting down, Sheila complained that they only served beer. Duh. It’s a microbrewery, I almost said.

So then we went next door to a trendy coffee shop/bar where everybody was pretty and handsome; definitely there to be seen on a Friday evening. As we perused the menu (they had spirits!), Sheila suddenly grabbed me and headed for the door.

“That woman [the waitress] was laughing at me. I have to get out of here.”

I was aware of the waitress the whole time, and she was not laughing at or doing anything to offend Sheila.

So we sat outside on the patio, trying to decide what to do and where to go. Sheila had become totally silent. After several minutes, she said, “Let’s head back to our cars.”

Walking to our cars, Sheila’s eyes began to tear up. She wiped them with the back of her sleeve. “Why am I cursed?” she sobbed, looking up at me, her nice blue eyes now red with tears. “I’m not supposed to be happy,” she said, her voice choking up with more emotion.

I didn’t know what to do. From experience, I’ve learned to be a good listener. In Sheila’s state of mind, she wouldn’t have heeded any advice I offered her. “I’m going home,” she said, dejected.

All I could think of was to say, “Call me if you need anything.” I got in my car, and we were off, going separate ways, back to our miserable lives all alone.

How I wished that I could have persuaded Sheila to join me back at the vegan place. We could have brought a bottle of wine (BYOB was okay there) and enjoyed ourselves.

Instead, I left Sheila for the evening.

I know what it’s like to have paranoia and to think lowly of myself. I still do. But medication and therapy have helped me tremendously. I still have my moments, however. But Sheila is unwilling to seek any sort of treatment.

I’ll continue being her friend. Hell, I’m the only friend she has besides her two cats. I’ll continue not because I’m trying to “save” her, but because she’s my friend.

~t


My Friend of Misery

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I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty.

— Pope Francis

I made a new friend at work. I’ll say her name is Sheila. It’s a wonder that we found each other. You see, Sheila suffers from depression and suicidal ideation just like I do. We didn’t know this when we started chatting daily and visiting each other’s classrooms.

Sheila seemed meek and shy. I could tell right away that she was introverted almost to the point of misanthropy.

After talking casually for several weeks, she started confiding in me. “I have a drinking problem.” “I suffer from depression.”

I also started opening up with her. It turns out that we both have spent time in psych wards for suicide attempts and depression.

Sheila and I are at the point to where we share everything with each other — because we have each other’s trust.

Today we were on the topic of suicide. We were discussing how different methods wouldn’t totally work. A bullet to the head might turn one into a vegetable instead of being fatal. How swallowing Drano could only burn your insides and not kill you. How pills don’t work (because we have both tried them).

Then our conversation took an eerie turn. Could we go to the Netherlands and take the euthanasia drug? Surely not. They wouldn’t give it out for healthy people’s suicides. What about Oregon? Nope. same thing.

Then Sheila said something that — well, I should have been shocked or red flags should have gone up, but they didn’t.

Sheila said, “As soon as my two cats die, I’m checking out.” Then she made a cutting motion across her throat with her index finger.

All I said was, “How?”

“I’ve been researching about hiring someone to kill me. Either that or jumping off a bridge into traffic.”

The thing is, I did nothing to persuade her from those plans. I didn’t step in like a friend should. I didn’t report her to 911.

Instead I empathized with her and told her I felt the same way. I even asked her if she would someday fly to Amsterdam with me so we could take the euthanasia pill together.

I know that I failed as a Christian. I know that I still have a shot at persuading her to live though.

But what about my agreeing with her? That certainly isn’t the Christian thing to do.

Oh, and Sheila is an alcoholic. She drinks wine at work out of her coffee tumbler. On Fridays we go out for lunch and we both slam beers.

I have the time of my life with Sheila — in a totally platonic way. But at the same time I am starting to believe that God put me in Sheila’s life to help her. And helping her I’m not.

Could you pray for me? Could you also pray for Sheila? Her parents have passed away, she doesn’t communicate with her siblings, and she has no real friends except for me. She has no one to live for.

Right now we are partners in misery yet we both are the only ones who can make each other laugh. It’s a tough situation because I love our friendship.

But at this point I guess I don’t love her enough to reach out to her as a Christian.  The scary thing is, I don’t want it to ruin the fun we have.

The suicidal downward spiral feels like a water park slide: looping down and around until we go crashing into the water, all the while laughing and giggling like two kids under the summer sun.

Except we’re under storm clouds and I’m doing nothing about it. I want to feel ashamed of myself but for some reason I don’t. You have every right to judge me, but at this time I just ask for your prayers. That I can be a man of God and help this poor woman.

~t