Tag Archives: St. Dymphna

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

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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