I’m grateful for the recent influx of traffic, from Matt Fradd’s site and others. At the same time I’m a little concerned that people seeing my blog for the first time are not seeing me at my best: folks, I swear, three months ago I was not a complete neurotic mess. Neither I nor even Father T. know exactly what is going on here, or why this present darkness is so extreme and so long-lived. But stet. Seems like people who are complete neurotic messes themselves like reading about other people who are complete neurotic messes.

I comfort myself by thinking that, since the Lord has been letting this all rise to the surface in a way it hasn’t for a decade, maybe He wants to deal with it in a deeper way than ever before. So, forward!

You can see by the (in)frequency of my posts lately that this “sorting out my life” business is not without its difficulties. I can’t seem to pull my jumble of thoughts together for a coherent post, so here are some things that are going on, and maybe you will see why I am a little jumbled.

Due to The Roommate Situation, I’m still in a state of rootlessness. I bounce around between my sister’s house (an hour from work), my brother’s house (45 minutes from work), and the old place, where I stay a couple of nights a week. I still think that seeing those guys is good for me, or at least that cutting them out of my life isn’t good for me (or them); it’s just tricky to balance that fact with the anxiety it usually causes me to be there. The situation may resolve itself by the end of July, so please pray that I will get some peace in that department. I know y’all do anyway. Thank you.

I had a particularly nice visit with the roommates last Wednesday. I came back from Kung Fu expecting a quiet night and found out there were going to be three people coming over. I managed to avoid freaking out about that (“Just keep me under your protection,” I prayed, and He did) and had a nice time. The part of the night I keep coming back to — this will tell you something about my current state of mind — is the moment when we were hunched over someone’s phone to watch a video, and my roommate S. rested his arm on my shoulder while he watched. Such a tiny gesture, and for him it was casual, but to me its very casualness meant acceptance — that my place in the group was taken for granted. I’m embarrassed that this was such a big deal for me, but there it is.

The meds are still working, but towards the end of vacation I had a freakout/breakdown that I’m still bouncing back from. I’m still sorting out in my own mind what the meds mean. Taking pills for being sad necessarily puts sadness in a different light. Previously, I had always been in the habit of spiritualizing my depression, anxiety, social issues, and the rest of it: these things must mean I’m not a holy enough person yet. Now my tendency is the opposite: seeing the whole thing as a purely psychological and even physical issue. I think the reality lies somewhere inbetween; in some sense, these things are a real part of my personality and a real part of my cross. My paradigms are still reassembling themselves.

Monday I meet with my new therapist. I’ve seen her once before, just an introductory interview, but that hour gave me a lot of hope for what we might be able to do together. I can’t wait.

I’ve been reading Images of Hope, by Fr. William Lynch, SJ, on the recommendation of a reader/commenter whose name escapes me — but thank you, dear
commenter, because oh my gawrsh, this book is just really good.

So much of the reading that I’ve done on psychological and spiritual issues seems to be a constant rehashing of the same old things. That’s fine, because I need to be reminded of the same truths over and over again. But this book has some very helpful ideas that are completely new to me, and he describes things so lucidly that I just feel understood.

Let’s see if I can find a couple of excerpts…should be as easy as hunting down the marginalia that look like this: “★!!!” Oh, here’s one that I’ve been thinking about a lot:

We can be so preoccupied with the past that we break down the edges and identities of each thing in contemporary reality and make it all look like the past…The present is not the past. That sentence could not be clearer on the surface or more obscure in its depths. If it were truly grasped, and grasped affectively, there would be no mental illness among adults. But the past keeps running in upon us, obscuring and even obliterating the freshness and newness of everything we do.

Ever since reading that, I’ve been saying to myself at odd moments: “This is now. This is not then.” It helps me see that, on the outside, my life is pretty much anything anybody could want: the loneliness, the self-judgment, are all products of the past. The present, taken on its own terms, is pretty awesome.

Welp, I am off to see Brave with a friend from my support group — I lurve Pixar, and I think this is going to be great. Then I am spending the evening with The Roommates. Fighting my way through my groundless fears that they don’t actually want me there. How many times and in how many ways do people have to tell me that they like me before I believe it?

Anyway. It has been gorgeous motorcycle weather. So there’s that.

23 thoughts on “Jumbled

  1. Sarah

    Trust me, Steve, I know how all that feels.

    I live in Germany and had only been here a few months, so didn’t speak or understand the language too well. I ended up meeting some people through my church who known each other since they were small children, and I ended up feeling very foreign, very homesick, very intrusive and very excluded (the language barrier intensifying the feeling of being new and unfamiliar), no matter how incredibly nice these people were to me. Then one night after a camping trip, we sat around someone’s laptop watching a slideshow of pictures someone had taken and uploaded from the past week, and I felt one girl lean on my shoulder while she watched. So, yeah… I know exactly how you feel.

    Especially because I am one of those neurotic messes. ;)

    Reply
  2. Jordan

    I tell my friends that there pretty much isn’t a single instance of affectionate physical touch that I don’t profoundly thank God for. Sure, this sometimes results in me standing next to certain people, chanting in my head, “Touch me touch me touch me touch me!” with all the pathos of a dog begging for steak at the table, or awkwardly maneuvering myself so that physical touch can’t be avoided (if you bump into someone, you can almost turn it into a hug if you do it right).

    But those small, unsolicited moments of connectedness always remind me that Christ has embraced me and that I am not surrounded by some forcefield of undesirability.

    I hope the healing continues.

    Jordan

    Reply
  3. george

    Hi. I’ll be also making a mess.
    On your comment of ” not being holy enough” I guess it’s good we don’t feel “enough”.
    Being also the neurotic kind (now a little softer), obssesive with some ideas or problems, I end up most of the times magnifying them and with lot of thinking that only carries for me deeper pain and loosing a simpler perspective.
    Speaking of the unacceptance feeling is also an issue I still have to work more on. Never feeling comfortable in groups. Even when coming among these blogs the feeling of unacceptance is in my mind: Yes, you share SSA and this makes a deep bound, but “they” are a kind of group, you are older than them, not native speaking, go away before you are officialy rejected!. I’ll have to read again a previous post of yours and also that one of Tony (don’t remember the name) to “also be reminded of the same truths over and over again”.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  4. Gabriel

    I particularly loved these three passages:

    “Seems like people who are complete neurotic messes themselves like reading about other people who are complete neurotic messes.” Yep.

    “The part of the night I keep coming back to … is the moment when we were hunched over someone’s phone to watch a video, and my roommate S. rested his arm on my shoulder while he watched. Such a tiny gesture, and for him it was casual, but for him its very casualness meant acceptance — that my place in the group was taken for granted.” The image is an arresting one, but what I particularly like about this is how you capture that feeling so clearly and so succinctly. The feeling, I mean, of being taken for granted in a good way, and how important and touching that is.

    “Fighting my way through my groundless fears that they don’t actually want me there. How many times and in how many ways do people have to tell me they like me before I believe it?” Well, I’ll be one, here and now, in this way. But, yes, I vibe with you completely here. Self-flagellation on this count is very tempting, because the inability to accept affection and welcome makes you feel ungrateful; but I don’t believe it’s ingratitude, really. Judging from my own experience, it is the pain of some wound which has become so painful that the pain is a new wound in its own right. And that requires healing — not penance. Signed, a fellow self-flagellating neurotic mess. ;)

    Reply
  5. Sky

    Will there be baked goods at this neurotic messfest? I love a good potluck, and neurotics make the best cookies. They’re always delicious, of course, but no one believes you when you tell them.

    Reply
  6. Random Jesuit

    “I think the reality lies somewhere inbetween; in some sense, these things are a real part of my personality and a real part of my cross.”

    That’s why I love Images of Hope, though those are your words above. Lynch attacks our “absolutizing tendencies” and what he calls in another work our “overzealous dichotomizing” and says, no, like all good Catholic thought, the solution is a both/and whose ambivalence we have to make peace with. Acknowledging the “hopeless”/impossible bits of life as a means to “rest in the possible”–the real possible, not the limitless possible we imagine as children and retain as adults–seems so obvious, but Lynch lays it out so effectively. Unfortunately, I haven’t grasped it myself entirely, but your post has reminded me that I should pick it up again.

    You’re most welcome for the recommendation, by the way. It’s always good to see God’s grace at work amid the neurotic messfest that is life.

    Reply
  7. Jeanette logue

    Thank you so much for sharing, I appreciate your courage with being open and honest. We never know what people will do as we open our hearts to them. You are amazing and I pray that the Lord would bless you with His great love.

    Jeanette

    Reply
  8. Grandfather

    Steve, I am new to your blog and want to write about your concern that I am not seeing you at your best. I liked your blog immediately, and appreciate your stance that a Catholic man can be happy regardless of experiencing same-sex attraction. (I hope I am representing your stance correctly.) You don’t need to entertain me or teach me, I appreciate having company.

    You write about being touched that someone touched you. I experienced acceptance, that meant a lot to me, when I posted on your blog a second time, and found you had given me a “security clearance,” as my post went on directly without waiting for approval. (I guess I will see if this one does too.)

    I don’t know anything about depression. I have heard it described as darkness before, and I hope things get better for you quickly. My wife and I lost confidence in psychology many years ago, and the concept of neurosis means nothing to me. I do not see myself as neurotic at all, although someone else might notice I am unusual. My impression is that psychology encourages introspection. While examination of conscience is a good thing, evaluating oneself should not go further.

    You write that your past is rising to the surface and the Lord may want to deal with it. Of course it is good for hidden things to come into the light, because Satan works in darkness. I have thought about my past over the years, since I recovered a hidden memory in 1994. I understand things about my feelings and behavior (and my SSA) that I did not before.

    God bless you! Be brave, be patient, trust in God. God held my hand through some very dark times. My prayer is that he show himself to you there.

    It occurs to me to share a resource with you. Klara Schlink was a psychologist who founded an order of Lutheran nuns. Her name in religion was Basilea Schlink. Her writings have helped me (and many others) greatly. kanaan.org For example they have a 50 cent leaflet “God Comes When All Is Dark.”

    Reply
  9. Craig Edward

    Steve,

    I love your blog. Found it from Gay Subilty. I wanted to post a comment but on post mentioned security clearance and I do no see a place to register to post. Thank you. May Jesus bless you. Craig Edward

    Reply
  10. Frank

    Ive been perusing ur older posts and really enjoying it and found some of it fun but also interesting…

    Sorry to see things arent as bright and cheerful at the moment.

    As for depression Im thankful that I never experienced it outside of bouts of anxiety. But my long time ex girlfriend did and the hardest thing I saw was the inability to understand it. The inability to put into words the feelings and emotions that are going through ones head. The void of darkness that consumes you and the perception that you cant get out and in fact almost indulge in the darkness.
    Its a vicious cycle. Depression may never really go away but the important thing is finding who we are, knowing who we are. Your older posts certainly demostrate that confidence.

    Dealing with modern society as a practising Catholic can be very difficult. I have recently been living abroad and my friends from my course are all Atheists and I tended to keep my Faith private and personal until it eventually all came out, first my opposition to abortion and then my weekly mass attendance and now my abstinent lifestyle. They really dont get it. They assume something is wrong with me. And while i am confident in my choices and my life and who I am, its still not easy. We are all sinners. We have our crosses. We are tested, we are tempted, and sometimes my Faith doesnt feel as strong as it should be (which only makes it harder here away from my Catholic friends and priests who speak english). Discussing the Church’s stance on sex is something I was usually able to do but lately Ive been struggling to express it in a convincing way.

    Anyways enough about me. Just happy to have found your blog.
    Remember we are all only human and we all will keep praying for each other…

    Reply
  11. Craig Edward

    Steve,

    I was so exited to post. Just discovered your blog. Too exited to check typos. In the first line “Subilty”(the ability to be a sub-section!?!) should read “Subtlety” and “on” in the second line should read “one” then “no” in the third line should read “not”
    I see my first post in awaiting moderation but it is posted, at least I can see it on my computer so I am cofused…not to worry that is my natural state. May Jesus bless you. Craig Edward

    Reply
  12. Craig Edward

    Steve,

    Thank you for this extraordinary place and your helpful (and skillful writings. I am praying for you. How right you are. Only Father Hopkins, S.J. can express the kind of pain you have experience. Then “The Diary of a Country Priest.” But the great-poet priest mostly who seems to have known our pain regardless of where he was on the spectum as he lived out a life of chaste and pure faithfulness to Jesus.

    As I have a beyound neurotic need for sympathy and pity I will mention (and hope I am not believing my pains worse than anyone else here) that after a life of study and Catholic ministry involving attending an all male college, staying for long periods in Monasteries here and in Europe, doing graduate studies in Rome where they were only a few female students (okay a life since high school among guys) for five years I have been taking care of my 92 year old Mother in a place far from home, family and friends. I hire women to help me. But do not have one friend. Last year out of loneliness and isolation I sought out a an Exodus Int. psycologist. Only four sessions. His main advice. Find a guy friend. I really tried but my trying is limited. I can seldom leave Mother and never at night such as when the men’s group at church meets. The pain of is so bad. You mentioned being touched. ( I like someone’s post about bumping into a guy to get a sort of hug. I probably don’t have the courage to do that but there is never a guy to bump into.)
    I both long (and fear) for a guy to touch me, hug me gently (a bro hug with it’s rules is fine but for me only as fine as a friendly hand shake__twice I got one from the guy who cuts out lawn which was kind of him and appreciated) and yes mostly hold me so I know I am safe and loved. And yet I fear it. You see I gave my heart and life to Jesus at seventeen. I have a private vow of chastity which the best writers explain (ie. Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.) is an undivided heart. Mine was for so many years when SSA was seldom an issue. Jesus was my all. I love the post (Dante’s? I am sorry I can’t remember, I am new here, first day) about being in a relationship with a Jewish Guy. For years Jesus was enough but after being so lonely for so long and being a caregiver (Yes, I love my Mother but I am by both nature and nuture not cut out for this) and more than a fish out of water. I am sorry to say, and I tell Jesus, I want Him to be my all but, well I don’t fell him hold me. Physcially feel Him. (I have Holy Envy toward St. John at the first Eucharist.) Wanting to be held by a big brother since I was very young, I now know, was the “background” of my SSA. While I want some guy, some loving friend to come into my life and hold me I fear it terribly as I know me and it will cause me to forget Jesus even more. (Feel free to tell me I am wrong.) If a guy, a stanger touches my arm my loved staved heart melts. It is not terrible things I want. But I would want the holding to lead to cuddling and a gentle kiss. So I can’t win. I can only “leave off thoughts awhile” and go do the dishes. Advice, comments, irrelevant remarks are appreciated. Oh, and pity. May Jesus bless you. Craig Edward the Friendless. P.S. At this all makes me feel odd or weird as I am fifty-three not eighteen (I mean that respectfully to younger ones) but, I guess, Pascal is write, about this anyone, “the heart has it’s reasons which reason [age?] knows nothing about.”

    Reply
    1. Dave Mc

      Craig,
      Thank you for your post! The way you’ve described the longing to be touched by a friend but the fear of what it could lead to in your desires is exactly how I’ve felt for so many years! I could never quite descibe it and, of course, felt as though I was the only one who had that ‘type’ of feeling.
      Thank you for making my day and God Bless!

      Reply
  13. Victor

    Craig,

    a long time ago, when I was starting my university studies and felt friendless and lonely, I was gifted with hearing the words “You are not friendless – I am your friend” and feeling Jesus embrace me. I never forgot this, and you shouldn’t either – just as He is really present in the Most Holy Sacrament though we cannot see him, He is holding you in His arms right now even if you cannot feel it.
    Things have gotten much better; I have friends now but still feel lonely at times. And yes, the incidental, innocent touch of a friend can be a wonderful thing to experience. Perhaps because subconsciously, it reminds us of Him Who touches our hearts?

    Reply
    1. Craig Edward

      Victor,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply and for your kind words read at 3:15 AM. Another sleepless night.

      May Jesus bless you. Craig Edward

      Reply
  14. Paul H.

    Hi Steve,

    I’m adding your blog to my “check regularly” list, because I really appreciate your real, honest reflections and musings. Praise God for your gentle and beautiful spirit.

    And I also really liked what Matt Fradd had to say on his blog. :-)

    May God bless you!

    -Paul

    p.s. AND, because I’m a huge fan of C.S. Lewis, and I can see that you are too, based on how big “C.S. Lewis” appears in the tags on the right toolbar. :-)

    Reply
  15. Mark from PA

    I checked out that site, Steve. There was a lot of back and forth and interesting comments. Hope that you are doing OK and hanging in there. Go easy on yourself, my friend. Taking pills can be somewhat of a pain. Until a few years ago I didn’t really take regular medication. I have had rough experiences with some medication so sometimes it isn’t easy.

    Reply
  16. AnonLady

    I do not want to be too presumptive here, but I read your blog often and feel compelled to make a comment of support.

    I have not dealt with SSA, but I have experience with depression and anxiety and PTSD. Much of what you write about rings true with me.

    Having (mostly) come out the other side, I wanted to say: don’t worry about the drugs. When I first went on meds, I had the same reactions you are having. But now I see it like this: you’re going down into a cave, to do work on the roots of the issues that are affecting your whole life. Natural light can’t reach down there. You need a pretty freaking powerful flashlight. And once the work is done, once the roots are exposed and the way is cleared, and you can see what in the hellfire is actually going on, the flashlight will become redundant.*

    I hope everything clicks with your new therapist and things start falling into place.

    (*these comments were made by a lady who is in no way qualified as a therapist and has never even met you. take to heart accordingly.)

    Reply
  17. Jason

    Steve,

    Found your blog when someone emailed me a link to the Matt Fradd post.

    I’ve been walking the SSA walk myself for several years now, though as an Orthodox Christian. Your words were so inspiring. Thank you, and glory to God for that.

    Remember that not everyone in the world is so fortunate as we, odd as it may seem. Every true Christian must bear their cross – Christ said as much. Yet most stumble through life from frivolity to frivolity, ignorant of there being any such things as crosses. That was me for most of my life. But now, for us, our cross is right there, easy to identify, laying before our eyes in plain sight each day with our names emblazoned on them. Spiritual weightlifting, if we stick with it. As St. Anthony the Great said, whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Prayers, man. Many, many prayers headed your way. As

    Reply

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