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Thursday, April 16, 2015

San Diego Support Groups are Here--Bam!!!

Boy, I'm excited! After waiting and working on this for so long, I almost can't believe it's finally happening.

Let me explain.

As you might know, my mom and I have been on a Mental Health Working Group task force with the Diocese of San Diego for over a year to place parish advocates in churches throughout the county. It's been an amazing experience, headed up by Kent Peters and Linda Arreola from the Office for Social Ministry. Progress was made at every meeting, and the efforts have paid off. Without their dedication and support, this program would not exist.

Kent Peters, Director,
Office for Social Minstry
Kent is in the process of leading parish workshops to find advocates. About one quarter of the churches in the diocese have chosen to implement the program to minister to people with mental illnesses by offering resources, support, and prayers.

And with the Diocese's blessing, we are finally able to announce the formation of our first support groups for teens with depression, anxiety, cutting, and other mental challenges--and their parents!

Starting May 7th (that's in THREE weeks, people!), we will begin monthly meetings at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Rancho Penasquitos area of San Diego on one Thursday a month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The schedule of dates is here

These groups are open to all teenagers and their parents. You don't have to be Catholic or a member of the parish, but it will be a faith-based group. Please distribute the information to everyone you know who might have a need to be with others who understand and care about them and their future.

Fr. Anthony Saroki, Pastor
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
In addition to the Office for Social Ministry, I would like to thank Fr. Anthony Saroki and Deacon Noel Rivera from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who will oversee the groups. We're very grateful to them for being open to hosting the first of its kind in the area. 

Sarah Telles, RN
Also, I'm extremely happy to introduce Sarah Telles, RN, who works at a behavioral health facility in San Diego, and whose family I've known for years. She's just as enthusiastic as I am to be a part of this groundbreaking service to the youth of our community. Sarah and I will be leading the teen group with social time, fun activities, and snacks (of course!). And every once in a while, we might also offer short spiritual talks and information on topics relevant to those who attend.

Let's get the word out and make these pilot groups successful!

Friday, April 10, 2015

That Really Annoying Relative of Mine--Scrupulosity

Remember my old friend, Anxiety? Well, I also have this relative, Scrupulosity. And he's no fun to be around at all. 

This is the way he starts our conversations: "Oh, Luke, what you just did was really bad. It was awful. You are a horrible person. How can you live with yourself?"

To which I respond, "Um, no, it wasn't wrong at all. And even if it was, it wasn't that bad."

But he's a real nagger, "No. You're just being lax. You don't want to admit it. You're being so lazy right now."

You can see why I get really tired of him hanging around. But unfortunately, he is me. So I can't just shut him out of my life. I know many other people he also bothers incessantly, telling them the exact same thing. And the dangerous part about him is that he loves going in circles. Imagine the above "conversation" repeated over and over again, and you'll know a taste of what it's like to be afflicted by Scrupulosity.

Scrupulosity shares many of the same traits as that guy, OCD (you might be seeing something on him in the future), but it's more of an interior obsession. One way I cut the obsession is to cut the circling. Stop thinking about it. Period. I don't revisit it, and I move on. Believe me, I know how hard that is, but I've been dealing with various levels of scrupulosity since before the time I starting feeling depressed.

It's awful, but it's one of the burdens I'll probably have to carry with me for the rest of my life. That's okay. I can live with this. 

If you think you might be dealing with it, let someone know. And if you know someone who might be suffering with this, help them out. Talk about the nature of scrupulosity and the fact that it's a psychological disorder that consists entirely of deception. It's healthy to feel guilty when you do something wrong, but when guilt starts to take over your life, that's when it needs to stop.

My parents and I realized that I needed to treat this symptom of my depression, so I talked to my therapist and my spiritual director about it, and I learned behaviors from them that helped me cope and stop the spiraling thoughts. 

If you want to get to know my annoying relative better (from a safe distance, that is), or you think you might suffer from scrupulosity, you can find out more here

Stay strong.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's Okay

As I said, this whole moving thing has affected me. And in a good way...mostly.

All of a sudden, we had the opportunity to move into an apartment where we could wait until we found a real house. It's awesome. We're close to everything. We have two exercise rooms, two pools, and free printing for all my sheet music. However, it's smaller than our old house, so we had to donate or dump a lot of our stuff. This wasn't hard for me. I love cleaning out. In fact, I rather enjoyed it...mostly.

Caught up in the rush of packing, moving, and cleaning out, we didn't quite realize what we had to leave behind--our beloved dog.

Roxy was my sisters' best friend.
She reciprocated by protecting them.
Our apartment accepts dogs . . . but not Dobermans. We thought we'd board her or have friends watch her until we found a house, but she was too aggressive with anyone other than us. We just didn't feel safe giving her to anyone with a dog or small children. 

So in the whirlwind of the general chaos of moving, we decided that we had to give her away. There was no other choice. We couldn't even keep her after we moved to our new home because it was almost impossible to find homeowner insurance in that area while we owned a Doberman (such prejudice against these amazing dogs!).

Now, if you know me, I yell at the people in movies when they risk their lives to save the "stupid pet". I see animals as animals who need to be cared for as God's creatures, and people as people. Not a whole lot of emotion in my relationship with my pet...or so I thought.

My family bought Roxy four years ago as a puppy, and she's been an integral part of our family ever since. We owned Dobie's before and they were the perfect breed for our needs. My siblings played with her on our two-acre property almost every day, and she did her job by protecting us from even the slightest danger. 

As my mom and I took her into the animal shelter to surrender her for another lucky family to adopt, I realized that I really didn't want to let her go. The emotions I had beat down inside of me because it's not "manly" to love a pet finally came out. 

It was the first time I've cried since before the crash.

And as I thought about this later on, I was kind of ashamed of myself for being "weak". But then, I turned around and told myself, "No. It's okay to have these kinds of emotions. It's okay to feel this way. It's okay to cry when the situation calls for it."

I didn't realize--or didn't want to admit--how much she meant to me. I was acting like the typical guy. Stay tough. Don't let your feelings show. To cry is to be a wimp. I think that's kind of ingrained in our DNA. Don't get me wrong, it's not always true. And some girls feel the same way, too.

So, to you who batter feelings down because it's not cool. To you who keep everything hidden because it's just not something you can talk about and retain your "dignity". I'm one of you. And the reason I'm telling you all this isn't to make you feel sorry for me, but to show you that bad things happen in life. That's just how it is. It's normal to feel sad when life's turned upside down on you. But if we keep our feelings about those events pent up, it could result in a disastrous explosion.

I realized I loved my dog and didn't want to let her go. That's normal. I cried when I said good-bye. And that's normal, too.

It's normal to feel sad sometimes. It's okay to cry.

It will pass if you own it and work through it.

You are not weak.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

We're Finally Back to Civilization

After a brief 12-year hiatus, we're finally back to living in San Diego. Yes, the move's been a bit stressful, I'm super tired, and I might be having some extra anxiety (it's hard for me to gauge, so my family has my back), but I'm just so happy it doesn't take an hour to go anywhere anymore. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing a bit more about the different facets of relocating and how it's affecting me.

For now, it's feeling so good to be home.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vale (That's Latin, Folks)

When ancient Romans said goodbye, they used a certain word: "vale" (vah-ley'). Translated literally, it means "be strong". When I first learned this, I thought it was the coolest thing. Imagine telling your friends and anyone else to be strong as you part?

Be strong against the pressures of the world.

Be strong against the internal and external pain you'll experience.

Be strong because there's so much wrong with this world. And if we're going to change it, even a little, then we need to have courage.

I like it so much I use it for my signature on my personal email. But that's not all. 

Some of us guys think we need to stay tough during our hardships, and that's why we don't talk about our depression. However, that's not what being strong means. It not only means to keep going when life gets complicated, but also to rely on someone else when the burden's too much for you to handle on your own. I found this out the hard way, and I want to spare you from the same mindset.

So be strong through difficulties and don't give up. But also, have someone else cover your back and help you up when you fall. That's what true strength's all about.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Life is full of mistakes. Some are big like robbing a bank. Others are small like forgetting about the bread in the toaster and having it burn. But whether big or small, we should move on and not make the same mistakes again. After all, who likes messing up?

However, some of us make mistakes and feel like we can never be free of them.

Imagine how I felt in those first months of recovery after I crashed the van in my attempt. Reality started to sink in. I realized that I not only almost killed myself, but someone else, too. I was under arrest, facing a huge restitution, and I thought I'd have a criminal record for the rest of my life. I felt my mistake was too big, too terrible, to rise from.

Not only did I have the consequences I just mentioned and more, but I was also trying to heal from the disease of depression. And as time went on, I wanted to pay my parents back for the financial hardship they were enduring because of me. I wanted to plan a garage sale and a bunch of other things. 

At the time, I wasn't aware that I was not only trying to find redemption from my parents, but I was also trying to forgive myself.

My mom and dad kept telling me that they didn't want me to pay them back for anything, and the damage was so large, there was no way I'd be able to, even if I tried. They just wanted me to live a full and happy life. But that didn't stop me from thinking of ways to make up for the expenses they had incurred. 

Finally, my parents talked to my therapist about it, and what he said changed my entire way of thinking about the matter: "Do you think your parents would give anything to keep you mentally healthy? And they would have given everything to have you back if you died? They love you more than anything, and they're giving you a gift. Do you pay people back for the gifts they give you?"

It was then I realized so many people around me were actually giving me gifts. Gifts of love, time, and in the case of my parents, all that and money, too. 

So, yes, I did have consequences. Big ones. And rightfully so. I did something very very wrong. 

But having consequences shouldn't be the focus of life. What's important is that we learn from them, forgive ourselves, and work hard not to make the same big mistakes again. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

We're All in This Together

If you listen closely to how I talk about this ministry, you'll notice that much of the time I'll say "we" have this, or this happen to "us". And you might think that seems strange. After all, isn't this my ministry?


No, it's not.

This mission is ours. This goal of being a beacon of hope to those suffering from a mental illness is too big for me to do on my own. I need help, and that's why (forgive me for being poetic) I encourage you to take this light I'm holding out for you and light your own fire so you can warm the hearts of those in torment.

This mission of ours is life and death. We can do so much. How many people will be affected by us?