Did Jesus Give Me Salmonella?

written by Chris Tiernan. Chris (he/him) grew up in Shankill and is Irish-Filipino. After attending Creative Writing at Inchicore College, he is in his second year of English with Creative Writing at UCD. Inspired by Raymond Carver, his short stories explore themes of emotional distance and communication failure, while in his non-fiction he delves into addiction and alienation. He has a passion for collecting typewriters.

It was during a week of illness that I contemplated my relationship with faith. 

I never considered myself a man of faith. Perhaps I was once, but there are circumstances which can happen to a person in which it becomes incredibly easy to reject the virtues of divine conviction.

I have seen the decay of those closest to me. All that was left was a shell and the constant drip of saliva. I could not understand how an all-creator could create such disorder. 

I have experienced possibly the rawest, most debilitating form of betrayal. The kind of betrayal where consequences don’t necessarily take effect. A person you thought completed you, turns out to be the person who incentivises a fall down a long, cold road of self-destruction. In moments like these, belief in people, belief in yourself, and your understanding of good and evil can become skewered.

Somewhere down the line, I subscribed to the beliefs of Camus and Beckett in which life was argued to be inherently meaningless. That existence is absurd. And apparently, it is our responsibility to try and find meaning, within the meaningless. Now that is the hard part.

The toxicity I felt as a boy in school appeared to intensify as a man about to enter his twenties. If, like me, you do not tread carefully, such toxicity, magnified by the era of social media, can take hold of you and direct you towards total surrender.

The kind of people I involved myself with; it would be untrue to call them my friends. The way it works is – “You have 50 – 100 euros cash on hand, and you’re more than welcome to sit on this dingy couch, in this filthy apartment and destroy yourself with us.”

 I witnessed people make life choices that perhaps, even to this day, they’re still trying to run away from. Thankfully, I avoided succumbing to addictions hard enough to truly cripple my chances of recovery. It was a frightening part of my life, to say the least, but this was complete desperation. We tend to give up in many different ways, and this aggressive bout with addiction and my ever-progressing trust issues carried on into my mid-twenties. 

As a result, my first year at UCD had gone to waste. There were groups I tried to wedge into, but it didn’t feel like I belonged. (Sself-sabotage is a prick.), and there were events that I showed up for and ran away from. 

In fact, the one event that recognised my efforts in creative writing – I ran from. Isolation rewires the brain. The will of the mind is stronger than we expect. Have you ever seen Pixar’s Ratatouille? I too used to have a stupid little blue rat nestled in my hair. 

What brought me out of this cavity? Possibly revisiting the depths of dear sweet Virginia Woolf. Possibly IDLES proving the guitar still has a purpose. Possibly Poor Things being the most inspiring film I have witnessed since There Will Be Blood.  

Realistically, it was the scrupulous efforts of UCD’s Health Centre. It isn’t irrational to dismiss therapy and medication, as well as rehabilitation, but were it not for UCD’s diligent mental health workers, I probably would have dropped out. Or worse.


During ‘refresher’s day’ 2024,  I was looking for the Mature Student Society but could not find it. I happened upon a member of UCD’s Christian society for help. She said she didn’t know but would help me find it. We strolled around the hall looking for it but to no avail. As we passed UCD’s Philosophy Society for the third time, I settled on that table being my final sign-up.

She asked me if I was interested in the Christian society, and I said I didn’t know anything about Christianity and The Gospel. Of course, I knew exactly where my feet were planted, but she took the time out of a busy hour to help me. So for that, I felt grateful and thought it only fair I accepted her invitation.

 I agreed to attend her event that evening where Lewis Trilemma was being discussed. She asked me for my Instagram. I didn’t have one. So, she insisted on giving me her number. After collective praying and multiple sing-alongs, I felt like I had made a mistake. I knew this wasn’t my environment, and yet the irony was it was the only place I felt welcomed thus far. 

Every single person there was lovely. Was it authentic? Well, should it have mattered to me? In times of such despondency, beggars can’t be choosers. 

Nevertheless, it was the pastor who struck a chord with me. He gave us a three-part lecture on why Christ was more than just a messianic historical figure. He explained how the Lewis Trilemma was a concept introduced by C.S. Lewis in his apologetics for the Christian faith. Lewis proposed a logical analysis of Jesus Christ’s identity based on his declarations about himself. He argued that Jesus, having claimed divine status, leaves us with only three possible conclusions: he was either lying, making him a lunatic; he was deluded, believing himself to be God when he was not, which also makes him a lunatic; or he was indeed who he claimed to be—Lord. This trilemma—Liar, Lunatic, or Lord—challenges sceptics by asserting that the only logical conclusion, if Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic, is to recognize him as Lord. 

There was something intrinsically admirable about his efforts. Who was I to question him? Anyone there for that matter. After my obstacles, who was I to disrespect what brings one sanctuary? Despite this, I felt compelled to slip out before ‘tea and coffee time.’ I had listened carefully with a healthy sense of empathy, and I had a lot of things to consider, but alas, this was just another stroke in my tally of misfit realms.

Later that night, there was something unsettled in my stomach. It turned out to be salmonella. I could have sworn I cooked the chicken. I even sought the advice of my mother who has been cooking since she was seven,  and she was confident it was done. And sometimes, to question the confidence of a mother is to question the solidity of water. And yet, for the next three days, I was bedridden and vomiting.

When you’re this unwell, you have a lot of time to think for yourself. Screens and audio can be painful. I was quite literally doing nothing but tossing and turning and staring up at the ceiling. One of the first things I thought about was arguably the most serious thing I have ever thought about – Was my life worth living as everyone seemed to tell me it was? I was still in recovery, and during Christmas and the New Year celebrations, I found myself in some pathetic situations. It was a real wake-up call. 

The second night I reflected on my age, knowing by the time I got my degree, I would be entering my thirties. Now I was beginning to understand that things were a little more serious than I had initially thought. When you’re young, there is a certain level of arrogance that leads you to believe things like addiction and self-harm will just magically work itself out. As if you can wave your hand and say to yourself “Ah. It will be grand. I’ll think about that later. We’ll deal with that when it’s worth dealing with”. 

It’s unfortunate to confess, perhaps even problematic, but my first year at UCD was extremely miserable. Yet, throughout these three days and nights of constant vomiting, cold sweats, and fever dreams – what dreams I could have due to sleep deprivation; I was beginning to ask myself if I was coming out of this a better man. A smarter man. A more empathetic and trustful man. Someone capable of loving themselves again.

And just as I started to feel better, I couldn’t stop thinking about that night I attended the Christian Society event. Nowadays, more and more people like to think it’s silly and surreal to pray, sing and feel genuine joy over something as dividing as God and Jesus Christ.

I’m not saying I have completely changed my perspective. I’m not saying that “I have found Jesus. Oh lord, I have seen the light!”, but after reflecting on a lifetime of self-abuse, rage and despair, I can only surmise there is no harm in latching onto certain things that bring people together, in earnestness, and in the hopes one can extract even an inkling of meaning and purpose.

During my time at UCD, there were moments when I seriously considered checking myself into St. Vincents and showing them a letter the campus had provided me with in case it was necessary. For, all meaning and purpose seemed to be fleeting. 

And on the third day of illness, I saw the light! because something as simple as taking time out of your schedule to help a stuttering idiot try and find a place where he might finally belong; even something as small and simple as that can provide a gargantuan amount of solace.

There was still part of me, –  a rude, silly, cynical part of me – which still existed, and it couldn’t help itself– ‘Did too much Jesus make me vomit?’

More importantly, I reflected on climbing out of a hole and having a new attitude and appreciation for life. So this is why I could not help asking myself, was there some divine intervention? Was it just really just the Prozac? The therapy? UCD’s Sports & Fitness Gym? 

Therein lies another problem. Alcoholism has affected my memory, and I have to live with that, but what I can’t forget is what people are capable of, what mere existence is capable of, and what I am capable of.

Did the hand of God provide me with some strength? 

I am still debating this. Even right now as the cold drips of rain soak my notebook, and my hand quivers with ache.
Hemingway said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit at your typewriter and bleed for 300 Pages.” Writing is the only way I can make sense of anything. 

I used to believe that no matter the isolation and the loneliness, if I wrote with honesty and vulnerability, I would find acceptance in this world. I would belong.

But so far, this path has been fruitless. Writing is a lonely art. And yet, true loneliness doesn’t always come from social alienation but from feeling like you are forbidden to communicate things that are important to you. 

So please understand that I am bleeding. Profusely. Constantly. 

However, the crossroads appear clearer than ever, and compared to my problems of the past, this feels like a luxury.

I can’t stop thinking if my newfangled efforts to provide my life with some additional meaning have had some celestial assistance. 

I just don’t know.  It seems like we are in a constant cycle of trading one pain for another, and right now, I feel okay about my current transaction. I can’t remember the last time I felt something like this.