About tonyroberts

I am a man of faith who delights in the One who delights in me.

Good Boundaries

{excerpt from Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission} "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;  surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16.6) One thing I have experienced in the time I've spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries, belt buckles, shoes with strings, and other personal effects. Rules about visits and contact with others. Rules about schedules -- time to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven't bothered me so much. I've benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There's a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules. Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbuck's coffee (for a steep tip, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater [...]

Good Boundaries 2017-09-18T13:15:51+00:00

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh

“It's not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ― Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot Fry here captures the truth that demonic mental spirits can be redeemed and turn into angels. Self-consciousness turns us yet leads us to activities of the mind.. language, literature. Apartness, an inability to join in, leads us to appreciate the absurdity of what is deemed "normal." Shame and self-loathing turn to laughter and mad intensities when we are blessed to not take ourselves so seriously. Many of the best comics who have ever been, are touched with a sort of genius notched up to mad proportions. Robin Williams was the best of my generation. He was never [...]

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh 2017-09-13T22:07:12+00:00

To Be or Not to Be: Thoughts on Suicide

“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.” ― Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide   When I was in training to become a student counselor in college, we were taught how to respond to persons who seemed to be suicidal. Some things we should look for included: 1) Sleeping an inordinate amount of time or not sleeping at all; 2) Showing no concern for hygiene; 3) Skipping meals; 4) Excessive drinking or using other drugs.  To an extent, these behaviors can be exhibited in any college student, in any one [...]

To Be or Not to Be: Thoughts on Suicide 2017-09-11T12:49:14+00:00

Where is God When the World Goes Mad?

In Elie Wiesel's Night, Eliezer is a Jewish teenager, a devoted student of the Talmud from Sighet, in Hungarian Transylvania.  In the spring of 1944, the Nazis occupy Hungary. A series of increasingly repressive measures are passed, and the Jews of Eliezer’s town are forced into small ghettos within Sighet.  Before long, they are rounded up and shipped out to the death camps of Burkenau, and Auschwitz. Throughout this slim narrative, Eliezer reflects on the nature of God in response to the atrocities he witnesses.  In one pivotal scene, he describes the execution of three Jews, among whom is a young child.             One day, as we returned from work, we saw three gallows, three black ravens, erected on the Appelplatz. Roll call.  The SS surrounding us, machine guns aimed at us: the usual ritual.  Three prisoners in chains – and, among them, the little pipel, the sad-eyed angel.             The SS [...]

Where is God When the World Goes Mad? 2017-09-11T12:49:47+00:00

Helping in a Hurricane

Lately the news has been full of stories about Hurricane Harvey and its disastrous impact. Relief efforts are extensive -- from government agencies, charitable organizations, private foundations, church groups, and individual efforts. People are eager to help in such horrifically harsh times, yet many are leery as they hear about instances where resources have been misused, rather than get to folks who need it. It is true our generosity can be abused. When such major needs arise, we give compulsively and, at times, compulsory. We often don't take the time to see that our gifts support the efforts that will meet the true needs of the most people. Misplaced trust can particularly happen for those of us with serious mental illness. Many want to help, as we have been helped in our lives. We can identify with people who have lost everything. Some are torn apart emotionally by images [...]

Helping in a Hurricane 2017-09-04T20:22:15+00:00

Balance

When I am most imbalanced, I have taken many dangerous and foolish risks. Like driving 90 mph on the Interstate while reading a book and writing a review. Like dodging traffic as I walked through city streets recording what I considered brilliant thoughts. Like stuffing dozens of candy corn into my mouth until I couldn't swallow or breathe. Why would I do these things? When I am manic, I reply, "Why not?" When I am manic, I take on special powers; I can topple towers, read minds, and save souls. I have a direct line to God. I am God's special child. God has ordained me to create peace, provide help for the helpless, hope for those in despair. When I am manic, I am on top of the world. Better yet, I am the top of the world. But what goes up, must come down. And often the higher [...]

Balance 2017-08-31T23:54:54+00:00

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming

It's been over 35 years now since I graduated from high school. For the first time, I'm going to the class reunion. Why am I going now? Why haven't I come before? I didn't go for years because I believed there were certain expectations on my life and until I fulfilled them, I would be too ashamed to go back. I'm not sure what these expectations were, but they were more likely self-imposed and largely unattainable. Nothing so easily calculable as monetary success, world travel, beautiful family. I measured my worth by affecting a life-changing difference. Saving the world one hurting soul at a time. It took me 32 years and one "nervous breakdown" before I let this dream die. But, by God's grace, I didn't die with it. My life story doesn't end there. But I wasn't ready to reconcile who I was in high school with who [...]

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming 2017-08-31T23:50:10+00:00

Reaching Out; Letting Go: Kelcey Rockhold

Kelcey Rockhold is an exiled Portlandier now living in Tuscon. I ran across her story as I was browsing for personal narratives about depression. We have followed each other over three years now and I have found our writing relationship very enriching and inspirational. Kelcey is in a much different place than where she was three years ago and it has been a blessing to see her grow. +     +     + For years, I was told by medical professionals that I most likely wouldn’t have kids. Sometimes I would hear that I “shouldn’t”. My mental state for quite a few years was rocky to say the least, due in large part to an eating disorder I was battling. My heart was broken for so long, believing deep down that I would never have kids, even though that was the only thing in the world I [...]

Reaching Out; Letting Go: Kelcey Rockhold 2017-08-25T23:15:45+00:00

Suicide and Salvation

Not long ago, I took a leisurely stroll with a young friend along a "people path" in my neighborhood. We paused and watched some ducks circling the pond beyond the log fence. "Is suicide the unforgivable sin?" he asked. I was taken aback. I didn't know what to say or how to say it. I needed more time to formulate what the Bible says and doesn't say about the subject of suicide. But I couldn't wait to respond. He seemed urgent. I looked at his face, trying to read what he was saying  in the lines of his forehead."Why do you ask?" He turned away. "I have a friend who was the first person to share Christ with me.  Until about a month ago, I would say she had the strongest faith of anyone I know. Then suddenly she started doing strange things. One day, she scrubbed her church's [...]

Suicide and Salvation 2017-08-21T15:07:46+00:00

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness

I was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 1991. I told only my wife and one trusted friend. Four years later I had a manic/psychotic episode that essentially made it necessary for me to tell the members of the congregation I was serving. By God's grace, they responded with amazing love and tremendous support. I was given unlimited paid leave and told I could resume my work whenever I was ready. Women provided meals and childcare so my wife could visit me. An offering was taken to pay off the gigantic cost of health care. On the flip side, both my therapist and psychiatrist respected my faith and the role it played to promote healing in my life. They appreciated that I did not use my faith as an excuse to refuse medical treatment. They saw the two working hand-in-hand to guide me towards well-being. Certainly, there were [...]

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness 2017-08-17T13:17:18+00:00