About tonyroberts

I am a man with an unquiet mind who delights in the One who delights in me.

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence?

I read a news story today about the mass killings in Las Vegas. The report said the killer had no known political or religious affiliation, and there was "no history of a psychological diagnosis." On the one hand, I can appreciate why such a point be made. There have been many high-profile cases of violent events involving persons with mental illness who were not under proper treatment. I know first hand how psychotic episodes can escalate to aggressive behavior. This is one crucial factor contributing to the need for better mental health care. On the other hand, reporting on a condition that has not been confirmed is a misleading, irresponsible practice that perpetuates social stigma toward those who do have a diagnosis. Can you imagine an article that read, "the killer is not known to have diabetes," or "leukemia," or "herpes." Mental illness is a medical condition, not a [...]

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence? 2017-10-06T14:59:30+00:00

Christians Under Treatment

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a group of nursing students about my life with faith and mental illness. I shared stories about having episodes, working through mental disorder, receiving support from friends and family. At the end of the session, one student asked a very thoughtful question: "Has your faith influenced your choice of mental health care providers?" I thought, what a great question! One I have given much thought to and never been able to talk about it in a group of this kind. When I talk to many of my Christian friends who are in need of professional mental health care, they are often reluctant to pursue it. In large part, because they want to find providers who share their faith, their worldview. I can appreciate their hesitation. When it comes to something as crucial to our identity as our minds, we don't want [...]

Christians Under Treatment 2017-10-02T20:27:44+00:00

The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness

In my mental health support group this week, we discussed forgiveness. It was a very intense discussion that was both personal and revealing. I can't stop thinking about it. Who have I forgiven? Who has forgiven me? Who have I yet to forgive? Who has not shared forgiveness with me? I've been doing a lot of self-reflection, which sometimes leads me to excessive self-regret. So, I thought it would be good to turn to a few friends to help me compose this post. I'll fashion this as a dialogue, though it was actually a series of three Facebook message threads. +     +     + Me: Hello, Kim. What do you see as the distinction between forgiving and forgetting? Kim: Forgiving is choosing to let go of a sin/trespass against oneself while forgetting is choosing to never remember again a sin/ trespass against oneself. .. to never [...]

The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness 2017-09-28T10:30:24+00:00

When the Spirit Breaks Loose

Last night I went to church not knowing what to expect. You never know what to expect with the Holy Spirit. Whenever two or three are gathered together in Christ's name -- WATCH OUT. Something is bound to happen. Last night in the midst of a service performed every Sunday night at the same time, in the same place, with essentially the same people, a miracle broke out. A miracle of understanding and compassion. About four years ago, I began attending the Columbus Reformed Presbyterian Church (CRPC). I was immediately drawn to the Psalm singing. Each of the 150 Psalms are set to simple (and often familiar) tunes and a song leader directs us through them acappella. The service was thoroughly steeped in Scripture, including a sermon that was well researched and thoughtfully presented. The prayers were heart-felt, not so emotional as to be manipulative. As I was leaving the [...]

When the Spirit Breaks Loose 2017-09-25T17:23:00+00:00

Nurse Ratched Now

{from Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest} [Nurse Ratched] reached in the basket for the log book. "Must we go over past history?" That triggered something, some acoustic device in the walls, rigged to turn on at just the sound of those words coming from her mouth. The Acutes stiffened. Their mouths opened in unison. Her sweeping eyes stopped on the first man along the wall. His mouth worked. "I robbed a cash register in a service station." She moved to the next man. "I tried to take my little sister to bed." Her eyes clicked to the next man; each one jumped like a shooting-gallery target. "I—one time—wanted to take my brother to bed." "I killed my cat when I was six. Oh, God forgive me, I stoned her to death and said my neighbor did it." "I lied about trying. I did take my sister!" [...]

Nurse Ratched Now 2017-09-25T17:22:35+00:00

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