About tonyroberts

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

Mixed States: Maniacal Despair

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?     Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;     if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,     if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me,     your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me     and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;     the night will shine like the day,     for darkness is as light to you.  (Psalm 139) Time will pass; these mood will pass; and I will, eventually, be myself again. But then, at some unknown time, the electrifying carnival will come back into my mind. ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness For some months, I've enjoyed [...]

Mixed States: Maniacal Despair2019-03-20T19:27:26-04:00

Bleeding Prayers

You have taken from me friend and neighbor; darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:18)   When I am in the grip of depression, a weighty spirit pins me down to the bed. Some wonder why those of us with mental illness don’t just get up and go about our days. While this would certainly help, sometimes doing this is like running a four-minute mile with a broken leg. So what can we do when we trapped in a cave of despair? Pray? Hardly! We can do next to nothing. Only moan, alone, in misery. Yet, by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit translates our feeble groans into effective prayers. More than anyone, Jesus gets this. On the dark night before he was killed, he sweat prayers of blood. (see Luke 22:44) Then, the Holy Spirit transforms his sweat into strength. He is given the spiritual strength to endure suffering -- [...]

Bleeding Prayers2019-03-17T21:02:18-04:00

Anosognosia: When You Can’t Believe Something Is Wrong

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)   Anosognosia, also called "lack of insight," is a symptom of severe mental illness experienced by some that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness. It is the single largest reason why people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder refuse medications or do not seek treatment. Without awareness of the illness, refusing treatment appears rational, no matter how clear the need for treatment might be to others. ("Anosognosia" from The Treatment Advocacy Center)   I have a friend I'll call Thomas. Thomas is a young man who, when he was in college, began to demonstrate disruptive symptoms. A very bright and engaged student, he suddenly became easily confused and would hide in his dorm. He had been [...]

Anosognosia: When You Can’t Believe Something Is Wrong2019-03-13T08:18:42-04:00

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness

How could I serve in ministry with a serious mental illness? How could someone riding manic highs dipping to deadly lows promote stable growth for a congregation? How could I faithfully hear God's voice in the midst of competing voices within and around me? These questions stir my mind and stab my heart.   My mind says yes -- I served as a minister with bipolar for almost two decades, a good dozen of which were quite fruitful. My heart grieves that my illness progressed such that, in 2009, I stepped away from pastoral ministry for health reasons. The story I want to share here is not what led to my decline but what, by the grace of God and with the help of the church, has allowed me to serve in ministry with a serious mental illness.   Persistent Prayer Partners I fell into the pit of psychological despair [...]

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness2019-03-10T21:18:29-04:00

What to Call Psych Units, and Why

Leslie Carpenter, who serves as President of the Johnson County (Iowa) chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, posed a compelling question on her Facebook page that is garnering a great deal of response from advocates for persons with mental illness. Leslie asks,   If you could re-name a psychiatric unit or system to get rid of the common place, “Behavioral Health”, what would you change it to? She gives this as her rationale:  I am hoping to elevate thinking on this away from a name that infers that children and adults with brain disorders like Schizophrenia can be treated with coping skills and behavior modification and help the public to understand these are MEDICAL Conditions that need and deserve Treatment... Finally, she primes the pump with these: 1. Neuroscience Unit 2. Neuropsychiatric Unit 3. Brain Disorders Unit 4.______________________ As of this writing, there have been 61 comments, [...]

What to Call Psych Units, and Why2019-03-06T23:22:36-04:00

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50) "Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne. Someone once said, "I don't enjoy writing. I enjoy having written." My experience is far from this. I delight in writing. Many times in my life it has been the sole thing to keep me sane. As I write, the voices within and around me are orchestrated through my fingers, inspired by the Spirit, and guided by the Scriptures. My writing is by no means God's Word. It is one saintly sinner's attempt to say something that gives glory to God and uplifts God's people. I've been struggling to write this week. Daily devotions. Encouraging emails. Blog posts. Nothing is coming to me and it is terribly frustrating. Often when I have struggled in the past, I draw from current experience. What have I found joyful? What [...]

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder2019-03-03T20:09:31-04:00

Why I Go to Church

{originally published on April 30, 2018}   When I was a pastor I had to go to worship every week. Not only was it expected, I got paid for it. Now that my livelihood is no longer dependent on weekly worship, why do I go at all? Why invest my time and money on something many have come to see as irrelevant to modern living? First, some context. Last Sunday morning I went to worship for the first time in a long while. I did not want to. I did not enjoy it. I do not remember anything but that I left my tithe check at home. Again. But I was there. And being there made all the difference in the world. I praised God within the body of believers. The lungs gave me breath. The feet helped me move. The Head helped me think. That night I wrote a [...]

Why I Go to Church2019-02-27T20:10:21-04:00

Faith in the Midst of Fear: A Love Story

Over Labor Day weekend in 2018, I met the woman who would become my wife. Susan is all I could ever ask for in a life partner. She is intelligent. She has a beautiful smile. She has a great sense of humor. And, most importantly, she loves me and shares my faith. She accepts my identity as one who has bipolar disorder and affirms my mental health ministry. She is a definitive example of "ezer," a help-meet who enhances my life, not a slave subservient to me or a master who emasculates me. I am truly blessed. Susan and I have experienced the last six months as if they were sixty. It has been thrilling, delightful, full of joy and peace. Some we love and who know us best have expressed concern over how quickly our relationship has developed. We respect this. Yet, we have received God's confirmation each step [...]

Faith in the Midst of Fear: A Love Story2019-02-24T06:53:23-04:00

Anxious Affliction

Some months ago, I've became rather obsessed about anxiety. In "Moving Anxiety to Motivation," I explored how God's words "Don't be anxious about anything..." (Philippians 4.6) indicate more God's loving reassurance than God's wrathful scolding. Certainly, God wants us to be anxiety-free, but He knows the best way to reach this goal is not to scare anxiety out of us, but instead to be Present with us, neither taking pity on our predicament nor trying to cheer us up with false platitudes. One month about a year ago, I only left my basement apartment four times. For worship, and to pray with a brother in Christ. My hermitage existence hit me as I was putting clean clothes away. PJs. Underwear. Socks. That's it. Friends asked me what I do as I lie in bed all day. Mostly, it's less about what I do than what I avoid. I sleep. [...]

Anxious Affliction2019-02-20T21:50:39-04:00

Faithful Friends: Eric Riddle

{first published May 8, 2017} I first met Eric Riddle in March, 2014, a week before the release of my spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. We went on to form a faithful friendship that, well, I’ll let Eric tell you about it.. (My words are in italics.) Thanks for joining us, Eric. We’re here to talk about faith and mental illness, two subjects I know you are passionate about. First tell me how you came to faith. I was raised in the church. As many who grow up in the church, I was following in my parent's tradition. I became more serious about my faith after my daughter was born. Going on a "Walk to Emmaus" retreat was a turning point in getting much more serious. I’ve heard those can be very transformational. Yes. The retreat was for men only and about 40 guys representing many churches [...]

Faithful Friends: Eric Riddle2019-02-17T21:13:40-04:00