Birthing My Book: Bringing Delight in Disorder to Life

Having conceived and nurtured a memoir for almost a year, only to have it soundly rejected, it felt much like a miscarriage. I went a year without writing a word. It was only when I enrolled in an intensive discipleship training program that I again started to bring words to life, or, more accurately, let the Word come to life by cultivating the soil of stories.

Still, I wasn’t ready to come back to my memoir. It was too personal, too painful, too raw. Instead, I moved onto fiction – drafting a trilogy of short stories – “Life,” “Liberty,” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  More than the quality of the narrative (which is still quite unfinished), the discipline of daily writing as I created characters, developed dialogue, and polished plot, gave me increasing confidence that I had a “way with words.”

Then a very tragic thing happened. A young man I had never met committed suicide. He was playing family board games one minute and the next he was in his room shooting himself. The young man’s name was Matthew, son of Rick Warren renowned pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling Purpose-Driven Life.

My initial reaction was to take to my bed. I didn’t get up for three days. I read what people within the church and outside of it were saying. Some of it trying to be nice and compassion. Some of it downright ugly and mean. Nearly all of it lacking a clear Biblical understanding of mental illness that would drive a person to suicide.

I decided I needed to re-write my memoir. I also knew I couldn’t do it alone. I shared the idea with Leanne Sype, a blogging friend and editor, to whom I had pitched my trilogy. Very soon, she became as passionate about the project as I did. With Leanne’s help, I worked through a second draft, and a third (and in some cases fourth and fifth). With Leanne’s guidance, I pitched it to an agent and went to a writer’s conference to see about pursuing conventional publishing.

We prayed for a clear sign and got it almost immediately. A resounding no. Undeterred, Leanne encouraged me to pursue self-publishing, helped me navigate around some shark-invested waters of vanity publishers. She introduced me to graphic artist Nicole Miller who also has a heart for the Lord and a distinct eye for graphic design. Soon, we had a book cover. Nicole then moved on to a video for our indiegogo campaign where we exceeded our goal.

Along came another young faithful servant, Christina Tarabochia, who took the text and shaped it into various formats uploaded at Smashwords (and soon, for Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Christina helped explain some of the technical aspects of getting our book in the hands of the readers and has been an invaluable resource.

Now that we have a downloadable e-book (soon to be in print), we are only entering another season of the larger “Delight in Disorder” mission. Over the past few days I have been contacted mental health and church leaders from across the country to help us spread the word — to bridge the distance between faith and mental illness. I’ve already received two speaking invitations and am building some very fruitful relationships.

Much has been done — Facebook author page, Twitter account (indy_tony), media kit, business card design, e-mail and phone contact) and much remains to be done (website upgrade, speaking engagements, reviews). I have no idea where God will lead now that the book has been birthed. I only pray I’ll do my part to be a faithful stewardship of the Word calling me to share divine delight in the disorder of the world.

Write your favorite scripture on a canvas for your dorm room. It fills up wall space and it will be a good encouragement.

Our Delightful Indiegogo Campaign

The indiegogo campaign for our mission Delight in Disorder is now officially over and it has been a great blessing, in many ways.

First, the numbers …

Our indiegogo site has had 615 views, so word about the mission has spread and will continue to spread.

29 contributions (ranging from $25-330) were invested in the project.

We exceeded our mission goal of $2000, with a total of $2,190.

Next, the testimonies

I contributed to Delight in Disorder because a) I want to support Tony, and b) I am working to make mental illness less of a stigma.  Having worked in the mental health field, I realize that, like cancer, mental illness hits people from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds.  Knowledge, awareness, and compassion are really called for here.  I hope you will contribute to Tony’s worthwhile cause –Debb Stanton, http://thesunshinefactor.net/

I’ve really been moved by Tony’s writing on his blog as he shares so honestly, humbly, and often humorously his experience with his mental illness and his faith.  I believe Tony has an important contribution to make to the church in teaching us about life with bipolar, from the inside, with a faith perspective. — Joy F.

After reading a draft copy of “Delight in Disorder,” it was my privilege to be able contribute both financially and prayerfully to the publishing of Tony’s book. Having suffered from depression in the past myself, and been treated less than sympathetically by those within the church, I knew there was a great need to bridge the gap between sufferers of a mental illness and the ones who should be showing the greatest compassion and understanding. Tony’s book does this. It is an honest, warts-and-all story of his ongoing struggle with Bipolar disorder. It is my ongoing prayer that God will use this book to encourage those suffering from Bipolar or any form of mental illness, promote compassion and understanding within the faith community and bring glory to His name.  – Lyn C – Sydney, Australia

Tony’s testimony of God’s faithfulness and love to him in the midst of his disorder will  greatly encourage those who read it.  This is not a “here’s how you do it” book, but a “here’s how God really did it” book. I hope it opens the eyes and hearts of God’s people to follow God’s lead in ministering to hurting people.   – Gary M.

Finally, the lives touched

 I just spent the morning getting to know a gal who is in the trenches of a heavy spiritual battle at this very moment. She’s fresh out of drug rehabilitation, looking at incarceration from past choices that she’s trying to clear up, and going to counseling with her non-medicated bipolar husband, all while FULLY knowing the Lord and clinging desperately to his promises and his will for her life… I was actually able to mention Delight in Disorder to her and share a little bit about the book and the mission. I showed her just the video on the campaign page and she started to cry. It’s already touching lives, my dear.  (message sent to my editor)

I appreciate what you’re doing with this ministry you’ve started. We have a son who has battled depression on and off since late elementary and sadly the church has sometimes been the last place we wanted to talk about it!  Keep up the good work—the church needs your message as much as the “disordered”! – Pam L.

The message from Tony’s story has moved me to reflect on my journey with my eating disorder, to remember how God saved me from death and to see how God continually pulls me back from the ledge. I had never thought about why God keeps doing that. Because He delights in me. Even in my disorder. Leanne Sype

So what happens now?

As grateful as we are for the blessing of the indiegogo campaign, we know that God has blessed us to be a blessing to others. We have much to do. In the coming weeks, we will be finalizing the text to submit for publication.  As advance copies become available, we will first honor our commitment to our contributors and then recruit key book reviewers to whom we can send copies to help spread the word.  We will seek out marketing consultation to determine how best to release the book so it gets in the hands of as many as God intends. Before long, we will be making arrangements for a book tour beginning in March, 2014.

What can you do to help?

1) Pray for the Delight in Disorder mission.  The indiegogo campaign was just the first step in what we pray will be a long and fruitful journey.

2) Follow our progress.  The best way to do this would be to “like” my Facebook author page – https://www.facebook.com/awaywithwordsforyou .

3) Stay in touch.  Share your stories and perspectives of faith and mental illness.   (My e-mail is tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com.)

We’re off to a great start in our journey.  May God bless us all along the way.

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Coming Up From my Bipolar Basement

I’ve been lingering in the basement of my bipolar mind for some time, waiting for some storms to pass before rising to the surface. I’ve taken some risks. Due to a transition in prescription drug coverage and a financial shortfall, I tried to conserve on a couple of my medications to make them last through the end of the year (when the expensive one goes generic). I’m struggling to be productive in a new work environment.  I’ve veered from much creative writing to spend time promoting the indiegogo campaign for my mission. Not surprisingly – with fewer corrective chemicals in my blood, added external stressors, and less therapeutic releases, I’ve experienced a low-grade depression. To cope, I go into the basement.

Some people look negatively on those who escape to the basement.  They picture n’er-do-well not-so-young adults who still live in their parent’s basement, smoke weed, sleep away the day and watch television through the night. The basement becomes more a tomb than a womb.

For me, the basement of my bipolar mind is where I go when the warning sirens are sounding. I think.  I pray. I read and write, though not as much.  I stay connected to the world around me through social media. When the clouds lift and the “all clear” sounds, I take the steps upward one at a time.

As I write this, I’m noticing the sky is much clearer.

God has provided the resources for my medication for the remainder of the year and I am back on my prescribed dosages. My body chemistry is approaching equilibrium.

Thanks to the generous support of people around the world, we have exceeded our mission goal to publish Delight in Disorder.  Now, every dollar donated in the time remaining for the campaign will be used to promote the book on-line and provide seed money for a book tour. 

My responsibilities at work have shifted so I can better use my writing skills and my boss has shown a great deal of grace in accommodating my schedule to optimize my mental health.

I received an e-mail tonight which may be an indication that God is opening doors for me to discuss mental illness within faith communities throughout the state.

Yes, I believe the basement door has opened a crack and some light is shining in. It’s time for me to climb the steps.

Steps

Finding Divine Delight in Eight Disordered Days

It’s been some kind of week — full of peaks and valleys.  I feel like I’ve been “rode hard and put up wet.”

Last Saturday, we had a fall family gathering. 41 people showed up to eat chili and coney dogs, bounce in the bouncy house, discuss personality types around the fire and debate gun control around the living room.  A great time was had by all.  My dad was particularly in hog heaven, as he was presented with various hardware valves (including a spigot) and flexible tubes (including one with a light on the end) for his upcoming heart surgery.  I managed to respond well to the crowd (I usually hide in my room), and felt very energized by the event.

Sunday I crashed.  I missed church, and spent most of the day with my head buried in the television.  This is one of my coping strategies when I feel a depression coming on, but it’s not a very good one. Basically, I become numb and rather than face my feelings as they arise, I suppress them for later and they come out more aggravated, often attached to physical symptoms.

Dad went in for surgery early Monday morning.  A friendly chaplain (a nun, I think), was one of the first on the scene and she offered a lovely prayer.  Dad’s friend and pastor Marvin arrived with a deacon from his church, so he was well prayed for.  The procedure lasted about four hours.   They implanted a pig valve and transplanted a vein from his leg.  I wrote to Dad’s Facebook friends that, when he felt better, he would be “dancing on the inside and be happier than a pig in slop.”

My mood imbalanced started to come out as “mixed states.” These are like having porcupine quills all over your body, with nerve endings on the tips.  When people try to relate to you, you both get hurt.  I laid down in the family waiting room with my ear buds on, listening to soothing story songs and simply apologized for not being responsive.

I slept fitfully Monday and Tuesday nights, experiencing what some people call “night terrors.”  Mine come in the form of regrets over past decisions and images of a lonely, hopeless future.

Dad likewise had a tough row to hoe.  His heart went into “A-fib” and they put him on  an IV drip.  It took nearly 24 hours before it was back to a regular beat. He said it felt like he had run a marathon. To add insult to injury, they had to put him on an IV-drip of Lasix, so he could only sleep in 15-20 minute intervals before having to pee.

By Thursday, dad was again making progress.  So was I.  I finished a project at work. I did an update video for our Delight in Disorder indiegogo campaign, and had a very positive meeting with my pastor about membership.  He had read and enjoyed my manuscript.  My mood had leveled off by week’s end and I was looking forward to enjoying some Sabbath rest  on Saturday and worship on Sunday.

Unfortunately, it didn’t come to pass.  Again, I slept fitfully and wallowed in bed nearly all of Saturday and Sunday morning.  Dad made progress, though, and we brought him home Sunday afternoon.  This (and the smell of apple crisp my sister was baking) boosted my spirits some and I was able to write this thank you note (below) to those who had attended our party last weekend –

Dear family members,

We want to sincerely thank each of you for coming to our family gathering last weekend. 

As you may well know, Dad is a man who enjoys the simple pleasures of life –

… the taste of a fried bologna sandwich.

… the sound of George Jones singing “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.

… the sight of a hummingbird feeding on Connie’s homemade elixir.

Nothing pleases Dad more than the taste of a family feast, the sound of children playing in the bouncy house, and the sight of loved ones surrounding him.

As a token of our gratitude for your participation in this special day, we are including a CD of the great photos taken by Andrea.  We hope they might bring a smile to your face as they have to ours.

Dad has a big heart, and now, thanks to his new pig valve and transplanted leg vein, it should work as good as ever.  If not, thanks to your generous gifts of valves and hoses, he’ll have plenty of spare parts.

Thanks again and God bless,

Now, after downing a delicious dinner of jambalaya and fresh salad, I feel almost human again.  God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.  Or right enough for the time being.

Van Gogh

“Van Gogh” from Harry527

Reaching Out with “Delight in Disorder”

When I first conceived writing a spiritual memoir about my faith journey battling bipolar disorder, I had no idea where it would lead.  It took almost four years for the seed to really germinate.  In March of this year, after the suicide of Matthew Warren, I sensed a greater urgency that God was calling me to share the hope of Christ with my brothers and sisters who wrestle with mental illness and foster greater compassion among my brothers and sisters in the faith community towards those of us with “disordered minds.”

When God gives direction, He also paves the way for us to follow.  God guided me to Leanne Sype who first helped shape my disordered devotions into a marvelous house of meditations.  From March – July, Leanne helped me craft a second and third draft.  Once we felt we had a good working draft, Leanne helped me write a query and synopsis to see if a conventional publisher might pick us up. August and September was a “pruning season,” as God snipped away at branches that would not bear fruit.

In late September, after much thought and prayer, we came to the conviction that God was leading us toward self-publication and that the best path would be to recruit a team of gifted specialists to see that the final product was more “delightful” than “disordered.”  Lyn came on as a prayer captain. Nicole was brought in to design the cover and produce the video. Kevin has served as music consultant.

Friday night, I unleashed my Facebook Author Page, which already has 104 “likes.”

Sunday night, we unveiled our mission campaign on indiegogo – Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission which, as of this writing, has attracted 149 views, has 10 followers, and 5 funders for a total of $300 (towards a goal the $2,000 goal).

More than the numbers, however, God is reaching out through the mission campaign to share hope with those battling mental illness and promote compassion within the faith community.  Here are two testimonies that have already been shared –

 I just spent the morning getting to know a gal who is in the trenches of a heavy spiritual battle at this very moment. She’s fresh out of drug rehabilitation, looking at incarceration from past choices that she’s trying to clear up, and going to counseling with her non-medicated bipolar husband, all while FULLY knowing the Lord and clinging desperately to his promises and his will for her life… I was actually able to mention Delight in Disorder to her and share a little bit about the book and the mission. I showed her just the video on the campaign page and she started to cry. It’s already touching lives, my dear.

I appreciate what you’re doing with this ministry you’ve started. We have a son who has battled depression on and off since late elementary and sadly the church has sometimes been the last place we wanted to talk about it!  Keep up the good work—the church needs your message as much as the “disordered”!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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For more information on our mission campaign, click on –

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission