Loved Back to Life is a memoir/inspirational work that frankly deals with mental illness from a Christian perspective. Sheila Walsh goes back through her journals to retell the journey from recognition that she needed help dealing with fear and anger issues that she had been repressing since her father’s death when she was a young child, to an understanding of the stigma often attached to mental illness within the Christian community, an eventual learning of how to give the struggle over to God, and to let Him use her experience to help others. It is a dark journey at times but with a great light of revelation at the conclusion.
Sheila Walsh seemed to have the ultimate Christian life. From an early age she gave her life to Christ, she went to London Bible School, joined the Youth For Christ music ministry, became a successful entertainer, released record albums, and eventually became a co-host of the 700 Club, a Christian television ministry centred in Virginia Beach, Va. All in a very short period of time. In addition to her television duties, she was also giving concerts on the weekends. She did interviews with many of her spiritual heroes — Billy Graham, Charles Colson, Elizabeth Elliot, and so forth. She received letters at the 700 Club from people so grateful for her ministry and influence on their lives. She writes,
On the surface I had it made, and everything looked fine – but I was not fine. I had not been fine for a long time. Even surrounded by others, I felt isolated. Trapped by a suffocating anxiety. Restless, though I couldn’t say why. Numbed by a frantic pace. I felt as if I was slowly losing my mind.
When in 1992 she finally made the decision to commit herself to a Christian hospital program in Washington, DC. Friends she thought would support her, drifted away, seemed more concerned about the impact news of her illness would have on the ministry, or made cruel, thoughtless, debilitating comments. She felt more isolated than ever before.
Her memories are poignant. The process was an up and down, step by step, emotional journey. Because the institution was Christian, everything was based on Bible principles. Each chapter of her journey begins with an inspirational quote that was meaningful to her and she wrote poems baring her soul in her journal. She drew meaning from childhood stories like the Velveteen Rabbit who wanted to learn how to become real and the Wizard of Oz who wasn’t a wizard at all. But mostly, she prayed the psalms along with King David and took the 23rd Psalm line by line and faced her fears.
I was struck by the resemblance her process had to the grieving process and, having lost my father in the past year, I appreciated the verses, emotions, and inspiration she found along her way. I loved the way she relied on the Bible verses and how she had the courage to try to restore relationships where there was a perceived injury caused by her.
This is a marvellous, hopeful story that is ongoing. Sheila returned to a normal life, doing her master’s degree at a seminary school in California, made new friends, married, and joined a ministry called Women of Faith along with women like Barbara Johnson, Luci Swindoll, Patsy Clairmont, and Marilyn Meberg. She found that”their lives were about how God had met them and was faithful in the broken places. Their stories, their lives, were their messages.” She soon realized that there were millions of Christian women hiding in fear and shame because of a debilitating mental illness and they craved her message and openness — that God still loves them and can use them. If you have ever struggled with depression, the love and transparency of Sheila’s life will certainly help you find your way. * * * * *
To read the introduction first paragraph and a teaser from this book click here.
If you want to hear Sheila speak, check out this message on YouTube: