A year ago, I was nervously looking toward the release of Troubled Minds, a book I still couldn’t believe I had managed to write and which I wasn’t completely sure I wanted anyone to read. The process of writing about my own family’s experience with mental illness was as difficult as I had feared it would be: It forced me to relive some memories I hadn’t really looked at in a long time. It required me to give serious thought to some troubling questions I had tried to shake. And it was the impetus for some anxious conversations with my family members. On top of that, I had compiled other stories and recommendations that I desperately hoped would not be misunderstood as trivializing the complexities of mental illness and its related hardships. In short, the project required me to dismantle the last bricks of some walls I had constructed a long time ago to protect myself. As I looked forward to the release of the book, I faced the world feeling a new vulnerability, wearing a softer kind of armor, easily pierced, that had grown to cover me, piece by piece, as I had healed and grown and worked on understanding my own experience. In some ways, that healing experience had culminated in writing the book.
Perhaps you can imagine how much I hoped my labor of love would not be merely criticized, rejected, or ignored.
Now that we’re standing firmly in 2014, I want to share some of my joy over the response this book has received. It may not be a best seller; I’m sure it will never hit the New York Times list. It probably won’t be recommended as “a fun beach read,” and I know for sure it will never make me rich. But it’s clear to me that God has done some cool stuff through this book: assured people that they’re not alone, sparked conversation among like-minded people, and perhaps stirred people’s hearts toward life-saving ministry.
I’m very pleased at a couple of recent official accolades that have meant a lot to me, affirming that what I’ve written is well-constructed and of value to readers:
Troubled Minds has also been honored in another way. Dozens of radio hosts, magazine editors, and web journalists have been interested in the book and its message and have helped spread the word that the church’s mission must include well-informed and compassionate ministry to people affected by mental illness. If you haven’t seen the list of people who have welcomed me to address their audiences through interviews and articles, and a few of the ones who have invited me to speak, you can find them by scrolling down on this page.
What you won’t see on that page are the most rewarding responses I’ve received. These are from people who have read the book, enjoyed articles I’ve written, or heard me speak, and who have told me how much Troubled Minds’ message has meant to them. Here’s a sampling of some of their comments:
“I have just finished reading your book. Wow, what a powerful testimony and such a tremendous help and resource for the church as well. Thank you for writing it and thanks as well to your family for their permission to tell it. I am now prayerfully considering the next step for our church.”
“My mother was diagnosed with this illness when I was in junior high. My father hid this from us for years for many reasons . . . Thank you for sharing your story. Thru it all you’ve come to be a blessing to many.”
“I thought I would let you know what has happened because I read your book . . . Your comment about how we have ministries for almost everyone except those with mental illness made me start to cry. And I felt a strong sense that God is calling me to do something about it in my little corner . . . I need to create a safe place for people to talk about their struggles and how their disorder affects their life . . . I want to thank you for helping me to realize that I need to be the one to do something.”
“I cannot begin to describe the difficulties I faced as a child. The hardest part was that there was no one to help our family. Everywhere we turned we met walls and the harsh reality that no one cared. So many times lawyers, doctors, and police left us alone fearful of the day my father would harm one of us. I had no voice. Your article has given me a voice to the world, and it has given my father a voice. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
“I haven’t seen anything ever written by a Christian who has experienced the effect on their family so I just wanted to say thank you and it gives me encouragement that I can speak it about in some way.”
I’m pretty amazed at how God is using a tentative writer, a willing family, some dark days, and the power of his grace to shine light among people who feel like they’re sitting alone in the dark. I pray that the net result will be a whole lot of people whose lives are saved and transformed and blessing others because the church has decided to answer its calling in relationship to people affected by mental illness.
Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive and encouraging as this book has made its way into and through the world. And thanks to those of you who have let me know the book has meant something to you. I find it incredibly encouraging to hear from people who are blessed by my words. That’s exactly why my family and I decided to share our story–in the hope that it will be a ministry to others. And to hear that it is–it’s tremendously rewarding. I have seen God’s redemption, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.
© 2014 Amy Simpson.