By Defender Intern Kissuth E. Reamo

Servant leader Juanita Campbell Rasmus lived a life of service for decades, which finally caught up to her in something she defines as “The Crash.”

Rasmus speaks of that time in her new book, which outlines the defining moment that helped her find her “center after the bottom fell out.”

“Learning to Be” heralds Rasmus’ victorious ascension from the depths of darkness, depression and despair through the guiding light of God’s word and practical principles that she shares.

In a conversation with the Defender, she discusses her private and public lives.

Defender:  It’s not common for leaders to share their struggles. What made you decide to tell your story now?

Juanita Campbell Rasmus

Juanita Campbell Rasmus: We are all experiencing our form of disorientation, trying to find our being amid social injustice, COVID-19, and more, particularly those of us in Black or Brown bodies in America. Social and physical protocols are being addressed, but little is being done to address mental health protocols. “Learning to Be” is the tool families can use to support each other as they learn the family’s effects and receive tools on how to cope.

It’s a tool to break down the walls and shame about mental health disorders. It’s a diagnosis. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, people prepare meals, make calls and plan visits. Aliments afflicting the mind are just as important as those affecting the body.

Defender:  In the book, you identify causes, symptoms and tools of “The Crash.” What were they? 

Rasmus: One of the challenges is knowing what led up to that moment. Life was working, but working on fumes. Most pastors are not trained in therapy. The mistake I made was trying to serve 3,000 members like I did nine members. I had no healthy boundaries, time management or delegation skills. I had to realize my ‘no’ is just as holy as my ‘yes.’

STOP – Stop; Take a deep breath to ground yourself in the here and now; Observe, Proceed as needed

Symptoms can be changes in appetite, sleep patterns, loss of interest in essential things, loss of focus or concentration and constant sadness. Symptoms of depression may be masked as physical ailments. Tools can be daily meditations, rest (take naps), acknowledging “I’m not what I do,” practice Lectio Divina- Divine Listening (read; meditate; pray; contemplate), and observing silence (definition Renovare bible): closing off our souls from sounds, whether noise, music or words, so that we may better still the inner chatter and clatter of our noisy hearts and be increasingly attentive to God.

Defender:  How does your previous community service give you the insight to empathize with readers?

Rasmus: Realizing humanity looks different for everyone. Practice saying, “Just like me, that person wants to be love, wants to feel valued, may be hurting and wants to know their life matters.”

Defender:  What’s needed most during recovery?

Rasmus: Support is critical. The entire family is affected by one member’s diagnosis. Extended family, friends and neighbors can play a significant role in the healing process.

Defender:  Friend and member, Tina Knowles Lawson, wrote the foreword and stated the book caused her to make some observations and changes in her life. Is that what you are hoping this book will do for readers?

Rasmus: Absolutely, she cried her eyelashes off. I want people to laugh, cry, slow down and take notice. How is “Learning to Be” calling out to you? Pay attention to what you are feeling deeply. It’s a tool to mark 2020 for resilience and to be our very best selves. 

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Twitter: @Pastor_Juanita

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See National Alliance on Mental Illness and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255 for assistance.