LISTEN TO EP.57
Breaking the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
Have you ever felt lost, hopeless, or confused? Or maybe you have experienced the heaviness of anxiety or depression? You are not alone. Jonathan Seidl, founder, and president of The Veritas Creative, former editor-in-chief of the non-profit I Am Second, and creator and overseer of Kirk Cameron’s media venture, The Courage understands as he too has experienced all of those feelings and emotions. Honest about his battles with crippling anxiety, life-altering OCD, and suicidal thoughts, Jonathan discusses how we can deal with anxieties, provides tools to fight back, and challenges the church to be a refuge and helpful resource. Whether you are struggling with mental health issues or trying to help someone who is, you will discover that there is hope.
Learn more about Jonathan Seidl and get his latest book, “Finding Rest” at https://www.jonseidl.com/
Mental Health and Rest
Well, I can’t think of a more relevant topic than what we’re going to discuss today. I was on the plane sitting next to a lady who shared how she has struggled through the pandemic and she made the statement, “ I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it”. And today’s guest has written an amazing book called “Finding Rest”. And as we continue to face challenges due to the pandemic, I – like this lady – and many people are suffering with anxiety, fear, and other mental issues. And Jonathon Seidel the writer of this book as it’s written here helps those who are struggling to really fix the rampant stigma, especially in Christian circles surrounding mental health challenges, by being brutally honest about his own battles with anxiety and OCD. And so this book Finding Rest – what a great title for a book that guides readers through how to deal with their anxieties and provides much needed tools to fight back.
I love what Kirk Cameron said. And Jonathon has worked with Kirk Cameron on some projects, including the courage, the media venture, the courage and Kirk camera, and the actor wrote the forward. And he said, one of the most important things that John talks about is that true rest will never be found outside of the One who created it. And he writes that that person is Jesus Christ. And John’s found that to be true. I have found that to be true, and I believe that you will too. And so Jonathon, what an honor it is to have you on the influencers podcast.
I am so excited to be here. I’m excited to be counted among the select influencers to join you. So thank you for having me.
Well, you are an influencer and I’d like to get right into your book. And this is your debut book. So congratulations on Finding Rest. And as I have shared you share your own story and this book is birthed out of that, but also your organization. I am second which also led to writing this book, but share with us about your story.
Yeah, so it really does start back when I was at, I am second back in 2014, I was running all of the written content for, I am second. I’m sure your audience is familiar, familiar with them, but you know, one of the things they really do is they lead through vulnerability and say, here, you know, this is how I was broken, right. And I think when we talk about how we’re broken, you have to naturally talk about how you can be healed or the person that you can trust to fix you. And so it was, it was one of those things where in all the writing that we were doing, there was kind of this tap on my shoulder from the Holy Spirit that was like, you know, you’re asking everyone else to be vulnerable and you’re hiring these writers and you’re getting their stories.
And yet there’s something you’re kind of holding back, John and I, it was kind of one of those, you know, I’ll live anywhere, but here, and then you end up living here. And so it was like, I’ll talk about anything but that. And so I eventually just, you know, did what the holy spirit was telling me to do and, and wrote about my being diagnosed with anxiety and OCD back in 2014. And I, and, and writing about it in 2016 frame second. And I cannot tell you just how many people came out of the woodwork, Dave. It was incredible to see people who really just raised their hand and said, me too, like, that’s my story as well. And once that, once that came out, once I saw that reaction, I knew that there was something that needed to be talked about more. And so I just continue sharing it. And really this book is the culmination of everything the Lord has taught me in that struggle, everything that I have learned about dealing with it and everything that I have learned about how not to deal with it as well.
The Journey to Finding Rest
Well, it’s an Amazon best seller in numerous categories. And you have quite a history. You’ve written over 6,000 stories on 50 new sites. Many of them are top news sites. That’s when you were editor in chief of the, as we’ve talked about the popular nonprofit, I am second. And you’ve also worked with some big organizations and other influencers. I mentioned Kirk Cameron but also Glenn back you graduated with a degree in philosophy and economics. Wow. Say what my IQ is going up, just hanging with you here. And you graduated from King’s college in New York city, what a wonderful university that is. And he currently resides in Dallas with your wife and two young children. And I mentioned you finding rest. That’s a pretty good book to write when you have young children.
Yeah. Just imagine how hard, how tough it was to write it.
I can imagine because I’ve written a view, you know I served on the SAMHSA commission, substance abuse, mental health administration, and I was on the C-SAT committee center for substance abuse treatment for our country. I was appointed by Tommy Thompson and one of the issues that our nation faces, and it’s not just in Christian circles, but as a whole, is this stigma. If I’m battling anxiety, fear and I share that, then I’m going to be labeled as a wacko. I could lose my job. I could lose, you know, my influence and ministry, et cetera. Talk with us about that stigma and how we can overcome that to get help.
Oh, I am so glad you brought that up. And I love the reference to Tommy Thompson. I’m originally from Wisconsin, right? So Tommy Thompson was my governor for so many years. I haven’t heard that David Forever, but he’s a hero.
You are, you are right. That there is such a stigma. And I think, you know, even back from the time that I was diagnosed 2014, so now we’re going on, you know, we’re, we’re going on 6, 7, 8 years since that point. I’ve, I’ve seen us make some strides, but I still think it’s there. And what I am hoping that this book does and what I’m hoping that people who hear my story here is that, listen, you can, you can be a functioning member of society. You know, I, I talk about it, the book that there’s actually a lot of great things about my anxiety and OCD, right? That the Lord redeems on a daily basis, right? I’m, I’m, I’m the best employee you will ever have. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t miss a deadline. I exceed every deadline. Right. You asked me to give you a presentation and you better believe that that thing’s going to be animated and have colors, and it’s going to be incredible.
Broken or Refining?
Right? So there are things that I think so many times we see ourselves as just this, this broken vessel that nothing can be used for. And that’s so not true. And it’s not the story of the gospel, right? The story of the gospel is that we’re all broken vessels, right. And this happens to be where my cracks are. And it’s, it’s, it’s that realization that leads me to the fact that I need Jesus. Right. And so Jesus is continuing to use this. And so I talk about in the book that, that, you know, part of erasing the stigma is having a proper theology of suffering and understanding that just like Paul had a thorn in his flesh, and I know there’s a base, whether that was physical or spiritual, it doesn’t matter. Right. It was still something that kept him humble. It was still something that, that, that broke him if you will. And, and his, his recognition was the Lord is using this, using it to keep him humble. Right. And so the Lord is using my diagnosis to do something, to, to refine me and redefine me. And if I have that in mind, I don’t see myself as just this person that can’t contribute, can’t function and that kind of thing. And, and I think if I’m not projecting that, I think other people will see that as well.
Now throughout your book, you also address medication and how it treats the physical but also how it can impact a spiritual I’d like to dive into that because just personally I experienced a challenge with my jaw and playing football broke at three places. And then many years later it collapsed, you know, the cartilage. And, and so they basically had to reset it over time, the pitch. And so they put me on a benzo and because of the pain and I didn’t realize the negative interaction, I was mixing it with ambient and, and which later on, I, you know, was told, was dangerous because you know, what people don’t realize is that you you’re dealing with one medication that is a full life, right. 24 hours. And then the Ambien’s half-life is 12 hours.
So you take it at night and then in the morning it’s like falling off a cliff. And if you study some of the people that have died, like Robin Williams, the comedian there are many others where this cocktail of drugs is so dangerous. And my daughter’s a doctor and I think our doctors are saints. But they’re so overwhelmed with patients that there are many who are just dispensing pills without thinking about the negative interactions. And I got to tell you, it took me a long time to get off of it. I mean, it was tough. And, and it, and controlling my, and I remember my wife saying to me, I don’t even recognize you. You’ve become a different person. And it took me a while to get off. And, and when I did, I mean, talking about liberating, where that said, God uses medicine. And so this is a heavy duty subject here. Talk with us about, you know, how God uses medicine, but also how the enemy uses medicine.
Yeah. I think the way that I have come to understand medicine is, is as a common grace, right? It’s a, it’s a common grace, just like the Lord allows the sun to rise on the, just, and the unjust he’s, he’s given us the ability to create medicine, right? I mean, we have penicillin, we have fluoxetine, which is what I take on a daily basis. And so I see it as one of the tools that God has placed in my tool chest to treat this, I very much recommend that that is done under proper guidance. And, and, and that is obviously with a doctor, but it’s also, I recommend people talking with a counselor, people talking with a pastor, people talking with a psychiatrist, whatever it is. Right. And, I think actually the feedback that you got from your wife is very helpful. And I talk about in the book, how we, as the sufferer, have the desire to want to be heard and, you know, our concerns met if you will, but the ones that are walking alongside of us in these issues deserve to be heard just as much, right?
A Spiritual and Physical Issue
So if you’re on medication and your spouse is saying, you’re a different person, like what’s going on, that you have the responsibility to listen to your loved ones, say that, right. And to go to your doctor and say, Hey, something’s off here. Right? But for me, what I have found is my anxiety and OCD is both a physical issue and it’s a spiritual issue, but I can’t get to the place where I can address the spiritual issue until my physical issue is met. My wife and I took in a woman a few years ago, who had a really bad eating disorder. And she went to a Christian counselor and the Christian counselor said, I cannot help you right now. And she said, what do you mean I’m coming to you? She said, no, we can’t address all the issues that are going on until you eat.
She said, you physically need to eat because you can’t carry on conversations. You can’t think straight, you need to eat food. And so that’s how I see addressing the physical aspects of my disorder so that I can address the, the, the spiritual. And if I’m at an eight on the anxiety level, you can throw scripture at me all day, every day I can open the Bible, but I’m just going to be erratic and it’s not going to sink in. Right. But if I bring my anxiety down to a four, your medication through exercise through, you know, I, I no longer drink coffee or caffeine in the afternoons, those types of things, I can then open my Bible. I can then do the studies. I can then read the books if you will. And then I can address the deeper heart issues, the pride, the lack of trust, the wanting to control everything that I know are deeper, heart issues.
Everybody agrees with everything you said. So for a cutting, we may have lost half our audience. Kidding. I hear you. But so many people are trying to find peace in a bottle, and it’s just, it becomes a masking, like you’re saying to the deeper issues. And it’s very difficult though, to push the pause button when we’re in such a rapid river and stream in our life, it’s so much easier just to pop it.
I will say, and I say this very expressly in the book, there is no magic pill. There is no magic pill. My anxiety is not treated with medication. My anxiety is treated with medication plus, you know, all the other things that I talk about in the book that are both physical and spiritual. And so I think it is a really good point to say, listen, you know, I’m not preaching against medication. I’m also not saying that everyone who has anxiety and OCD needs to go get a prescription, right. That needs to be done. That decision needs to be made in chorus with a lot of people. Right. But if you treat anything like a magic bill, if you treat alcohol like a magic drug, right, it’s, it’s not going to work. You have to still be willing to put in the hard work. And that hard work is both physical and spiritual.
All right. I do think though, the pharmaceutical industry and the medical industry I think for the most part are well-meaning; however, it’s a system that pushes you to take more, not to get off of it. And that includes even a blood pressure medicine, and because we’re in the shortcut society. And, and I would hope that our, our viewers today would push the pause button and ask the Lord, you know, and the medical professionals what can I do if I, if possible, I mean, there’s some medications that people should take for the rest of their lives, but there are others where they might be borderline where if they do the things you’re talking about, I think C seeking mental health counseling you know, the, the disciplines of exercise eating. And I’m speaking to myself here too, that we can get off these medications and, and get freed from them. And is there anything you want to add to that?
Not Having All the Answers
You know, I, I’ll tell you what I was talking with a pastor during the pandemic, and he had never experienced anxiety in his life until this, right. The pressures that I think a lot of our pastors have gone through during the pandemic of, you know, having to make decisions, you know, he said, listen, I, I, they didn’t prepare me there. Wasn’t pandemic. One-On-One in seminary. You know? And so the pressure that he was feeling, and I think there, there were some similar things that he said, he said, well, John, if I go to a doctor, if I go to a counselor or whatever, and they recommend medication, what happens if I’m on it for the rest of my life? And I said, listen, that is like, you need to cross that bridge when you get there. Right. I don’t think anyone is like, that’s not the goal for anyone in life, you know, but what I do say to people is this, if, if that’s, if, if God doesn’t take this away from me, miraculously, which I know he can, right.
If he doesn’t then what, right. And so I’m going to continue checking in every year with my doctor, I’m going to continue checking in regularly with my counselor. And if that’s what it continues to be, then I’m going to, here’s this word I’m going to rest in that fact. Right. And I’m going to continue getting feedback from those around me that I love, and I’m not going to be as consumed with that, getting on, getting off, getting whatever I’m going to rest in the fact that the Lord is still doing work in me and still has more for me, for me to learn. And that is the bigger picture that sometimes I need to preach to myself as well.
What’s the role of the church when it comes to addressing people’s mental issues. And again, you know, so many people have this stigma about mental issues, anxiety, fears, and it takes really, in some cases, a desperation, you know, at minimum, I hear melody and like you’ve described and really a brokenness. What about the role of the church? What role can it play and should play?
Yeah, I mean, I think the two things that I break it down for people to understand is this, the church needs to point us upward and the church shouldn’t be afraid to point us outward. And so with those two things, those are the two simplest ones. Right. And I break those down in the book, but upward obviously to Jesus. Right? And so there’s a few ways that I recommend that the church does that. And that is teaching the idea of laments, you know, David lamented, Jesus lamented on the cross. I don’t think we, I think we’ve lost. We feel like this is just kind of weird, it’s that one book in the Bible, we don’t really do sermons on, you know, but this lamenting is a very human condition where you cry out to the Lord because things are wrong. Right.
And, and you don’t understand. And what’s beautiful about this idea of lamenting is it’s in that process of lamenting that you become closer to Jesus, right? It’s kind of like prayer isn’t for God, prayer is for us. Right. God knows everything. Right. But by praying, we’re forced to come to our father. And in that process, we get closer. So teaching prayers of mint, teaching proper theology of suffering, that understanding that I can’t just pray everything away. I can’t just by faith, believe that something will happen and it’s going to happen. Right. I mean, I pray every day that this is taken from me, Jesus prayed in the garden, take this cup from me and yet not my will, but your will be done. So teaching this proper theology of suffering, that when we don’t want bad things to happen and they keep happening, what do we do?
What do we do? And really it’s. We need to judge God by who he says he is in his work and not judge him by our circumstances. Right. We judge our circumstances by who he is and not him by our circumstances. And then finally it would be this idea of pointing us outward. You know, I said earlier that pastors had so much put on them during the pandemic. And what I tell them regularly is I’m giving you permission, not to have all the answers, you know, in to say, listen, you, you, you cannot be, you know, head custodian preacher head counselor you know head accountant, you know, all these stuff. These pastors put so much on them. I don’t expect you to be a mental health expert. Right. But if you can, you know, get familiar with resources, I happened to have one that I think might be good for you, but other resources and people in your area, point them outward. It’s okay to say, I don’t have all the answers, but here’s a Christian counselor. Here’s a book. Here’s a study course that you can do. And let the Lord, you know, be humble enough to know that the Lord can speak through and use other means besides you, and you don’t have to bear that responsibility.
Truths We Need to Know
That’s good. Yeah. The Bible says draw near to God and he will draw near to you. And you got to do your part to draw near to him. I gave a message one time on dealing with grief and so grieving gathering, giving. So God created us to grieve and you’ve got to give yourself permission to grieve. It’s okay. Jesus agreed. Right. John 1135, Jesus wept, you know, in vacation Bible school, we had always quoted that, you know, cause that was the fastest way to get a prize. But then, what you’re talking about, the gathering, we know, you know, in the wild the predators wait for animals to get separated from the pack. And that’s what the Bible says that the, you know, the enemy, prowls like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. And when you’re going through these challenges, that’s the worst time to be separated from your family, you know, in, from your church family, that’s the time to gather even closer, you know, to them. And then I love what you said, the giving, you know, really reaching out, you know, and your pain, you know, as wounded healers. And that’s what you’ve done in writing this powerful book, which I greatly admire. Jonathon, you end the book with 14 truths. We don’t have enough time for all 14, but maybe you can share a few of those that you have on your list and how people can apply those to their life and circumstances.
Yeah. You, you know, you said one thing there and that was community, community is so important. And, and so that is number 10 in, in, in the book. And, and one thing I want to point out to your audiences, this I can tell you that community is important in the Christian context and there’s verses that back that up. But one thing I want to show you is that we serve a God that literally is in the community, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If there’s no better representation of community than that, I don’t, I don’t know what is right. So, if God himself is not alone, we were not meant to be alone. So find community, you know, the other thing, like you said, there’s, there’s 14 of them in here, but I would say this it’s an ongoing battle. I think sometimes there are people who will say, if you read my book, there’s, you know, here are seven steps to get rid of your anxiety.
That’s not what I’m here to tell you, right? These are ways to mitigate it, ways to learn from it and ways to understand what God is doing in it. But for me, and for so many other people, it’s an ongoing battle. So don’t get down on yourself. If you realize, well, I read the book or I listened to the sermon and I’m still struggling. Guess what? Paul struggled, you know, Paul continued to struggle with that thorn in his flesh and, and, and, and I continue to struggle. And then the final thing I’ll say is this: embrace tiny victories. I think as so many times we’re told to look at the big picture and in a lot of instances, that is good and it’s okay. But if you’re like me and you struggle with anxiety and OCD, it’s the big picture that can get so overwhelming.
And so you know, there’s a, there’s a, a good old Disney movie that talks about do the next right thing. And before you email me about Disney theology, really where they got that from is Elizabeth Elliott when Jim Elliott was killed and Elizabeth L. Elliott goes back to the jungle. They said, well, what are you going to do? How are you going to get, how are you going to get through this? And she goes, I’m just going to, I’m just going to do the next thing. I’m just going to take the next step. And so if you have anxiety and OCD, I would say, just, just do the next thing, take the next step. If this day is overwhelming, break it up into morning and evening Charles Spurgeon. It’s a great break devotional as well or, or break it into hours and say, I’m just going to do the next thing. And Lord, give me the strength to get through this next, you know, morning, hour, minute. And he will be faithful to do that. I guarantee it.
Yeah, that’s so well said, you know, some young people, including the young lady I was on the plane with, get overcome, you know, by not only the fear of the future, but expectations and potential can become poison or you are never living up to your so-called potential. And, and I like to say, go, as far as you can see, and you’ll see farther. Go as far as you can see and see the front and find rest in that. And you know, another thing that, as I kind of read through parts of your book, the, you know, finding rest,
I did a sermon one time on, you know, on rest and balance and divert daily withdraw weekly move out monthly and a way annually. So, you know, divert daily, the devotions move out monthly, do something out of the routine. And, and then and then so forth. I can honestly say though that that’s the one sermon that was practice because a half the church was gone the following week.
Well, listen, I, I, you know, I love that you should send it to me because one of the things I talk about in the books is the difference is, is the importance of solitude, right? And Richard Foster, a celebration of discipline is just a great book. And I, and I quote it in that section of, you know, he talks about solitude, Jesus retreated, Jesus has, Jesus went to be with the Lord and in solitude. Now that’s a difference. There’s a difference between solitude and, and really retreating. If you’re, if you’re someone who’s struggling with depression, right? You have to learn that difference and walk that tightrope. But I love that solitude and getting away is so, so important.
Yeah, isn’t it also, it’s an emptying. That’s why, you know, in the Bible, Jesus says, when you go into your closet, there’s an assumption. You’re going to go into your closet. That solitary plays that a holy of Holies, and that’s where there is an emptying and in that emptying, then he fills you. God’s perfect love casts out all fear. So if you’re overcome with his love in that closet, there’s no room for fear. It has to leave. And, and so I, if we’re filled with God’s presence day in, day out in that place of solitude, fear, anxiety, frustration, sense of failure has to leave because there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Jesus.
Yeah. And what, in my encouragement to the audience would be, if it’s, if it’s not in that, you know, sometimes we get, we, we, we get caught up in that. Well, it has to be at that moment. Right. You know, for me, it’s, it’s, it’s been a process of sanctification, right? It’s been a process right. Of understanding, you know, as I’m emptying myself out and the Lord is filling me up, sometimes that doesn’t happen in a minute or an hour or a day or a week. Right. It’s this process of me really getting rid of that junk, you know, addressing those physical things that can address those spiritual things. And as I do that, that filling up happens over a period of time. Sometimes it is instant and sometimes it takes a little longer and that’s okay, but
That’s great. Well, Jonathon, can you close us with praying for people that are watching listening and, and those that are if you’re struggling with mental health issues or you have a family member that is, and it’s very difficult, you know, if you break an arm, you go to the hospital, get a cast that heals but mental illness, it can be so elusive and unpredictable. It’s like trying to grab onto a cloud at times. But God knows a greater is he that’s in you than he that’s in this world and who the son has set free is free indeed. And so you can stretch forth your hands even towards this screen today, and let’s believe for deliverance miracles and that you will find rest. So Jonathon, please lead us.
Lord, we just thank you for those who are listening to this Lord. I just ask that anything that I have said that is helpful people would realize comes from you and that I am just a vessel and that the true source of, of anything helpful is found in you, Lord, I just specifically pray for any of those who are struggling with mental health issues, anxiety, or OCD. Lord, I ask that you would comfort them, that you would calm them, that you would give them peace and that they would see that you have provided us with common graces, but you have also provided us with means to approach you and to come to you. And that in you is rest in that in you is found the source of true peace and rest. I asked that they would just cancel out some of the negative unhelpful things that people have said many times in your name and that they would come to you with a fresh and open heart in Jesus name. Amen.
Amen. Well, thank you, Jonathon. And I encourage everybody to get this book finding rest for you and your family. Thank you for being on the Influencers Podcast. Jonathon, Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.