Marja’s book, now in the works

In 1993 I began my life as a mental heath activist. At that time the Vancouver Sun published my article, Sick, but No One Brought me Flowers. It described what it was like to be a patient at Riverview at the age of nineteen.

People in the church I was attending at the time gave me lots of hugs. One friend, though, a person I always had wonderful talks with about photography, thought I had done the unthinkable for talking about it. He never spoke to me again.

There are many like him who feel that having a mental illness is shameful. But I can’t look at it that way. I don’t believe there should be a reason to be ashamed. After all, it’s an illness that we can’t help. So why should we be made to feel shame? Why think ourselves to be different than others?

This was the beginning of what became twenty-six years of chipping away the stigma that hurts so many. Stigma that prevents them from a full life.

In 2006 God called me to start the Living Room ministry. With the help of friends’ support and a church eagerly behind me I experienced the most wonderful, though difficult, nine years I could have imagined.

You may remember that I’m working on a book about living with mental illness and the pain of not being considered to be like others. What role can our faith can play in our struggles to cope and survive?

The working title is I WILL NOT HIDE. The title describes what I’ve tried to be throughout these years. Open, vulnerable, and trusting God. Not afraid to follow Jesus by fighting injustice.

A large variety of topics about living with mental health issues are being covered within the following periods of my life:

  • The years before Living Room, including beginning my work of reducing stigma.
  • Everything connected with Living Room – a major vehicle through which awareness was brought to the church
  • Retiring from Living Room and hard times that followed
  • Relationships
  • Winter gives way to Spring

From beginning to end there are illustrations of how people with mental health issues are treated, through my eyes and others’ eyes.

The book is well underway and I will be posting sneak previews every Thursday.