What was my life like before Living Room? I’ll try to describe briefly.

When we married, my husband and I joined a camera club where we became immersed in photography. Before long we both became leaders in the club. It took a while for me to grow the confidence, but it was a friendly group and I gradually learned to believe that I was not unlike others. I too could hold responsibilities and help create a terrific club. I too was capable of developing creative skills.

I had worked at a few part-time jobs, but – although I wished for a real job – I was never able to find anything I could cope with. Before long the stress became more than I could bear and symptoms of illness made me have to let go.

Nevertheless, I worked hard to find meaningful things to do, and tried many creative activities: Serious photography for clients and one-person shows. Creating books – recipe books among them. Writing a book on candid child photography – considered, but never published. Too many things to tell you about.

Twenty years ago the serious problem of stigma attached to mental illness drew my attention. In an effort to help bring change, I started being open about my own bipolar disorder. I became a passionate activist. My book, Riding the Roller Coaster, encouraged newly-diagnosed individuals by providing coping skills. Years later A Firm Place to Stand tried to dispel the spiritualizing of mental illness by showing Christian readers that even those with a strong faith can be affected. In addition I wrote many articles, most from the point of view of a Christian helping to build understanding and awareness in the church.

This gradually led to the founding of Living Room in 2006. I led a group for nine years and loved it! This was more meaningful than anything else I tried or could have imagined. I felt closer to God than ever before. And I had many opportunities to love and serve troubled individuals – to be God’s hands for them. There could be no greater joy.

What a loss it was when it was gone! When I think of what I once had, I cry inside.

I thank you, God, for those fantastic years! To think you brought such wonderful work into my life! To think that even one such as me could do something as meaningful as this.