Houston pastor talks about her battle with depression

In light of National Suicide Month, a pastor of a popular Houston church is opening up about her battle with depression.

Juanita Campbell Rasmus co-pastors St. John’s United Methodist in downtown Houston. Known as the church home of Beyoncé, the congregation has been growing by the thousands since the early 90s.

"You walk the straight and narrow road, and I lived my life that way for a very long time," says Rasmus during a talk at a TEDx event in January.  

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Pastor Rasmus says she spent years striving to be the perfect mother, wife, and church leader, but one morning, all the pressure came to a head.

"It was just this overwhelming sense of something wasn't happening right,” describes Rasmus who called the church secretary. “I said, ‘I don't know when I'm coming back, or if I'm coming back.’"

She spent months in what was eventually diagnosed as a major depressive episode.

“I slept 18 to 20 hours every day. I laid in bed so long that I would turn to the left and turn to the right and wonder what the smell was and then realized it was me because I hadn't bathed in months.”

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In her new book “Learning to Be” she reveals her path to recovery and finding professional help - something she says Black people in the Christian community aren’t always taught to do.

“While our faith can see us through, it's not the only tool to get us through. There are resources; there are practices,” she says.

“I didn't learn meditation in a Christian church. I learned it from a Buddhist instructor. Meditation has made all the difference in me being able to ground myself in the knowing that I name ‘God’.”

She's also dug up the roots of her breakdown, which included the emotional toll of losing church members to the AIDS epidemic and saying yes to everyone but herself.

“I just kept pushing me further away from the reality that if I didn't take care of me, I wouldn't be there to support anybody else.”

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With suicide rates on the rise, she's reaching out with the Beyoncé’s mom,  Tina Knowles Lawson, to help others step back from dark places through an Instagram Live talk on mental health.

“I'm asking people to notice what they’re noticing, and then to pay attention to who you want to be past this crisis,” says Rasmus.

She adds that although her book took 20 years to write, she hopes people can use her newly revealed revelation right away to find better versions of themselves to last beyond the pandemic.

For immediate help, contact the National Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

For book information, visit https://juanitarasmus.com/.