Erin Ramachandran 00:00
Then in that first year of marriage, basically, on the 11th month, I said to him, I think there's something really wrong. I knew nothing of mental illness at the time, nothing. And I said, I don't know what this is. But you need to go to the doctors you have one month, or I'm out of here. And, you know, you can guess when he went to the doctor's, but it was the last day. And when the doctor diagnosed him in two minutes and said, You have OCD, and then we're on this path of understanding what mental illness is, was how we were impacted. And it's been a long, long journey. But when someone's not diagnosed early, you know, you've got 18 years of coping mechanisms that need to be changed.
Laura Howe 00:57
From Hope Made Strong, this is The Care Ministry Podcast, a show about equipping ministry leaders and transforming communities through care. Supporting those in your church and community not only changes individuals lives, but it grows and strengthens the church. But we want to do that without burning out. So listen in, as we learn about tools, strategies and resources that will equip your team and strengthen hope. I'm Laura Howe and this is our final week of the Mental Health Awareness Month is the final week of May and each week we have highlighted a different mental illness and share a story of someone who has lived experience or who has taken their experience and wisdom and turn that into a resource and supported others through a book or maybe it's a service or they've developed a community. We have talked about trauma, depression, and OCD and today we are highlighting a caregivers lived experience.
Now on the podcast, we talk a lot about tools and strategies on how to support others. But we also talk about burnout and compassion fatigue and that helping and supporting us as caregivers. And today's episode is going to sit right in the middle of these two spaces, it's both caring for others as well as caring for ourselves. For many of us, we are drawn to the role of caregiving because of something we have experienced. What I mean by that is that it's really common for people to sort of fall into the role of caregiver, rather than maybe choose it as a career. This can be because we've experienced something hard and we want to help others overcome something that we have faced or something similar, or because we have a loved one who has needed support. And then we became really skilled and good at it and so we use that as our we turn that into a profession or maybe a volunteer. Our role.
And Erin Ramachandran is this very same as as many of us as you and as myself, and well today she is known as an author, speaker, coach and mental health advocate. Prior to getting married, she knew very little about mental health. However, shortly after getting married, Erin watched Keith her new husband's health deteriorate in just a few months. And this experience left her very isolated and questioning if getting married was a mistake. Keith sought out medical support and was diagnosed with OCD, panic disorder, depression, PTSD and anxiety. And for many this is where the story ends because divorce is found to be 20 or 80% more likely, when there's a mental illness involved. However, Erin and Keith have bravely walked through the recovery journey together and continue to be vulnerable in their ongoing journey as they minister to other couples who are navigating marriage and mental health.
In our conversation you're going to hear Erin share about how in their groups there is a high number of ministry leaders because so many people are struggling and just don't know where to turn to. So for those of you who are feeling like you are drowning, and caring for your spouse or family member who has a mental illness, let me tell you, you are not alone. Erin has created a space where you can be supported without judgment and without shame. Erin calls Southern California home and growing up she earned the reputation of being a strong willed child, a characteristic that proved to be much needed as she faced life's many challenges and even though she did not grow up in a Christian home, she had an uncle praying for her while she was young.
Erin Ramachandran 04:47
Yeah, so the story goes I did not grow up in like faith based family. My uncle though and my mom's cousin were praying for me to become a Christian, I didn't know that. But I guess the story goes that I was a pretty strong willed child. And so for some reason, when I was 14, I decided that I wanted to go to church so it was just heavy on my heart. I don't know why, but I walked a mile down from my neighborhood.
Laura Howe 05:20
No one influenced you or invited you or there wasn't a invite an event that enticed you?
Erin Ramachandran 05:27
No I just walked to church, there was a Catholic church, and I went to the Catholic Church and walked out of the Catholic Church after the service and walked out a little early, because I didn't know the rituals that you're supposed to follow after the priest. And so I kind of got reprimanded as I was leaving and I told one of my friends, Krista, because I was in high school at that time, Hey, I just went to church and you know, this experience happened. And she's like, well, why don't you come with me to my church? And I said, Sure. And so that's where she took me to Saddleback Church. And that's where I became a Christian under Doug Fields and learned about a relationship with God and really grew in my relationship there and I spent over 20 years at Saddleback Church, being involved in tons of ministries, greeting, women's ministries, the peace plan, missions trips, and yeah, really grew in my relationship with Lord.
Laura Howe 06:35
That's such a cool story that out of nowhere, no invitation or anything, you're just like, hey, I want to go to church.
Erin Ramachandran 06:44
Well, I like to now think of it and to encourage those that when you're praying for somebody, that God really hears those and don't give up on the people that you're praying for for a long time. Because you never know what's going to happen from that. I remember when my Uncle Jay gave me my first Bible, it was like this pink Bible and my name engraved, but I was like, open the Christmas gift. Bible, why would I want to Bible. And now that's like, one of my cherished things that I love to read. So you never know how someone's heart can change.
Laura Howe 07:16
That's so cool. And I have a 12 year old and I, you know, I'm, she's my oldest. So I've never had a 12 year old before. So it's one of those things that you made that decision that life changing decision at 14. And so we kind of minimize the insight or the, you know, with I don't know, if you want to call it wisdom, but those promptings that young people have, but yet it can be transformational for their life. So that's really, that's really encouraging. That's, that's what I take away from that. Absolutely. Oh, goodness. So how did you are you working in the ministry now? Or did you go to school?
Erin Ramachandran 07:56
No, I went to school. And I actually right now have a corporate job if you work at Kaiser Permanente, which is a health insurance care delivery system in the United States. And I've worked for them for 17 years. So the ministry work we do is on the side, it is a passionate project of ours that we feel called to do but I have a tent making job to pay the bills. And I am very fortunate and thankful to the Lord that he has transitioned my work at Kaiser Permanente where I can do the mental health work there as well. So now, I really do have all different aspects of my life that I'm focusing on this area, because I'm really passionate. So I've got lived experience, corporate experience, ministry experience, and I just want to help this space however the Lord wants me to.
Laura Howe 08:59
Yeah, so the organization or the nonprofit that you're talking about is Mental Health Strong. And I want to get into that in a little bit. But I also want to say that you have been doing this ministry with your husband, how did you guys meet?
Erin Ramachandran 09:14
Ya, so I had just gotten back from a missions trip to India through Saddleback Church. And when I got back from the trip, I actually thought I was gonna move there. And the Lord didn't want me to do that. But through mutual friends, I met my husband, we met at a park at UCI in Southern California, and we had just gotten back from the Mr. trip and we were sharing our photos from the trip. And I met Keith there. And I remember thinking, wow, he's super handsome. But then the second thought was, well, he's Indian so your mom's not going to be okay with it, you know, just ignore him and I really feel that people, when you look somebody in the eye, there's a connection and you can kind of tell if someone likes you. So I remember looking at him and thinking, Wow, he's really attractive.
But then I turned my eyes away because I was like, nope, this isn't going to work. Fast forward and nine months later, we went to India together on a missions trip, we went back to India, and Keith went with us. And then when we got back, you know, he really liked me, but I didn't like him. And actually for another nine months, I didn't I just, he were just friends. But he really liked me Iwas actually trying to set him up with one of my girlfriends. And where it changed was I went on a leadership retreat with Saddleback Church, and I was praying, I was at the age of like, 24, 25, and I wanted to get married and I actually was praying about another guy that I really did want to be with but Keith was always around, he would greet with me at church. He just was around everything I did. And I asked the Lord, I'm like, Who do you want me with? I want you to choose my husband.
And I felt an impression in my heart. Again, it wasn't like an audible sign but impressionable heart of Keith. He's because I keep in my heart, and I was like, but I don't even like it.
Laura Howe 11:34
You just skipped a whole bunch of steps there.
Erin Ramachandran 11:38
I don't even like him Lord and the Lord whispered, do you trust me? And it wasn't the first time I had heard it. When I had gone on that first missions trip. I was really scared to go on it. I had never really gone on missions trips. And I remember walking out of the tent for that training and ask the Lord, do you really want me to do this? And he's like, do you trust me? And I'm like I do. And series of events happened. And my walk really grew in that experience going to India. And so when it happened again, it was so clear to me that it was the Lord's voice and it you know, you all are Christian leaders. You know, when the Lord's voice is speaking to you, it's, it's very crisp. And so I I was like, Yeah, okay, so I walked out of that little chapel in Idlewild, California. We're driving home from the retreat and we were driving my car home from the retreat. Susan, who had went on the missions trip with us to India, and Keith were in my car, Susan was driving my car because she got sick driving down a mountain and Keith in the front seat of the car, and I'm in the backseat. And in front of Keith in front of Susan, I say, Susan, and she's about 15 years older than us those she's like mid 40s. And I said, Susan, what do you what do you think about Keith and I being together? And she says, I think it would be great. But..
Laura Howe 13:14
You said this in front of Keith without having talking to talk to him about it? Yes.
Erin Ramachandran 13:20
And I and Susan says, I think it would be great for you guys to be together. But Keith, you need to make sure not to change Aaron, she's a natural leader. And Aaron, you need to make sure not to crush Keith's heart because he really has a sensitive spirit about him. And Keith turns around and says, Erin, I've been praying for you to be my wife for nine months. And I had just released you today because my heart was breaking because you would never look me in the eye and reciprocate my feelings towards you.
And I said, Well, I said the Lord told me today I'm supposed to be with you. So I'm willing to give it a try. But I don't really like you so then story goes he he had water like arrowhead bottle water and I asked for it. And he turned the cap and he passed it back to me because I was thirsty and our hands touched and a rush of emotion came upon me where I actually felt attracted to him. I could actually look him in the eye. I was like wow, he's really handsome and that's and that was basically it. We dated nine months. Were engaged nine months and we got married. Wow. And so at many times I go back did I really hear God? Did I really hear because you know as we go through more of our conversation our marriage has been very difficult and but I do believe I heard from God. But it doesn't mean when you hear from God that it's easy and in fact when I look in the word He talks about when you follow God, a lot of times you have trials. So for those who of you who are going through hard things, and are trying to be obedient and follow God, it just won't encourage you that. You know, God doesn't promise us where it's not easy, or that it will be easy, but he promises he'll be with us.
Laura Howe 15:23
It's a good word. I'm still in shock that he used said, What do you think of us being together? And he says, I've been praying that you'd be my wife, like, where did the dating app like it went from zero to 100? That's, that's amazing. What a story. I'm so glad you shared that story. Oh. And then you kind of pre-looted that it's been difficult. It's been a difficult few years, a difficult marriage, you've gone through many ups and downs, and your your passion to support strong healthy marriages, in spite of addiction and mental illness or throughout mental illness and, and addiction has that passion has grown as a result of lived experience between you and your husband, can you share, not wanting to pry or get into anything, you know, ask you to share anything you're uncomfortable with, but more of what, what was that like or can you lead us through that story for you?
Erin Ramachandran 16:26
Yeah, so we had where, you know, we got married, we had this, we felt the Lord leading us to marriage. And in my mind and expectations, I thought we were going to do ministry and do this life together. My husband comes from a devout Hindu background, he became a Christian when he before he met me in the United States. And when we got three months before we got married, he told his parents that he was marrying a person of outsiders culture and that he had become a Christian. And he was disowned his parents say that said they were going to commit suicide. And it was a very traumatic instance, fast forward to where we are now, I look back. And it's almost like Keith's heart, that sensitive heart that I talked about in the car that Susan had mentioned, have basically been locked in it safe. When he got disowned in that trauma.
Then you add on getting married, moving new job, new marriage living together and it was a perfect storm of so many changes. And the way Keith dealt with change, was to try to keep things in control. And he would clean for hours and hours and hours. And I would even ask, like, what is the average time of doing dishes? Like, what's the average time of cleaning the floor? And so you can imagine this newlyweds, and I had the expectations we would hang out together and have fun and be in love and, you know, fill in the blanks.
And the reality is he didn't spend time with me at all. This is a man who said he had been praying for me nine months, and wouldn't spend time with me because he was second compulsions. In that beginning part of our marriage, he got so sick where he was cleaning 12 to 16 hours a day, he wasn't functioning. And now we realize as a child, he had OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, but it was manifested in a way that was undiagnosed and manageable to an extent but he used to do the compulsions with schoolwork. So he was obsessed with performing in school, well, in the Indian culture that's rewarded. It's rewarded, right? So he actually looking back he, you know, did very well in school. But what he realized is he never actually complete completed assignments. He would just memorize. So he might not finish the chapter, but he had memorized 80% of it. And he would go back Do I really know it? Did I really know it?
So the OCD was always there, but where it got out of control and unmanageable was after marriage after the trauma, and it was undiagnosed for 18 years, and then in that first year of marriage, basically, on the 11th month, I said to him, I think there's something really wrong. I knew nothing of mental illness at the time, nothing. And I said, I don't know what this is. But you need to go to the doctor's you have one month or I'm out of here. And you know, you can guess when he went to the doctors but it was the last day. And when the doctor diagnosed them in two minutes and said, You have OCD and we are on this path of understanding what mental illness is was how we are impacted. And it's been a long, long journey. But when someone's not diagnosed early, you know, you've got 18 years of coping mechanisms that need to be changed.
Laura Howe 20:27
Watching a loved one struggle and suffer and not having any frame of reference into what is going on or why it is you must have questioned yourself a lot or did. Does he not love me anymore? Or does he, you know, is he regretting marriage? Because you said this kind of happened after the marriage almost like was a trigger point?
Erin Ramachandran 20:57
Absolutely. I mean, I had all these expectations going in probably not right. Once, I think I think
Laura Howe 21:04
we all had expectations going into marriage that were misguided.
Erin Ramachandran 21:09
Yeah, I mean, I thought, I prayed about who I was married, and I married the guy that God told me to marry. I want to live for God, I would have thought I would have this amazing marriage off the gate. And the reality is I felt rejected, I felt ugly, I felt unloved. I would question and my beautiful, why doesn't my husband want to have intimacy with me? What? What's wrong with me? And all those different aspects? And, you know, once you identify it's mental illness, then it's like, okay, but then you got to work on how do you learn how to manage it? And what does that look like? And, you know, he was initially diagnosed with OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and was later diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and we've had seasons where he's had suicidal thoughts. So it wasn't just one disorder, it then filtered into other things as well. So it just was it took a long time to kind of work through it. So yeah, that's a lot.
Laura Howe 22:24
It is a lot. And I think there's people listening going, I feel like I'm facing a lot and hearing this, that they were entering a marriage, and they had expectations of ministry and children and a home life and, and the spouse that they're connected to, or they're married to is, is different. And whether it's mental illness or not, I think that that disappointment or the struggle or turning inward and saying is this my fault is something that I think a lot of people can relate to.
Erin Ramachandran 22:59
Yeah, that I, I thought formulaic thinking, if you do this, you would have this. But as I got more into Scripture and read about people's journey, I realized, no, that's not the case. I remember, I was when I was in Sacramento, I was walking, you know, at a friend's house. And I remember just crying out to the Lord just just so discouraged. I mean, I was alone, probably for the first 10 years of my marriage, 90% of it. And so I remember, you know, should I get out, you know, did I make a mistake, and all those things, and the piece of my heart was just no, like, in sickness and in health. And I am with you and I have a purpose for this. I just didn't know what it was.
Because, remember, I didn't know what mental illness was. The book I wrote over five years, because I wasn't trying to start a ministry. I wasn't trying to write a book and, you know, we got married in 2007 and 2019. So that's like, 12 years. And then out of that, you know, the ministry started and that's a different story, but it's like, I just didn't feel released. I don't know how else to say it. I just didn't feel at peace are released, and I would go back to my wedding vows. I would go back to Scripture. Can I can I can I get out? Can I find something? And we even had a season where we were separated for 10 months, living separately because it was making me so sick and so really what I did in those years where he was so sick, I was focusing on me too. I had to get better. I had to learn to not be codependent I had to learn if he had a bad day that I didn't have a bad day, I had to learn boundaries. I had to learn how to take care of myself and grieve my own emotional hurts and grieve this sadness in my marriage, because otherwise I would make him worse,
Laura Howe 25:14
Feed off each other. Mm hmm. Fast forward, how many years later, and your co-founded an organization called mental health, strong hope for marriages, with mental health and addiction challenges. That is quite a turn of events going from despair and loneliness and isolation and resentment and, and hurt to now leading and encouraging others? What was that transition? Because that is, that is a 180 right there.
Erin Ramachandran 25:51
Well, like, again, I didn't seek out to do this, I don't care, I'm going to come into this world and I'm going to leave this world and I don't care if anybody remembers me. I just want to be faithful to Jesus. And I'm here for a short period, I have no children, we have no children, we've decided not to have children because of the mental illness. And so I just want to use my time, however the Lord wants, and I'll be out of here, you know, however many years and so when the book came out in 2019, and I was praying, Lord, where do you want this to be? And the idea of conferences came to my mind.
And I think that's where you and I had originally connected, Laura and then because I have a full time job, I thought, hey, I'll give this idea because there's marriages with mental health and addiction challenges. There's a lot of us out there and how about I give this idea to someone else who does conferences, and so I reached out to another ministry, that does marriage conferences and they had indicated that they didn't want to work with us that they were focusing on other things. And I was so discouraged and I remember going to go to a chapel near my house. I live near Biola University in Southern California and so there's a chapel there and so I went out there to just pray.
And the weirdest thing happened to me, Laura, you would never believe it. But and I'm not musical. I don't know, musical instruments. I don't know, musical songs. I don't know how to read notes. I know nothing. I can't even remember lyrics, the songs and this song came in my head. And I started, it was unusual. So I was like, I'll record it. So I recorded myself singing it and the next day, I went to my Bible study with Susan, you remember who was driving my car? Yeah. So Susan, her husband, Mark, Dean, and Diane Dean went to India with us, Diane's his wife, and then Vasu and Aretha. And it's our India small group, we've known them for 20 years. And so I said, Susan, the most unusual thing happened to me yesterday, and I said here, and she started to play it. And she lifts the phone to the sky and she is in like the she sang at Saddleback. She was in the worship ministry there.
And then Diane started to cry and Diane says, I want to be on your board. And I said board for what she said Mental Health Strong. And I said, I have a day job and she's like, I don't care. And when I got home, I had text from Susan and Diane. And they said, We want to be on your board for mental health strong. And the next day Dean, Diane's wife called me and said, Can you get off of work on Thursday? And I was like, Yeah, I guess so. And I'm like, why? And he said, because I'm a board member. I've made an appointment to start Mental Health Strong on Thursday. So I need to get off of work to though the attorney. I was like, Okay.
And then Thursday, I got off of work. And that we went Dean, Diane myself to the appointment to the lawyer to start the nonprofit paperwork. And they said, and we want to be your first donation. So within seven days, I had a disappointment because again, I tried to give the conferences away to somebody else. I heard a song. I have four board members, a lawyer appointment and a first donation in seven days. And that is why Mental Health Strong is here and I believe God has heard all of our cries and pain and loneliness that we have felt in marriages with mental health and addiction challenges because no one wants to talk about the struggles we're having because you want to make sure you're honoring your spouse and as leaders, and I think God heard all of our cries. And now there's this community to help one rather to not feel alone, and to know that there's not anything wrong with us, it's just a part of the journey.
Laura Howe 30:07
That's unheard of the story, your great storyteller, I'm so excited. So Mental Health Strong, exists to support healthy marriages alongside of mental health and addictions. How do you do that? What do you what do you offer people? You have your lived experience, you offer a safe place without judgment without shame, fingerpointing guilt blame? You love Jesus. So what how do you how do you offer this support?
Erin Ramachandran 30:47
So first, first started with the book. And then Keith built the website, my husband super talented. And as, first of all, so courageous, even allowing our story to be public as a man is not common. So I want to add just this would not be possible without Keith's willingness to be vulnerable. So there's the website on the website, it has all the resources. And then from the resources, we also and the resources include in the book, there's like a table of everything. And I don't, I just want to, I don't care if anybody buys a book or not, because anything related to any of this, it just goes to the ministry, because that's the way it works.
This is all ministry and, and I have my day job. So I don't really care about money, I just want to say that because I know and in Christian ministry, it can sometimes get uncomfortable, but I, so we have our peer support groups. That's so a friend had encouraged me to start a meetup group. So that's been going for three years. And it's on the first Tuesday of the month for the spouses who are walking alongside spouse with a mental health condition. So it's like the person in my role, where Keith has the diagnoses, and I need people to walk alongside with then in partnership with fresh hope, we have been who, and we love their ministry, we have partnered with Brad and Donna haste to start couples peer support groups. And so we piloted it last year and now we've got our next group launching in May. And there's a beautiful leader couple that's kind of launching those and shepherding those and then we keep an eye wrote a marriage book that's with the editor, and should be coming out soon. And then we have the conferences, right, that was the initial thing, we put on two virtual conferences. So Keith's working on getting those materials on the website. So those will be available for people and then there's other things I can't think of them right now.
Laura Howe 33:13
I'm on your website now and so you definitely have the peer support, you have the resource table, which is like, I think you have a variety. Yeah, lots and lots and lots of resources of what you can find different information to support marriages, events community, there's lots of lots of opportunities for people.
Erin Ramachandran 33:38
And our desire is really, we didn't find any other place where marriages could go with mental health and addiction challenges. So what we want to do is partner with anybody who has resources for marriages, with mental health and addiction challenges, and that we just know about it. So we don't want to be the solving every problem. So I use the analogy of parents, and parenting. There's lots of parenting resources and a huge volume of books and podcasts and everything. And like, we need the same thing for marriages with mental health and addiction challenges so anybody who wants to be a part of this, like, let's do it, and you can do it on your own, and we can partner together or we can do it together, you know, whatever it is big.
And that's why I love Laura, the work that you do because you partner in helping to give hope to Christians, Christian leaders, pastors, and to help encourage them with your podcasts and your conferences and resources. And like we partnered together because we are some of your community are people with mental health and addiction challenges and so you're trying to help the body of Christ with mental illness? And some of them have marriages with mental illness and that's where we partner together and I just love that how we can cheer each other on we are not I don't want to be in competition with anybody, I just want to partner and be friends and let's figure it out because it's too big of a problem.
Laura Howe 35:07
It is. Yeah, it's too big of an issue. I think anyone who's listening knows can name probably five to 20 Different people who struggle with mental health, whether it's themselves, their colleagues, their friends, their family, their congregants, there's so many people that who struggle, and we often forget the spouse of that person, right. And we forget that, oh, they are walking through their own journey as well. Or their, or the actual partnership in the marriage between those two people and the, and the challenges that they face. Like, I love that you're creating a space for that unique experience a safe place for, for spouses, for individuals, and for conversation around the marriage and strengthening marriages, because that's really the backbone of our of our communities, right is, is strong marriages, it's, it's the heart of our churches, it's the backbone of our communities. And, and mental health is so pervasive that, you know, there's so many people out there that are struggling, pre pandemic, and now it's exacerbated post pandemic, with isolation and stress and tension and, and so I just love the work that you were doing. And so I want to make a real clear, identifiable, identifiable call that if you are a care pastor, a character or a leader or a ministry leader in any way, and you know, of people who are in marriage, and there's one person or both people who are struggling with mental health, this is a great resources, resource or community to send them to, because they are going to find people that are like, Oh, I thought I was the only one. I thought I thought, you know, we were the only people struggling with this, or, you know, those that real commonality and community. I'm sure you hear all that all the time on your on your, you know, your support group calls.
Erin Ramachandran 37:13
Yeah, and the support group calls when people join, they say, Oh, my gosh, I don't feel alone anymore. I am not alone. That's the phrase and I know, that's a phrase that I felt, you know, because Keith and I haven't arrived, we, you know, he pick up the story of the 12 to 16 hours a day, you know, now he's working, he maybe has one to two hours of compulsions. So it's very much functioning and yet, we haven't arrived, we still have big fights, we still struggle, we still like sometimes throughout the divorce word or, you know, we're so different or difficult. But at the end of the day, we know we're not alone.
There's people in our community, we know where to get help, we know when to bring in the professional support teams, we know when to bring in the personal support teams. We know where to go and when we're struggling when we're in crisis, how do we get better and it's not that there's not going to be bumps like and we mess up. I tell people, I'm like we're doing this, but we live it to it, though. And when there's mental illness you the person with it is just struggling to function and they can't meet the other person's needs and that's discouraging.
Laura Howe 38:33
I remember when I was a new mom, I had a plethora of professional supports available to me. But I didn't go to the professionals. I went to my peers, I went to the people who are in it with me, or just a couple months ahead of me, or my mom and auntie's or aunties that are years ahead of me. And in that, you know, so I'm not alone. So I know that I'm not breaking my child, or, you know, you question all the things am I doing this right, am I and I think we, we undermine or underestimate the power of peer support. It doesn't replace clinical work, like you said, the professional services, there's a role there's a function, and there's a time and place, absolutely. But there also is a role in a function and time and place for peer support and connecting with other people who have experienced similar struggles and I'm just so grateful that you've created this community for people to be able to do that.
Erin Ramachandran 39:37
Totally and the part that's been surprising to me, you know, I am a person of faith who tries to live for Jesus every day. And what I noticed this, how many pastors wives, worship leaders, chaplains, Christian leaders, phone leaders that are struggling? thing, and, and they and even counselors and therapist Yeah, and then saying, we don't have our safe place to be able to not have it all together and to say where we're struggling. And so that's been the most, I think surprising and interesting and also cool, that we can help in that space to give that safe environment. So I've, I've enjoyed that.
Laura Howe 40:25
If you can think back to when you first started, all of this, I don't know, as far back as in the car ride with Susan, more way you're praying to God or, you know, in that first year of marriage, when it all seemed to be crumbling. If you could think back to that time, if you could write yourself a letter, send yourself a voicemail, what would you tell your younger self?
Erin Ramachandran 40:50
It's gonna be hard, but it will be worth it. It's not going to be formulaic, it's going to be messy. But it will also be beautiful too. And the trials that you have, you will experience will draw me closer to to you. Like, I think if Keith was able to meet all the needs that I desired in my marriage, I do not believe my relationship with Jesus would be as close as it is today. Because Jesus is all I had, for my first 10 years of marriage when I was completely alone, for 90% of the time, and that I can't take away from that I, that closeness that I feel with Jesus and experiencing him is I can't do any day without him. And yet, there was a time I remember 15 years in my walk, I was like, I had like a spiritual crisis, because I didn't even know the love of God. And yet to fast forward, you know, 10 years past that. And to be like, I know it so closely, is just really special to me.
Laura Howe 42:01
Thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank you for being brave and continuing on and always listening to the spirit rather than doing maybe what you wanted to do in the moment. But always checking in with God and being God Is this what you want for me. And no matter how hard it looks you you followed, and just wanted to thank you for that. And thank you for sharing your story and being there and creating a community that so many people find hope in.
Erin Ramachandran 42:33
Thank you. Thank you for the work that you do to encourage Christian leaders that are struggling with mental health and to help them have hope to keep going because it's a it's a journey when you're struggling in your head and your heart.
Laura Howe 42:46
How do I lead people when I myself feel so weak and broken? It's it's a hard spot to be in for sure.
Hey, thanks for listening. While we are called and passionate to serve and care for others, we don't want to burn out and lose ourselves in the process. For those who are supporting family members and spouses, you are especially at risk for exhaustion. And I hope that this episode has been helpful in sharing Erin and Keith's story and saying that you are not alone. For many administrators if they or maybe a family member are struggling with personal or mental health struggles. They don't feel safe connecting with someone in their own community or or reaching out to their association or denomination.
So I hope by sharing about Mental Health Strong, and Erin and Keith's story, you are able to connect with this incredible resource and find support. Once again, thank you for connecting. If you know of someone who would benefit from this episode, can you share it with them?
This might be the very hope and encouragement that they need to keep going. I hope you have a fantastic week. Take care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai