Best-selling author and singer Sheila Walsh has a long history with the Graham family, performing at many Billy Graham Crusades, including at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1989. She counts Ruth Bell Graham as a mentor, remembering her as “such a godly influence in my life.” Recently, she shared her story at the Ladies Tea & Tour, hosted by the Billy Graham Library.
“Pull yourself together.”
The same thought kept running through Sheila Walsh’s mind in the early 90’s. Over and over. And over.
She had it all. Success with a major music label. Eleven albums released. Two books published. And now four-plus years co-hosting Pat Robertson’s 700 Club.
But on the inside?
“I really didn’t know what was going on,” the Scottish-born Walsh told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association this week.
She kept telling herself: “Pull yourself together. I can do all things through Christ.”
But Walsh was failing. She couldn’t sleep. She tried fasting for 21 days, pleading with the Lord: “If there’s something wrong with me, please show me.”
Then she pulled up to the ATM machine and couldn’t recall her pin number. Something was seriously not right.
Pull. Yourself. Together.
Finally, a guest on The 700 Club turned the tables on Walsh during an interview and asked her how she was doing.
Walsh completely lost it on live TV.
“Something about that compassionate look in her eyes,” Walsh recalls breaking down on the set. “I hadn’t cried in years.”
That same day in 1992, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital. She was fighting clinical depression and finally gave her battle over to God.
“I had never known the companionship of Christ to be so real and so tender as that first night,” she said.
Today, Walsh is using her life experiences to encourage and inspire several hundred women at the 9th Annual Ladies’ Tea & Tour, an annual spring event hosted by the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The main theme of her talk today is about “finishing the race well.”
“I’ll get a chance to tell a little of my own story,” Walsh said.
You might recognize Walsh from the Women of Faith tour, a 20-year event that wrapped up last year, touching the lives of more than 5 million women, including hundreds of thousands of decisions for Christ. She is now doing ministry as the co-host of LIFE Today.
Part of Walsh’s ministry over the last couple of decades is to encourage others. She says the feeling of aloneness is possibly the most grueling part of fighting a mental illness like depression.
And many in the church are simply not equipped to help.
“If you have a brain tumor, something you can show on an X-ray, you’ll get tremendous empathy and compassion and you can rally up a prayer meeting in 10 minutes for that,” Walsh said. “The greatest heartache is you feel alone and ashamed. And so often, a believer will try to fix you by giving you a verse.”
Walsh, who was asked by Rick and Kay Warren to speak at a Gathering of Mental Health & the Church event last fall, is thankful for the opportunity to speak openly to connect with people going through similar circumstances.
The way she opened her talk at Saddleback Church took some by surprise:
“I’m profoundly grateful for the gift of mental illness,” she said. “Because I can look in the eyes of someone struggling today and meet you there.”