First, can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself.
There’s not too much to tell. I’m a single mother of two daughters, one attending GCU and the other attending ASU in the fall. I am a soon to be empty-nester. I attend church of the Remnant in South Phoenix, I have a small garden and most anyone who knows me calls me the cupcake lady because I like to bake. My mother had just my brother and me, but she was one of 10 children so I spent a lot of time growing up with my aunts, uncles and grandmother. My mom was also a single parent, she struggled with depression nearly all her life along with several other physical illnesses and I spent most of my childhood as her caregiver. I’m a hopeless romantic, though that sounds cliche and I am fiercely convinced that the Bible is true when it says that love never fails. I’m a homebody, but if someone needs me, I try to be there.
You have authored five books, correct? That is correct Can you tell us a little about each one?
Whew! I think I can try.
The Circle I and The Circle II are about a girl who attends church with a group of several singles. They altogether call themselves the circle. She is trying to build a relationship with one of the members of the circle but the dysfunctional dynamic of the group ultimately threatens her ability to do that. So those books follow the couple and the choices and mistakes through that process. There is a lot of pain in that book. It is loosely based on personal experience.
The Seven Men is a little more lighthearted, its about a girl who goes to church and is prophesied to about the fact that she is going to meet her husband. So every man that she dates for the next seven, she describes that experience. The men in the book are based on both stereotypes and experience and again, are loosely based on my life, with the exception of the scenarios. There is far more fiction in the actual men because they are each based on a group, rather than an individual.
Be Anxious for Nothing is next, that book is non-fiction. It really is about my experience and the accounts of others in the church with mental illness and how we look at those with mental health challenges versus how we should.
The Pattern for Rejection is actually my latest book, however it was a bit of a surprise to me. It arose from a situation in my life that made me aware of a very dangerous pattern. I started to write about that pattern and the next thing I knew, I was 100 pages deep so I decided to run with it. That book actually gives tips on how to address rejection in a healthy way, so that it doesn’t create unchecked brokenness in your life.
“Be Anxious For Nothing” is your latest book. What inspired you to write this book?
Technically, it’s my second to last but it is the book that I am currently the most focused and passionate about highlighting.
Honestly, I got tired of feeling as though there was something wrong with admitting that I had anxiety and depression. Whenever I would tell someone that I had either, or I would mention any other mental illness, people would immediately try to “fix” me. They gave me the impression that because I was still dealing with an illness, that I was somehow not operating in the gifts that God had given me. I was just as effective s anyone else, I just had something else to consider in my journey and I wondered why people couldn’t see it that way. I knew a preacher with gout. He ate all the things that he wasn’t supposed to and was always in pain from it, but that didn’t make him any less of a man or a preacher. I wanted to know why mental health was any different. The treatment for mental health and wellness follows the same pattern as any illness that requires maintenance, but somehow I wasn’t allowed to say I was dealing with it because of some unknown reason. I felt like people were just uncomfortable. They didn’t understand mental illness and so they wanted to just pray it away, but I was not about to pretend nothing was wrong when there was. I also saw in the church a framework designed to help those with mental health issues. And instead of taking advantage of what God already designed, we were shunning the idea. People had questions and needed support and instead were receiving mis-quoted scripture references and blanket statements. Everyone needed a better option and I thought that sharing would help give everyone a better option for the mental health conversations we should be having.
All too often you hear that mental illness is a taboo topic in the African-American community. What do you believe individuals or the African-American community as a whole can do to change this?
I think we really need to have open conversations about mental health in poor neighborhoods. Until I was a teenager I was under the impression, that you were supposed to keep everything to yourself. Don’t show weakness. But had someone told me that telling your story is not for the weak, it’s for the strong, I would not have been afraid to address it. Part of the issue is the lack of mental health resources in the neighborhoods with black families. There is this idea that only the wealthy see therapist. If you look in the inner city there actually is access to mental heath care, but the system that gets you from Primary care to Mental health professional is so difficult that most don’t utilize it. There are some things that a doctor can prescribe so what you see a lot of is primary doctors prescribing mental health medication to people without the benefit of the therapy process. Medication was never designed as a standalone treatment and so people think this medicine is supposed to “fix” them and when it doesn’t they give up on the entire process.
In your opinion, what are signs that an individual may need help? What should people look for in themselves, or even in family members?
Signs can be varying but for depression I would say that any depressive mood that is recurring, lasting more than a few days and not triggered by an event is something that you could consider for further evaluation. For anxiety disorder, I would say that externally, there may not be any visible signs, unless your friend or family member has anxiety attacks. For a sufferer, I would say that lack of sleep because of a racing mind, frequent anxiety attacks, overthinking on a regular basis, may be signs that there is something to look into.
For individuals dealing with mental illness, in your advice where’s a good place they can turn to for help?
Honestly, I think the psychology today website is a tremendous resource. There are tests that you can take to see if a mental health professional is the next step. I would also encourage those struggling to contact their Employee Assistance Program coordinators. Often those coordinators will offer some free sessions with a professional. If you are on public assistance, make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask for a referral to see a mental health professional. You should also be able to talk with your family members and friends or a member of the clergy. I always remind people that the first person you tell may or may not know what to do or say, but they should be willing to support you and point you in a positive direction. If they don’t, tell someone else.
How can your book help individuals dealing with mental illness?
My book is really a platform. For those with mental illness it gives them a voice. There is truly something to be said for someone who understands what you’ve had to deal with. There are some links in the book to some of the places where I found help, but for those suffering with mental health, the book is a reminder of the journey in addressing their mental health and the reminder to not give up on that journey.
Do you have any new literary projects in the works?
Right now, I am working on a companion journal for the book, I am also working on a children’s book. Other than that, I am shifting my focus to starting a youtube channel to help those dealing with both mental health and spiritual health concerns.
Any book signings or book tours planned for the near future?
I originally intended to be on tour right now, but my course was re-charted when I stopped to write another book. I guess life is funny that way. Signings and tours are not expected until 2018, and all that information will be forthcoming on my website allthingsjay.com.
What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Just keep writing. Don’t focus on the storyline, focus on writing. You can use the editing process to fix the story if you need to but never stop writing.
Any last thoughts for our readers?
I just want people to know that their stories are powerful. Whether you write, read, or simply share over coffee, expressing yourself matters.
Be Anxious For Nothing: Bridging the Gap Between Anxiety, Depression, and the Church, is about how there is a gap within the church and how we treat people who have anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. It highlights how the gospel message provides the framework for overall mental health and recovery and gives those dealing with mental illness in the church or in general the freedom to express the truth about their conditions without fear or criticism. It is the breakaway from fiction and a real-live perspective from a Christian who is actually living through mental health issues.
Books by author "Jaylynn Smith" are available on Amazon and www.CreateSpace.com.
About the author:
I am a native of Arizona and a single mother of two daughters, who both offered a contribution to the book. I'm a Christian who attends Church of the Remnant South Phoenix where Warren H. Stewart Jr is the pastor. I'm a lover of the gospel and believe it's message extends to everyone, regardless of who they are and what they've done and it has always been my desire to bring a voice to the voiceless and those who are disenfranchised within the body of Christ. My original genre was fiction, and I took my emotions and spread them across the pages of each book. If you read each one, starting with The Circle, you can almost see the evolution of my journey.
Connect with the author:
Facebook Page: Be Anxious For Nothing