Pageant Queen Shares Testimony And Advocates Understanding Of Mental Illness — (Christian News Today)

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Christian News Today

By: Caroline Foster

Lori Randall is a pageant queen from Meeker, Oklahoma, but her story runs deeper than a quest for a desired crown. After two bouts with postpartum depression and psychosis, Randall uses her public status as reigning Mrs. Christian World 2005 to reach out to women suffering with mental illness.

Shortly after the birth of her first child 11 years ago, Randall began experiencing severe insomnia and was diagnosed with postpartum depression.

Before her prescribed medication had a chance to work, Randall began to have psychotic episodes characterized by severe hallucinations. It became clear that she was experiencing not just postpartum depression, but psychosis, a rare condition that only occurs in about one in 500 to 1,000 women according to medical experts. Common symptoms may include hallucinations, deep feelings of guilt, delusions and thoughts of suicide to name a few.

Randall lived in fear, trying to hide from the hallucinations that seemed so real to her. She says that although she did not hear voices like many women with postpartum psychosis do, she did have overwhelming thoughts of suicide.

“At one point, I had decided that I wasn’t sick — I was actually demon-possessed,” Randall recalls. “Satan was telling me that lie and I totally believed it.”

Convinced, she loaded her young daughter into the car and drove toward a bridge. “I thought that if I just drove off that bridge, I wouldn’t have to live like this anymore — I wouldn’t have to fight for my sanity,” Randall explains.

As she neared the bridge she pushed harder on the accelerator. Miraculously, she says God drove her past the bridge and met her on the other side. Her church, Meeker Assembly of God, was just a short distance away. When she arrived, her pastor’s wife just happened to be standing outside the church.

Sherry Pearcy, wife of Meeker AG pastor, Charles Pearcy, remembers that day vividly.

“I was standing out on the sidewalk — which was very unusual — waiting for my husband to pick me up when she pulled in,” Pearcy explains. “I got in the van with her. I knew she was struggling, but it was worse than I had been aware of. At that time, I didn’t know she’d been having hallucinations that day or that she had thought about killing herself. She had been hiding it from everybody and suffering alone.”

Pearcy, who had once experienced a milder case of postpartum depression, had talked to and encouraged Randall on previous occasions when symptoms of postpartum depression began to surface. However, she did not know how serious Randall’s condition had become. Not knowing exactly what was going on in Randall’s mind and body, Pearcy just began to pray for her.

“We prayed that I would let go of the guilt and embarrassment and shame Satan had heaped on me,” Randall says. “There’s so much shame with any kind of emotional illness. I had been telling myself, ‘I should be happy. I have a healthy baby. What’s wrong with me? How could this happen to me as a Christian?'”

Randall says she saw a little glimmer of hope that day, knowing that God could take care of her situation. It took time before Randall started to feel normal again, but she says she knows it was the hand of God that carried her through and restored her life.

However, the post partum depression/psychosis returned even stronger after the birth of her second child. As soon as the psychotic episodes came back, she went back to the Pearcys for prayer.

“I recognized the warning signs as soon as they began, and called the doctor immediately,” Randall explains. “I also knew that God had healed me once and I just hung onto the belief that He would heal me again.”

Not only did God heal Randall again, but He also provided her with new opportunities for ministry.

A few years later in 2002, Randall became Mrs. Oklahoma. In 2004, she went on to win the title Mrs. Oklahoma International Christian Woman. The title qualified her to compete and win the Mrs. Christian World pageant in December.

Once ashamed and afraid her secret would be discovered, Randall now shares her testimony with thousands of people at women’s events and church services nearly every week.

“God always has the right people in the crowd,” says Randall. “I’ve spoken to people not necessarily with postpartum, but with depression and bipolar disorder. They are so thankful when you tell them that it [mental illness] is not something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make you unusable. Satan wants to make you feel that you’re unworthy.”

To those who come to her seeking help, Randall offers prayer, an open ear and confirmation that it is okay to see a doctor.

“Lori has been able to use her experience as a tool — not only to encourage others to get medical help, but to tell of what God can do,” Pearcy explains. “One of the first things she tells people is, If you don’t know Christ as your Savior, that’s your first step.’ She tells them it was God who helped her get through those times and she’s been able to impact lives because of that.”

Randall says this experience has changed the way she used to look at depression. “I couldn’t relate to depression before,” she explains. “When someone I knew was dealing with depression, I would say, She needs to pull herself out of it, or she just needs to pray about it.'”

“If you had diabetes, we wouldn’t say ‘pull yourself out of it,'” Randall explains. “Depression is a disease just like diabetes is a disease. We need to show the same kind of acceptance and love to people with emotional illnesses.”

Randall is grateful for her public role. “I get to have the opportunity to be God’s hands extended in the healing and building-up of people. There’s still a lot of stigma that goes with mental illness in the Christian world. We don’t talk about it. I hope I’m helping with that — bringing it out in the open. It’s just a medical problem. It has nothing to do with you as a person.”

Randall has written 10 articles that have been compiled into an E-book. “Building a Better You,” a book about maximizing abilities and sharpening self-image, is available on her Web site, http://lorirandall.net/. The Web site also offers more information about her ministry, her speaking schedule and her testimony on CD, “Doors of Promise.”
Published date: April 2, 2005