MARC HOWARD WILSON is a rabbi, essayist, community activist, and culinary commentator. He has served congregations for four decades. He is a weekly columnist in The Columbia State, and his commentaries have appeared Reader’s Digest, the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, and a weekly food column published in Berlin. His blog, marcmusing.blogspot, has an international readership.
He has delivered keynote addresses at Clemson and Furman Universities, and South Carolina United Methodist Convention. He regularly teaches in schools, churches, and universities in the SC Upstate. He is a summa cum laude graduate of DePaul University and was ordained by the Hebrew Theological College. He was a Graduate Fellow at the Chicago Institute of Pastoral Care.
Wilson is founder of two homeless shelters and has served on the Mayor’s Religious Advisory Committee (Co-Chair), Bioethics Resource Group, Hospital Clinical Review Committees, and Clinical Pastoral Education programs. He was named Community Servant of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of the Fifty Most Influential Leaders by Greenville Magazine, and one of the Forty Best Reasons to Stay in the Palmetto State by Southern Living Magazine.
He is the founder of Greenville Faith Communities United and its successor, MeetingPoint, and founding chairperson of St. Baldrick’s Day for childhood cancer research. He has a wonderful, caring, patient wife, Linda, and six married children who have to date produced the 13 smartest, sweetest grandchildren in the world.
He is most proud for the years he put his career on hold to care for his homebound parents. And he even makes a competition-rated kosher gumbo!
His thoughts on his loopy roller coaster of bipolarity and his efforts, sometime successful, to get off the ride:
I recognize only in adulthood that my perfect childhood was quite lonely and depressing: an only child, pushed by parents to academic superiority, denied friendships because my mother deemed them improper influences for me.
I emerged an overachiever, admired by my peers, but usually not befriended. Finding a girl who actually looked at me, we married at age twenty, bore three perfectly normal kids. At this point, thought, my depression blossomed. We divorced after 14 years. Another marriage resulted the same. My current wife has been part of the solution, not the problem, and we have lived in relative normalcy for 18 years.
I finally recognized that the affect of euphoria that punctuated my suicidal depression was a real symptom of bipolarity. I faked normalcy, but then the swings got so self-destructive that I acted out from the pulpit, and finally had to resign my position.
It was at this point that I sought out intensive medical and talk therapy, struggled, finally leveled off, and have had relatively good mental health for over five years, with all the expected setbacks.
My Role in “This Is My Brave”:
I have a compulsive need to communicate about myself and the world around me. I find it therapeutic and a great help for many hurting people who identify with my trials, observations, foibles, and resolutions.
I come from a great story-telling tradition, so the stories I tell are about personal experiences and quaint interactions with normal and abnormal situations. My grandfather was genius-bipolar, so there was enough material there to write a book.
They sat that “God makes the cure before the disease.” He blessed me with the gift of gab, an outgoing personality, verbal expressiveness, all waiting to help others and myself to navigate the tumult of bipolarity.
My inspirations to stay mentally healthy:
Ha! My age, coming up and scaring me. My illnesses, some quite serious. My faith in a God who is full of grace and compassion even for the undeserving. Yes, 100 time yes, my children and grandchildren. When all else seems to fail, all I can think of is how strong a loving bond we share. My wife who has lovingly – repeat, lovingly – transitioned from treating me as her hero to being my caregiver. Grieves me greatly that I require a caregiver, but she is unconditionally there.
My sense of every unfinished agenda of love to be shared, friendships to be renewed, the suffering of the homebound that would be enriched by my presence. Never enough. Never enough. Holy books yet to be studied. A hole in my heart that I will likely never again pastor a congregation, much less deliver a sermon which has been my life’s only true passion. All this is my inspiration for staying OK or better.
My hope of what the audience might take away:
First, that we are not “crazy,” detached from reality, babbling (although some of us can be). Next, that we are significantly self-aware of our situations, organize our thoughts to speak about them, and communicate them, sometimes even humorously. I wish that the audience would come away entertained and inspired by the world of insight we have to offer.
Perhaps they will even realize that we and they are pretty much the same, and that they suffer much of the undetected, untreated problems that we have already come to recognize and deal. Maybe they belong on stage just like us!