'American Idol' 's Mandisa Recalls Having Friends Stage an Intervention After Her 'Deep Dark' Period

PEOPLE has an exclusive look at Mandisa's new memoir Out of the Dark

Mandisa is opening up about some of the most difficult periods of her life in a new book.

The American Idol alum, who placed fifth on season five in 2006, is shedding light on her mental health struggles in her memoir Out of the Dark: My Journey Through the Shadows to Find God's Joy, which was released on Tuesday.

In the book, Mandisa, 45, chronicles her battle with depression and anxiety following the loss of a close friend to cancer, and details how she sought comfort in food and isolated herself as her health spiraled.

In two excerpts shared with PEOPLE, the Grammy-winning "Overcomer" singer first discusses an intervention staged by her friends following what she calls her "deep dark" period, and then digs into the power of meaningful connection.

Mandisa Book
K-LOVE Books

Chapter 7: It's Not Over

Shortly after my low point, which I sometimes refer to as "the deep dark," I realized that if I were going to stick around, I would need to start working again to pay the bills. I reluctantly agreed to go on the Rock & Worship Roadshow Tour. It had been a long time since my band and I had been together, so we needed to rehearse. I didn't want to be there, but I had no choice. I had not released any new music in three years, so we had performed these songs countless times. After a few hours of doing the bare minimum, I desperately wanted to get out of that rehearsal space. Since this was the first time I had left my house, I took advantage of being out and decided to trade in my recliner for the recliner seats at Regal Cinemas and treat myself to a movie.

By the time the second movie ended, I had been inside that theater for over four hours. When I walked out into the parking lot, I noticed something strange about my red Toyota Solara. I squinted my eyes. The light speckles all over the car were yellow sticky notes! As I got closer, I was able to read what they said:

We love you. We miss you. Come back to us.

Some of the notes had scriptures written on them. When I looked up, I saw several of my friends getting out of their cars. They had been waiting for me for four hours! My friend Laura, who had organized the intervention, had gone to my house earlier and become convinced I was home but ignoring her incessant knocking. My offhanded mention of my movie plans to my keyboard player, Jon, became a clue to Inspector Laura as to my whereabouts. I later discovered that my friends had driven to several theaters in town until they found my car. They'd covered it with their sticky-note encouragements and then waited until the movie was over. They hadn't expected me to watch two films!

Mandisa. Hannah Burton

At first I was annoyed. They had invaded my privacy.

"What are you doing here?" I snapped, a scowl on my face. "How did you find me?" My friends were like little lightbulbs walking around, and their brightness was uncomfortable.

"We just want to sit and talk with you for a few minutes," Laura said. "This has been going on for too long."

"No! I'm going home!"

"Disa," Tammy said gently. "Please. Just a few minutes." I knew they weren't going to leave me alone until I agreed.

"Fine, whatever." The looks of sorrow and concern on their faces made me feel horrible. They had already picked out an outdoor area beside the Panera Bread next door. My friends circled around me for an intervention. Each of them took a turn telling me what I meant to them and ending with why they were concerned with the present state of affairs. I don't know if you've ever been on the receiving end of an intervention, but it's not pleasant. I couldn't be angry at them because of their kindness, but I was annoyed at their interference. Light.

"We love you." "We can't let you keep doing this." "We're fighting for you." One of my friends said, "Disa, we love you just the way you are." I'd heard those words before, and my friend could tell I was beginning to check out. But she continued, "No, hear this. We want you to know we love you just the way you are. But we love you too much to leave you there." That felt like God speaking directly to me

I could hear Him saying, "I will take you at four hundred pounds and love you no matter how much you weigh and how much you try to push Me away. But I love you too much to leave you in that place."

Finally, after everyone had said their peace [sic], with my walls still up but not quite as formidable, I asked, "What do you want me to do?

They told me they wanted me to get counseling, and Dan had already found someone I could meet with. I agreed to it, maybe just to get them off my back, or maybe knowing I needed professional help. Either way, that uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassing alfresco meeting was a turning point. The darkness felt a little less dark. I could see a small flicker. Light was beginning to break through.


Chapter 12: Breakthrough

Our society seems set up for individualism (even more so in the midst of a pandemic). Something I hear a lot from other Christians is, "I have Jesus, and He's all I need." That's dangerous thinking. Even the Godhead is composed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God created us for interdependence. We need each other. We are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), and a body needs all of its parts. Since I'm an ambivert (both introvert and extrovert), there are times when I long to be with people, but my pull for alone time is also very strong. I know that staying home and binge-watching TV is always going to be a temptation for me. But when I give in to it, I often end up feeling isolated, discouraged, and empty. It's an area where Satan can get a foothold in my life—a spot where he can aim that fiery dart and cause injury. Because of this, I recognize that community won't just happen naturally for me; it's something I have to pursue. Last year, I decided to move from my house in Antioch and across town to Franklin. I did this because my friends live on this side of town, and I wanted to cultivate those relationships

Maybe some of you are thinking, How do you get friends like that? Friends who stalk you at the movie theater to sticky-note your car? Friends who keep calling until you pick up? Friends who don't take "fine" for an answer and dig deeper to find out how you really are? I think God loves it when we come to Him with our emotional and relational needs, not just our physical ones. Many people, myself included, pray for God to provide them with a spouse, but what about praying for Him to provide friends who can encourage us in our lives right now? That's a prayer I believe He loves to answer.

Mandisa with her brother John. Mandisa

Sometimes forming those meaningful connections with others will take you out of your comfort zone. When Kiya and I meet another dog on our walks, a few polite sniffs eventually lead to an awkward sniff of the rear end. I don't know why dogs introduce themselves to one another that way, but if an awkward moment like that can lead to a lifelong friendship, maybe it's worth it. Don't get me wrong—I am not recommending that you make friends the way my dog does. What I am saying is that God may prompt you to make the first move, which can feel uncomfortable. Asking someone to have coffee or go out for dinner can feel risky, but it can end up being rewarding.

During my life I've been drawn into friendships with all types of people—some very different from me. My tribe has included men, women, single people, married people with kids, millennials, more "seasoned" folks, and every age in between. God has blessed me with a diverse group of people in my life—mentors from my church, singers I've been on tour with, people I went to school with, fellow artists and influencers, stay-at-home moms—and they've come with a variety of skin tones. You learn so much and become a richer person by surrounding yourself with people who are different from you. As I've walked through hard things in my life, I've sometimes been surprised by the people God has used to comfort and help me. At times I get to be there for them too. That's what it's all about.

Excerpted from Out of the Dark: My Journey Through the Shadows to Find God's Joy, copyright © 2022 by Mandisa, with permission from K-LOVE Books.

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