Today I’m happy to have as my guest Chris Maxwell, who has recently authored a new book about some deep trials he and his family have experienced and survived with some wisdom to share.
Question: Tell us about your newest book, Underwater: When Encephalitis, Brain Injury, and Epilepsy Change Everything.
Chris: Underwater takes readers through my battle with encephalitis—a time I almost died, but lived and became a much different person. I now live with severe brain damage and epilepsy. Many things that were easy for me before I cannot do, or I find them difficult.
My wife, Debbie, and all three of our sons contributed to the book. We included stories about how our lives changed as well as stories from others who live with epilepsy. We also included advice from a counselor for caregivers—those family members and friends who are often forgotten in underwater stories.
Question: Underwater is an interesting title. Is there a story behind it?
Chris: Our son Taylor is a singer and songwriter. He wrote a song about how he felt while his father went through this struggle, and he titled the song “Underwater.” I planned to just let that be my working title while writing the book. But the publisher loved it, and Taylor gave us permission to use it.
Question: We’ve featured you here in the past. And I know this is your eighth book. You’ve also written lots of articles, and you have edited and contributed content to many other books. Because it’s so personal, was writing Underwater different? And if so, how.
Chris: It was not easy having to go through those experiences again. I interviewed family members, friends, doctors, counselors, and heard them describe me—the pre-illness me and the present me. I re-read my journal entrees. It was tough. But it needed to be a struggle so I could write a book through an honest lens. Reading all my medical reports hit me hard. I now work at a college, but because of my brain damage, many of my learning skills don’t fit well with today’s methods of learning. And when you struggle to remember names and have a variety of short-term memory issues, it is honestly embarrassing.
My counselor said, “Writing this book had to be difficult for you. You had to go back through this painful experience from your past and honestly face your present struggles. How did it feel writing the book or, as you say, swimming underwater?”
I answered with two words: “painfully healing.” We often miss out on our “painfully healing” encounters. It hurts to see a counselor. It is not soft or simple to seek therapy, accountability, or confrontation. It isn’t a thrill to read medical reports. It is not simple to address our pain. But, when we are willing, it can be therapeutic. We can bring a deeper healing to our inner struggles. No, it wasn’t easy, but I am thankful I’ve visited again my life underwater.
Question: Why go through all that? To what purpose?
Chris: I wanted to write a book that I wish had been available for me and for my family when we went through this. We found books and websites with information, medical advice, explanations, and support groups. But I needed stories. I needed words written in ways this damaged brain could understand: the goals, the word structure, the suggestions. I needed real-life stories providing medical information in conversational style. And we wanted to bring inspiration to people going through similar situations—though their stories might include issues other than epilepsy.
Question: And the response from readers?
Chris: Many people—patients, caregivers, doctors, clergy—have thanked me for the honesty. They thank me for revealing portions of life they were not aware of. A neurologist said, “Every doctor, every nurse, every clergy member, every teacher, and every governmental official needs a copy of Underwater. Remember, 1 in 26 people in the Unites States suffers epilepsy at some time in their lives. So, why aren’t we making more leaders aware of stories like yours?”
Question: In addition to directing Spiritual Life at Emmanuel College and writing, what other vehicles do you have for sharing your story?
Chris: Since leaving the senior pastorate after serving 19 years at a church in Orlando, I have been speaking in churches of many different denominations. Especially this year, I am speaking in conferences, colleges, churches, businesses, disability groups, missions organizations, and retreats. Schools have asked me to talk about unexpected adventures. Disease, disappointment, regret, addiction, disability, grief, relational pain, physical pain, mental pain, emotional pain. . . . I seek to tell stories that allow us to cry together, laugh together, and find hope in the storms. I want us to swim together in our underwater adventures—through stories, thoughts, and confessions. I want us to come ashore together, seeking help from others instead of feeling alone.
Question: How can people order Underwater and/or contact you to speak?
Chris: Underwater is available on my website; or people can order the paperback or the eBook (the audiobook will be out soon) on Amazon. They can visit my Amazon page. They can reach me by email at CMaxMan11@gmail.com. My website is www.chrismaxwell.me. My twitter account is @CMaxMan and people can join my “Pause with Chris Maxwell” Facebook page. I hope your readers—whatever causes them to feel underwater—will find hope even in uncertain times.