ESSENCE.com: Tell us a little about "Permission Slips."
SHERRI SHEPHERD: I wrote it because I feel like, as women, we take on so much. We want to be the perfect wife, mother, friend, and sister. But inside we're cracking up because we're not able to handle it all. And it shows; we're getting sick and stressed. We just have to give ourselves permission to say, 'No, I gotta take care of me because if I can't take care of me, I can't take care of anyone else.'
ESSENCE.com: What do you want women to walk away from the book with?
SHEPHERD: I would love for women to walk away and say, 'You know what, it's okay for me to take time for me.' I was diagnosed with diabetes at 40. My mom passed away at 41 from diabetic complications. I always knew that I had the symptoms but it took a long time for me to go to the doctor.
ESSENCE.com: What was your initial response when you found out you had diabetes?
SHEPHERD: My doctor, who was a sister, said to me, 'Do you like acting?' I said, 'I love it.' And she said, 'Well, you're not going to be able to do it with half your face hanging off. You're headed for a stroke.' It scared me so badly because I had been having the symptoms for a while--the tingling in my feet and my hands, being thirsty all the time and always going to bathroom.
ESSENCE.com: You recently did a diabetes tour of Black barbershops. What was that like?
SHEPHERD: I got involved with Doctor [Bill] Releford of the Black Barbershops Outreach Program because I just loved what he was doing for Black men in our community. They go to barbershops and say, 'We'll give you a free haircut if we can take your blood pressure and talk to you about nutrition.' That's important.
ESSENCE.com: What do you think Black women need to know about diabetes?
SHEPHERD: We need to know more about our health: nutrition and exercise. I am a type-2 diabetic, and they took me off medication simply because I ate right and exercised. Diabetes is not like a cancer, where you go in for chemo and radiation. You can change a lot through a basic changing of habits.
ESSENCE.com: The premiere episode of your sitcom 'Sherri' on Lifetime was the most watched original comedy on that network in ten years.
SHEPHERD: I am overwhelmed at how good God is because that show is based on a very painful time in my life; my husband having an affair and the girl getting pregnant and having a baby. I remember God saying to me, 'Do you trust me?' And I said, 'Absolutely, not because my son came at 5 1/2 months and he's fighting for his life. No I don't trust you.' Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have a show called 'Sherri' where we deal with forgiveness and healing and make people laugh. So it's very overwhelming that even though I said 'I don't trust you' God said 'I am not going to leave you.'
ESSENCE.com: How has humor helped you in your life?
SHEPHERD: First of all, I didn't kill my husband because of my sense of humor. I decided to get on stage and talk about the pain. Women started coming up to me going, 'That is my story.' Laughter enables me to get rid of a lot of crazy stuff.