Experience a New, Hope-Filled Reality in Your Life

Experience a New, Hope-Filled Reality in Your Life

In 1995, the trajectory of Brad and Donna’s Hoefs life changed dramatically. Due to Brad’s mental illness, which was undiagnosed at the time, he had an excruciatingly public episode of uncontrolled manic behavior. As a senior pastor of a large church, Brad was smeared in the news, received condemning letters from pastors across the country, many friendships ceased, and the church asked him to resign. In the aftermath, Donna remembers sitting in her backyard weeping and pleading to God – “My husband is not well. I have no job. I’ve got two children to care for. What am I going to do?” 

Seven years later, Brad’s recovery hit a low point when he relapsed. In addition to losing more friends, they lost their dream home and moved into an apartment. Donna later describes the inner pain of being married to someone with a mental illness: “confusing… devastating… terrifying… alone… forgotten… grief… anguish…”.  

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. 

In their newly published book, Holding to Hope: Staying Sane While Loving Someone with a Mental Illness, Brad and Donna courageously share their story together. Being the loved one of someone with a diagnosis can be as difficult as having the illness itself. The book focuses on empowering people to live well in spite of the roller coaster ride of a loved one’s mental illness.  

“Now we can say, 20 years after the first diagnosis, these words:  

Relief 

Light 

Laughter 

Joy 

Future  

and Hope.” 

~ Brad and Donna Hoefs 

When I finished reading Holding to Hope, I found myself thanking God for keeping His promises to the Hoefs. When their hearts were broken, He drew near to them. During their struggle, He was working all things together for good. They have never been alone on this difficult journey together, and now they are sharing over 20 years of powerful insights and practical steps that can produce relief, light, laughter, joy, future and hope in others. 

For many people who love someone with a mental illness, those words may seem impossible and out of reach. If that’s you, I pray you will read this book and experience a new, hope-filled reality in your life. 

In Hope,

Jonathan Nielson

To order your copy of Holding to Hope: Staying Sane While Loving Someone with a Mental Illness, you can go to the Fresh Hope Store or Amazon using the links below:

Amazon 
Fresh Hope Store 

To download free chapters visit linktr.ee/holdingtohope

Holding to Hope: Staying Sane While Loving Someone with a Mental Illness centers around the 7 Fresh Hope Recovery Principles for Loved Ones. It’s filled with a transparent look and learned insights into the Hoefs’ lives as they navigated through the darkest days following Pastor Brad’s first major bipolar episode in 1995. Holding to Hope is not only for individuals to read but can also be used in a group setting for a group to process together. 

Facing a Psych Hospitalization or Incarceration with Grace

Facing a Psych Hospitalization or Incarceration with Grace

When we’re sick, we need medicine, and we need treatment. As with any physical ailment, mental ailments have their medicine and treatment too. Sometimes, when handling an acute mental illness episode, hospitalization can be necessary, and unfortunately, incarceration may be a reality (for some). Based on my own experiences in these kinds of situations, I give you the following advice to hang on to while you’re undergoing an inpatient stay or incarceration:

  1. Pray.

Ask God to grant wisdom to the medical staff before you meet with the psychiatrist, therapist, social workers, etc. Pray for God to give you favor and rapport with other patients/inmates/staff – everyone you come into contact with through your time there. Ask for healing and resolution through the right people, medication, and therapies.

  1. Be honest with your symptoms.

The medical providers treat you for what you need, so being transparent and honest is the best way to get the best treatment for you. Tell them how the mania, psychosis, depression, symptoms are, and try to be as clear as possible. They should have information from YOU on how bad it really is, in order to have a chance to find the right medication and therapy.

  1. Express yourself.

Be diligent to journal your feelings and thoughts through this time. It’s part of the healing process to understanding your heart and soul. Even if the words don’t make sense on paper, continue to write prayers or lamentations out. If you are prone to manic symptoms, I would also advise being more reserved with your expression in your worship.

If you are inclined to have manic symptoms like thoughts of grandeur, hyper-religiosity, or inflated sense of self, this can be tempting to lose control. But one of the fruits of God’s spirit is a sound mind/self-control. Be wise as a serpent because mania can easily elevate the mood to euphoria when singing.

  1. Read and listen to the Bible.

If you can, spend time in Bible study, church services, and if they have a chaplain in the building, take advantage of their services to gain godly counsel. If you are particularly sorrowful, depressed, the books of Psalms, Job and Lamentations are particularly comforting. If in mania or psychosis, stay away from Revelation for now and spend time in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or the epistles (New Testament letters to the church). Proverbs is a sensible book to read when manic as well.

  1. Take your medications as prescribed.

If you are faithful to do what the doctor prescribes, and symptoms are not alleviated or don’t improve in 2 -3 months, be honest and let the doctor know. They can adjust to a different dosage or medication to help find the right one. It’s going to be mostly trial and error. And NEVER adjust medication on your own. Always talk to the psychiatrist first.

  1. Make Peace with Yourself, Others, and God.

If you have burned bridges with anyone, make amends. Ask the Lord to give you the foresight to make the most of the time while you’re inside the hospital or jail and to be as fruitful and productive as possible in Him. And listen to His spirit in your heart for the answer. When it aligns with the Bible, it’s probably His voice talking to you, but if it doesn’t align, throw it out.

Beyond this, once you get out into the world and are adjusting to life – a few things that come to me:

  • Stay on the medication NO MATTER WHAT. Medication is one very big key to recovery.
  • Get involved in a local church. Pray and search for a Biblically-based, gospel-centered, sound theological and mental-health friendly congregation.
  • Try to find a job or volunteer activity. You must find a purpose to fulfill your time and spend it with rewarding work that you enjoy and are compensated for, either monetarily and/or morally/emotionally.
  • Exercise. Find a practical sort of physical fitness you enjoy and can progress at. Begin a routine by setting a SMART Goal to follow through. Have a trusted, reliable friend or family member to keep you accountable and join you in staying healthy physically.
  • Continue therapy. If you have trouble finding a Christian counselor in your area, try searching on aacc.net, therapyforchristians.com, or christiantherapistnetwork.org.

One Last Thing

1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

It will be a season, and because you love Him and follow Him, He will meet you where you are. He will provide strength and light at each step. You are not alone, ever! He is with you and has seen everything past, present, and future, and has every intention to give you the desires of your heart – for your good and His glory.

Stay brave and bold,

Katie

About the author:

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at KatieRDale.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

So, Have you heard the News about the Fresh Hope Network?

So, Have you heard the News about the Fresh Hope Network?

It is Fresh Hope´s latest gift for you and the beginning of a new era for Fresh Hope…!!

A 24/7, EXCLUSIVE, PRIVATE, HOPE FILLED space online where you will get to have your own profile, your friends, and your news feed! But that is not all!….

  1. It is FREE! Not only are there NO fees to pay to become a member.. you will also get access to Free courses and resources!
  • It`s International. Did you know that Fresh Hope now has friends and members in over 12 countries around the world? Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Belgium, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Bolivia, Perú, The US, Canada, you name it! The network works both in English and Spanish making it even more exciting.
  • It allows you to connect and stay connected!! Connect to people with lived experience. Connect with people in Fresh Hope Support Groups. Interact with your Fresh Hope Group anytime. Connect with other facilitators too!
  • It allows you to seek specific support! You can now create and/or join your own Special Interest Groups, called “Affinity Groups” in the Network and regroup with people with situations just like yours!

Want to meet other mothers like you that went through post-partum depression? Go for it by Creating an Affinity Group! Want to connect with other men diagnosed with bipolar disorder? With other parents dealing with mental health issues in their children? With those dealing with an addiction as well as a mental health diagnosis? There are no limits to how you can use the Affinity Groups for your own good!

  • It allows you to fill up your hope tank every day and never feel isolated again! By visiting the News Feed you can now share your heart, be heard and share hope with everyone and anyone in the network and at the same time read what others post and be filled with the hope that they share!

 So what are you waiting for…!? All you need to do is:

  1. Go to www.freshhope.us
  2. Click on the upper, right corner where it says “Sign Up”
  3. Fill out the short form.
  4. Confirm by clicking on the link you will receive by email and voila!

I can hardly wait to see you there…!!

A New Book for Those Who Love Someone with a Mental Illness!

A New Book for Those Who Love Someone with a Mental Illness!

“When it comes to mental illness, it is an equal opportunity provider of pain, struggles, and difficulties.  Those who have a mental illness and their loved ones are all subject to the layers of difficulties that mental illness brings into their relationships and life itself.  There is no doubt in my mind that being the loved one of someone who has a mental illness can be as difficult as having the illness itself.  I know because I am both one with a diagnosis and a loved one.  In fact, it is even possible for those who love someone with a mental illness to suffer even more than their loved one who has the diagnosis. It is so very difficult to watch someone you love suffer so much, and even more difficult when they refuse to be compliant in their treatment, or they continually self-sabotage their recovery.” (Taken from the opening introduction paragraph of “Holding to Hope: Staying Sane While Loving Someone with a Mental Illness.”)

Yes, you read that correctly!  Our newly published book for the loved ones of those who have a mental health issue will be released on August 1st!  (To pre-order the book, go to: Holding to Hope)

“One of the most helpful jobs a book can do is give us words to validate and define our experience.  In this book, you’ll receive those words, along with realistic encouragement and multilayered hope,” says Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds, Anxious, and Blessed Are the Unsatisfied

“Holding to Hope is refreshingly real and enormously useful.  The Hoefs open a window to their lives, sharing the challenges of living with a mental health challenge as husband and wife, a pastor and a pastor’s wife, parents, and friends to others.  Brad and Donna’s vulnerability and honesty are a testament to living a life of hope, learning how to lean into your circumstances, and coming out better.  You won’t regret reading this book.  In fact, you’ll give thanks for Brad and Donna’s lives that have now enriched thousands,” says Doug Beach, Chairman of the NAMI FaithNetNational Advisory Group, NAMI Instructor and Support Group Leader, NAMI San Antonio, Texas.

The entire first half of Holding to Hope is based upon the seven Fresh Hope principles of recovery for those who are loved ones of someone who has a mental health challenge.  Each of these chapters include thought-provoking questions as well real-life stories and spiritual insights.  The book’s first half lends itself towards even small groups of loved ones processing the content together.   (You can download one of the chapters for free by clicking here.). One of the ways that the Hoefs hope that the book will be used is for groups of those who love someone with a mental health challenge to use the book as a 12-week study guide.

The second half of the book is made up of shorter chapters that deal with various other issues such as living well and relationships. 

The release date of the book is August 1, 2021.  You can pre-order a signed copy of the book today by clicking here at the introductory price of $21, which includes shipping!  Xulon Press Elite is the publisher of the book.   The book is also available on Amazon and at Barnes and Nobel Online Bookstore.

Evan Owens, the founder of Reboot Recovery, says, “If you are serious about wanting to overcome or help someone overcome mental health challenges, this is a must-have book. You’ll find yourself referencing it time and again.  It is practical, insightful, and told by a couple that actually understands!”

This is the third book released by Fresh Hope for Mental Health.  The title of the first book is, Fresh Hope for Mental Health: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Challenge in English.  The second book released by Fresh Hope is the Spanish translation of the first book.

“Breaking the Ice” By Christian Coleman-Jones

“Breaking the Ice” By Christian Coleman-Jones

I’m going to break the ice with this post…

We protect our identity so much, spend so much time devising strategies to keep “them” from finding out, that we end our days exhausted, blaming it on work or the heavy day.

I’m not going to make excuses for who I am anymore. This is what it is, and I plan to live it with those who appreciate it, from now on.

I am a person who has great difficulty concentrating on work I don’t enjoy, nor on conversations that are not stimulating. I am easily distracted, which may suggest that I am superficial and not interested in what the other person has to say. I avoid mistakes in social situations, for fear of not being seen as perfect. I have always had difficulty associating with people I don’t know. If I feel that I have been or will be rejected, I can feel sad and angry for hours or days. I don’t have a great ability to control my emotions, therefore, I give the impression of being very intense. I feel everything in excess, there is no in-between.

All of this has a medical name. It is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is how I was born and even though I am working on ways to improve that, I still maintain the patterns. This is who I am, by the grace of God.

Many of you reading this haven’t seen me for years. Perhaps they were left with ideas, estimates of who I really am. Well, this is it.

What’s more, my 30 years of corporate experience were years I could have devoted to my true passions: Christ, above all things and people, giving myself to those in need of compassion and understanding, writing, music and anything that involves creativity.

But, with the best of intentions, I was instructed that being a businessman would bring financial and emotional stability. The truth is that there is no financial stability that brings emotional stability. I reached my goals and when I was at the top, there was nothing, everything was empty. I found full and permanent satisfaction in the name of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. It’s who I am and I don’t make excuses for it.

The man with the short hair, suit, tie, and everything else has been a big mask. That’s not Christian, that’s an image of what society expected of me.

Today, I am a man free from the chains that bound me to an electrified cell. I have found that freedom in Christ. With Him I don’t have to pretend, or dress well, or have good relationships, or be efficient in my work, or be excellent in my career, no, I just need to believe, and He takes me as I am, without prejudice or conditions.

This authentic Christian was awakened 6 months ago when I was drastically diagnosed with ADHD. The first day of treatment changed my life completely. But am I the ADHD diagnosis? Not at all, that is one of several adjectives that define who I am. I am different, very different from what the social norm expects by that diagnosis, but it is what it is and that is not going to change unless God has other plans for me.

The invitation to you, who appreciate me, and I appreciate very much, have that pure and authentic freedom. Be genuine, be transparent, put yourselves at risk to love those you do not know, just as we have been loved infinitely.

My great life experience is that when I identify and understand what God created me for, and I carry it out, I find infinite and permanent satisfaction and joy. He wants me to be who I am and what I was created to be. And I find that that is precisely who I am – I am not ashamed of my eccentricities or my controversial ideas (which I always hope to convey gently), and above all, I … am … not … ashamed … of … the … name … of … Jesus!!!

I hope you are not ashamed of me, just the way I am.

I love you all very much.

The Secrets to Worship Your Way Out of Sorrow

The Secrets to Worship Your Way Out of Sorrow

During pain-plagued tragedies, when one must endure long days and late nights, sorrow threatens to overshadow any sense of hope. It’s a universal experience for sure…that jerk of reality and jumping lightyears into a realm of sorrow. It can appear inescapable, and last far longer than you’d have expected.

This new paradigm shift brings the strongest prayer warrior to their knees, but the wisest know the secret to finding the way out.

Already on their knees, they worship. And when it gets better, or worse, they worship.

Circumstances come and go, but praise is due to our God forever. And in a sorrowful state, we are being shaped. God is still using the bad to cause good to come from it. Surely, we can worship in the midst of any frame of mind.

Here are the secrets to worshipping your way out of sorrow, depression, and constant misery:

  1. Recognize what you’ve lost. Define it. Identify that it’s gone. That’s the first step in processing the trauma of the loss. If you need to express your grief and depression, look into talking with a counselor.
  2. Humble yourself. God opposes a proud heart, but a broken one can welcome Him into the pain. A mentor of mine once taught me that the fear of God is keeping in the front of your mind that He is with you at all times. Keep reminding yourself of His presence. It’s helpful to practice the next step in order to do that.
  3. Call on Him. Say the name: Jesus. That precious, powerful name. The only name. It’s the answer to every fear, every doubt, every weakness. And calling on him out of your pain will light the flame you need to see out of the darkness of your sorrow.
  4. Praise Him! I can’t stress his enough – if there was a way to highlight, bold, underline and italicize – this point is most important. Lifting our praise in song or voice to God is where the tables are turned. Demons flee, Satan cowers, situations change, and the whole spiritual environment quakes at the praise of His glory. Give Him credit, glory, a great name! He is for us! What isn’t to praise? Turning our eyes onto Jesus in the darkest of nights will cause “the things of this world [to] grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace,” as the old hymn goes.

If that’s true, then after you’ve recognized the loss, humbled yourself, called on Jesus, and essentially done all you could do to put the sorrow to rest, you find the victory comes. Maybe not right away, but in discipline and earnest prayers and supplications and praise, we can eventually rest in victory.

Acting on a command like “rejoice always” is not dependent on our feelings or emotional state. The scriptures don’t tell us to “let your feelings dictate your actions” – but rather, the action changes that scripture commands bring about emotion and spirit changes. Don’t believe me? Try it. Apply it. And then come back and let me know how it went for you. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Disclaimer: For someone dealing with excessive sorrow and depression for more than a month, you should consider talking to a certified counselor and even a psychiatrist for medication management. The effects of clinical depression can be long, lingering and debilitating, and unnoticed can cause more harm than good. Take counsel and medications as prescribed by a certified clinician. Always consult with a doctor for appropriate mental health treatment and care.

About the author:

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

Finding The Source Of Your Fears by Stan Popovich

Finding The Source Of Your Fears by Stan Popovich

By Stan Popovich

A sure way to overcoming your fears and anxieties is in finding the source of your fears and being able to manage it. In dealing with any kinds of fears or anxieties, try to learn what is the real source of your fears and anxieties. Knowing what is causing your anxieties can go a long way in finding the solution.

A person can find the source of his or her own fears by doing some self-evaluation and also by talking to a professional. Asking yourself questions such as: “Why am I afraid” or “What is causing my anxiety” will lead you in the right direction in finding the source of your fears. Give it some time and eventually you will find the answers your looking for.

Once you find the true source of your fears, the next step is to find the solutions that will solve your problem. With the help of a professional, write down a list of possible techniques and solutions that you think will manage your fear and anxieties. The next step is to apply the techniques that you uncovered. Here is a brief list of some techniques you can use to help deal with your fears.

A good way to manage your worry is to challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make your fearful or anxious, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense.

Be smart in how you deal with your fears and anxieties. Do not try to tackle everything all at once. When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, break the task into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.

Learn to take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. When the time comes, hopefully you will have learned the skills to deal with your situation.

Sometimes we encounter a scary situation that gets us all upset. When encountering these events, always remember to get all of the facts of the given situation. Gathering the facts can prevent us from relying on exaggerated and fearful assumptions. By focusing on the facts, a person can rely on what is reality and what is not.

In every anxiety-related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to improve on in managing your fears and anxieties. For instance, you have a lot of anxiety and you decide to take a walk to help you feel better. The next time you feel anxious you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by taking a walk. This will give you the confidence to manage your anxiety the next time around.

Many people try to get rid of their anxieties and fears without taking into consideration why they are afraid. The best way to get rid of your fears is to find those techniques that will manage the true source of your fears. If you can do this, then you should be able to overcome your fears and anxieties.

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

“Broken Cisterns: Food” By Eli González

“Broken Cisterns: Food” By Eli González

“… and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

Fresh Hope has taught me that recovery is work, something that in the 25+ years I have been battling my mental health diagnosis I had not done. In the past, wellness was reduced to a period without depressive symptoms, and even, those periods of hypomania where I acted uninhibited and thought everything would be fine, periods that I tried to enjoy as much as possible because they were few and far between compared to the dark times of depression.

I must confess that during all this time there was a victim mentality in me, focused on what I was losing because of my illness, friendships, relationships, money, university courses and I was looking for guilty parties for what had happened to me.

My first diagnosis was depression, later, dysthymia, and when they came together “double depression”, and I lived believing the lies I was told about these diagnoses: “you will never recover, because there isn’t a treatment that is truly effective”, “if you can’t overcome depression, it’s because you are weak”, “suicide attempts are just attention seeking”; and since I developed a drug resistant depression in my youth, I even thought it was a divine punishment or some sort of demon that was chasing me.

Having no real hopeful answer for myself, I began to look for ways to fill my emotional voids and alleviate the “pain” that filled me to the soul. A relief for me was food, a false way to escape the pain, a broken cistern that never held water (Jeremiah 2.13).

In my 20’s and 30’s, eating mindlessly for a few weeks, gaining weight, but losing it quickly was not a problem. Now, in my 40’s the situation has changed, along with hormonal changes and my reluctance to do any exercise has caused me to gain almost 25 kg of weight. That undermines my self-esteem. Frustrated at not being able to control what I eat, I refuse to look at myself in the mirror and my self-confidence has diminished, which, in turn, affects my relationships with others and especially my relationship with my husband.

What does food mean to me? An escape. A mask. A disguise. Underneath those extra pounds I exist, but for some reason I hide deep inside myself. I run away from my pain, my denial of diagnosis, my anguish, and my fear of life.  I look in the mirror and it’s not really me. It’s a kind of surrealism, because I don’t accept myself, I don’t accept my body and my inability to do anything to change it.

But now I know that I CAN do things to recover my well-being, something that before was reduced to not feeling depressive symptoms, nothing more. Just waiting for the next episode. As one of the diagnoses that has accompanied me most of my life was Dysthymia, a mild but chronic depression, I had sentenced myself to live depressed all the time. Feeling good was short-lived because my own thinking reminded me to live according to my diagnosis.

Recovering my well-being implies a participation on my part, recognizing those behaviors that are not healthy, but that I repeat constantly because they have helped me to “hide” my pain. One of these behaviors has to do with my eating and I must accept it: I have an addictive relationship with food. If I am feeling sad, disappointed, tired, anxious, or facing a difficulty that I am struggling to overcome, I usually turn to food: soda, chips, snacks, desserts, and other things that contain a high degree of sugars or saturated fats.

In the past, I used to tell myself that I was happy with a soda and a bag of snacks (sweet and salty) with me, in front of the TV watching my favorite series. There was no such thing, it was the best way to hide my frustration or pain. This contributed to my already weakened self-confidence being an even bigger problem. I have already blamed the meds, the pandemic, anything but holding myself accountable for this behavior. “Diet” has been a bad word, because in the face of it I feel more anxious, I would start the diet Monday and break it the same Monday, because I felt anxious and would immediately go back to eating.

However, if I explore deeper, I know that the problem is not only the food, but the negative feelings of pain and frustration that I still struggle with inside me.

In the face of this, and thanks to Fresh Hope, I have delved into my irrational thoughts that come from my past, my emotions, and the wounds I carry. If I want a life of wellness, I must let go of those self-defeating patterns and be intentional about making changes in my life. My decision now is to eat healthier and start exercise routines. Also, exercise is scientifically proven to help improve depressive symptoms and give us more energy.

It may take time to get back to my ideal weight, but if I decide to “push through” my indiscipline and busy schedule, I know that I will, with the help of God’s grace, reach the goal I have set for my physical and emotional health.

No Place Like Church

No Place Like Church

Not In Kansas Anymore

Amidst the pandemic of COVID-19, it isn’t news that the mental health of many has suffered. For those of us in the tradition of gathering in the church, it has been a struggle in many ways. We are in unfamiliar territory, as if we were Dorothy transported to the land of Oz.

But what about getting back home, to church?

Whether your church took a reserved approach during 2020 with remote online services and virtual gatherings, or continued to meet in-person despite local jurisdictions’ mandates, church has not been the same. Not only has our routine to meet to worship and fellowship in person been unexpectedly interrupted, our minds have been strained.

The introduction of this new virus put unprecedented pressure on our minds to stay isolated to try to “flatten the curve” as the world health officials encouraged. All of the media voices concertedly stoking fear came at the cost of mental health because of socially isolating and suffering “alone together.”

During these times, the consequences of our choices haven’t always been straightforward, predictable, or easy to handle. We can probably agree, there hasn’t been much of anything “easy” about how to respond to the pandemic.

If anything, we’ve all had to reorient and adjust to the changes, akin to how Dorothy had to adjust to Technicolor!

Something Like a Twister

COVID-19 put the burden on each of our plates individually and corporately to make those choices to either meet together or stay home and isolate. Most of us stayed home, I believe, to the detriment of our mental health and the church’s wellbeing.

The question of how to respond as the body of Christ has not been easy to answer.

Many have returned to the sanctuary in the past few months as mandates loosened only to find an emptier, sparser congregation, or be the victim of the virus like my family and I were in January 2021.

While our own church stayed open for in-person services throughout the pandemic, many parishioners did not mask up. As a result, even though my family wore masks, we came down with the Coronavirus. Thankfully, we survived. I had a mild case of symptoms of slight congestion and loss of sense of smell and flavor. Nothing over-the-counter medicine couldn’t handle.

However, for all of us yearning to return to our church families, normal has left the building.

Don’t Forget Who Has The Answers

No matter how confusing, intimidating, infuriating, stressful, or risky these times have been, let’s remind ourselves of what has not changed.

There remains the constant, never-changing goodness of the one we gather for — God. His sovereign nature is to shepherd His sheep as He leads us through the valley of the shadow, into green pastures.

If we should follow our Good Shepherd who calls each of us by name, we will find ourselves where the Bible promises us: anointed by God, who prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies.

Since “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV), let us employ that manifestation in our gatherings.

In doing so, we should see that the church will rise to worship her groom, Christ, “to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:26, NLT).

When we continue to walk in the ways He is leading – together — we will find healing. The healing that comes from a spirit of unity, love, and peace between God and His children.

Can any of us be careful enough around a pandemic’s invisible virus that God foreknew would take many frail and vulnerable lives?

Neither our cautious efforts, nor the virus, can diminish or dissolve God’s goodness and mercy.

God remains the same, even though it would figure that such a strategy would be the Enemy’s attempt to steal the power of our gatherings and the ability to experience God’s omnipotent presence.

“You Always Had the Power My Dear, You Just Had To Learn It for Yourself”

-Glinda the Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz

Similar to Dorothy asking Glinda how she could have gone home all along, frankly, we as the church could have gone home all along. But for many of us, this tornado of a pandemic threw us for a loop and we became bewildered. It’s as if the CDC recently declared like Glinda, “You always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Let’s guard our minds against the fear of gathering in person when there is so much at stake. If “nothing can wholly replace the benefits of positive human touch,” as this article explains, then we are sorely in need of some long overdue contact. We are struggling alone at home, and even in the fabricated ways we try to connect as we do like in video calls and social media.

If anything, the church needs to return to fellowship and share our burdens with one another in the spirit of Christ – who suffered and yet “He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT).

Jesus risked his life touching lepers, healing the sick, delivering those serious about his call to the kingdom at hand. If the shadow of Paul could heal, what would keep us from the power of God by fellowshipping in person?

God clearly mandates his family to meet together, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

Fortunately, we can gather safely, guarding against the spread of infectious diseases by

wearing masks, physically distancing, spacing pews farther apart. Most churches provide hand sanitizers and sinks with soap and water. If you want, you can get a vaccine.

In moving forward into the freedom of God’s healing presence at church, I encourage us to remember and apply the following thoughts:

  • Let us not be ignorant of our Enemy’s schemes to “steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
  • Let us not forget our First Love, as the reason we gather together as the church (Revelation 2:4)
  • Let us gather to worship, and we will find we are stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  • Let us not be short-sighted: if we die, we die; our security and peace of mind is ultimately locked up in Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 1:21)

May God lead you back to your church family in a safe way and may you return to a healthy state of mind in the spirit of Christ’s peace. After, all, there’s no place like church.

About the author:

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health                                           Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Now is the Time

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

With so many of us in isolated status with COVID 19, the affects on our mental health have been evident.

Just take one look at your news feed in social media accounts to see what the mentality of our world has come to.

It should be no shocker that a lot of us have been emotionally taxed throughout the past year (plus) of lockdowns and weakened markets.

Certainly the world hasn’t seen such a shadow cast from stormy clouds of a pandemic in a long time.

Tomorrow is Coming

There is no better time than now to explore the way your mind has been working.

Before the world gets back on track, give your brain the time and knowledge to understand why it’s been so challenging to live in lockdowns.

When things start to open up again, it will not only be more “business as usual,” but some people might struggle a bit to return to “usual.”

Once most people get vaccinated, and governments lift all the mandates, things will inevitably pick up in pace and pressure.

People’s state of isolation and suppressed energy levels without outlet will dump us out into the freeway of life at the speed of life.

Unless you’re calibrated to a healthy mental state of being beforehand, life may get tough in the adjustment process.

I predict that returning to the world as we knew it won’t happen. The world as we knew it will never be that way, at least, not for a long time. We’ll be straddling to walk in the comfort of how things used to be, and how things have become. The new normal.

Take Inventory Today

We can’t afford to miss the opportunity to tune into our mental health in this window of time.

Not only have attempts on taking one’s life become more prevalent, but depression and anxiety aren’t such taboo notions to most anymore because of the indirect social effects of COVID-19.

If you’ve been unable to function to a relatively normal degree of output (which is skewed with all of us because, what is “normal” anymore?), I’d encourage you to grow your knowledge about your mind and its state of well-being.

Recommendations

I would strongly suggest looking at resources for your mental health, if you’re:

  • tempted to go to sleep at a new day, instead of waking up and being productive
  • not as social as you once were and you avoid going out or connecting with a friend virtually
  • making impulsive, unhealthy choices
  • overloaded with expectations and demands on you, and need healthy ways to cope
  • having low moods of depression
  • moving and/or speaking slower or quicker than usual
  • eating and/or sleeping more or less than usual
  • believing you’re a burden to others or not wanted
  • considering unhealthy ways to end your internal pain and discomfort
  • having thoughts that you would be better off dead
  • overreacting or irritable in response to others
  • having unexplained changes in thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors

After seeking out a trusted friend or family member to talk about these things, here are a few places to help guide your journey back to a healthier state-of-mind:

  1. Pastor Brad’s blog as a peer and pastor: Fresh Hope blog
  2. A Game Plan Resource Guide as a road map to wellness: BipolarBrave.com/resources
  3. A couple good books to read: I Love Jesus But I Want to Die by Sarah J. Robinson; Depression, Anxiety and other Things We Don’t Talk About by Ryan Casey Waller
  4. Some websites on all-things-mental-health: PsychCentral.com, Psycom.net
  5. Places to find a good Christian counselor: aacc.net, christiantherapistnetwork.org

As always, if you are experiencing a crisis and need emergency care, call 9-1-1

If you are wanting to talk to someone urgently 24/7, call the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 –     or text the suicide prevention text line at 741741

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.