Choosing Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness

Choosing Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness

Hopelessness is serious. Every day people fall into the hopeless hole of hopelessness due to their struggle with a mental health issue. Hopelessness begins to knock at the door of one’s heart when you feel and believe that you have no future. It happens so easily, and it can take root all too fast. Each time we face one of life’s interruptions which change our perceived future hopelessness can settle in and live rent free in our hearts and minds.

Over 20 years ago I faced a life altering interruption due to having bipolar disorder. At that time I was pastoring one of the fastest growing churches in my denomination. However, following that painful manic episode, which had interrupted my life, I was asked to resign. It was earth shattering. My position and the church had become my identity. I was devastated to the point of complete hopelessness. I had lost my future. Hopelessness had set in. And the deep dark hole of depression became a shameful guilt place of familiarity for me; months and months of severe depression followed.

For years prior to this interruption I had felt as though I had a monster inside of me that I had to manage.

The more stress I experienced with pastoring a growing church, the more impossible it was to control the monster within me. More times than not, the monster was controlling me. So, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I found out that the monster had a name. And strangely enough, a small ray of hope began to break through the hopelessness what had swallowed me whole.

Why would there be a small ray of hope following my diagnosis?   After all, usually people see the diagnosis of bipolar disorder as the difficult thing to accept. Well, it was because of the people around me who helped me to see that the diagnosis and treatment of my bipolar disorder were a way back to having a future. It was the idea that the bipolar could be treated and I could have a future poked a small pinhole of hope into the darkness of hopelessness. It was not an easy journey, but it was more than worth it. With that small pinhole of hope, I could see a way forward. I began to grieve what I had lost and began to embrace a new and different future; believing that I could live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.

Dr. Sean Lopez, the author of Making Hope Happen, has done extensive research on hope for over 14 years. His research supports what I experienced. When I thought I had no future, hopelessness set in and took over. And when I could see the way to a future, hope began to start. And the clearer the future became for me, the more hope I felt.

Interestingly enough, hope can be borrowed, shared and it can be caught! Think about it, if you hang around a lot of hopeless friends, you will begin to feel hopeless. And if you hang out with people who are filled with hope you will begin to feel hopeful.

So, I have a question for you: How is your hope tank doing? Do you feel like you can see a way forward? If not, do you potentially need to let go of the future that as you thought it would be, grieve it and let it go? Do you need to embrace the new potential future? There’s no doubt that doing this is a process. It is not like switching a light switch on. But, it is a choice.

Hope is truly a choice. For me as a Christian, hope is not only a choice, but it is sure and certain. Paul reminds us that no matter what are circumstances might be there is a future because the Lord will work all things out together for our good. (Romans 8:28) So, I certainly may not “feel” hopeful, but I choose to believe Romans 8:28 and that means that there is a future. It may not have been the future as I thought it would be, but it is a future.

So, again, my question is: how is your hope tank? Is your hope tank empty? Is being a caregiver sucking the hope right out of you? Do you see a way forward into the future?

Are you strong enough to make the choice of hope? If not, I have some hope you can borrow.See, I know because of the storms I’ve been through in my life that God is at work in all things. He is with you. He has not left you. He won’t leave you. And He is FOR you and your entire family! He has a plan. It may not be the life you and I planned prior to bipolar showing up, but in spite of us having bipolar disorder He has a plan!

Everything may not be “good” right now, but all is well because of Him. He has heard every single one of your tears as a liquid prayer.   Look for that little tiny bit of light coming through the “pin” hole poking through the hopelessness you might be feeling. Choose hope. Choose it minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day and your feelings will begin to catch up. There is a future and joy is included in it.

Our Fresh Hope podcast has been nominated for a award. Would you mind endorsing it? (It’s like the people’s choice awards- endorsing it is like voting for the podcast.)  If so, go to: to endorse the podcast!  Thanks!

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Insight for Living’s Reframing Ministry’s Interview with Brad Hoefs

Insight for Living’s Reframing Ministry’s Interview with Brad Hoefs

Colleen Swindoll Thomspon serves Insight for Living Ministries as the director of the Reframing Ministries Department of Insight for Living. Colleen defines “reframing” as “essentially the transforming process of learning to love and be loved by God, and then listening, accepting, and following God in our daily lives. It’s choosing to look at life’s challenges as opportunities for change and growth, believing God has a plan and purpose greater than we can imagine. Reframing means life never leaves us stuck but gives us the choice to live differently—a process that can be painful yet also full of purpose.”

Colleen says, “Every person will encounter unexpected events. My desire is to help others navigate through the changes required to move forward with great anticipation and lasting hope . . . and to find nuggets of humor along the way. Much of what I have learned comes from raising a son with disabilities and unexpected physical and emotional pain. I love to write a weekly blog post, to speak, teach, read, interview other life ‘thrivers,’ and laugh out loud every day.”

Colleen and her husband have five children, two married and three single, and two funny dogs. They love life together and currently reside in the North Dallas area.

I was both honored and blessed to do this interview with Colleen:


The “Elephant” in the Sanctuary

The “Elephant” in the Sanctuary

In this video Katie R. Dale from reads the letter that she wrote to the pastor who misguided her regarding taking medicine for bipolar disorder.  Pastors need to see this video to help them realize how serious their lack of understanding is regarding mental illness.  Why?  Because more people go first to a clergy than to their doctor, a therapist, a psychologist and/or psychiatrist combined!  Pastors are on the front lines of the mental health crisis!

Please watch this video and share it on social media, it’s one way to begin to address the “elephant” in the sanctuary!

Letter to a Misguiding Pastor by Katie R. Dale from Brad Hoefs on Vimeo.

A Special Interview with Colleen Swindoll Thompson

A Special Interview with Colleen Swindoll Thompson

Our Fresh Hope podcast has been nominated for Wego Health’s Best in Show Podcast award!We encourage you to endorse the nomination by going to:

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health Pastor Brad interviews Colleen Swindoll-Thompson. Colleen is the daughter of Chuck Swindoll with Insight for Living.

Colleen says, “I’m a recovering idealist; a witty, creative investigator of faith; a compassionate caregiver; a writer and speaker; and a survivor of a shipwrecked life.

“My passion is to help fellow survivors and life-strugglers steer through difficult circumstances and develop steadfast hope, so that they can navigate life with significance, meaning, and purpose in God.”

Colleen serves at Insight for Living Ministries as the director of our Reframing Ministries Department. “Reframing” is essentially the transforming process of learning to love and be loved by God, and then listening, accepting, and following God in our daily lives. It’s choosing to look at life’s challenges as opportunities for change and growth, believing God has a plan and purpose greater than we can imagine. Reframing means life never leaves us stuck but gives us the choice to live differently?a process that can be painful yet also full of purpose.

Colleen is open and transparent about her challenges that she has faced in life from her own mental health to being Mom and caregiver to a special needs son, Johnathan.

You’ll want to listen to this podcast.  It’s full of insights, encouragement, understanding and hope!

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Pastor Brad Hoefs, host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

Brad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. He is a weekly blogger for (Bipolar Magazine). He is also a certified peer specialist and has been doing pastoral counseling since 1985. Brad is also the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, which is available on Amazon or at:

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to or email or call 402.932.3089.

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Five Wellness Principles

Five Wellness Principles

The same mental health disorder differs from person to person.  The same medicines do not work for all of us.  The issues of mental health recovery are very complex.  So, the “things” that have worked for me; might not work for you. This is why we need one another.  Corporately we have answers for one another as we encourage each other and share what “works” for us as individually in living well in spite of our bipolar disorder.  That’s why sometime ago a few of us started a website called “What I Did to Recover”.  (By the way, I know that the word “recover” can trip people up.  For me, the word “recover” simply means that I have taken back my life from the mood monster of bipolar and that I’m living well [i.e. life has purpose other than just coping] in spite of it.)

When you and I connect with one another we empower each other to live well in spite of any possible daily battles with our disorder.  Individually, no one of us all the answers.  But, together we have answers for one another.

It always concerns me when tragic violent events such as these senseless shootings happen and suddenly everyone is talking about mental illness/health; but over generalizing it, simplifying to the point where everyone is lumped together and it is all over simplified.   By doing this, the public is not even beginning to understand the complexities and challenges for each individual dealing with their particular life’s situation and experiences plus having a mental illness.

Some of us have only one diagnosis; bipolar disorder.  Others of us have the complexity of co-occurring disorders which some now are calling “complex” instead of co-occurring.  Just bipolar disorder in and of itself is enough to make life very complex at times. But, add on top of that a borderline personality disorder and now it’s even more complex.  As I watch friends of mine who have a personality disorder and lots of child trauma plus bipolar disorder, I have come to know that their struggle for wellness is compounded many times over as they strive to live well in spite several mental health issues.

Yet, I believe there are some general “living-well” principles that are true for most, if not all of us. I’d like to share a few of them.  This list is not exhaustive list but some of the “principles” that I believe may be universal to all us:

  1. In order to achieve some level of wellness in our lives you and I must be disciplined to do those things that move us toward wellness in our lives and keep us well. This is a choice.  As much as I hate to be disciplined, I choose to discipline myself daily in order to live well in spite of bipolar disorder. Choose to be disciplined it works.
  2. In order to live well, you and I need other people in our lives.  You and I are made for community.  Isolating will not help any of us to live well. If you have alienated all of the people in your life and are alone then I strongly encourage you to find seek out a certified peer support specialist and/or a peer led mental health support group and/or group therapy led by a professional therapist. You need other people.
  3. In order to live well, you and I must be committed some of the hardest work we will ever do in our lives. Living well in spite of bipolar plus any other issues you might face is HARD But, it’s worth it. But, it’s hard work that sometimes must be done moment by moment, day by day. Recovery is not for sissies! Commit to the hard work, no matter how hard the work gets.
  4. In order to live well, you and I must have hope about our future or we will give up. Hopelessness comes about when someone believes they have no future.  Choosing to believe that your life has purpose and meaning is key to overcoming hopelessness.

If you are a person of faith, then this is where your faith becomes key.  Faith gives hope because faith says that life, each life, has meaning and purpose.  Person of faith or not, your life is important.  Your life has meaning. Out of the pain and hurt of your life you have the power to empower others by just telling your story.  By telling your story to others who are also on this journey gives your life purpose.  That’s a future. And that gives hope.  Never give up. Each of us needs you. You hold some answers for some of us in our journey towards wellness. Choose to see the purpose in your life.

  1. In order to live well, you and I have to choose to look for the golden nuggets in the “poo-piles” of life. (Of course, there’s another way to spell “poo” but, I am going to stay with “poo”.) There’s a lot of “poo” in life. No one gets through life with out pain and brokenness to varying degrees. When you and I let go of our expectations of life it allows us to find the “gold nuggets”, the silver linings, even in the most difficult of times.  Part of doing this means that you and I must never loose our sense of human about how goofy life and others can be.  Choose to find the golden nuggets instead of wallowing in the poo.

So, I offer these five principles to wellness that I believe are some of the foundational principles to a life of wellness.  They are simple.  But, so very important and difficult to do at times.  I’d love to hear your input regarding them. And I would also love to hear from you about those things you have done and continue do that help you live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.  I encourage you take a look at and add to the list.  It’s easy to do, just send in what you do or have done and we will add to the list!

In the mean time, keep looking for those golden nuggets!

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A Psychology Professor Shares the Five Surprising of Original Thinkers

A Psychology Professor Shares the Five Surprising of Original Thinkers

Many of us who have a mental health challenge are creative type people who original thinkers.  For example, artist Vincent van Gogh, composer George Frideric Handel (who most likely wrote the Messiah during a manic episode), author Ernest Hemmingway, Winston Church and former president Abraham Lincoln.  This list could go on an on!

So, how do creative people come up with great ideas? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant studies “originals”: thinkers who dream up new ideas and take action to put them into the world. In this talk, learn three unexpected habits of originals — including embracing failure. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

Check out this TedTalk about Adam Grant on the surprising habits of original thinkers.

Here’s a few articles on creativity (original thinking) and mental illness: