Pastor Brad Hoefs

Pastor | Author | Speaker | Hope Coach | Mental Health Advocate

Mental Health Life Hacks for the Holidays

Mental Health Life Hacks for the Holidays

By Rick Qualls

As a child every Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday I would become sick.

Don’t misunderstand. Mine was a “Leave It To Beaver” childhood. It was an idyllic 1950’s childhood where I was cared for and loved.

I would get so excited I couldn’t contain myself.

There were long trips to visit grandparents we didn’t see often. Sears and Wards offered additional catalogs with large children’s sections of fascinating toys. Wish books we called them. I studied them and marked the pages, so mom and dad wouldn’t miss my favorite requests. And I was an ardent believer in Santa Claus…even after I learned it was Santa Qualls that brought the gifts.

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year.

Today, as an adult with bipolar, I can still get sick during the holidays.

By the time I became an adult the ugly face of depression cycled into my life. The winter and holidays can now trigger a bipolar-depressive relapse. As the days get shorter and grayer, my spirits began to fall.

Fortunately, recent years have been better because of bipolar life hacks I have discovered. Here are a few:

  • Winter days and holidays are better when I keep my routine. I stay on my medicine. Not taking my medicine regularly will trigger a depressive relapse.
  • Sometimes adjustments are made in my meds as the season starts. I just had a session with my doctor in which an adjustment was made.
  • I have found that sleep difficulties can set off my depression. It does not take many sleep deprived nights to cause major setbacks. I have learned that I function best with nine hours of sleep. Everyone is different, but it is important to know what your sleep cycle needs to be.
  • I trim the Christmas tree but also trim my schedule. Some time ago I learned what is called the Pareto Principle which states that 80% of your reward comes from 20% of your effort. While the percentages may be argued I have learned that about 20% of what I do bring 80% of my satisfaction.
  • So I trim the schedule to make sure things of ultimate importance are done. It allows me to say, “No” to things that take energy I do not have. That helps me to keep my energy balanced.
  • These days my muscles and joints are not flexible, but my attitude is. If one of my grown kids can’t be at home on Christmas or Thanksgiving, I can let that go. I just make a point of enjoying them when they can. This flexibility makes life easier for them from the stress of trying to please other family members.
  • Accepting other family members as they are and not expecting someone’s personality to change makes things smoother. Over-expecting creates pressure for me and everyone else. Everyone needs their emotional space, including me!
  • What about the gray, dreary days? I turn on the sunlight. In my experience, a sunlamp used for Seasonal Affective Disorder helps my bipolar. So if the sun is hiding, the light comes on.
  • I also have learned that the light is best used early in the day. I discovered when using it in the evening it will prevent sleep, even overcoming my sleep meds.

What are your mental health life hacks?

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

“Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. “Eph 4:29

What are your mental health life hacks? Share them in the comments. It may make a big difference for someone.

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Mental Health Insights From a Psychiatrist​ Who Is Also a Theologian: Dr. Warren Kinghorn​

Mental Health Insights From a Psychiatrist​ Who Is Also a Theologian: Dr. Warren Kinghorn​

You won’t want to miss this is an excellent podcast! Pastor Brad interviews Dr. Warren Kinghorn, who is both a psychiatrist and a theologian. He presents a unique perspective on mental health, both as a Christian and as a professional in psychiatry.

Dr. Kinghorn also addresses how we can help people in the church with a mental health diagnosis, both for pastors and laypersons. He shares a lot of insights for pastors regarding their own mental health.

kinghornDr. Kinghorn is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Pastoral and Moral Theology, Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School, Staff Psychiatrist, Durham VA Medical Center.

Dr. Kinghorn is a psychiatrist whose work centers on the role of religious communities in caring for persons with mental health problems and on ways in which Christian communities engage practices of modern health care. Jointly appointed within Duke Divinity School and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Duke University Medical Center, he is a staff psychiatrist at the Durham VA Medical Center and core teaching faculty member of the Duke Psychiatry Residency Program.

Within the Divinity School, he works closely with students and faculty members interested in exploring the ways in which theology and philosophy might constructively inform Christian engagement with modern medicine and psychiatry. His current scholarly interests include the moral and theological dimensions of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, the applicability of virtue theory to the vocational formation of clinicians and clergy, and the contributions of the theology and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas to contemporary debates about psychiatric diagnosis, psychiatric technology, and human flourishing.

To listen to this podcast click here or on the icon below:

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After listening to this podcast, we encourage you to email us at info@FreshHope.us with a comment or question that we will share on our next podcast.

If you are listening to this podcast on iTunes, we encourage you to leave a comment regarding the podcast. Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:  www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

Pastor Brad Hoefs, the 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 www.bphope.com (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 http://www.FreshHopeBook.com

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to http://www.FreshHope.us or email info@FreshHope.us or call 402.932.3089.

To donate to Fresh Hope go to http://freshhope.us/donate/

For a complete list of where Fresh Hope groups are presently meeting, go to www.FreshHope.us and click on “find a group.”  Or you may attain an online group of meetings of Fresh Hope by going to www.FreshHopeMeeting.com

If you are interested in starting a Fresh Hope group within your faith community, contact Julie at Julie@FreshHope.us 

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is a production of Fresh Hope Ministries. 

Fresh Hope Ministries is a non-profit ministry.  

The copyrights of this program belong to Fresh Hope Ministries and may not be duplicated without written permission. 

All of the podcasts of Fresh Hope Today, as well as numerous other videos, are all available on our YouTube channel: Fresh Hope Network

 Fresh Hope for Mental Health is on Facebook at  www.Facebook.com/FreshHopeforMentalHealth

 

Surviving Versus Enjoying the Holidays

Surviving Versus Enjoying the Holidays

Several years ago it dawned on me that my attitude towards the holiday season was only one of ‘survival.’  Before being treated for bipolar disorder, the Christmas season had been a time of ‘escalating mood’ with a ‘downward spiral’ in January.  When my journey of recovery started, I began to view the holiday season as a time to ‘simply survive’ while closely managing my mood.

My list for survival included things such as:

  • don’t overspend
  • don’t over plan
  • don’t overeat
  • don’t “people” yourself out.

It was a list of don’ts.  For many years that approach worked, but left me wondering if it would ever be possible to actually enjoy the holidays – as opposed to surviving them.

Several years ago I decided to approach the holidays differently.  Instead of seeing them only as a time to ‘survive,’ I decided I would find a way to enjoy them.  And it works for me. For the past four to five years, I can honestly say that I have genuinely enjoyed Christmas!

My ‘how-to-enjoy’ Christmas list still includes some don’ts, but it also includes a list of ‘to do’s,’ such as:

  • be around people that I enjoy
  • savor the sweet moments; be in the moment
  • take time to pray and reflect

To my surprise, the activity that has created the most enjoyment is making gifts for loved ones.  This allows me a quiet creative time for fun and reflection.  It’s my ‘creative play time, ’ and it brings me a lot of joy.  It’s working for me again this year.

Will you be ‘surviving’ or ‘enjoying’ the coming holidays? What are some things you do or could do to bring about more enjoyment into your holiday season?  What works for you?

 

Biblical Gratitude: Rethinking How We Give Thanks

Biblical Gratitude: Rethinking How We Give Thanks

If you read many Facebook posts or listen to media, it seems as though gratitude is a character trait that appears almost extinct. I can remember a time when that was not the case. Many things have changed in our world and our culture, not all of them positive. It would appear those that murmur and complain seem to have the loudest voices of all.It should not be so with us who believe.  IMG_0402

Last week I was meditating on the scripture in I Thessalonians 5:18; “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It’s important to note that the passage does not say that we are to give thanks “for” everything or even something by listing what we are thankful for.  Rather, we are to give thanks “in” everything!  Think about it; our minds are automatically geared to the negative. When we hear unpleasant news, we immediately go to the worst case scenario or become easily personally offended by what used to be mild offenses. (i.e., someone didn’t say hello).

In today’s world, the standard question I hear is, “What do I have to be thankful for?”  While that might be a valid question it’s really unrelated to the topic of Biblical gratitude. Scripture doesn’t tell us to make a list of what we are thankful “for” but instead that we need to be thankful “in” everything give thanks. There’s a big difference between the two.

See, when we determine to be thankful “in” all things then the focus is then not on you or me and we what determined to be thankful for on our list for thanksgiving, but instead it puts our emphasis on where it belongs; thanking our Lord and Savior for His faithfullness in all circumstances

So that, amid our pain and suffering, disappointments and crushed dreams we can give thanks that:

  1. We are loved and cared for by God himself.
  2. We are kept safe and secure by his power and goodness.
  3. Nothing can separate you or me from his love.
  4. We will never be left or forsaken by Him.
  5. We have a home in heaven prepared for us.
  6. We will be reunited with those we love and have left this world someday.
  7. Your life and breath belong to Him and Him alone.
  8. His plans for us are only for good and blessings.
  9. All things will work together for our good.
  10. You nor I am not alone; He is with us!  He is with YOU!

This Thanksgiving, look upward, for your redemption draws near, and in everything give thanks!

Go ahead and make a list if you wish. But, I’d encourage you to be giving thanks IN all circumstances, everything! Including thanks to Him while in the pain and difficulties.

Have a blessed time of giving thanks “in” all things as you celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness this Thanksgiving!

Music for Your Soul When You Are Going Through Difficulties

Music for Your Soul When You Are Going Through Difficulties

This edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health is for anyone who is going through a difficult time in their life whether they have a mental health issue or not.  So, this is one podcast that you are going to want to share with any of your friends or family who are in a valley of challenges right now.

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health Pastor Brad shares four songs that have been extremely helpful to him as he has faced some of his darkest difficulties.

After listening to this podcast, we encourage you to email us at info@FreshHope.us with a comment or question that we will share on our next podcast.

To listen to this podcast just click on the icon below or click here

small logo for Fresh Hope

If you are listening to this podcast on iTunes, we encourage you to leave a comment regarding the podcast. Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:  www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

Pastor Brad Hoefs, the 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 www.bphope.com (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 http://www.FreshHopeBook.com

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to http://www.FreshHope.us or email info@FreshHope.us or call 402.932.3089.

To donate to Fresh Hope go to http://freshhope.us/donate/

For a complete list of where Fresh Hope groups are presently meeting, go to www.FreshHope.us and click on “find a group.”  Or you may attain an online group of meetings of Fresh Hope by going to www.FreshHopeMeeting.com

If you are interested in starting a Fresh Hope group within your faith community, contact Julie at Julie@FreshHope.us 

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is a production of Fresh Hope Ministries. 

Fresh Hope Ministries is a non-profit ministry.  

The copyrights of this program belong to Fresh Hope Ministries and may not be duplicated without written permission. 

All of the podcasts of Fresh Hope Today, as well as numerous other videos, are all available on our YouTube channel: Fresh Hope Network

 Fresh Hope for Mental Health is on Facebook at  www.Facebook.com/FreshHopeforMentalHealth

Insights for Someone Who Has Been Newly Diagnosed​ with a Mental Health Issue

Insights for Someone Who Has Been Newly Diagnosed​ with a Mental Health Issue

 

Have you been newly diagnosed with a mental health issue?  It can be overwhelming, to say the least.  Through the years of finding the path to living well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis, I’ve come up with a list of a few things to do when newly diagnosed.

So, here are what I would consider key initial steps to living well when you’ve been recently diagnosed:

  • The sooner you come to terms with your diagnosis and work your treatment plan, the sooner you are on the road to getting back your life
  • Get enough sleep and watch your stress level
  • Be honest with your doctor- the more he/she knows, the more helpful  they can be.  If you don’t trust your doctor or believe they are the best at what they do, find another doctor
  • Find a positive and encouraging peer support group to attend.
  • Take your medicine.  Push past the side effects.  And if the side effects are too much, talk to your doctor. Don’t make decisions regarding your medicine without your doctor’s input and approval.
  • Don’t do street drugs. They interfere with the prescribed medicine. Yes, even marijuana does. You certainly won’t get better because of them and they will most likely only impede your recovery.
  • Know the difference between emotional issues versus the symptoms of what you have been diagnosed with.
  • Choose to believe that you can live a rich life in spite of this disorder or you can become the victim of it.  You get to decide.
  • Know that you are not alone.

Of course, the single most important thing is to remember, know and hold to- that the Lord is with you.  He has not left you.  He won’t leave you.  He won’t give up on you.  He is for you.  And He will take what you are going through right now and work it together for your good.  Listen to or read His word.  If you can’t read the Bible, listen to it or listen to Scripture songs.  It will feed your soul and bring inner peace.

These are some things that I have found true for myself in the recovery process since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder some 23 years ago now.  What have you found? What would you tell someone who has been newly diagnosed?

25 Inspirational and Insightful Sayings

25 Inspirational and Insightful Sayings

As you might know from some of my past posts I am a collector of inspirational sayings. I find short inspirational quotes to be very helpful in learning how to live well in spite of having a mental health issue.

So, today I thought I would share with you some new quotes that I have found to be helpful:

  1. “To get somewhere new, you must first decide that you are tired of being where you are.” Unknown
  1. “You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with his or her actions.” Unknown
  1. “A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a hundred moments of regret.” Unknown
  1. Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys. Rita Schiano
  1. “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” J.K. Rowling
  1. “Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to in their lives.” Unknown
  1. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Unknown
  1. “What defines is not our past. Rather, how well we rise after falling.” Unknown
  1. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change: I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Unknown
  1. “Two things prevent us from happiness; living in the past and observing others.” Unknown
  1. “Your past does not determine who you are. Your past prepares you for who you are to become.” Unknown
  1. “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Unknown
  1. “Never trust your tongue when your heart is bitter.” Unknown
  1. “Failure isn’t final unless you quit.” Unknown
  1. “Just because the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to or expected it to, doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than you ever imagined.” Unknown
  1. “Let’s stop believing that our differences make us superior or inferior to one another.” Unknown
  1. “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” Unknown
  1. “I refuse to please others at the expense of my emotional well-being. Even if it means saying no to people who are used to hearing yes.”
  1. “Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” C.S. Lewis
  1. “You don’t protect your heart by acting like you don’t have one.” Unknown
  1. “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Winston Churchill
  1. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
  1. “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
  1. “Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.” Unknown
  1. “No one can go back and make a brand new start. However, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Unknown

Do any of these quotes speak to you? If so, why? Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes that have been helpful to you in learning how to live well in spite of having bipolar disorder?

Check out Brad’s weekly podcast: www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

5 Insights on Forgiving Yourself

5 Insights on Forgiving Yourself

by Brad Hoefs

When your brain is not functioning properly, it certainly affects your behavior, which then affects your relationship with others. Those of us with a mental health issue can end up hurting a lot of people that we love. Whether it’s through our words or because of something we have done, those closest to us are left wounded.

Those who have been hurt will either forgive us and give us another chance, forgive us but no longer be in the relationship or choose not to forgive us and leave us. And we end up feeling the deep pain our behavior(s) have caused for them and ourselves. It is at this point that we have a critical choice to make; whether we will forgive ourselves or not.

Even if others will not forgive us, it is important for us to take responsibility for any of our hurtful behaviors; asking for forgiveness and then choosing to forgive ourselves. If we do not, we end up getting stuck and unable to move forward in living well. Everyone gets stuck at times. But, staying stuck is not okay. Thus, being able to forgive yourself is an essential component of living well in spite of having a mood disorder.

These are some of the insights I offer to you about “how” to forgive yourself so that you can move forward in living well:

1. Come to this realization: no matter how hard you try, you cannot change what has happened. You can only learn from it, grow from it and move forward. Accept what happened.

2. Take responsibility for what you did and the pain it caused others, asking them for forgiveness. Even if they choose not to forgive you; you must forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself cannot be contingent upon them forgiving you. Remember, them forgiving you is going to be a process, it’s not like switching on or off a light switch, just as forgiving yourself is going to be a process.

3. If you are a person of faith, then ask God, your higher power, for forgiveness. If it is within your faith tradition to go to the clergy and confess to him or her what has happened, then I would encourage you to consider doing that. Sometimes we need to hear out loud from someone in spiritual authority that God has forgiven us.

If God forgives us (and He does), who are we to refuse to forgive ourselves? God sets the example for us. So be kind to yourself, just as you would be to a close friend.

4. Decide to stop rehearsing over and over in your head what has happened. Rehearsing it will not change it. Rehearsing over and over is a way abusing yourself for what you did or didn’t do. Decide that you will stop allowing the rehearsal of it in your head. Yes, it’s tough to do. But, it is possible. You and I can be in charge of what we think about in our thought life. At first, it will feel as though it is next to impossible to do. With time, it will get a bit easier.

To stop rehearsing over and over what I had done that had hurt so many people in my life, I disciplined myself to have two times a day where I would think about it and grieve it. I promised myself that I would only spend 20 minutes each time. During this period, I wrote what I was thinking down in a journal. At the end of that time, I always spent time in prayer and reading some carefully selected scriptures from the Bible.

Wallowing in what happened will get you nowhere. Allow those few times a day to do this and then get on with your day. Don’t sit around letting your mind “wander around” on its own. Take charge. As you do this, it will get easier.

5. With my therapist, I began to work through any emotional issues that I had that were being exacerbated by my mood disorder, that I could work through in the hopes that it would give me a breakthrough in any of my dysfunctional behaviors that were harmful to my relationships with others. Too often you and I think we behave a “certain way” because of our mood disorder. However, more times than not, much of our behaviors happen due to emotional issues that we have yet to resolve, and the mood disorder merely intensifies those issues. Plus, if you and I are not stable, we can have great difficulties with impulse control. So, in my thinking, it is imperative for you and me to be working through as many emotional issues and any of the dysfunctional ways of being in relationships as possible.

One of the emotional issues that I had to work through was not to hate myself. I did not like myself at all. I had a very critical parent tape playing over and over in my head. I had to erase that tape. And create a new healthy adult tape. It took time. It was a process. And even yet today, some 20 years later, that critical parent tape plays just a bit here and there, but I stop listening to it rather quickly.

These things helped me to forgive myself. I hope that some of them might be helpful to you. It is a day- by-day process, but you can do it. Remember, if you tell yourself, “I can’t forgive myself for that,” then you won’t forgive yourself, and you will stay stuck at that point. If you choose not to forgive yourself, then you will not move forward in living well. Without forgiving one another, where would we all be? We live in a broken world that necessitates forgiving one another and forgiving ourselves.

How about you? Do you need to forgive yourself? Have you forgiven yourself? If so, how did you go about it?  (We encourage you to leave a comment or question!)

Check out Brad’s podcast: Fresh Hope for Mental Health

For more information about Fresh Hope go to: FreshHope.us

7 Things to Do When Despair is Creeping In

7 Things to Do When Despair is Creeping In

Over the years, I have found that having hope is crucial in being able to live well.  That is, believing that I have a future, and a purpose for my life has been the one key factor that has enabled me to regain my life back.  But, to be honest, hopelessness far too often is lurking right behind me like a very dark shadow waiting to block out any ray of hope.

Hopelessness is an enemy that I must hold at bay, avoiding it at all costs.  It comes about quickly if I fail to see a future and a plan for my life.  Hopelessness quickly gives way to despair and then the despair gives way to depression.  And suddenly I can find myself in a deep dark bit that overwhelms into emotional pain, isolation, and no will to get up and live.

Hopelessness is an enemy that I must hold at bay, avoiding it at all costs.

It is a “cancer” that damages my soul and can lead me into the darkest deepest despair possible.  It would be all too easy to embrace this-this familiar enemy of hopelessness. So, every day I take great care to keep this “creeper” of hopelessness away. It takes daily focus for me to remain hope-filled; knowing that my life has meaning and purpose.  I have a future and so do you.  You have a future and a purpose!  Even all of the pain that you and I have experienced due to having bipolar disorder has purpose.

For me, knowing what hopelessness that is caused by a depressive mood looks like for me has been crucial in learning to live well.  What are the early signs? How quickly do I spiral down?  So through the years I have developed a workable plan for me when even the slightest bit of hopelessness rears its ugly head.

So, these are the seven things that I pay attention to when I feel even the slightest bit of despair creep in (Please know, that these seven things may nearly impossible to do if hopelessness has had a grip on you for some time.).

At the early signs of hopelessness/depressive thinking or feeling:

  1. Let your doctor and therapist know at the first signs of it. Don’t wait!
  1. Let key family and or trusted friends know. Don’t wait.
  1. If you have a WRAP plan or another type of wellness plan, start to work it.
  1. Not talking about your feelings of hopelessness will cause you to bottle it up inside you and it will begin to have even more “power” over your thoughts and feelings. You need to talk about it.  Get it out into the open.  Talking will release some of the very real pain of hopelessness.
  1. Work hard at not isolating. Isolating empowers hopelessness. Continued isolation will affect your brain’s ability to problem-solve and thinking differently.  (There’s actual research out there on this: isolation brings can cause an inflexibility to the brain to problem solve.) Call or text friends; don’t go to them, have them come to you.  Send out an SOS to whomever even if that is all you can do.
  1. If you have a peer specialist that is working with you be sure to let him or her know. If you do not have one, find out where in your community you might receive the services of one.  Having a peer support specialist is particularly important to do if you lack a support system through friends and family.
  1. Spend time reading Scripture or inspiring literature and listening to things that inspire you and fill you with hope.

If you’re not struggling with hopelessness currently, then I would strongly encourage you to develop either a WRAP plan or a wellness plan for living well.  After all, you and I both know that having a mental health diagnosis, hopelessness (a depressive state) is too often lurking around like a sick predator of our living well in spite of having bipolar.

And yes, no matter how hard we might fight against hopelessness sometimes our brain chemistry fights against us.  And that’s why medicine is imperative in our daily battle to live well in spite of a mental illness.  If you have a mental illness, your brain like mine, malfunctions.  So, I do everything within my power to keep my brain chemistry as “straight” as possible. Not only do I take my medicine, but I also choose to have hope, which helps my brain chemistry.  I don’t dare allow my thinking to go “south” for even the least bit of time.  So, I count on my medicine working, and I do my part regarding how I think.

How about you? What do you do to fight off hopelessness?  If you’re feeling hopeless what are you doing about it? What keeps you going even when you feel like quitting? What preventative steps do you take to ward off depressive thinking?

My Journey Through Depression by Jamie Meyer

My Journey Through Depression by Jamie Meyer

by Jamie Meyer

It’s been a privilege to blog for Fresh Hope for nearly a year now. Although I’ve written a book and have always enjoyed writing, it’s completely different to bare your soul and speak honestly about the challenges you face.

I understand that living with a mental health diagnosis is difficult and many of us feel like we’re traveling this journey alone. I want these blogs to be a place where you find hope and encouragement to live a healthier, more fulfilling life; a place where you feel that someone else “gets it.”

In today’s blog I’d like to share with you my mental health journey that began when I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2007. The depression reared its ugly head at the end of an extremely stressful, difficult year for our family.

Early that year we began the process of building a new house and selling the one we’d lived in for 18 years. To complicate things we had to move twice in three months because the couple who bought our house needed to move in before ours would be finished. Although I was excited when we were finally able to move in, I grieved the loss of our old house where we raised our three children and made so many wonderful family memories.

In February, our daughter became engaged to our youth pastor’s son. Although they were both young and still in college, we supported their decision to marry. Just two weeks after we moved into our new home, with the wedding in Hawaii only six weeks away, our daughter’s fiancé broke off their engagement.

The next few days were a frantic whirlwind of getting her moved home, cancelling reservations we’d made in Hawaii (losing money in the process), and trying to get our daughter re-enrolled in the out-of-state college where she’d previously attended.

If you’re a mother you know we’ll go to any length to take our children’s pain away and keep our families together. I thought I’d done admirably well in making things right for our daughter and surviving the roller coaster year we’d been through. After she returned to college and life had settled down, I took a deep breath and let myself finally relax. Instead of recuperating, I quickly spiraled down into the muck of depression.

With the help of a psychiatrist who started me on medication and a Christian therapist who helped me move past the pain of the previous year, I slowly came back to life. Although God seemed so distant when I was deeply depressed, my sense of His presence gradually returned. He gave me a passion to share my experience through writing a book, “Stepping Out of Depression: Fresh Hope for Women Who Hurt” (available on Amazon).

Following its publication in 2012, a new passion began stirring in my heart to start a support group for people like me who live with mental health challenges. I truly believe God led me to find Fresh Hope as I searched the Internet for a Christian support group. After learning more about Fresh Hope, my husband and I decided to start a group in our church.

I have learned so much since my diagnosis nearly 10 years ago. I no longer depend on therapy and medication alone to stay well. Being in Fresh Hope has taught me how to choose healthy thoughts and behaviors that will improve my mental, physical, and emotional health. The meetings provide a safe place where I’m understood and can learn from the experiences of others.

I hope you, too, will have the opportunity to experience for yourself the many benefits of being in a faith-based support group. The Fresh Hope website, http://www.freshhope.us, has a list of locations where groups are available. They also offer an online group. And who knows? God may give you the passion and desire to start a Fresh Hope support group in your community.

Jamies-bio

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