Six Living Well Principles for Those Who Love Someone with a Mental Health Diagnosis

Six Living Well Principles for Those Who Love Someone with a Mental Health Diagnosis

Donna HoefsMy wife is an amazing woman.  She has loved me at my worst.  My mental health challenges have taken a toll on her and also our children.  But, today we are more in love than ever before, and we have great relationships with our adult children.  However, my wife would tell you that she had to learn how to take care of herself emotionally when I was at my worst.  To be a caregiver long term she had to discipline herself with principles of wellness for herself.

Mental Illness is like so many other diseases; it affects the entire family and close friends as they attempt to love and care for their son, daughter, spouse or close friend who is struggling with a mental health condition. Thus, it is just as imperative for those who are the loved ones (caregivers) to apply wellness principles to themselves as they make the journey along with their family member or friend who has a mental illness.

When our Fresh Hope groups meet both those who have a mental health diagnosis along with their loved ones all meet in the same group for the first half of our meetings. When we started Fresh Hope we initially only had principles of recovery (we call them tenets) for those who had a mental health diagnosis, and we discovered something significant; those who were loved ones needed wellness principles too!

When loved ones don’t take good care of themselves emotionally as the care for someone who has a mental health diagnosis they can develop a mental health challenge themselves.

So, here are the wellness principles for those who are the spouses, kids, sons and daughters and friends of those of us who have a mental health diagnosis:

PRINCIPLE #1
My loved one’s mental health challenge has also left me feeling helpless and hopeless. Therefore, I choose the help of others in learning about the disorder and choosing healthy boundaries for myself.

Together, we have understanding. We remind each other of the Lord’s love, and that He alone can do all things. He is the source of our hope, and in Him we can overcome all things.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
_________

PRINCIPLE #2
I haven’t always responded to my loved one’s mental health issue in ways that were good for the relationship. Therefore, I choose to learn better ways to communicate with, support, and encourage my loved one.

Together, we commit to speaking the truth in love, healing broken relationships and viewing each other as the Lord views us.

“So let’s pursue those things which bring peace and which are good for each other.” Romans 14:19 (God’s Word Translation, 1995)
_________

PRINCIPLE #3
At times I don’t understand my loved one and can allow them to either wallow in their excuses or push them too hard. Therefore I choose to learn healthy, appropriate ways to contribute to my loved one’s recovery.

Together we do better than trying on our own. We will hold one another accountable for learning, growing, and choosing to push through in hope.

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
________

PRINCIPLE #4
At times I also feel hopeless, letting my loved one’s actions and recovery define my happiness. Therefore, I choose to live with healthy emotional boundaries, and I choose my own joy despite the ups and downs of my loved one.

Together we remind each other that our hope and joy come from the Lord. He alone is able to fulfill our needs in every aspect of our lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
__________

PRINCIPLE #5
I, too, have been part of the cycle of dysfunctional living, either thinking I had all the answers or thinking the problem didn’t belong to me. Therefore, I choose to submit myself to learning new behaviors and taking responsibility for my own healthy, balanced living.

Together we choose freedom over suffering, and joy in living through self-knowledge in action.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
__________

PRINCIPLE #6
At times, I have viewed myself as a victim of my loved one’s behavior and disorder, living in resentment, anger, unforgiveness, or self-pity. Therefore, I choose to separate the disorder from the person I love, forgive and let go of the past, and live as a contributor to successful recovery.

Together, we share in each other’s victories and celebrate the whole person.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
__________

Are you a loved one?  What have you found is important for you to do in order to stay emotionally healthy as you care for your spouse/son/daughter/parent/friend who has a mental health diagnosis?

A Key to Thriving in Spite of Your Difficult Circumstances

A Key to Thriving in Spite of Your Difficult Circumstances

Over the last 30 years, I’ve spent untold hours doing pastoral counseling with what seems to be a “gazillion” or more individuals, couples and families. I’ve heard just about everything and seen even more than I’ve heard. I’ve seen what seems to be manageable problems tear families apart. Broken relationships, wounded people, discouragement, and despair seem all too familiar. But, interestingly enough there have been times when I have watched families, couples and individuals actually pull together and become stronger because of overwhelming circumstances that I was sure that no one could go through and “survive”. They not only survived, but they thrived!

I’ve asked myself what it is that those who thrive in spite of horrible life altering circumstances have that those who seem done in by even less severe circumstance do not have? I have come to the conclusion that there are some things that the “thrivers” have in common. And there seems to be one major thing that they all have in common for not just surviving but thriving in spite of their circumstances. What is that one thing? They help others in spite of their circumstances. They regularly and consistently give and help other people in spite of their pain.

Helping and giving to others gives temporary relief to one’s overwhelming circumstances. It has the power to cause a shift in one’s perception of their problems. Time and time again I have seen people going through tragic events in their lives step out of their pain to help someone else. By giving to others their focus changes. When you and I help others in spite of what is going on in our lives, it has the power to change everything. When I move the focus off of myself and onto someone else to give to them, if even for a brief moment, my personal pain is brought into focus.

It seems that when you and I lose our perspective due to our circumstances the circumstances feel even worse. When we focus only on ourselves and how horrible our circumstances might be we allow the circumstances to hold even more power and pain in our lives.

Giving and helping others in spite of what we might be going through is the release valve from the pressures of our circumstances. Just like a teapot the pressure builds in our lives when the circumstances are difficult. There has to be a release of the build up of the environmental pressure, or it leads to potential disaster.

A mental health disorder/illness can be very challenging. It can cause difficult circumstances within one’s life. It can cause you and me to become very self-focused. Which at times is necessary. But, if all we do is focus on ourselves, then bipolar disorder has the potential to hold too much power in our lives. You know what I mean?

How about you? Are you only focused on you and your circumstances? If so, have you thought about helping someone else? Or doing something for someone else? Have you found helping others to be good for you?

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

 

An Interview with Dr. Micheal Egger, Contributing Author to the Fresh Hope Book

An Interview with Dr. Micheal Egger, Contributing Author to the Fresh Hope Book

In the edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, I had the honor of interviewing my psychiatrist, Micahel Egger.  Dr. Egger was vital in helping me find the way to living well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis.  He has been and continues to be a compass for me in finding wellness.  We talk about many different topics regarding mental health recovery.  Dr. Egger is the doctor whose comments are included at the end of each of the chapters of the Fresh Hope for Living Well book.

You’ll most likely find this conversation helpful to you regarding some aspect or another of recovery.  If you are someone who has had numerous bouts of depression in your life you very well may find our discussion regarding the difference between bipolar type 2 and major depressive disorder.

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

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We encourage you to share this podcast with your friends via your social media connections.

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 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

 

 

A Message of Hope

A Message of Hope

A Blue Christmas service is for when Christmas is difficult.  Even though Christmas is over the message of this special worship experience is still quite appropriate for anyone having a difficult time right now.  So, we thought it was a good idea to share the message/podcast with you.

We encourage you to share this podcast with anyone you know who is having a difficult time right now.

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

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Refreshing Grace is a podcast program of Community of Grace Church, the church that I pastor.  You can follow the podcast on Refreshing Grace’s Facebook page by clicking here.

If you are experiencing difficulties right now and would like prayer, please use the comment section below to request prayer.  Our intercessors would be more than happy to lift your needs up to the Lord.

God bless you!

Pastor Brad Hoefs

The “Elephant” in the Sanctuary

The “Elephant” in the Sanctuary

In this video Katie R. Dale from http://www.BipolarBrave.com 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.

Shame-Based Families Versus Grace-Based Families

Shame-Based Families Versus Grace-Based Families

When raised in a shame-based family one can easily find life to be fraught with emotional landmines.  Relationships can be difficult because of shame-based thinking.  Shame can lock you into cognitive distortions that cause difficulties in marriage, parenting, work relationships and friendships.  Shame itself can make it way into your soul, warping how you see everything in life.  Grace, on the other hand, frees one to be in relationships with others and to enjoy those relationships even when there is conflict!

In this podcast, Pastor Brad compares the difference between a shame-based family and a grace-based family.

Simply put, this is a must listen to podcast for everyone!  Whether you have a mental health challenge or not, you will want to hear this podcast.  This program will be of benefit to you.

We encourage you to share this podcast with your friends via your social media connections. To listen to the podcast, click here or click on the icon below:

small logo for Fresh Hope

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

 

Advice from a King in Managing Depression by Rick Qualls

Advice from a King in Managing Depression by Rick Qualls

You are not alone in your struggle with depression.

Even David, the shepherd boy who became the great king of Israel, struggled with depression.

In Psalm 37 David teaches us ways of managing depression.

David practices dealing with his enemies with the spiritual tool of meekness. Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is strength under control. Here are some ways we can use meekness to manage depression.

What was  David’s enemy? We are not sure, but our enemy is depression. You will encounter those who say unkind things. Meekness is not concerned about people who make hurtful remarks or who just don’t understand the path you travel through depression. Psalms 37:1 says, “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong.” Don’t be overly concerned with those who say cutting remarks. Many do so out of ignorance.

There is power in letting hurtful remarks go. Many don’t understand depression but think they do and give advice that is not helpful.

Meekness places trust in God. The season of depression will end. Meekness practices day by day the things we can do to manage our symptoms and trust God with the things we cannot. ”For like the grass they [your enemy depression] will soon wither, like green plants they will die away.” (Ps 37:2.)  There will be a time when this episode of depression will ease. Imagine what it will be like when it lifts.

Meekness fills the mind with positive words from God. God’s promises combat negative self-talk. The tapes of our mind have phrases we use over and over. Phrases like, ”I’m broken.” “There is no hope.” I don’t have anything to give.” infect our mind with hopelessness.

Instead, follow David’s advice in Psalms 37:5-6, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Replay God’s promises in your mind to counter negative rumination.

Meekness seeks a quiet heart. It learns how to be still before the Lord, how to keep silence in his presence. “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Ps 37:7)

For me, the practice of contemplative prayer was a life-saver during a deep depressive episode. Learning to quiet my heart, I could feel God’s grace overwhelming me and relieving the dark moment. Being still before the Lord takes time to learn but it may be helpful for you.

With meekness don’t let your anger take control. Sometimes anger is a coping method, a natural result of depression. Some have defined depression as “anger turned inward.” Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it only leads to evil.”

And don’t miss the promise, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”

May practicing meekness bring peace to you, my friend.

 

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The New Year: A Time to Review and Celebrate When You Have a Mental Health Diagnosis

The New Year: A Time to Review and Celebrate When You Have a Mental Health Diagnosis

“As the old year retires and a new one is born, we commit into the hands of our Creator the happenings of the past year and ask for direction and guidance in the new one. May He grant us His grace, His tranquility, and His wisdom!” ― Peggy Toney Horton

…by Rick Qualls

The New Year is an opportunity to let go of regrets and continue our positive growth.

As I was reviewing my past year there is bitterness that needs healing. I was surprised at the grudges I was hanging on to. I know my bitterness is self-poison but it is there none-the-less. At times I thought these self-imposed grudges were healed but was surprised they are still there.

What regrets do you have that are lingering into the new year? There may have been actions that have hurt ourselves or others. We may feel embarrassed or even shame over things we have done.

Perhaps, like me, you discover anger that has turned into bitterness over time.

This is a time to give to God our disappointments, with circumstances, with others, and with ourselves. One exercise that helps is to write these things individually on a piece of paper. Then wad it up and throw it in the trash.

The Bible says “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;”. (Psalm 103:12-13)

Review the year. Release the negative into God’s hands. Focus on our hope in God. ”…his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;…”(Lamentations 3:23-24)

Now is a time to review what triggers our manic or depressive episodes.

My primary triggers are inadequate sleep, not staying with my medications and seasonal changes.

Some other stressors that can trigger a bipolar episode are: addictive behaviors with drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex; taking inappropriate drugs such as stimulants or those that have depressive effects; stress in personal relationships, such as family conflict, divorce, deaths; change in routine such as a move or change in jobs; poor diet and exercise habits.

Along with triggering events an understanding of your early warning signs (behaviors) are important.

As far as New Year resolutions, Ellen Goodman has these thoughts, “Maybe this year… we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

As you review the past make a list of your strengths. Some of my strengths include being caring and compassionate, having an open mind, and being responsible.

What are some of your strengths? How have they helped you manage your bipolar illness and other life crisis? Find ways to put your strengths to use. Never forget you are hand-crafted by the Creator Himself. “For we are God’s masterpiece.” Ephesians2:10 (NLT)

Be kind to yourself. “Instead of saying, “I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues”, say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.”  Horacio Jones. Words do have healing power. The Bible teaches:  “Kind words are like honey-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24).

Be aware of your self- talk. Learn to use positive encouraging words for yourself. As you practice being kind to yourself you will grow in your kindness to others.

Letting go of things holding us back and focusing on our hope in God is the reason to celebrate.

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7 Ways to Effectively Fight Off the Wintertime Blues

7 Ways to Effectively Fight Off the Wintertime Blues
The gray days and long nights of winter affect my mood. Every winter I’m reminded how much I dislike it. My doctor says that anyone who lives in the regions of the world where days are short, and the sunshine is lacking will be affected by it whether they have a mood disorder or not.

Since moving to a year-round warm climate is not an option at this point in my life I fight off the adverse effects of winter by doing the following:

  1. I use full spectrum light bulbs in my home and office. Full spectrum bulbs mimic daylight and provide more of a full spectrum light range like the sun.
  2. When there is daylight, I spend time outside as much as possible. Many times it simply means a quick brisk walk.
  3. Inside during the daylight hours, I always open all of the window coverings at the home and office. Plus, I will sit by a window as much as possible. I realize that to “reap” the benefits of the sun and vitamin D you need to be out in the sunlight, yet my mood is always lifted even if I’m only “feeling” or seeing the sunlight even through the window.   jeremy-bishop-262119
  4. I faithfully take vitamin D. I start it around mid-October and usually stop at the end of March. I follow my doctor’s recommendation for the dosage of it. Taking Vitamin D is probably the most significant aid for me in facing the dark days of winter.
  5. I also take B12 during the same time that I take vitamin D. B12 helps my energy level that keeps me more active as I would be during warmer seasons. Being more active, staying busy, are essential for maintaining my mood. Sometimes because of the inclement weather, I find myself wanting to stay inside. But, I force myself to get out to take a short walk if nothing else. I also attempt to have plenty of social interaction with other people which keeps my focus on things other than how much I hate the cold, snowy days of winter. (Again, I follow the instructions of my doctor as to how much of the B12 to take.)
  6. If possible, I try to plan a getaway to someplace sunny and warm during the winter time; even if it is only for a couple of days. And when getting away is not possible I will find someplace close to home that is close to someplace warm and sunny, like a swimming pool at a health club that has a lot of natural light.
  7. And if needed, I use light therapy. Numerous national chain stores that sell lights for S.A.D. in their pharmacy. While I’ve not needed to do light therapy for many years now, when I did need it, it was extremely helpful. In fact, I had to be careful to do it too late in the day as would lift my mood too much before bedtime.

How about you? Do you live in a climate where the winter time is long, cold, gray and less sunshine? If so, what do you do to fight off the wintertime blues?

You can check out Brad’s podcast at www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

Interested in possibly starting a faith-based mental health support group?  Check out, Fresh Hope.

 Thanks to this photographer for use of his picture: Michail Prohorov

Setting Mini-Goals for the New Year

Setting Mini-Goals for the New Year

If you are like me, there have been numerous times you were highly motivated to make BIG changes in your life at the beginning of a New Year. One year I decided that I needed to exercise at least three times a week. That was a big change to make since I wasn’t even exercising once a week. So I exercised three times that first week, but by the next week I had given it up. I just couldn’t do it. It was too big of a change.

I’ve done this over and over throughout the years since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. I would be highly motivated to make a healthy change regarding my sleep, eating, exercising, thinking, or working. It seemed that the motivation to make the change would last a short time before I would revert to my “default settings.” And each time I would feel like a bigger failure. I began to believe that my inability to stay motivated to make a healthy change had to be connected in some way to having bipolar disorder. After all, I could easily become “laser-beamed-focused” on something I wanted or liked to do, so I became convinced that my repeated failures had to have something to do with having bipolar.

It was as though any unhealthy “default settings” I had or any changes that I wasn’t all that interested in – even though they would be good for me – could only be made little by little because I just didn’t have enough self-motivation to do them all at once. I figured I just didn’t have the self-discipline necessary, or somehow there was a flaw in my character. Those beliefs changed recently when someone introduced me to a book that they had found very helpful in making changes in their life. The title of the book is Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. I discovered that if I began making small changes for extended periods of time, the changes would stick.

In the book, Guise clarifies the difference between motivation and self-will. He says that motivation is short-lived, and to make real change you have to begin doing small things that can be done via pure self-will, and not depend on motivation to do it.

He started to change his health by doing one push-up daily. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But think about it. Had he decided to do 50 per day, that would have required ongoing motivation, and he would have given up when the motivation to do the 50 push-ups had passed. (Which would have been on the first day for me! lol) So his first mini habit was to do a single push-up. Doing just the one push-up, he could make himself do it via self-willpower. What he found was that once he would do one push-up, he always did a few more, but no matter what, he always did at least one. He changed his brain’s default setting slowly, over time, and it stuck.

I’ve got to tell you that this little book on mini habits is changing my life!

I’ve stopped beating up on myself for not being able to make sweeping changes in my life. It makes total sense to me. There are small things I can choose to do whether I feel motivated to do them or not. For example, I know I need to drink more water, especially with the meds that I take. But, the thought of drinking eight full glasses of water overwhelms me, and I end up drinking nothing. So, I started with the mini habit of drinking one large full glass of water with my meds first thing in the morning, and I’ve found myself drinking more water throughout the day and enjoying it! I know, it’s not an earth-shattering change, but earth-shattering changes won’t work. Most of us do not have that kind of motivation with or without bipolar disorder.

It only makes sense that our brains have default settings. Those are the settings that our brains default to when we are stressed or things we can do with little to no thought. For example, my default setting for when to eat is when I’m sad, happy, tired, stressed, or when I’m awake! This eating default setting has been a well-worn patterned default in my brain for many years. Unfortunately, unlike being able to go into your computer default settings, make a change and click “save,” we cannot do that with our brains. Instead, if we want to make changes to our default settings, we must make them bit by bit, by starting a mini habit that we can do without one ounce of motivation on our part; a simple thing that can be done by sheer self-willpower.

Discovering these things have become the single greatest key to making change happen in my life.

Your inability to not make sweeping health changes in your life is not a character flaw. It’s called being human!

So, what mini habit can you do by sheer self-willpower that will bring about a simple, healthy change in your life?