Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

Beware of Only Venting

Beware of Only Venting

By my nature, I am not a positive, grateful type person. I come from a long line of rather easily irritated, sarcastic and snarky bunch who become “prickly” quite easily. We are “venters.” Not inventors, but venters. We vent. That’s just our nature. In other words, we complain about people, situations, and events. We don’t see the glass as half full. Nor do we see the glass as half empty. Instead, we complain about the glass! We complain about what is in the glass. We complain that there aren’t two glasses. In fact, we might even complain that it is a glass rather than a mug. It comes naturally. And we do it quite easily.

So, learning to be thankful and looking at life from a healthier perspective has been a process for me. I’ve had a long road of learning that if all I do is vent (complain) about either a situation or person that has triggered me I will become stuck in a cesspool of emotional dung.

If all you do is vent (complain), it will make you sick. Yes, there’s research regarding venting. (Check it out, Google: Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction,
Anger, and Aggressive Responding by Brad J. Bushman from Iowa State University.)

Venting about things is OK, but not if that’s all you do. If that’s all you do, then you become stuck which leads you to negative rumination and anger. It makes you emotionally toxic. Honestly, I believe that this is a major issue for many most people. And when you have a mental health issue such as bipolar and do talk therapy with a counselor, it is even easier to get stuck in the venting mode. Plus, if you attend a support group that is only “cathartic-venting” it can lead to destroying one’s chances of living well.

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, all I did was vent about it. I rehearsed (vented) over and over how hurt I was by people following a very painful manic episode for nearly seven years.

So how did I move past just venting? I learned to ask myself two questions and remind myself of a few things:

Question # 1: So, what am I going to do about it?

Question #2: Can I change anything about it? (Am I willing to change what I can change? I can’t change other people, but I can change how I respond to them and what happens when I become triggered by them.)

What I remind myself of: I will change what is mine to change. Letting go of what I can not change brings me peace. If I all I do is complain about it then I’m going to become angry, agitated, overly negative and emotionally toxic. Which all leads to going down a very dark, deep hole. Rather, I’m going to be thankful that I can change what I can change and that I’m not responsible for the things I cannot change.

There are still times I slip into old patterns of only venting about someone or something. And it is then that I have to remind myself to ask those two questions. It is at that point that I have to remind myself where only venting will lead me.

How about you? Do you ever get stuck venting and not being able to move forward? What do you do when you find yourself only venting about something or someone?

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

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Knowing the Difference Between Feelings and Mood: Being Afraid to Feel Too Much

Knowing the Difference Between Feelings and Mood: Being Afraid to Feel Too Much

Knowing the difference between what I am feeling verses my mood has been extremely important for my recovery.

Everyone has moods and feelings. Yes, everyone!  Even including your loved one who has no diagnosis.

It’s not that we should not have moods or feelings, but for those of us with bipolar disorder or depression (anxiety too) it is because of our brain malfunctioning that without recovery our moods can swing too drastically or get stuck and interrupt our daily living.

Early on in recovery, I was afraid to feel. It’s was as though I feared becoming too happy or too sad or too this or too that. But, to feel is human.  Life is filled with feelings and unresolved feelings can affect our mood.  So, knowing how to express my feelings, feel them and work through them was key to managing my mood.

In a word picture here’s what I believe is the difference between feelings and mood: your mood is like the regional climate and your feelings are the daily weather.  Let’s say you live in Southern Florida.  The climate is tropical.  No freezing weather in the winter right?  Wrong. I lived there one year and we had freezing rain and it was a mess!  But, that didn’t change the climate of Florida.

Feelings are going to come and go. And when we handle them properly and work through them they do not have to alter our mood so drastically that they cause a total interruption to our lives. Something sad can happen on Monday and I might be sad about it for a time.  But, that does not necessarily mean is one of depression. However, even as I am feeling sad, I do keep my “eye” on it lest it cause a drastic mood shift.  Make sense?

How do see the difference? Are you afraid to feel?

Want more? Check out our Fresh Hope podcast at FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

 

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is a non-profit ministry funded solely by individual contributions.  We hope if you have benefited from our resources that you will consider giving a donation to help us continue our work.

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What’s New With Bipolar Research?

What’s New With Bipolar Research?

by Pastor Rick Qualls

I was diagnosed and began treatment for bipolar about 12 years ago.

Today my treatment is a drug cocktail that helps manage my disease,. It is a mixture of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-psychotics. It took several years of trial and experimentation to find the drugs that worked together to establish a treatment regimen.

There is exciting research being done in bipolar treatment today.

Development of new mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics are giving more options. Other methods use nerve simulation, genomics, and proteomics.

Recent research shows that light therapy can be effective in bipolar treatment. However, unlike other disorders using light treatment, the most effective times for bipolar therapy is between noon and 2:30 pm. It becomes effective in the fourth to sixth week.

Using genetics to test bipolar treatments have also been developed. With simple saliva tests, genetic markers are identified and matched with the meds most effective for those markers. Sometimes the markers are compared to a similar population to identify effective meds.

Proteomics refers to the use of various proteins used as biomarkers for identifying bipolar disorder and effective treatments.

Research with various types of nerve stimulation continue to be developed.

Electro-convulsive-therapy (ECT) has long been used and found to be helpful in the treatment of resistant depression.

Other types of nerve stimulation are specialized MRI’s. Use of low-frequency magnetic stimulation also has positive effects of resistant depression.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation is an invasive procedure. A stimulator is planted under the skin sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve which carries messages to the areas of the brain involved in mood regulation.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation uses magnetic pulses which can be targeted to specific sites in the brain. Similar to ECT, it is believed that targeting specific sites may minimize ECT like side effects.

One is of research for bipolar disorder is in the area of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress markers which show heightened levels in bipolar patients.

Inflammatory responses are another area of research. Like oxidative stress, inflammatory markers also are high in bipolar illness.

I am not a physician, just a fellow bipolar patient. But reading about the research helps improve my attitude toward my disease. This article is just for information and exploration only.

As a pastor one of the scripture verses that come to mind is Psalms 139: 13-14 “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

We indeed are complex and can be grateful that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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Fresh Hope for Mental Health is a non-profit ministry funded solely by individual contributions.  We hope if you have benefited from our resources that you will consider giving a donation to help us continue our work.

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Jamie’s Journey​ to Living Well in Spite of Her Mental Challenge

Jamie’s Journey​ to Living Well in Spite of Her Mental Challenge

When I went through surgery and recovery with my brain tumor people brought meals to the house, cards came in the mail, people called. But two years later when I crashed with depression, I felt forgotten. Nobody called and someone in our Bible study group told me that I just needed to get over it,” said Jamie Meyer, author of Stepping out of Depression; Fresh Hope for Women Who Hurt. (Available on Amazon.com)

Unfortunately, her experience within her church is the what too many folks who have a mental health issue have also experienced.  That is, everyone is there with prayer, home visits, and casseroles, but no one shows up following your hospitalization for depression.  In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health Jamie and her husband Allen will be sharing their journey to living well in spite of the mental health challenge Jamie faced head-on.

This podcast is 42 minutes long. 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.  Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site: www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

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

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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.

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.

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 attend an online group meeting of Fresh Hope by going to www.FreshHopeOnline.com

If you are interested in starting a Fresh Hope group within your faith-community setting 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: FreshHopeNetwork.

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is on Facebook/FreshHopeforMentalHealth

Fresh Hope for Mental Health​ Webinars

One of the many resources that Fresh Hope for Mental Health offers is webinars regarding mental health issues.  Our first three webinars are intended to help church leaders understand the issues surrounding mental illnesses as well as the church’s role in assisting people to access mental health care. Other topics included are how the church-at-large can be a provider of hope to those who suffer as well providing hope to the families of those who suffer.

Did you know that more people have a mental illness in the United States than those with cancer, heart disease, HIV & Aids, and diabetes combined (taken from Troubled Minds, by Amy Simpson, pages 35-37)!  It’s time for the Christian church to step up and offer hope to those who have a mental health issue.  The Christian church has the hope that can play a key in someone’s mental health recovery.  In fact, research shows that when faith plays a role in someone’s mental health recovery, they get better faster and stay better longer.

While these first three webinars primarily focus on information for church leaders, anyone is welcome to attend.  We especially want to encourage you to pass this information on to your church leaders.

To register for any one or all of these webinars merely click on the icon/picture of the webinar or listed title.

How Churches Can Facilitate Mental Health Care

Webinar 3

What I Wish My Pastor Knew About Mental Health

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Understanding Mental Illness from a Biblical Perspective

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To learn more about Fresh Hope for Mental Health go to www.FreshHope.us

S_I_ Video Abbreviated-Apple Devices HD (Best Quality) from Brad Hoefs on Vimeo.

 

10 Lies the Church Believes about Mental Illness

10 Lies the Church Believes about Mental Illness

by Katie Dale

One Sunday when I was 16, I wore a hat to church, resolute in my misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 11:6: “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”

Bipolar disorder had ravaged my young mind, and I clutched at another misinterpretation of Scripture: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). In the middle of the 500-person service I cried out during the pastor’s prayer: “Father, forgive me. I’m sorry.”

My parents held me tightly, quite embarrassed in the moment and apprehensive, not knowing what I’d say or do next. I remember speaking to the pastor afterward. Maybe I had asked my parents if I could apologize to him for my outburst, or perhaps my parents wanted me to give a sort of explanation. Either way, he forgave me, and we left it at that. But why didn’t anyone do anything? Couldn’t they see I was struggling with mania or even borderline insanity?

It’s been 13 years since my first hospitalization and five since the last. Both times, part of what sent me into the tailspin of mental illness were misunderstandings and false information. In our journey with this illness, my family has been misled by lies we were told, or truths withheld. These lies continue to mislead the church and keep people from properly viewing mental illness as what it is.

Lie #1: You’re just going through a rough time. Pray, give it to God, and give it time.

The reality is, if you are clinically depressed or you have bipolar disorder, it is not good to forego seeing a mental health professional. Therapists and psychiatrists are qualified experts on the care and keeping of your mind. If you are in a chemically imbalanced state of mind, chances are, no amount of praying or time is going to help, unless God is answering your prayers for a good psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

Lie #2: You’re simply in the middle of a spiritual battle. Just renounce and resist the devil, and he will flee.

You may be in the middle of a spiritual battle, but there’s more going on here, too. Don’t waste time renouncing Satan or anyone else, especially considering how vulnerable the psyche is in a mentally unstable state. Seek a medical professional’s help immediately. You can seek spiritual support, and seek God through prayer, and at the same time receive professional health care.

Lie #3: You’re depressed? Pray it out.

            Depression, if clinical, means your brain does not have the means to get out of the slump it’s in. If you’re relying on just praying it out, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Though prayer has been shown to alleviate symptoms, being in a clinically depressive state is more than just a prayer away from wellness.

Lie #4: There’s nowhere in the Bible the Lord addresses mental illness.

While the term “mental illness” isn’t in the Bible, King David was very familiar with the reality of depression and perhaps even mania. Reading the Psalms, we see an outcry of emotions from this man after God’s own heart. Elijah was depressed to the point of experiencing suicidal ideations (1 Kings 19). Instead of condemning him, God cared for him and sent an angel to meet his physical needs. These are only two examples of the many men and women in the Bible who suffered in deep depression or from psychotic troubles, PTSD, and other mental health issues.

Lie #5: You can be healed…if you have enough faith.

Oh, if we could just move that mountain on our own, with the faith inside us. But God is sovereign, and that sovereignty means our faith to be made well is not a cure-all. God may heal you miraculously, but most often he does not. Remember, medication is a gracious gift from God to apply to the infirmities of the mind, in order to bring about a different kind of healing.

Lie #6: Jesus healed everyone.

What about in his own hometown of Nazareth? Nope. They couldn’t and wouldn’t let him with the doubts they held, because they presumed to know who Jesus was already. And even those who believed were not always healed. Jesus left many behind as he moved on to minister to the next town or meet the next set of plans the Father had for him (see Matthew 8:18).

Lie #7: You’re choosing to stay depressed—choose to be happy.

If everyone could will it to be, they would be happy. This is especially true for those in depression. Just like having enough faith, “willing” yourself to be happy is never an option in depression. The mind can be responsive to conditioning and cognitive behavioral therapy, and it can adjust in time. Medications can help with that therapy, but to just choose to be happy in clinical depression is like choosing to be a marathon runner when you’ve never even run a 5K.

Lie #8: You’re sinning somewhere—confess your sins and be healed.

I’ve seen this one before, believing that with enough faith, and if I could only get right with God, He would heal me. God chooses not to heal most people who have chronic illness—although he does enable us to discover medications that can help us manage and live well with these conditions. The Bible makes clear that illness does not primarily function as punishment for individual and specific sin; it’s an outcome of original sin and a backdrop for God’s grace (see Jesus’ explanation in John 9, where He healed a man who was born blind). It’s also clear that no one who receives God’s healing actually deserves or earns it.

Lie #9: Your behaviors are sinful—you should be ashamed. Repent!

Sometimes the behaviors that come from mental illness are sinful. We have no reason to call out people with mental illness as more sinful than other people; they’re not. The outright wrong acts and behaviors one commits while mentally unstable are not necessarily expressing a person’s intentions but are more like a knee-jerk reaction because people with mental illness often experience poor impulse control and act on impulses that other people are able to resist or keep hidden. They may also misinterpret their surroundings and unknowingly behave in ways that are inappropriate. That does not make them any more sinful than other people, since sin really resides in our hearts rather than simply in our actions. Repentance may be required, but not in greater supply than for anyone else.

Lie #10: Psychiatric drugs are of the devil.

Psychiatric drugs are no more evil than any of the other medications we have developed to prolong life, improve quality of life, and help people live to their potential. While the misuse or neglect of psychiatric drugs can be dangerous, the proper diligent monitoring and application of such tools are invaluable to aiding the healing process of the mind. Healing, care, and restoration are part of God’s work, not acts of evil.

Katie Dale is a 30-year-old USAF officer’s wife, writer, mental health care advocate, and artist. She is planning on publishing her memoir soon, and in her free time she enjoys katie dalerunning, drawing, and taking cat naps with her cat, Anna. See more at her blog on bipolar disorder, https://bipolarbrave.com.

 

How to Manage Shame When You are Depressed

How to Manage Shame When You are Depressed

By Pastor Rick Qualls

As a pastor when I talk about my bipolar I feel shame.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t. Bipolar is a disease. Stuff happens and bipolar happens to be my stuff. I am staying level with meds and self-care.

But there are times when I feel worthless because of my disease. Shame can be part of the feelings of mental illness.

I know some of the thoughts people have to discover my illness. “He is weak…I can’t trust a weak pastor.” “He is flawed.”  “Poor guy I can’t help but feel sorry for him.” “If he is unstable I can’t take my problems to him.”  “Oh, we have to handle him with kid gloves. He can’t handle church problems.”

Others say, “I am glad my pastor is being real about his life. Maybe he can understand me.” “I am going to support him through tough times.” “We all have problems, so does he.” “He is being authentic with us.”

Who thinks what? It is hard to read faces as I talk. Often there is little feedback. But in following days behaviors reflect their thoughts.

Shame is not unusual when you have bipolar. Psychologists define six primary emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. 

Roughy 75% of those depressed have a co-diagnosis of anxiety. Depression is powerful as it combines two primary emotions together, fear and sadness. Shame is a secondary emotion. Shame and guilt are different. Shame makes one feel as inadequate, worthless, not valuable. Guilt is regret over actions one has done. Regret is a real action. To be shame-based acknowledges that an act may be wrong but more, you as a person are worthless.

Shame is a common occurrence with depression.

How do we approach shame?

First, we realize that the thoughts that accompany shame are depression speaking. It is not you, it is your illness. Our illness lies to us. Especially when it tells us we are worthless. The truth to rehearse in our lives is that we are precious made in the image of God. Every one of us is important to Him. We are cherished and treasured by God Himself.

These “truth” thoughts can help overcome shame feelings.

Secondly, shame leads us to “self-criticism”. Instead, we need to practice “self-compassion.” Begin treating yourself as you would a friend. What would you say to a good friend? “You are important to me.” “I don’t care if you have an illness.” “I will stick with you regardless of how you feel.” “You are precious to me and to God.”

Again, you would not tell your loved ones that they are “worthless”, or you just need to “snap out of it”, “you are unstable.” Those things are unloving. Love yourself in a healthy way.

Thirdly, connect with the important people in your life. Shame grows in the darkness. It can die when it is brought out into the open. Talk to the important people in your life. Especially those who are understanding. Good friends will listen. Yes, it is hard in our culture to make good friends. That will be subject for another article.

Yes, you will make mistakes. Welcome to the human race. Healthy guilt, regret over hurting others is a good thing, it helps us make appropriate changes in our lives. But a shame response is unhealthy.  It plays into the lies that your disease plays in your life.

Finally, here are some things God says about you. “Before the world was created, God had Christ choose us to live with him and to be his holy and innocent and loving people. God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children. God was very kind to us because of the Son he dearly loves and so we should praise God.”  Ephesians 1:4-6  (CEV)

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Medicine is Not a Magic Potion: Doing Your Part

Medicine is Not a Magic Potion: Doing Your Part

When you have bipolar disorder, no medication can truly change your attitude or thinking, as I learned from my late father.  It takes hard work.

My dad was the first person I knew who had bipolar disorder.  It was back in 1975 that he had a “nervous breakdown.”  For months he battled severe depression.  It was at this point he went to the family doctor, who referred him to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with “manic depression.”  Now, when you live in a small farming community in the Midwest, this carried an enormous amount of shame, so everything about it was “hush-hush.”   After all, it was not until 1987 that Patty Duke began to speak publicly about her diagnosis.

There was no support. There was no education about it.  There was no Google.  The only thing my dad knew about it, and the only thing the rest of us knew about it, was what we were experiencing in a cloud of secrecy and shame.  It was the first time I had ever heard of Lithium.

When his depression lifted, life went on as normal.  Dad took that little pill faithfully, and life went on.  I’m pretty sure that my dad never read up on “manic depression.” My mom most likely read what little information that was available. There was no talk therapy that my dad did except for whatever small amount the psychiatrist may have done.

The second person I knew who had bipolar disorder was my mother-in-law.  She was diagnosed with it in the ‘80s. She struggled a lot.  She had trouble taking her medicine.  She sadly and painfully died from bipolar disorder in 1987.  What we experienced was so painful and so drenched in shame, yet we moved forward with a tremendous amount of support from our faith community.

On Friday, May 12th of this year, having been on vacation for all of 36 hours, my sister called to tell me that my dad had died.  It was very unexpected. We all were stunned.  Shocked. He had dropped to the floor and was gone. No words. No goodbyes. Just like that, gone.  He would have been 80 on July 22nd.  He most likely had a massive heart attack. He died with bipolar disorder, not from it. And there are many things I learned about how to and how NOT to live with bipolar disorder.

One of the major things I learned from observing my dad dealing with his diagnosis was that life can and does go on.  He got up following that long severe bout of depression and he chose to live. Dad kept going. He lived his life somewhat well in spite of his diseased brain.  However, if he had had talk therapy, more education and support, I can’t imagine how better life could have been for him.

He was “old school.”  So, he never worked through any of his issues. You could tell that there were times his mood was escalated and numerous times where there were bouts of depression.  There were still mood swings.  You certainly couldn’t get him to talk about his feelings or mood unless he was angry.  And that anger could be so incredibly intense and unpredictable—and you never really knew when that anger could go “off.”

I can’t imagine how much better life could have been for him had he done more than just take the medicine.  His approach to having bipolar disorder was simple: just take the medicine and keep going.  It was the same way that he handled having diabetes. He took the medication. He even tested his blood levels regularly.  But he never adjusted his diet, the part he truly had control over.

Over the years, I’ve met quite a few folks who have bipolar disorder, and find it so interesting that so many of us only take our medicine as though it is a “magic potion” that will fix everything, and yet don’t do our part of working along with our medicines.

I know I did this same thing for the first seven years following being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  I took my medicine faithfully but didn’t do anything about my thinking.  I didn’t change many of my habits, nor did I work on my emotional triggers.  I didn’t learn how to handle stress better, and I had little knowledge of what parts I could do in order to work with my meds.  I just took my medicine and tried my hardest just to go on.  But, trying my “hardest” didn’t work too well.  And seven years after being diagnosed, I relapsed.  Had I not relapsed, I suspect I would still be attempting to do my best at just moving on.

It was because of my relapse that I wanted to get to the bottom of my emotional issues.  I wanted to know and understand the core issues of my manic behavior.  It was the hardest work of recovery I have done to date.  And I’m SO glad I did it!  Why?  Because I’ve been episode-free, living well in spite of having bipolar disorder, since that relapse, which was nearly 15 years ago. I credit my stability with having done my work of digging into the depths of my emotional issues and baggage, my triggers, and have learned to handle the stress in a much healthier way.

Now, this is not to say that I will never have another bipolar episode. But I am doing all I can to avoid any possible interruption and life-altering episodes of bipolar disorder.  I am also committed to doing my part, such as:

  1. Maintaining a very regular schedule
  2. Staying mindful and on top of any of the slightest changes of mood and/or feeling stable, and taking action if necessary
  3. Managing my stress
  4. Overcoming my emotional triggers
  5. Putting an end to blaming others and taking responsibility for what was “bad behavior”

I often wonder how much better my dad’s life would have been if he had only done his part and worked with the medicine to improve his relationships;  if he had learned how to pay attention to any change of his mood.  Don’t get me wrong, the quality of his life was not horrible. But, it could have been so much more if he had worked through his issues.

In spite of the fact that my dad could be a real stinker, I loved him.  And I’m missing him.  I find myself thinking about him a lot.  I also find it hard to believe that he is gone. He ran his race. He finished the course. And in spite of having been diagnosed back in the “dark ages” of mental health, he never used his diagnosis as an excuse for anything. And when I crashed and burned in 1995, he gave me the greatest gift a son could ever receive from his father.  Following my very public crash and burn, Dad put his hands on my shoulders and said, “No matter what happened, or that the problem is, you are my son. I love you, and I’m proud of you.”  What a gift that was.  I so treasure it today.  In my most hopeless situation, he spoke words of hope and love to me.

I miss my dad.  And I wonder how much better his life—and the lives of those around him—could have been if he had made the great effort of working through his emotional baggage, instead of just taking his meds as though they were going to fix the bipolar disorder like some mythical potion.  There are no medicines that one can take that change (not merely mask) your attitude or thinking. Medicine can only do so much.  The rest you and I have to do.  And it’s hard work.

How about you?  Are you doing the hard work that medicine can’t do?  Are you working along with your medicines?  Or are you waiting for your medications to take care of all of your issues?  You know, changing your thinking and behavior isn’t easy.  And while doing “our part” is an ongoing process, it is worth the hard work!  If you need courage or encouragement let me know!  I would love to cheer you on!

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?

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?

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