Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

A First Rate Madness: Thinking Outside the Box and Leadership

A First Rate Madness: Thinking Outside the Box and Leadership

So often when people are diagnosed with a mental illness/disorder, they begin to feel “less than” as a contributor to life.  I know that after I was diagnosed and then forced to resign as a pastor of the church I was serving, due to a manic episode, I felt broken to the point of uselessness.  But what I have discovered is that the Lord is in the business of redeeming and reframing our brokenness; He’s in the business of redeeming our pain.  The Lord never wastes pain.  In fact, I believe that it is that point of deep pain that becomes exactly the very thing that the Lord redeems for our good and then that point becomes how He uses us.  It is because of our deepest point of pain we are able to think outside of the box.  We are able to offer compassion and understanding to those who are going through the same sort of pain.

What has surprised me the most about the Lord’s redemption of my pain and past is how He is using my leadership gifts.  I am shocked at how my perspective of and the way that I lead today has changed so much since going through brokenness and pain.  Daily, because of what I have gone through and experienced, I have the opportunity to provide leadership from the point of serving those who are in pain. Before having been broken, I would never have had enough patience to come along side those who are in deep pain.  However, today my point of fulfillment, my “sweet spot” of ministry, is giving hope to those who are some of the darkest places of unimaginable pain.  I consider it a sacred privilege, and I am humbled to see how my pain is redeemed by allowing others to see how He carried me through.  It brings them hope.  When that happens, it is a holy moment that He orchestrated through my very brokenness.

My friend, if you find yourself in a dark and painful point in your journey of this life, please know this: the Lord WILL take this and make it work together for your good.  You are not suffering in vain.  There is purpose in it.  There is a blessing in it.  He is for you.  He loves you.  You are not alone.  As deep as your pain goes, joy will be high when He begins to redeem your pain.  And please know this, you are NOT “less-than“.  You are not broken merchandise.  In fact, it is at your point of brokenness that you become the most usable for His work in your life and in His Kingdom. This is about redemption. The Lord is working things together for your good even in the darkest parts of the valley you are going through.  And in the midst of the suffering and pain, there are gifts – precious gifts – that you can’t even imagine!

But, if you succumb to the feelings of worthlessness and brokenness and the feelings of “less-than” you may never find those gifts; and instead live your life believing the lie that no gifts were given through your pain – that your pain had no purpose at all.  That’s a lie. And it leads to nothing but more pain and hopelessness.  Stand on the Word of God, Romans 8:28, and don’t lean on your feelings.  Feelings are real, but sometimes they are based on a lie.  Here’s the truth:  the Lord is taking and will take ALL THINGS and work them together for your good.  He’s at work.  He’s up to something. He can be trusted. Sometimes you have to simply, by faith, choose to have hope in spite of how you feel.  Yes, hope IS a choice. You have to choose it.  It’s not a wishful-thinking type of hope, but it is a certain and sure hope.  HE WILL, yes, WILL, work out all things together for your good.  That’s a certainty.

One of the books I’ve read that really helped me to see how the Lord could use me in significant ways in spite of and even because of my having bipolar disorder is A First Rate Madness by Dr. Nassir Ghaemi.  It’s a book full of encouragement to see how those 9781594202957_custom-37b18e8c2128957810a8baffd30766d2ed28d0bf-s400-c85who have a mental health challenge can be used even in some of the most significant leadership roles as national and international leaders.  After reading it, I realized even more how the Lord could use my pain and experiences due to bipolar disorder for my good and even use it for the good of others.  See, because of what you and I have been through or even are going through causes us to see things outside of the box.  Dr. Ghaemi goes through a whole list of major historical leaders and illustrates how they were great leaders due to having had a struggle with mental health!  If you have not read the book, get it and read it!  It will encourage you greatly. Check out this NPR post about A First Rate Madness:  “Madness and Leadership, Hand in Hand

It may not feel like it will ever be possible to feel joy again.  You may not even have the energy to believe it. But it’s true.  God is at work.  And He will work it out together for your good, and He will use it to offer hope to others. And as He does that you will be amazed and filled with hope yourself.  This is a certainty – unless you believe the lie that there is no gift or purpose within what you are going through right now. Don’t believe that lie. Take captive your thinking, (Check out the post on how to overcome ruminating: click here.) focus your trust and hope in God and all His promises of good for you.

 

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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How I Dealt With My Persistent Fears & Anxieties by Stan

How I Dealt With My Persistent Fears & Anxieties by Stan

By

I have struggled with fear, anxiety, and stress for over 20 years.

During this time, I have talked to various professionals in the counseling fields, read many books, and researched many ways on how to overcome my personal fears. Here are some suggestions I can provide for people who struggle with fear and anxiety on a regular basis.

The first thing I did was to talk to various counselors since they knew how to deal with fear and anxiety. Whenever I talked to these counselors, I would always bring a notebook and take notes so I would not forget the advice that was given to me. In addition, I read many books and articles on how to deal with fear and anxiety. Talking to the professionals was very helpful to some extent, however I had to take it upon myself to learn as much as I could so I could effectively deal with my personal fears.

 

By getting help I learned many techniques on how to deal with my fears.

One of my favorite techniques was learning how to manage my negative thoughts. Whenever I would get a negative and fearful thought, I would challenge that thought with positive statements and realistic thinking. I also made it a habit to focus on the facts of my current situation and not on my negative thoughts.

For example, when I went Penn State and I was always afraid that I wouldn’t pass my difficult classes. There were times my fearful thoughts got the best of me especially during finals. These fearful thoughts who race through my head and I would get very anxious. As a result, I began to manage my negative thoughts by reading positive statements from books and newspaper articles. I also gave myself a lot of pep talks before exam time so I would feel better. I also said a lot of prayers which helped me in those situations and I took it one day at a time. It was tough, however I was able to manage my negative thoughts and pass my exams and classes.

 

Learning how to deal with my fears.

As I learned how to deal with my fears, I made it a habit of surrounding myself with supportive people who understood what I was going through. During some of my anxious times, one of my good friends gave me a hard time and was not very supportive. I tried to explain my situation to him, but he would not listen. One day I got mad and told him to leave me alone if he was to continue getting on my case. He later apologized and was more understanding. I learned that hanging out with unsupportive friends or family members made my worrying worse and that it is best to deal with people who willing to support you with your anxieties and fears.

There were many times I felt like giving up because my fears and anxieties were so powerful and I didn’t know what to do. I worried about what would happen and that just made my fears that must stronger. In order to get out of this vicious cycle I realized that I had educate myself on the various techniques on how to deal with my fears. There was no other way and I also had to be very persistent in finding ways that helped my situation. I learned that giving up would only make matters worse in the long run. With a lot of practice I became very good at dealing with my fears. I realized that the answers to my problems were out there, however it was up to me to find those techniques that managed my fears and anxieties. If you struggle with fear and anxiety there is hope.

You can remain hopeful by depending on God to manage your fears and anxieties. Using the help of God can be very effective in managing your fears. God is stronger than your fears and anxieties. The most important thing is to pray and talk to God. Talk to God as if you were talking to a friend. Read the Bible and pray hard. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask Him.

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Forgiveness: The Power to Heal by Jamie Meyer

Forgiveness: The Power to Heal by Jamie Meyer

By: Jamie Meyer

Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive hurts you more than it hurts the other person. I liken it to being held captive by a ball and chain. Unable to move forward in life we remain stuck in the past, continually ruminating on what someone did to us. Unforgiveness makes it more difficult to “live well” in spite of having a mental health diagnosis.

It’s human nature to want justice. We want the other person to pay for what they did. At the very least we want an apology. Deep down we even question whether the way we were treated contributed to triggering our mental illness or worsened it.

How were you hurt at the hands of another? Were you bullied, made fun of, or stigmatized because you were different from your peers? Maybe you were hurt, or continue to be, in a relationship. They didn’t understand so they said hurtful things, ignored you, or walked away, leaving you feeling abandoned and alone. I’ll let you fill in the blank.

As is true of all things in God’s kingdom, hope for healing is found in Christ alone. Are you thinking that there’s no way you can possibly forgive your enemy? Jesus tells us “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27). I think that pretty much covers everything, no matter how grievous the violation. If we invite God into the process, then forgiveness is possible.

Refusal to forgive is often the result of not understanding what it means to forgive a person. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to forget what the person did or tell yourself the hurtful experience didn’t matter. As much as you might want to, you can never erase those painful experiences from your memory.

Forgiveness does not mean you let the other person off the hook either. They are still responsible for what they did. The person who hurt you may never come to you and say they’re sorry. In fact, they may have already passed away. Regardless, it’s comforting to know they’re accountable to someone greater than you: “Never take your own revenge….’Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19).

Probably the greatest misunderstanding about forgiveness is that it involves reconciliation with the offender. That’s wonderful if it’s something you want but in most cases there’s no desire to restore the relationship. Why risk the chance of being hurt again? Part of caring for ourselves and maintaining stability requires choosing healthy relationships.

Forgiveness is a process, one that takes time. You don’t wake up one morning and decide you’re going to forgive someone. Telling yourself “I forgive ___” won’t take away the hurt and resentment you feel.

A better place to start is by asking yourself some questions: Do I honestly believe the person who hurt me will someday tell me they’re sorry for their actions? What if they did apologize and beg for my forgiveness? Would that make up for the damage it caused in my life, the happiness and peace of mind I could have had, or how my life may have turned out differently? If that day came, it honestly wouldn’t be enough.

The process of forgiveness begins with accepting the reality that in all likelihood there will be no admittance of guilt, no apology, nor will they have become a better person over time. Letting go of those expectations and the need to get even will enable you to break free of the ball and chain.

The past and its memories will always be a part of you but you’ll no longer be weighed down by them emotionally. Although the length of time it takes to heal varies from person to person, forgiveness is something you do for you. In return you receive freedom, joy, inner peace, and the ability to move forward with hope.

 

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Our FREE Fresh Hope App​

Our FREE Fresh Hope App​

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Fresh Hope is thrilled to announce that we have a Fresh Hope app for both Apple and Android mobile devices.   The app allows you to have all of our online resources (blogs, videos, podcasts, newsletter, recovery principles, etc.) all at your finger tips in one place. Download and let us know what you think!

 

Click on your store’s icon, and it will take you directly to the download:

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“Why We Offer a Christian Mental Health Group at Our Church” By Dale Rose

“Why We Offer a Christian Mental Health Group at Our Church” By Dale Rose

By: Pastor Dale Rose

Mental health issues and how to deal with them came ‘out of the blue’ when our son was diagnosed as schizo-affected.  It was “upfront and personal” and very hard to deal with, but we had no choice.  The problem was ever growing as the experiment with different prescriptions did little to alleviate the paranoia, delusions and other symptoms Steve was enduring.   

As a family, where faith is paramount, we found that there wasn’t really any help within the church.  We traveled from church to church because our son believed that surely we would find the right place where this ‘problem’ could be dealt with once and for all.  Our search in the Christian community was met with one pastor who told us the problem was solved, “we cast out all the demons.”  Steve was excited, “finally someone found the problem and I’m going to be ok.”

He wasn’t ok and it was a great trial of his faith and of ours.   Steve was a Ministerial Studies graduate at one of the finest universities and found his place in ministry soon after graduation in Hawaii.    He was doing fine in a Calvary Chapel Church. It was there that he first began to exhibit signs that something was wrong. Things didn’t work out and he returned to the mainland.

For years we dealt with Steve’s mental illness as best we could.   At one time we even found a Christian therapist who was of the same denomination as us and was within our insurance program.  Unfortunately, the therapist was transferred to another distant hospital, too far for us to travel. We were met with frustration after frustration in our quest to find something besides meds and therapists who didn’t understand the spiritual aspects that were part of Steve’s particular illness.

We have found that the enemy of our soul delights in beating up those with mood disorders.  We often heard Steve say….. “God told me he was through with me, I’ve committed the unpardonable sin.”   It would require sessions of prayer and reasoning to convince him that it was a lie from hell.   We continued to support him and take him to counseling sessions and some peer support groups, some of which only made things worse.   We couldn’t find the right therapist! The support groups were not supportive at all, sometimes all the negativity only made things worse.   There didn’t seem to be any hope anywhere.

In March of 2014 I went to a symposium called Mental Health and The Church.  It was held at Saddleback Church where Rick Warren is Pastor. Before hearing any presenters, I was browsing the many books that were available for sale in the different booths.  

One of the books caught my eye, it had a simple title, FRESH HOPE.    That’s what we needed, fresh hope. Oh how we longed for something that would help us out of the pit we were in.  Speaker after speaker presented their stories and helps in regards to mental health and mood disorders. One speaker stood out,  Brad Hoefs, the author of the book I had bought before the sessions began.

Brad had his break with reality just like Steve.   It too was traumatic and life changing. Both Steve and Brad lost their ministries because of their mental health diagnosis.  When I returned to our church after the conference, I consulted with the lead pastors and told them about FRESH HOPE and that the three of us, Steve, my wife and I would like to see this ministry at our church.  At that time, one person had to have a mental health diagnosis in order to charter with FRESH HOPE. Steve was so excited when the leadership said yes to our proposal; he would once again have a place of ministry, helping facilitate a faith based mental health support group.

We began the training through the manuals and videos provided and set a date a couple of months ahead for our launch.  Sadly, we lost Steve to a massive heart attack two weeks before our launch. But having walked beside him in his journey for seventeen years, we decided that we could use our experience and knowledge gained to help others.

Four and a half years have elapsed since that symposium and we continue to minister to those who suffer from the stigma associated with mental illness.   We are doing our part to end the stigma and break the silence, we see FRESH HOPE at our church as Steve’s legacy.

I visited a mental health ward at one of our hospitals five times last week.  This week we will have our regular meeting with people looking for help and hope; they won’t leave disappointed.   Fresh Hope fills the bill! Last week twenty seven people left feel better than when they came. We recently had to change our meeting location because we outgrew the old one!  Steve would be so glad to see that his years of suffering helped us to better reach out and touch someone. Fresh Hope is an expression of God’s hand extended. Now our quest and challenge is to develop new leaders.  Our belief is that every church needs Fresh Hope! The statistics demand a response from the Christian community. I have found that Fresh Hope is the best response a church can offer!

Thank God for all of the different groups making an effort to alleviate the pain and suffering of those with mood disorders.   However, some of them are stuck in molds that aren’t the best. One church uses a program that goes for twenty-four weeks, but if you miss the first two weeks, you have to wait till they start over!   You are welcome at Fresh Hope anytime!
Picture1Pastor Dale Rose is Minister of Pastoral Care at Canyon Hills Assembly of God in Bakersfield, California.   He and his wife, Martha, facilitate the weekly Fresh Hope peer support program for the church and are ambassador-advocates for mental health issues.   Martha does the “heavy lifting” (teaching) each week.  Contact info: freshhope4u2@gmail.com

 

 

 

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Positive Friends Impact Depression’s Effect by Rick Quall

Positive Friends Impact Depression’s Effect by Rick Quall

By Rick Qualls

Depression lies.

It convinces you, ‘“My friends don’t want to be around me.”  “I’ll just bring everyone else down.” “I am not worthy of having friends.” “Nobody likes me anymore.”

When you are depressed, making and keeping friends can be a challenge. But research shows that a group of positive friends makes a difference.

Professor Frances Griffiths, head of social science and systems in health at Warwick Medical School University of Warwick, said: “Depression is a major public health concern worldwide. But the good news is we’ve found that a healthy mood amongst friends is linked with a significantly reduced risk of developing and increased chance of recovering from depression.”

In Griffiths study teens who have five or more mentally positive friendships have half the likelihood of depression. Those with ten friends have twice the probability of recovering from their depression symptoms.

What can you look for in positive friendships?  Good friends offer space to be yourself. They don’t try to fix you or try to make you act a certain way. They listen and offer support not judgment.

The Bible offers practical advice on developing and maintaining good friendships.

Good friends take time for each other. Friendships don’t occur in a vacuum.  “Be devoted to one another…” Romans 12:16. Spending time together doing activities that you enjoy or working on projects together create opportunities to build relationships.

Healthy friends disregard social differences, and do not avoid each other when problems arise. “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:16

Positive friends are not narcissistic. A narcissist can be attractive to be around at first. They are full of “self-confidence” and an energy that draws us when our self-confidence is at a low ebb.

But it is a negative signal if they manipulate you to prop up their ego. They talk about themselves and their accomplishments. They brag about knowing how to get special treatment. It is a warning if you begin to notice that all they talk about is themselves. You may notice they lack empathy or compassion or caring for others. A narcissist uses your depression against you and will make your situation worse.

Good friends develop trust over time and it becomes safe to share their deepest hearts, even the weakness and sin in our lives. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…James 5:16

Positive friends offer non-judgmental support and listening. Friends accept you when you are depressed, when you are grieving, or going through any kind of trials. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

Solid relationships are based know how to put up with each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. Everyone has some peculiar behaviors. “…be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Eph 4:2

Friends build each other up and do not tear the other down. Words are powerful tools to help bolster one another. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29

Friendships don’t just happen. We must be intentional about developing these relationships. They take time, encouragement,  trust, and sharing with one another.

These healthy friendships can have positive impact on your depression.

Depression lies. There are people around you that care.

Check out Rick’s other posts and the posts of all of our Fresh Hope bloggers at: Fresh Hope Blog

 

Photograph by Priscilla Du Preez

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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How I Dealt With My Persistent Fears & Anxieties by Stan

How I Dealt With My Persistent Fears & Anxieties by Stan

By

I have struggled with fear, anxiety, and stress for over 20 years.

During this time, I have talked to various professionals in the counseling fields, read many books, and researched many ways on how to overcome my personal fears. Here are some suggestions I can provide for people who struggle with fear and anxiety on a regular basis.

The first thing I did was to talk to various counselors since they knew how to deal with fear and anxiety. Whenever I talked to these counselors, I would always bring a notebook and take notes so I would not forget the advice that was given to me. In addition, I read many books and articles on how to deal with fear and anxiety. Talking to the professionals was very helpful to some extent, however I had to take it upon myself to learn as much as I could so I could effectively deal with my personal fears.

 

By getting help I learned many techniques on how to deal with my fears.

One of my favorite techniques was learning how to manage my negative thoughts. Whenever I would get a negative and fearful thought, I would challenge that thought with positive statements and realistic thinking. I also made it a habit to focus on the facts of my current situation and not on my negative thoughts.

For example, when I went Penn State and I was always afraid that I wouldn’t pass my difficult classes. There were times my fearful thoughts got the best of me especially during finals. These fearful thoughts who race through my head and I would get very anxious. As a result, I began to manage my negative thoughts by reading positive statements from books and newspaper articles. I also gave myself a lot of pep talks before exam time so I would feel better. I also said a lot of prayers which helped me in those situations and I took it one day at a time. It was tough, however I was able to manage my negative thoughts and pass my exams and classes.

 

Learning how to deal with my fears.

As I learned how to deal with my fears, I made it a habit of surrounding myself with supportive people who understood what I was going through. During some of my anxious times, one of my good friends gave me a hard time and was not very supportive. I tried to explain my situation to him, but he would not listen. One day I got mad and told him to leave me alone if he was to continue getting on my case. He later apologized and was more understanding. I learned that hanging out with unsupportive friends or family members made my worrying worse and that it is best to deal with people who willing to support you with your anxieties and fears.

There were many times I felt like giving up because my fears and anxieties were so powerful and I didn’t know what to do. I worried about what would happen and that just made my fears that must stronger. In order to get out of this vicious cycle I realized that I had educate myself on the various techniques on how to deal with my fears. There was no other way and I also had to be very persistent in finding ways that helped my situation. I learned that giving up would only make matters worse in the long run. With a lot of practice I became very good at dealing with my fears. I realized that the answers to my problems were out there, however it was up to me to find those techniques that managed my fears and anxieties. If you struggle with fear and anxiety there is hope.

You can remain hopeful by depending on God to manage your fears and anxieties. Using the help of God can be very effective in managing your fears. God is stronger than your fears and anxieties. The most important thing is to pray and talk to God. Talk to God as if you were talking to a friend. Read the Bible and pray hard. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask Him.

Stans-bio-slide

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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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!

 

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Life Is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React to It

Life Is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React to It
This past year my wife and I went to my 40th high school class reunion. I had not seen many of my classmates since graduation. So, you can imagine how strange it was to see them after so many years of life. Fortunately, those in charge of the event provided us nametags to wear that not only had our name on it but also our senior class picture. And boy was that helpful!I found myself reflecting the entire evening about how fast life goes and how no one’s life necessarily turns out like they thought it would. When you have not seen someone for 40 years, you could see in their physical appearance the toll of living. Of course, we all had aged (some better than others). And our journeys have been very different. But, it seems that even though the journeys have been very different, there is a common thread that life weaves in each person’s journey. That thread is made up of joy, happiness, disappointments, hurts, fears, brokenness, grief, hopes, mistakes, success, failures, dreams lived and many dreams lost. I could see in my classmate’s eyes that disappointments and brokenness had taken their toll. Living life can take the life out of you.

So, why do I share this with you? Here’s why I share it: life brings with it a lot of disappointments, pain and brokenness. It’s part of the human condition. And life keeps going on whether or not you are stuck in those things. See, I believe that you and I can easily get into a mindset that having mental health diagnosis “ruins” your life and we can begin to think that we can’t move forward in life and enjoy it. The truth is that everyone faces something in life. Living can quickly suck the life right out of any and everyone. Bipolar disorder is just one of the many obstacles found in this “thing” we call life.

It’s easy to begin to focus so much on ourselves and how “hard” we have it that self-pity can start to creep in and take up residence in our beliefs. And while we get stuck in the pain and brokenness of a mental disorder, life keeps going on. Life doesn’t stop. And for me, life is way, WAY too short to get so stuck in self-pity or stuck in believing that now life is “over” because of having a mental illness. Yes, a mental health challenge can suck. Yes, a mental health challenge can hinder ones’ life and alter the course of what we had hoped life to be. Yes, a mental illness is a “cross to bear” in life. But, lest you and I forget, there are many other crosses in life that are just as difficult and some even more tragic and painful to bear. For me, it has been imperative that I remember that there are much worse crosses to bear in life than bipolar disorder. Remembering this helps keeps my self-pity at bay.

I spent seven very long years stuck in my pain and brokenness following the manic episode that brought about the collapse of my life. Self-pity was part of those seven years. I was stuck in it. I felt as though my life had been robbed from me. But, really was being stuck and feeling sorry for myself that was robbing me of life, not the bipolar disorder! And I didn’t get unstuck until I got sick and tired of feeling sorry for myself and believing that my life was over.

So, I decided I was going to live well in spite of having bipolar disorder. Those three little words, “in spite of” are the mantra of my recovery.  In order to get unstuck I did three things:

  1. Changed how I was thinking by taking control of what I was thinking about.  I did not allow myself to continually rehearse the pain and brokenness.  Instead I began to think about how the pain and brokenness could propel me into living well. (This was the hardest thing I had to do in recovery!)
  2. Set reasonable and reachable goals that continually moved me towards living life well.  I stuck to the goals and when reached, I set new ones. Failure was not an option. Yes, there were failures and set backs.  But, I chose to see the set backs and failures and learning opportunities for living well.
  3. Started helping others with mental health challenges and got my focus off of myself.  (This probably was the major game changer for me.)  When I started focusing on helping others I found my passion again; there was purpose for all of the pain I had experienced.

Here’s what I know about life and how people live it based not only on my life but also after pastoring for the past 30 some years: everybody has “stuff.”

Everybody has pain. Everybody has tragedies and losses in their lives. Pain is pain. Whether it is the loss of a child, cancer, financial collapse, divorce or a mental illness: you either work through it, or you get stuck in it. (By the way, if this blog post is “ticking you off”, then you are most likely stuck in your pain.) As they say, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

So, how are you responding to the things that life is throwing you? How are you reacting to having a mental health challenge? Are you living well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis? If not, why not?

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

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Life can be difficult.  No one makes it through life without painful trials and tribulations. And there is no doubt that having bipolar disorder on top of all of the typical trials and tribulations can make life even more challenging.  There’s just no sugar-coating it. Hopelessness happens all too easily.  But life can also be beautiful. The truth is, no one makes it through life without experiencing joy-filled events and blessings.  But having hope and being hope-filled takes effort, unlike hopelessness.

Probably one of the most peculiar things about hope and hopelessness is that they can co-exist in life. When I reflect on the greatest difficulties and deepest depression that caused extreme despair in my life, it was hope that got me through the hopelessness. But it was not the “wishful-thinking” kind of hope that life would get better that got me through the hopelessness.  That kind of “hope” is nothing more than wishful thinking that things may or may not get better.  And that kind of hope was not enough for me.  Hoping that things might get better could not even bring about the smallest of cracks within my despair.

img_6604So what is this “real” hope that got me through and continues to get me through living life with bipolar disorder?  It’s the Real Hope that was born and died on the cross and His promise.  In particular, it is the promise of Romans 8:28 that has gotten me through the many incredibly painful events that could have easily led to the bottomless pit of hopelessness. In Romans 8:28 the apostle Paul tells us that the Lord will work all things together for our good.  As a person of faith, I believe this.  Knowing and believing this real hope does not mean that I stuff my feelings.  Rather, it means that as I feel my feelings I’m able to work through them and deal with them because I know that He will take even the worst of life’s trials and tribulations and make them work together for me for my good.  That’s hope. That’s real.

See, I’ve come to understand how my faith has been instrumental in my living well.  I don’t do wishful thinking kind of hope.  Instead, I do Romans 8:28 hope.  In other words, as I go through difficulties (and there are plenty of them) I recognize them, feel the feelings because I know that the Lord will take all of the pain and make it work for my good. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden things become easy.  But I’m able to move through the pain, knowing how it will end.

The Lord is the real hope.  The Father sent His Son into our messy world to redeem us.  Born right in the midst of the stench of that stable,He came.  And on that cross, He died for you and me. Out of what appeared to be a hopeless beginning and an even more hopeless death on the cross, He rose as proof that He is indeed our sure and certain hope.

There is no way that I would be living well, much less living, without Him as my hope.  Romans 8:28 has gotten me through the hopelessness. Grab ahold of that hope my friend.  Whatever difficulties you are going through this day, He can and will make though things work together for your good.  No, he doesn’t promise a painless life. In fact, He says that in this life you and I will have difficulties.  Instead, He promises to never leave you, and to take those problems and work them together for your good.  And in knowing this, you and I can move forward in spite of our present circumstances.

On this day, my prayer is that you will grab ahold of the real and certain hope we have that He will take all of your difficulties, pain, and problems, and work them together for your good.  Keeping moving forward: moving one step at a time.  He loves you.  He is with you. He is for you. And Heis at work; making all things work out together for your good!

Blessings my friend,

Brad

Our Fresh Hope podcast has been nominated for Wego Health’s Best in Show Podcast award!We encourage you to endorse the nomination by going to:https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/13355

 

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

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

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