Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

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?

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.

unnamed

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 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.

 

New Year Resolutions​? Yes or No?​

New Year Resolutions​?  Yes or No?​

Over twenty years ago when my life was altered forever by bipolar disorder, I stopped planning and went into a mode of just surviving. All that I could do at the time was to survive one moment by moment. It had taken a good length of time before I moved jerry-kiesewetter-182712beyond just surviving. Interestingly enough it was at that time I stopped wearing a watch. Up to that point in my life, I had even worn my watch to bed in case I “needed” to know what time it was. I carried my day-timer everywhere all of the time. I looked at my calendar every morning and every night; making adjustments in it throughout the day. I made lists galore, read them and knew where they were. And setting goals was second nature to me. I could set them, achieve them and set new ones.

I was very driven and organized. No doubt I was a highly functioning hypo-manic “over-achieving-achiever.” That is until the hypo-mania gave way to mania and it caused my life to implode. Interestingly enough in the last few years, I have become increasingly more interested in being proactive about my life. I’ve become more goal-oriented again. Not to the point of being hypo-manically driven. But, in a healthy way (so it seems) I have taken more a hold of living my life instead of life living me. This year I’ve even set a few personal goals.

In 2019 I hope to:

  1. Celebrate even the smallest of things.
  2. Wait to respond when I have become triggered by someone.
  3. Stay on task more.
  4. Focus more on what is right than what is wrong.
  5. Focus more on what I can change than be frustrated with what I cannot change.
  6. Show my appreciation for my family, especially my wife, more.

They are simple goals. Not too grandiose.

Recently I read that people change for the following reasons:

  • 5% because we are open to it
  • 5% because we are obedient
  • 15% because of enlightenment
  • 75% because of pain and brokenness

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve spent way too much of life changing due to pain and brokenness. For me, it is time to change for other reasons like enlightenment or because I want to change.

How about you? Do you feel as though life “lives” you or do you live life? Do you have any goals? If so, why? If not, why? What are your goals?

By the way, I still don’t wear a watch. (Probably never well again since I have a phone in my pocket that I can always pull out if necessary.) And I seldom look at a calendar. I’m just taking one step at a time over 20 years later.

New-Year-Resolutions-2016-300x185

 

Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

What do you when you have no positive and encouraging support your family and/or friends?

tim-marshall-173957

Research shows that when those of us with mental health challenges have a good support system of family and friends, we actually do better than those who do not have a support system. It only makes sense. After all, as it is with any challenges in life, we all do better with the support of family and friends. The support of my wife, family, and close friends was key in encouraging me and helping me to learning to live well in spite of having a bipolar disorder.

So, what do you when you have no positive and encouraging support your family and/or friends?

  1. Choose to work through your hurt from the lack of support from your family and/or friends. You can’t change people. Sometimes we have to just accept the fact that family and friends do not understand nor are they helpful; and you resenting it won’t change them and will only end up holding you back.
  1. Choose to find and establish the type of encouraging positive support system that you need. How?

a. Look for a positive, helpful, principled mental health recovery peer support group, in person or online. A support group is a great place to find friends who can be positive and supportive to whom you can be accountable on a regular basis. (For example, Fresh Hopenow has support group meetings online so no matter where you live you can find a positive and encouraging mental health support group.)

b. Finding a local peer support specialist is also another possibility for a positive support system.

c.Other places to find good friends are at church, a health club, the gym, and with special interests groups.

Remember, you and I become like the five people we spend the most time with; therefore choose friends carefully.

In spite of having a great support group of spouse, family, and friends, I’ve also had an accountability group of peers who have held me accountable for my mental health recovery and doing the things that are best for me and for my family.   This accountability group has been key in my recovery support system. They have had access to my doctor and my wife. My wife and doctor have also had access to them and to one another. I call it my “circle of accountability” which hems me in and keeps me honest.

While it’s not always been comfortable; my accountability group has empowered me to live well in the long run. Let’s be honest, too often you and I can easily tell the doctor one thing and our spouse or friends something else; only telling people what we want them to know. And while it took a lot of trust initially in the individuals who have made up my accountability group, it has served me very well.

From my perspective, it imperative for you and me to have a positive and encouraging support system and accountability. And as disappointing and hurtful as it is to have a lack of support from friends and/or family members, you can’t let that keep you from finding the support system you need. Yes, it will take effort to do so. But the effort will pay off.

What about you? Do you have the support of family and friends? If not, have you been able to establish a support system for yourself? If so, where? How?

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

Check out Fresh Hope’s online meetings: www.FreshHopeMeeting.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.

https://freshhope.us/donate/

unnamed

Surviving Versus Enjoying the Holidays

Surviving Versus Enjoying the Holidays

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

My list for survival included things such as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

shutterstock_60270589

When Christmas Is Difficult

When Christmas Is Difficult

This is a special Christmas edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health. 

In this edition, Pastor Brad talks with Perry Root, Sr. about experiencing grief or depression during Christmastime.  Perry is an M.S.W. student doing his practicum with Fresh Hope and is also a fulltime member of the Community of Grace staff.  He shares some insights as to experiencing grief or depression at this time of the year.

We encourage you to share this podcast with those that you believe might benefit from it.   Even posting it on your social media may reach someone who is very lonely, sad and depressed during this what many call “the most wonderful time of the year.”

To listen to this episode 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.

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.

unnamed

Facing Real Together by Lindsay Hausch

Facing Real Together by Lindsay Hausch

I heard her cries with my heart, more than my ears, each wail reverberating in my aching chest. I cradled her head and held her rigid body against mine as she yelled, “no, no, no,” then heaved a shaky breath to release another loud howl. I whispered in her ear “I’m here. I love you,” again and again, as I swayed and tasted the salty tears that ran down her neck.

For five minutes I felt the waves of emotions that coursed through her tired body, confusion, anger, frustration, fear as she succumbed to exhaustion. I absorbed her helpless desperation, but wouldn’t, couldn’t, let myself collapse beneath it. Instead I just held her, rocked her, and continued my chant, “I’m here. I love you.”

There is a sacred space we enter with another person when we can let them feel what they are feeling without avoidance, advice, judgement, or tense discomfort. Simply to tell them, “I’m here and I love you.”

I am not in my daughter’s skin, and so I don’t know what it feels like to have steroids coursing through me, creating a surge of unpredictable emotions and moods. This little girl has all these new big feelings without words to even make sense out of them. I want to understand what she feels, I want to tell her how to make it better, or distract her somehow. But in this desperate moment, after a sleepless night, a long morning, and still no nap, I can only be here with her as a witness.

Yes darling, you are miserable. Your body aches, you are tired but your body won’t behave and sleep as it should. You feel angry and powerless. You want mommy to make it all better, and you are learning, maybe for the first time, that there are some things that mommy can’t fix. But I am here, I am with you in this. I love you.

And in this brave moment between a helpless baby, and her helpless mommy, I begin to learn a lot about how to help someone heal. Because when we are confused, overcome by big emotions we can’t explain, when life hurts and we feel too tired to even make our bed, we don’t need advice; we don’t need platitudes, or our pain to be wiped away like an unsightly smudge of dirt. We need a brave person to stay and hold us through the waves of grief, anger, desperation, and longing, to whisper lovingly, “I am here.”

Because when life knocks the breath out of us, sometimes the bravest thing to do is to inhale and exhale those first few breaths, to be held by the loving arms of those there to support you, and fearlessly succumb to the illusive sleep that our tired souls need.

Sometimes its another person holding us up. Sometimes its on our knees in the sacred  space of solitude. But as we cry out in weakness, “I am tired, I am scared, Lord I am hurting,”  He says “I Am.” In Him we find a perfect match for our needs and emptiness. So we can cry, and shout, or blink silent tears, and wait for His peace to roll over us like a blanket and His grace to hum like a lullaby, “I Am here. I love you.”

“Stubborn cloud, I watch you rolling past
What would it take for you to cry at last
Don’t be afraid to let your feelings show
If we dry up, then we won’t grow”

Grow by J.J. Heller

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.

unnamed

Ruminating Plus Hopelessness can be Deadly.

Ruminating Plus Hopelessness can be Deadly.

Ruminating plus hopelessness can be deadly

You often find yourself ruminating over and over. Usually, it’s over a problem or situation that you haven’t been able to resolve. You have been noticing over time that your thinking is getting worse, you are finding yourself feeling more hopeless about the situation, and maybe you have begun to notice that you have been thinking more about suicide than you would care to admit.

If this has happened to you, or this is where you currently find yourself, according to research, this is not uncommon. In a research article in the Suicide and Life-threatening behavior Journal, rumination has been found to lead to hopelessness which in turns leads to a downward spiral towards suicidal ideation. According to the article, recent research has focused on predictors of suicidal ideation and behavior such as negative cognition styles, dysfunctional attitudes, hopelessness and rumination.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention currently 44, 965 people die by suicide every year or 123 people per day. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  Since, suicidal ideation increases the likelihood of attempts, (according to the same article) it begs the argument for making ideation a critical point of detection and prevention.

Negative cognition styles, which the article refusers to as “depressogenic” thinking, refers to the way we negatively interpret negative events in our life. So, for example if my friend John didn’t say hello to me in the store and I began to think about what a jerk he was, without considering other possibilities, that would be negative inference.

Dysfunctional attitudes, to further the analog with John, could be the attributions I make about him in a negative light and then further take my encounter with John, and enlarge it to how many more people were being a “jerk” to me, and then top it off with globalization, inferring (albeit dysfunctional) that everyone is a “jerk”.

Hopelessness, or a hopeless or pessimistic outlook towards one’s future, can be another correlation to suicidal ideation, according to the article. The article adds other research that has shown a correlation to hopelessness and attempted and completed suicides. Hopelessness has been found to play a more central role as a predictor of suicidal ideation than depression.

Rumination, (or a ruminative response style) according to the article, is a tendency for individuals to reclusively mull over the causes, consequences and symptoms of their depression. The research has found this response style can lead to further hopelessness and increased suicidal ideation.

 

One of my greatest challenges in my recovery has been to stop ruminating.
Here are three tools that I’ve found helpful in overcoming my ruminating:

  1. Choosing with my will to control my thinking.
    Instead of allowing my mind to simply be on automatic pilot I have to choose to be in control of what I’m thinking about and how often I’m thinking about it. Even if what I’ve been ruminating about is a “worry” that is true; I at least have to choose to simply stop letting it play over and over in my mind.

As a Christian I was reminded that the Apostle Paul in the Bible says that we are to “take captive” our thinking. He also says that we should focus on what is right and true. In other words, control your thinking. And replace the negative with what is true and helpful.

  1. When ruminating I learned that it’s important to actually tell myself, out- loud, to “stop”.
    I read somewhere that if your brain here’s your voice it actually disrupts the brainwave pattern and interrupts the repetitive thinking. (It certainly works for me.) It’s similar to someone interrupting you when you are really focused on something and then it is difficult to get your focus back.
  2. Hang out with people with positive outlooks on life as much as possible.
    It is said that we become like the five people we hang around the most. So, as much as possible I nurture relationships with people who have a positive look on life.

You certainly don’t need to have bipolar disorder to have difficulties with ruminating. It is common to the human condition.

What do tools do you use to overcome your ruminating?

 

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.

unnamed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smith, J. M., Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (2006). Cognitive vulnerability to depression, rumination, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation: Multiple pathways to self-injurious thinking. Suicide and Life-threatening behavior36(4), 443-454.\
https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/
Ibid
Smith, J. M., Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (2006). Cognitive vulnerability to depression, rumination, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation: Multiple pathways to self-injurious thinking. Suicide and Life-threatening behavior36(4), 443-454.

Christmas Lessons When We Are Depressed at Christmas Time

Christmas Lessons When We Are Depressed at Christmas Time

By Rick Qualls

Good News…you don’t have to have a perfect Christmas. Christmas lights burn out. Your cat attacks the tree. The turkey doesn’t thaw in time or you forget to turn the oven on. Oops,  you forgot where you hid the kids’ presents.

The Good News when we are depressed is that Christmas isn’t perfect.

The first Christmas wasn’t perfect. Joseph and Mary couldn’t find a place to stay in Bethlehem and Mary ended up delivering Jesus in a stable. They stayed in a stable with animals. A manger from which animals eat.

In an imperfect world, God took all the limitations of being a human being. He experienced all the problems of living in a broken world.

When we suffer from depression or bipolar we experience the effects of a broken world.

Depressed at Christmas? It is ok. Manic during yuletide? It is ok. We are vulnerable in an imperfect world.

The lessons from that first Christmas have a lot to teach us about coping when we are depressed during the Christmas season.

Mary teaches us acceptance. Imagine how Mary felt when an angel announced that she, an unmarried virgin, was going to have a baby? How could her fiancé Joseph understand? Would he refuse to marry her? What would Mary’s family say? Would her friends abandon her?

When we are diagnosed with a mental illness we have questions. How is this possible? Will our family understand? Will our friends abandon us in our need?

How did Mary respond to the angel’s message? “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it happen as  you have said.” She accepted her condition.

Like Mary, we need to come to acceptance with having a mental health issue. The longer acceptance takes, the longer it will take us to manage our disease.

Does acceptance mean giving up? Does it mean being passive? NO! Acceptance is acknowledging reality and learning all we can to manage our disease, get treatment, and work toward remission. There are treatments. There is hope.

Acceptance is a kind of faith. A faith present in the first Christmas. 

Joseph’s world was not perfect either. He simply could not understand how Mary could be pregnant. Joseph was heartbroken. Very quietly he decided to divorce Mary. The pain of feeling betrayed must have angered this humble man.

But in a dream, God revealed Joseph should continue with the marriage plans. And so he did. He practiced obedience to God when he felt betrayed. Instead of striking out in anger Joseph responded in love.

I get angry at having bipolar. Sometimes I am furious. It makes no sense. There were more things I could have accomplished. My plans for the future were twisted out of the shape. Sometimes I am so angry I lash out at people in my life though they are not responsible. With foolish anger, I cut my medicine. I fail to exercise. I feel betrayed by God.

Joseph teaches me that regardless of how I feel my response needs to be one of obedience. Striking out at the people I love hurts all of us and accomplishes nothing. Cutting my medicine and not working my plan for remission is only self-defeating.

Obedience is doing what has to be done even when you don’t understand. So when I am at my best I use my anger to energize my fight against my disease.

Not working my plan only hurts me. I need to follow my plan toward remission even when nothing makes sense.

Joseph teaches me obedience.

The first Christmas was not perfect. But what the angel told Joseph is still true, “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel—which means ‘God is with us’”.

Quails-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.

unnamed

Bundle of Joy to Postpartum Blues

Bundle of Joy to Postpartum Blues

By

I left the hospital three days after the birth of my second son. And like any mom, I was overjoyed to have my baby! And he has turned out to be a fun-loving, amusing little bundle of fun. Not so little anymore. This was six years ago. Did I mention I have two of these precious bundles? A sweet, gentle-hearted big brother too.

However, you can probably predict from the drift of this narrative that the joy of childbirth was short-lived.

I “left the hospital.” Only, I didn’t. I came home. But my mind, tarried at the hospital. Pacing up and down the hallway of the postpartum floor. Leaving me with a gloom, that I had left something behind. I could see the halls, an empty hospital crib, I could see the doors to the postpartum rooms. I felt like I was searching for something. I just didn’t know what!

I would have probably shed a sizable number of calories had the mental pacing I took on been literal. Sounds unreal? But, it had become a disturbing reality to my mind. I started to believe that I had wronged my child. A child who was perfectly whole. I began to mourn over my baby as though I had lost him. I was convinced that his premature birth was due to the lack of nurturing from his mama.

My days seemed blurry, delusional. I wasn’t able to keep track of myself, my surroundings, my kids, …everything! At this time, I was in graduate school, with a newborn and two year old. Needless to say, these alone were draining. And now something else had taken over my reality. Depression took over. Postpartum depression.

A lot of days, months and eventually years were spent in confusion and frustration. The diagnosis for postpartum came months after the mental confusion arose. I was started off on prescription medication to treat the symptoms. The symptoms however, would not yield to treatment. They began to multiply.

And alongside depression came another diagnosis…fibromyalgia. And pain flared up all over the body, accompanied by chronic fatigue, difficulty focusing, even immobility. The pain made me sensitive even to the slightest touch.

Everyday I dragged myself out of bed to try and keep up with routine – the kids, school, laundry, cooking. And unknowingly, these became merely robotic functions. My mind was more lost than ever. So lost that many times it send me running out of the house in a frenzy, barefoot, in the dark of the night. I didn’t know why I was running. All I knew was that I wanted to get away. Away from whatever was tormenting me. Only, it came home with me.

Everyday I held my babies. But my heart grew more distant from them. Even the daily feeding, reading, could not gather the bond I should have had toward them.

The distressing thing in this, is the shame my heart experienced while shouldering all of this. I felt responsible for the early birth of my child. I felt like people would judge me for the way I was; unwell, weak and withered. And indeed, some did.

Although it could have been sooner, I was finally able to assure myself that I wasn’t responsible for my illness or struggles. And that I am blessed to have these healthy, beautiful children.

I know that the past cannot be undone. But the mind kept wanting to go back and bandage all the hurt, make it better. And at other times, it felt like all the bandages in the world could not fix the pain.

I didn’t do it until almost two years into my struggle, but I started to share my struggle with those that were close to me and would genuinely care. I was fortunate to have my life sustained because of this care. Meanwhile, in my surrounding, the life of a young mother battling postpartum depression was tragically torn away from her precious children. Like many mothers, suffering in silence because of the guilt of feeling sadness after the birth of her bundle of joy.

If you are in the middle of your struggle with postpartum depression or any form of depression, I beg of you; don’t struggle in the dark. When you’re going through this, everything in your being will tell you that you are alone or strange.

That is far from the truth. Share your story with someone your heart trusts. Join a support group in your community or churches. You may see the faces of people that relate to you. Whose struggles are yours too. Look for support sites like Fresh Hope, where you could read about journeys of depression that may resonate with yours. Whether you’ve crossed over from depression or still walking it, our journeys matter.

God…the source of all comfort….comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

(2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬)

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.

unnamed

%d bloggers like this: