Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

My Journey Through Depression by Jamie Meyer

My Journey Through Depression by Jamie Meyer

by Jamie Meyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 to Empower Yourself in Living Well in Spite of Your Mental Health Diagnosis

How to Empower Yourself in Living Well in Spite of Your Mental Health Diagnosis

When Thomas “melted-down” in the small town of only 600 people he felt as though everyone was talking about him and that he had become the town “monster.” So, following his move back to his parents’ home in a metro area, he began a remarkable journey of healing that led him to find hope through Fresh Hope.

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Thomas talks about his various diagnoses, which include schizoaffective disorder and borderline personality disorder. He discloses the importance of researching and understanding your diagnosis and how medicine does 50% of the work, but you have to do the other 50% of it. Through researching his diagnoses, he became empowered to live well in spite of them.

Anyone facing a serious mental health diagnosis will be greatly encouraged in hearing Thomas’ journey to living well in spite of a mental health diagnosis. You don’t want to miss this interview!

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

To listen to the podcast you can click on the icon below and it will take you to our podcast website.  (Or if you want, you can listen on iTunes/ApplePodcasts by clicking on the second icon below.)FH PodCastArt (160dpi) 02_Splash 480x854

To listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts/iTunes- click on this icon:

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If you listen 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.comPastor Brad Hoefs, 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.

 

 

 

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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Stressed-Out Young People Need to Hear Your Stories

Stressed-Out Young People Need to Hear Your Stories

By: Amy Simpson

A few years ago, a study revealed the youngest generations of adults in America are also the most stressed. In one sense, this is no big surprise, given the economic and social factors influencing quality of life and near-future prospects for Millennials—adults ages 13 to 35—and for Gen Xers, whose scores are virtually tied with those of their younger counterparts.

In September 2016, the unemployment rate for Millennials was 12.7 percent. This compares to 5 percent overall. And among employed Millennials, many are underemployed

To read more: CLICK HERE

About Amy Simpson

Amy is deeply committed to this vision: seeing purposeful people make the most of their gifts and opportunities. As an author, speaker, and life & leadership coach, she helps influencers get clear on their calling and thrive in times of transition so they can see clearly, lead boldly, live true, and fully engage in life with guiding purpose.

Whether speaking into a microphone or through the written word, she is a very gifted communicator with a prophetic voice.  She’s the author oDSC_0522f the award-winning books Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission and Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry (both InterVarsity Press). She also serves as an editor-at-large for Christianity Today’s CTPastors.com and a regular contributor for various publications.

As a life & leadership coach, she helps influencers thrive through change so they can see clearly, lead boldly, and live true. A firm believer that life is too short to waste time living out of sync with God’s purposes, she challenges clients throughout the United States to step into their calling with authenticity and excellence. She specializes in working with people who find themselves on the edge of something new, whether a new role, organization, approach, project, or career.

Amy was one of the recipients of the 2017 National Inspiring Hope Award from Fresh Hope for Mental Health.

Amy holds an English degree from Trinity International University, an MBA from the University of Colorado, and CPCC certification from Coaches Training Institute. She loves to travel with her husband, Trevor, their two teenage girls, and their dog, Rosie. She live in the suburbs of Chicago, where she is committed to perfecting her dry sense of humor and reading nearly everything she can.

Check out Amy’s website: www.AmySimpsonOnline.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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Waiting Patiently by Sandy Turney

Waiting Patiently by Sandy Turney

By

What do you feel when you read “wait patiently”?

For me, it brings up uncomfortable feelings! I like everything under control, and I like to control things as much as I possibly can. I don’t like to wait until the last minute to do things. I make lists and check things off as I go.  So waiting patiently is difficult for me. I feel more calm if I know what is expected or what will be happening next.  This is something I have to continually work at.

However, during difficult times, whether it’s a time of depression or having to adjust medications and waiting for them to work, I find it extremely challenging to be patient. I feel anxious and sometimes lost when I have no control. Waiting for medication to work can sometimes take a few weeks, and when we are having problems with our mental health, we all want to feel better NOW, right?

Once I was having a rough time with depression. I was trying to work through it by paying attention to my triggers and using all the tools I’ve learned to move through it. My depression became worse to the point I went to see my psychiatrist. By this time, I had dealt with it for a few months so I was really in a bad place. My doctor adjusted some of my medications and after two weeks I discovered it was causing some side effects as well as not working. So then we had to make more adjustments. Overall, it took a lot more time than I “had planned”.

In the in-between time, I was struggling. As you know, when you feel sad, cry a lot, become irritable or angry, it’s not fun and, for me, I want it fixed fast. So what happens to me in these times is I search, think, and try to figure out what I can do to make it better as quick as possible. I read articles and/or books and it seems my mind is continually thinking about what I can change to get things “normal” for me.

I constantly seek to find something I can control. And therein lies the issue, I’m trying to control things and not be patient. During this particular time, I found one of my study books which gave verses for particular areas in our lives. I looked through it and asked God to show me what He wanted me to do. I read for awhile and came across Psalms 37:7 “Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act.” Immediately, the verse stuck out to me. I thought ‘really Lord, you know who you’re talking to, right?’ I sat reading the verse and I began to write it over and over; writing is therapeutic for me. I continued to talk with God and I believe He was telling me to just wait on Him. Strangely enough, it felt like the verse gave me permission; permission to rest and not be in a tizzy trying to make something happen, trying to control things….just wait.

So I did just that. When I came home from work I used that time to read, study, relax, and go to bed early. I didn’t feel like I had to be in control. Instead of searching, I had more time to be with God and let Him take care of things while I was waiting to feel better.

So I would like to encourage you to try a few things:
1. Give yourself permission to wait patiently for God to act, because He has already given us permission.
2. Learn and monitor your triggers.
3. Use the “waiting” moments to take care of yourself and draw closer to God.

Leave “Flat-Lined” Emotions Behind & Overcome The Fear Of ‘Feeling’

Leave “Flat-Lined” Emotions Behind & Overcome The Fear Of ‘Feeling’

By Brad Hoefs

It’s called a “decrescendo” in music: a gradual reduction in force or loudness. It’s part of what creates the beauty of music, crescendos and decrescendos, softness, loudness, intensity, fast and slow beats. Without these things and a beautiful melody line music would be lifeless. Well, that’s how I was feeling just months after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and adjusting to my medicines.

My doctor heard me loud and clear when I kept saying that I didn’t know if I could live feeling so lifeless. He kept telling me at each of my appointments that I needed to give it time. But, I felt as though I was a medicated zombie- just blah. I missed the ups, downs, intensity, the fast and slow beats yet, I was scared to death to feel anything of an up or down, sad or happy feeling. I feared that feeling nothing would be the permanent “music of my life”.

The doctor kept assuring me that he needed to get my mood stabilized. Stabilized? I felt so stabilized that it was as though I had emotional rigor mortis! At about four months into being medicated my doctor thought it was time to adjust the initial doses of mood stabilizer. He adjusted it just a bit. And I began to feel a little. And the little that I felt was extreme sadness and regret. It was awful. I told him if this was all I was going to feel, I’d rather not feel. He encouraged me to work through my grief and sadness and disruption my last manic episode had caused in my life and the life of my family.

For months I worked on the toxic remorse I had regarding what had happened during my manic episode. My loved ones forgave and began to move forward. I was stuck. All I felt was toxic remorse and depression. I was scared to death to feel happy; that it would trigger an onset of mania. It seemed as though my emotions and feelings had flat-lined. My feelings and emotions had descended to no longer blah, but now nothing but a pounding sadness. So, the doctor introduced a bit more of antidepressant into my “medicine-cocktail” and I continued to work with my therapist regarding my remorse, shame and sadness regarding all that had happened during my mania. But, the little new pill seemed to help just a bit.

It was approximately a year into my recovery that I was still feeling quite emotionally flat-lined and complaining about it to my doctor. I would tell him at each my brief visits with him that the range of my feelings and emotions was so narrow that I was not sure that I had a pulse anymore. His response shocked me! He said, “Brad, it’s time for you to stop fearing your feelings and emotions. You are a human being. You are going to have feelings and emotions, ups and downs. You’re going to feel sad and happy and blah. Get out of your head and start feeling! Start living! And no, you won’t handle all of your feelings and emotions perfectly. You’ll be like the rest of us, human. Allow yourself to laugh. Stop taking yourself so seriously!” And with that “gust” of advice he told me to lighten up, take my medicine and live.

The doctor was right. At first I maybe had just a little too much mood stabilizer and not enough anti-depressant. But, my shame and regret became toxic remorse and began to emotionally flat-line me to the point where I was frozen emotionally; at best I was barely coping. I certainly was not thriving. I feared becoming too happy; too sad; too mad; too anything! I was emotionally constipated. So, I took my doctor’s advice. I stopped trying to think my way through everything. I began to live, allowing myself to feel again. I began to feel like a human being again. In fact, today I thrive. Yes, I have some ups and downs, like everyone has. And no, I’m not perfect in how I always handle my emotions. After all, I’m human. But, my emotions and feelings do not interrupt my ability to live.

Throughout the last six and half years of facilitating a Fresh Hope support group I have seen a lot of folks who are emotionally flat-lined. Sometimes it’s due to being over medicated and other times it is because they are like I, fearing to feel too much at the risk of an escalating mood. And many times it is due to them getting stuck in toxic remorse or toxic grief over having a mental health issue. Of course, there’s a host of many other reasons that emotions and feelings can flat-line.

If you are feeling emotionally flat-lined, not feeling, no emotions (emotionally constipated) I’d suggest a couple of things to consider:

  • Are you over medicated? Talk with your doctor about it. If your doctor is not willing to listen to what is going on…do you need a second opinion? Sometimes doctors simply listen to “key” words that the patient uses without ever exploring with the patient what those “key” words mean to the patient.
  • Are you keeping yourself from feeling too much of anything out of fear that your loved ones expect you to perfectly handle your emotions and feelings at all times; otherwise you are just being “bipolar”? If so talk with your therapist about this, begin to work through it. Your loved ones may need some help in understanding what issues are due to having bipolar disorder and what issues are due to being a human!
  • If you do not have a supportive home environment I would strongly recommend that you find a positive, wellness focused and driven mental health support group either in person or online.
  • Set goals for your life. Without goals we become hopeless. When you and I have no place to move to in life we loose our hope. You need to have goals, what do you want out of your life?

I suspect that you can help me with this list of suggestions. How have you moved from flat-lined emotions and feelings to living again? What are your frustrated with? Let’s help one another!

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 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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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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Four Stages of Managing Bipolar Disorder by Rick Qualls

Four Stages of Managing Bipolar Disorder by Rick Qualls

By Pastor Rick Qualls

The beatitudes of Jesus give us the first four phases of living with difficult disease or trauma in our lives.

I was surprised by this insight as I was getting ready to write my book Bright Spots in the Darkness.

The Beatitudes offer a spiritual pathway through tough times.

I do not like having bipolar illness. That is not a surprise. You don’t either. But the paradox is acknowledging our disease is the first phase of living with it.

I have resisted admitting I am bipolar, not just from the first diagnosis but throughout the time living with the disease. At my last med check I tried to convince my doctor that my illness may be the result of an autoimmune problem. I may have an immune problem that mimics the symptoms of bipolar but the probability is pretty low.

But in the meantime, I need to admit my issues with God and with other people, especially the professionals God has brought into my life, those who help me manage my disease.

But I still remember the lowest black hole of depression. I could not get out of that horrendous place without admitting I had a disease and needed help. I needed God, friends, professionals, and family. I learned that the first beatitude was what I needed to do. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

I have grief over my bipolar. Between my illness and meds, I am not the same person I once was. I miss that. I don’t learn as quickly as I once did. I require more time in self-care. I have to be careful of my stress levels, my speech and thinking processes are slowed down.

I don’t like these changes. I wish they would magically go away. But there is no magic wand to wave.

So I had to find another source of self-esteem. True self-esteem comes from being loved by God just as I am. It doesn’t matter what I can do or can’t do, my abilities or disabilities, I am precious to God. He loves us just as we are for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for the comfort of God’s love.

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”

The third phase is becoming meek or cooperative with our protocols. We worked with our counseling/medical team to find ways to manage our disease.

We have to be humble enough to go along with our treatment. We take medicines and practice self-care.

But there are times when we get rebellious or simply angry about taking our meds or doing things necessary self-care. We may get proud and resist our protocols. This does not usually turn out well. A manic or depressive episode will disrupt our life. It takes time to undo the damage these bouts that false pride cause.

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Matt 5:5. When we are willing to humble ourselves and keep our regimen we experience remission, our new normal. It is as though we have gained a new life. Our world becomes more healthy.

The fourth stage occurs when we actively pursue our healing. This stage is more than doing those things that brought remission. Now we actively seek self-care. We experiment with new ways of getting better.

Our doctor may help us adjust meds for inevitable ups and downs. We become aware of our triggers and develop plans to manage those behaviors. We take on new healthy behaviors. We adjust our attitude by changing thinking patterns. We do the things that we can do to maintain stability. We are quick to seek help when the road is rocky.

This fourth stage is when we hunger and thirst for getting better. With this phase, we find our quality of life gets even better.

The fourth beatitude puts it this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

Sometimes we bounce around in these stages. I do. For a time I will actively seek to work my plan. And then I may become stubborn and resist my meds. My self-care will go down the tubes. And about that time I don’t want to admit to anyone, or myself, that I have a disease.

But when I keep in mind these four principles I discover that God is able to use this process to bless me in spite of having bipolar.

May my experiences bless you along your journey.

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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7 Ways to Effectively Fight Off the Wintertime Blues

7 Ways to Effectively Fight Off the Wintertime Blues
I thought this post might help you and me to prepare for the long dreary -gray days.  Most of us who live where there is a true winter live with a lot of gray skies and less sunlight than during the spring, summer and fall.
The gray days and long nights of winter affect my mood. Every winter I’m reminded how much I dislike it. My doctor says that anyone who lives in the regions of the world where days are short, and the sunshine is lacking will be affected by it whether they have a mood disorder or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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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Staying Stable While Grieving

Staying Stable While Grieving

By: Brad Hoefs

This post is dedicated to my Dad, David J. Hoefs

My dad passed away on May 12th of 2017. He was the first person I knew who had bipolar disorder. While we knew his health was declining and he had some major health issues, we didn’t know that death was imminent. He had a heart attack and was gone immediately. So, when my sister called me that he had passed, it was shocking news. At that point, I knew I needed to do the work of grieving. After all, as a pastor, I have encouraged people to do the work of grieving, and now it was my turn to grieve.

My wife and I had just gotten to our son’s house for a visit the day before this all happened. So I had to return home right away. Flying back home gave me time to think and ponder. One of the first things on my mind was that I needed to pay close attention to any signs of depression, as I was grieving. I knew that the grief process could develop into or trigger depression, or destabilize my mood. I wanted to avoid becoming depressed if at all possible. I wasn’t sure I would know the difference between feelings of grief and depression. My experience up to this point had been dealing with the severe depression and grief from being forced to resign from the church that I was serving at the time. That was pure hell. And if I could avoid that, I wanted to do so at all costs. But I also knew that if you don’t do the work of grieving, the grief will deal with you at some point.

So on the two different plane flights home, I found myself emotional and sad, but also cognizant of the fact that because of having bipolar disorder, along with the process of grieving, that avoiding the destabilization of my mood might be a bit tricky. I promised myself that I would pay attention to the process and attempt to maneuver through the emotional sadness of losing Dad without stumbling into a depressive episode. And I was concerned that I would know the difference. I felt a little as though someone had put me on a rollercoaster ride that I didn’t choose, and I wasn’t sure how wild the ride might be.

 

So, I promised myself to do several things:

  1. I promised myself to feel what I was feeling; to go through it, but “pay attention” to all of it by purposefully taking the time to be self-aware. I was not going to attempt to avoid the grief, the sad feelings, and tears. To do this, if I was feeling sad or down, I decided I would ask myself, “Is this grief? Or is this depression?”
  2. I promised myself that if I was either confused by the feelings of grief and potentially feeling depressed, that I would not wait too long to talk to my Doctor, a therapist, or a friend. Too often I think we believe that we can handle it on our own and wait to be proactive.
  3. I promised myself that I would attempt to keep some balance between the work of grief and continuing to live. I’ve seen people just keep themselves too busy with life to avoid the pain. But, I’ve also seen people, who following the loss of a loved one, just sit down and stop living. Neither is good. I knew I needed to keep it as balanced as possible.

 

It’s been approximately ten weeks since the death of my father. So far, so good. As I experience the various aspects of grieving, they seem to come in waves. I can’t explain it any other way but as waves of emotions, not always sad emotions, but a range of emotions. Some of the waves are enormous and last a while, and others are small little waves. And it is impossible to know when the waves will hit. I also find myself thinking about my dad so much more than when he was living. Also, I find myself continually thinking about the fact that he is gone. There was no time to say good bye or prepare for it — which was good for him, but I would have loved to have the time to say goodbye.

One of the things my extended family decided to do when we were picking my Dad’s burial plot at the cemetery was to go ahead and buy ten plots that would all be in the same row. To know where my burial plot would be brought about more emotions to deal with; but many others have processed these things, and I saw it as simply my turn to do so.

Up to this point, I don’t think I’m experiencing any depression. Of course, you and I both know that could change. So I’m still paying close attention to what is going on with my feelings and emotions. There have been a few times through all this that I’ve had to set aside my emotions and carry on with my job. For example, my Dad’s funeral was on a Tuesday and on the Friday of that same week I had a wedding. I had to continue with daily living (my work as a pastor). Part of the work of grieving is balancing the emotions and feelings, and at the same time continuing with life. It’s a delicate balance.

Grief is a journey. And just like the journey of mental health wellness, the journey of grief looks different for each of us.

One thing I know is that my faith as a Christian has been critical for me as I’ve gone through the loss of my father. Because I believe I will see him again, it brings comfort and hope. For me, it would be challenging without this sure comfort and hope. So, I find myself leaning on the Lord a bit more than usual.

My hope is that my transparency about this might be helpful to some of you who might be going through the same thing. It doesn’t have to be the loss of a loved one; it could be the loss of a relationship or the loss of a job. It could be grief that is following your initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder. You might love someone who is struggling with bipolar disorder, and you’re grieving.

Grief is a journey. And just like the journey of mental health wellness, the journey of grief looks different for each of us. If you are going through a season of grieving, how are you doing? What has worked for you? Are you mindful of the difference between the sadness and emotions of grief vs. depression?

If you are grieving a loss in your life, please know you are not alone. I’m right there with 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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Why Loved Ones Need Support Too by Renae Blum

Why Loved Ones Need Support Too by Renae Blum

By

It wasn’t until Nebraska parents Rob and Sharon* attended their first Fresh Hope group that they realized how desperately they needed to be there. Their oldest daughter, a college-age adult, had struggled with anxiety and depression since childhood, and been hospitalized several times.

“It rocks your world, when your child is sick like that,” Sharon said. “You’re just floundering around, not knowing how you’re supposed to feel, what you’re supposed to do. You go to work, and it’s like an escape, because it’s something normal.”

Attending that first Fresh Hope meeting, Rob and Sharon were stunned to read the loved ones’ section of the tenets.

“I went through and realized I could relate to every sentence,” Rob said. “I’ve felt like a victim. I’ve pushed too hard. I’ve bailed out at times – like, ‘She’s going to have to deal with this herself; I’m too tired.’”

After attending Fresh Hope for several months, and interacting with the facilitators and other members, he says he gained insight and knowledge about one of the darkest and most confusing times of his life.

“I realized that I’d been doing some things that were pretty damaging for the relationship, meaning well. I just didn’t know,” Rob said.

He gained something else as well – hope.

“You go there and realize you’re not alone. That as helpless and hopeless as it may seem, someone else has been through it too. The ‘hope’ component is pretty big,” Rob said.

Sharon said she didn’t know at first that loved ones were welcomed and encouraged to attend. At her first Fresh Hope meeting, she watched as parents and spouses around the table shared personal stories.

“Listening to them, it was like, ‘YES! I’m not weird!’” she laughed. “You go through this feeling like you can’t talk about it with anyone besides your spouse. And then you come to Fresh Hope, and suddenly there’s a room full of people who want to listen and who understand every word you say. It’s an awesome thing, and totally unique.”

Rob added that one unexpected benefit he’s gained from Fresh Hope is the ability to reach out to other struggling parents.

“It becomes clear pretty quickly that I know what they’re going through, and am a safe person to tell bad things to,” Rob said. “They can shock me with the things they say, but I’m not going to assume they’re a bad parent. Because I’ve been there. The circumstances are different, but I can sympathize, and I can listen.”

Sharon turns to him. “Maybe that’s why you’ve gone through the things you have,” she said. “It’s like that verse: ‘He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort…’”

“‘…those who are in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God,’” Rob said, smiling as he helped her finish the verse.**

“It’s been such a blessing to our family,” Sharon said. “I hope that wherever our daughter lives, she’ll have a Fresh Hope group to go to. I’m so glad she connected with one.”

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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