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

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6 Tips On How To Deal With A Bully In Your Life

6 Tips On How To Deal With A Bully In Your Life

By: Stan Popovich

Have you ever been bullied at your job or in your personal life?  Do you currently know someone who is being bullied?  A person who is being bullied have higher rates of depression and anxiety which can be a factor in a person’s life.

As a result, here are some suggestions on how to deal with a bully and how to get them to stop bothering you.

  1. Show People That You Are Confident In Yourself: It is important to believe in yourself and that you display confidence when dealing with others. Bullies tend to bother people who are unsure about themselves so it is important that other people know that you have a lot of self-confidence. This will prevent a bully from targeting you.
  2. Always Stand Up For Yourself: Always stand your ground when dealing with conflict from others. Let people know that you will stand up for yourself when some people get on your case. This will show others that you will not sit by and be bullied without doing anything about it. This will make the bullies think twice before bothering you.
  3. There Is Safety In Numbers: If you can, it is good to hang out with a group of friends whether it is at your job or in your personal life. A bully will tend to go after somebody who is alone and by themselves. A bully will less likely bother you if they know that you have a group of people that will back you up. Even if you have trouble making friends, just having acquaintances can go a long way in preventing someone from getting on your case.
  4. Learn How To Deal With A Bully: If you are being bullied, it is important to learn effective techniques on how to deal with the situation.  A person can talk to a professional counselor who will help you on what you can do when you are being bullied. A person can also go to a local mental health support group in their area that can give you additional advice. The key is to learn what you need to do to stop someone from bullying you.
  5. Never Show Them Your Emotions: If someone decides to get on your case, it is a good idea to not let the person know they are getting to you. Letting a bully know that they are bothering you will only make things worse. Never show the bully your fears or frustrations. Hopefully, the person will get tired of bothering you and they will find somewhere else to go.

6. Talk To The Person: If possible, talk to the person who is bothering you and find out why they are getting on your case. Ask them if you did anything wrong that made them angry. Try to find the reason why he or she is bothering you. Stay calm and be polite when talking to the person who is harassing you. Hopefully, there may be a chance to reconcile with that person.

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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Wisdom for Living Well: Knowing the Difference Between What We Can Change and What We Can’t Change

Wisdom for Living Well: Knowing the Difference Between What We Can Change and What We Can’t Change

This line from the Serenity Prayer has been a key for me in learning how to live to well in spite of bipolar disorder:

 “The serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” (Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr [1892-1971])

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995 I spent a lot of time focused on things I could not change. Which led me to becoming frustrated, hurt and angry. This “side-trip” on my road to wellness took me down a path that had the power to make me bitter and resentful. Which was holding me back from getting better.

Thankfully my therapist at the time was able to help me get back onto a path that led to wellness and the key was in knowing the difference between the things I could change and those things that I could not change.

For instance, some of the things I could not change were:

  • I couldn’t change other people’s reactions to my mental illness including those close to me. (This was a big one for me!)
  • I couldn’t change the fact that I had (and still have) bipolar disorder and I couldn’t “will” it away.
  • I couldn’t change my past.
  • I couldn’t change the fact that I would need medicine.

This list could go on and on. But, I think you get the point.

The first one on the list was a BIG one for me to accept and come to terms with; not being able to change people’s reactions and opinions regarding my having bipolar disorder. I had lived my life with a lot of “people-pleasing”, so it really mattered to me what other people thought and said about me. So, I spent a long time and energy spinning my emotional wheels around this issue and what other thought or said was simply not something I could change and nor was it was my responsibility.

As I focused on the things I could not change I found myself not changing the things I could change!

Strangely enough, that which occupies your thinking is also the direction you go. So, as I focused and obsessed on the things that I could not change I started to become frustrated, angry and bitter about them. There certainly was neither serenity nor peace for me.

The key for me in accepting the things I couldn’t change was to change my focus to the things that I could change. And as I focused on the things I could change I began to get my life back. I know that whatever I focus on in my thinking is “where” I’m headed. I began to make a list of the things I could change and began to work on and think about those things. It took a lot of will power at first. I continue choose to focus on the things I can change so that I might live well.

Some of the things I can change:

  • I can change how I respond to others in spite of how they have reacted to my disorder.
  • I can find those who do understand and are supportive in spite of those who do not understand and not supportive.
  • I can change learn from my past and take what I have learned and apply it to today and my future. I don’t need to beat myself up over past mistakes.
  • I can choose to live life well in spite of having bipolar disorder. In other words, my whole world is not wrapped in having bipolar disorder. It is just a part of my life, not the whole of it.
  • I can change my doctor or therapist if they are not helpful

Again, this list can go on and on too.

I believe that knowing the knowing difference between the things I can change and the things that I cannot change and focusing on the things I can change has been key to my living well in spite of having bipolar disorder.

How about you? Have you or are you learning the difference? What can you change? What can’t you change? Are you focusing on the things that you can change and letting go of the things you can’t?

 

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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Advice from a King in Managing Depression by Rick Qualls

Advice from a King in Managing Depression by Rick Qualls

You are not alone in your struggle with depression.

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

In Psalm 37 David teaches us ways of managing depression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May practicing meekness bring peace to you, my friend.

 

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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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The Worst Advice You Could Ever Get About Mental Illness By: Katie Dale

The Worst Advice You Could Ever Get About Mental Illness By: Katie Dale

By: Katie Dale

I laid alert and sweating, grasping for some semblance of reason and peace when those raspy voices chanted in my head all at one time, repeating my Savior’s name. The night I switched psychotropic medications, ending one, upping another, culminated in a restless battle for my sanity.  The resulting effects debilitated my mind in a full-on anxiety attack and break from reality. It appeared as though the doctor recommended a quick switch from one medicine to another.

-Probably one of the darkest nights of my soul.

When it does its job, medication is a miraculous thing.

And “when” is such an unpredictable factor.

So trial and error leads the way these days. Advanced as our first-world society is today, our technology and pharmacology has not yet broken through to the next level of brain science. As having been diagnosed bipolar disorder for the last 15 years, my medication has been a journey to find stability. I can pretty much guarantee you that compared to my bipolar disorder, the medication has been a Godsend.

Which is why it saddens, frustrates and angers me when people are misled to believe that medication is bad.

As with any journey of discovery and revelation, risk is a given. What do I say to those who think medication is a waste of money, who think pharmaceuticals are all out to get you hooked on pills? Don’t let the loudest voices do all the talking.

To them I say, look at my ability to live life. Before I even had medicine, I was sick. My brain misfired and my reality was skewed. On my medicine, I’m doing better than I’ve ever been.

So don’t believe the ones that ignorantly claim that medication is of the devil, or that it’s a worldly answer to spiritual warfare, or that pharmaceuticals are out just for your money.

Please, don’t make the same mistake I did and go off the medication, if you have a mood disorder.

This is the worst advice anyone could get on mental illness.

Listen to your doctor, listen to your body and mind.

And listen to your gut.

If you have been diagnosed with a mood disorder, take care of yourself.

Take your medicine.

If it doesn’t work or it has additional negative side effects, consult with your doctor. There are generations of medicines now that are offered, more variety is here than ever before. There are side effects that come with a lot of medicines, but you don’t know how you will respond to the medicine until you try it. Every person’s brain chemistry is different. Everyone’s. No two people will respond the same exact way to the same medicine. Dosage type and amount, generic and formulary, there are so many ways each of our brains react to the drugs. 

Additionally, it is common to initially think that one just has to “pray away” their mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, there is power in prayer. However, medication can be an answer to prayer. It has been for me. It has been for many. You can credit prayer when you’re trying to get through a depression without medication and God delivers you. If He works that way in your life, do that. But don’t discount the possible benefits, and in severe mental illness, the recommended treatment of medications, that are purposefully used to give us relief and proper balance of brain activity. 

That’s the best advice I can give about mental illness.

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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When Depression Smiles

When Depression Smiles

By: Rick Qualls

I was smiling, at least I thought I was. Although depressed, I was a high functioning depressive. Occasionally it would overwhelm me, but for the most part I wore a mask. A mask was so intertwined with my personality I couldn’t tell where the it ended and the real me began.

Smiling depression, sometimes called high functioning depression, is still depression and needs treatment. Depression is an illness. It is an illness that affects you physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I was doing all of the pastor things, preaching, counseling, funerals, and helping people with grief.  It went on long enough that I didn’t know I was depressed. Able to do virtually all of my pastoral tasks, most people thought I was just a bit moody, but I thought it was well hidden.

What does high functioning depression look like?

Often, behind a well constructed facade there is anxiety that may have been there for years. Anxieties reach levels that interfere with daily life. The smiling mask is worn and our inner world may be hidden from even those the closest to us. There is great fear that loved ones or fellow employees may, without intending, unmask us.

There is a Bible verse that helps me remember that God cares about my inner world.

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,“ Psalm 30:11 ESV  The sadness can be changed.

But when you are depressed joy is lost. People can’t tell. You may have loss of pleasure in the things you once enjoyed. Activities with others feel as a burden to avoid. It is easier to lose oneself in work where the mask can stay firmly in place.

Self criticism and perfectionism go hand in hand with depression. What may look like having high standards to others are actually feelings of worthlessness that drive you to pursue high standards. But your accomplishments are never enough.

Decreased energy plagues you. There are times life cannot be handled. It takes all your strength and motivation just to get through the day. The Bible reminds me that depression does destroy my inner life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV

Sadness is hidden behind the mask. This sadness cannot be pinpointed. It is just there. Most days it is manageable. Others are difficult to function.

High functioning depressives are often surprised to discover that they could be be depressed.

All of these things describe how I lived for years. It lasted  until—I couldn’t do it anymore. It took several years of treatment before I was correctly diagnosed as having bipolar 2. Bipolar 2 is experienced as an intense form of depression. The manic states are not very noticeable but the depression side of the disease is extreme.

In time my doctor and I discovered the correct meds to treat the illness. With medication I am able to function without a mask hiding my inner life. Smiles are genuine not faked.

What to do if you think you might be a smiling depressive? The first step is to find a therapist. There are many types of depression and a therapist trained in discerning the types of depression is important.

Engaging both a psychiatrist and counselor helps to combat your depression in two ways. A psychiatrist is a specialized medical doctor able to prescribe medications for mental illness.

A counselor helps you manage your inner world, feelings, and thinking processes in a healthy manner and help you change negative thinking patterns. A verse that reminds me of the importance of the patterns of thinking is Romans 12:2:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Be patient it may take time. But becoming healthy is worth the effort.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 ESV

After I was able to get a correct diagnosis and on correct meds I was able to continue my last years as a pastor being real with people. How did people respond to learning of my illness?  There were all kinds of reactions but it opened a ministry to people who were quietly suffering from various issues. Out of illness came good.

May your smile may be real. May it reveal an inner world of joy and healing.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 ESV

 

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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