Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

Ditching the Shame Game By: Jamie Meyer

Ditching the Shame Game By: Jamie Meyer

By Jamie Meyer

The most dreaded question anyone with a difficult mental health disorder wants to hear is:  What do you do for a living?  In that moment it feels like the wind is sucking right out of you.  Every possible answer that courses through your mind is laden with shame:  Shame that I live on disability. Shame that I was let go for missing work too many times.  Shame that I couldn’t finish college. Shame that I had a great job that I loved but then illness took it away.

So why do we feel this sense of shame about having a mental health disorder?  For one, we live in a society that values achievement, acquiring possessions and living independently.  The shame creeps in when we evaluate ourselves as being less than those around us. We make comparisons and then draw the conclusion that we hold little value in our community.

We also live in a culture where busyness is expected.  If we don’t have anything on our calendar, if we even have one, we may accuse ourselves of being lazy or that we don’t care to be with people.  I can’t tell you how many years it took to stop calling myself “lazy” as I struggled through days with no energy or motivation. Instead of adding things to my calendar I mostly cancelled what was already there.  

While we know that good self-care is critical to our mental and emotional stability, people shame us as being selfish.  I was working nearly full-time when depression overwhelmed me. I was allowed to adjust my schedule to work just three days a week instead of five, but I paid a hefty price for those long days: complete exhaustion.  

I also learned that people we work with can be jealous and resentful when we take care of ourselves.  One morning my co-worker casually asked me what I did on my day off and I told her I went for a massage.  She later told others in the office that I was bragging, rubbing it in that I only had to work three days a week and got to do fun things on my days off.  If she only knew.

So how do we go about ditching the shame we feel about ourselves and begin to accept that we have value and worth?  We do that by using a different measuring stick. The true measure of our worth is the word of God and not the words and impressions we receive from the world around us.  Could we dare to see ourselves in terms of who we are and not what we do? 

I find it significant that when Jesus walked this earth he spent a great deal of time reaching out to and healing the broken and rejected.  He drew close to those who were shunned due to a physical illness like leprosy or for being blind or lame. Mental illnesses were often attributed to demon possession.  Many in that culture believed sin was the cause of many illnesses (see John 9:1-3).

So whether it’s a mental or physical illness that causes you to feel inferior to others, Jesus considers you worthy of his love and care.  When thoughts of shame or worthlessness creep in, take a moment to look at yourself through His eyes: 

  • You are my beloved child.  I chose you! (John 1:12, 15:16)
  • You are my workmanship, my beautiful creation  (Ps. 139:13-16)
  • You are free of all condemnation and shame  (Romans 8:1-2)

 

  • Your life has purpose and meaning  (Eph. 2:10)

 

  • I have good plans for your life and I work all things together for your good  (Jeremiah 29:11, Rom. 8:28)

The next time you’re tempted to belittle yourself and feel ashamed, be reminded that God’s word, his Truth, is your true measure.

 

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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Choosing Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Choosing Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Hopelessness is serious. Every day people fall into the hopeless hole of hopelessness due to their struggle with a mental health issue. Hopelessness begins to knock at the door of one’s heart when you feel and believe that you have no future. It happens so easily, and it can take root all too fast. Each time we face one of life’s interruptions which change our perceived future hopelessness can settle in and live rent free in our hearts and minds.

Over 20 years ago I faced a life-altering interruption due to having bipolar disorder. At that time I was pastoring one of the fastest growing churches in my denomination. However, following that painful manic episode, which had interrupted my life, I was asked to resign. It was earth-shattering. My position and the church had become my identity. I was devastated to the point of complete hopelessness. I had lost my future. Hopelessness had set in. And the deep dark hole of depression became a shameful guilt place of familiarity for me; months and months of severe depression followed.

For years prior to this interruption I had felt as though I had a monster inside of me that I had to manage.

The more stress I experienced with pastoring a growing church, the more impossible it was to control the monster within me. More times than not, the monster was controlling me. So, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I found out that the monster had a name. And strangely enough, a small ray of hope began to break through the hopelessness what had swallowed me whole.

Why would there be a small ray of hope following my diagnosis?   After all, usually people see the diagnosis of bipolar disorder as the difficult thing to accept. Well, it was because of the people around me who helped me to see that the diagnosis and treatment of my bipolar disorder were a way back to having a future. It was the idea that the bipolar could be treated and I could have a future poked a small pinhole of hope into the darkness of hopelessness. It was not an easy journey, but it was more than worth it. With that small pinhole of hope, I could see a way forward. I began to grieve what I had lost and began to embrace a new and different future; believing that I could live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.

Dr. Sean Lopez, the author of Making Hope Happen, has done extensive research on hope for over 14 years. His research supports what I experienced. When I thought I had no future, hopelessness set in and took over. And when I could see the way to a future, hope began to start. And the clearer the future became for me, the more hope I felt.

Interestingly enough, hope can be borrowed, shared and it can be caught! Think about it, if you hang around a lot of hopeless friends, you will begin to feel hopeless. And if you hang out with people who are filled with hope you will begin to feel hopeful.

So, I have a question for you: How is your hope tank doing? Do you feel like you can see a way forward? If not, do you potentially need to let go of the future that as you thought it would be, grieve it and let it go? Do you need to embrace the new potential future? There’s no doubt that doing this is a process. It is not like switching a light switch on. But, it is a choice.

Hope is truly a choice. For me as a Christian, hope is not only a choice, but it is sure and certain. Paul reminds us that no matter what our circumstances might be there is a future because the Lord will work all things out together for our good. (Romans 8:28) So, I certainly may not “feel” hopeful, but I choose to believe Romans 8:28 and that means that there is a future. It may not have been the future as I thought it would be, but it is a future.

So, again, my question is: how is your hope tank? Is your hope tank empty? Is being a caregiver sucking the hope right out of you? Do you see a way forward into the future?

Are you strong enough to make the choice of hope? If not, I have some hope you can borrow.See, I know because of the storms I’ve been through in my life that God is at work in all things. He is with you. He has not left you. He won’t leave you. And He is FOR you and your entire family! He has a plan. It may not be the life you and I planned prior to bipolar showing up, but in spite of us having bipolar disorder He has a plan!

Everything may not be “good” right now, but all is well because of Him. He has heard every single one of your tears as a liquid prayer.   Look for that little tiny bit of light coming through the “pin” hole poking through the hopelessness you might be feeling. Choose hope. Choose it minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day and your feelings will begin to catch up. There is a future and joy is included in it.

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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Bipolar & Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

Bipolar & Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

To change our default setting it must be done one mini habit at a time.

If you are like me, there have been numerous times you were highly motivated to make BIG changes in your mental health journey. One of those times for me was deciding 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 allyousef-al-nasser-261164 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-will power. 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.

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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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Insights for Someone Who Has Been Newly Diagnosed​ with a Mental Health Issue

Insights for Someone Who Has Been Newly Diagnosed​ with a Mental Health Issue

 

Have you been newly diagnosed with a mental health issue?  It can be overwhelming, to say the least.  Through the years of finding the path to living well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis, I’ve come up with a list of a few things to do when newly diagnosed.

So, here are what I would consider key initial steps to living well when you’ve been recently diagnosed:

  • The sooner you come to terms with your diagnosis and work your treatment plan, the sooner you are on the road to getting back your life
  • Get enough sleep and watch your stress level
  • Be honest with your doctor- the more he/she knows, the more helpful  they can be.  If you don’t trust your doctor or believe they are the best at what they do, find another doctor
  • Find a positive and encouraging peer support group to attend.
  • Take your medicine.  Push past the side effects.  And if the side effects are too much, talk to your doctor. Don’t make decisions regarding your medicine without your doctor’s input and approval.
  • Don’t do street drugs. They interfere with the prescribed medicine. Yes, even marijuana does. You certainly won’t get better because of them and they will most likely only impede your recovery.
  • Know the difference between emotional issues versus the symptoms of what you have been diagnosed with.
  • Choose to believe that you can live a rich life in spite of this disorder or you can become the victim of it.  You get to decide.
  • Know that you are not alone.

Of course, the single most important thing is to remember, know and hold to- that the Lord is with you.  He has not left you.  He won’t leave you.  He won’t give up on you.  He is for you.  And He will take what you are going through right now and work it together for your good.  Listen to or read His word.  If you can’t read the Bible, listen to it or listen to Scripture songs.  It will feed your soul and bring inner peace.

These are some things that I have found true for myself in the recovery process since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder some 23 years ago now.  What have you found? What would you tell someone who has been newly diagnosed?

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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We Are Not All the Same: How Bipolar Disorder Varies from Person to Person

We Are Not All the Same: How Bipolar Disorder Varies from Person to Person

It’s essential to recognize living with bipolar disorder is a different experience for every person, with complexities such as co-occurring disorders.

Bipolar disorder differs from person to person.  The same medicines do not work for all of us, nor do we all even have the same type of bipolar.  The issues of mental health recovery are very complex.  So, the “things” that have worked for me might not work for you. This is why we need one another.  Corporately, we have answers for one another as we encourage each other and share what “works” for us as individuals living well in spite of our bipolar disorder.

When you and I connect with one another, we empower each other to live well in spite of any possible daily battles with our disorder.  Individually, no one of us has all the answers.  But, together we have solutions for one another. Corporately we have answers for one another as we encourage each other and share what “works” for us as individuals in living well in spite of our bipolar disorder.

It always concerns me when everyone is talking about mental illness/health and over-generalizing it, simplifying it to the point where everyone is lumped together.

By doing this, the public is not even beginning to understand the complexities and challenges for each individual dealing with their particular life’s situation and experiences, plus having a mental illness.

Some of us have only one diagnosis; bipolar disorder.  Others of us have the complexity of co-occurring disorders which some now are calling “complex” instead of co-occurring.  Just bipolar disorder in and of itself is enough to make life very complex at times. But, add on top of that a borderline personality disorder, and now it’s even more complicated.  As I watch friends of mine who have a personality disorder, lots of child trauma and bipolar disorder, I have come to know that their struggle for wellness is compounded many times over as they strive to live well in spite of several mental health issues.

Yet, I believe there are some general “living-well” principles that are true for most, if not all, of us. I’d like to share a few of them.  This list is not exhaustive, but some of the “principles” that I believe may be universal to us all:

  1. In order to achieve some level of wellness in our lives, you and I must be disciplined to do those things that move us toward wellness and keep us well. This is a choice.  As much as I hate to be disciplined, I choose to discipline myself daily to live well in spite of bipolar disorder.
  1. To live well, you and I need other people in our lives.  You and I are made for community.  Isolating will not help any of us to live well. If you have alienated all of the people in your life and are alone, then I strongly encourage you to seek out a certified peer support specialist and/or a peer-led mental health support group and/or group therapy led by a professional therapist. You need other people.
  1. To live well, you and I must be committed to some of the hardest work we will ever do in our lives. Living well in spite of bipolar plus any other issues you might face is But, it’s worth it.  It’s a difficult job that sometimes must be done moment by moment, day by day.
  2. To live well, you and I must have hope for our future, or we will give up. Hopelessness comes about when someone believes they have no future.  Choosing to believe that your life has purpose and meaning is key to overcoming hopelessness.  If you are a person of faith, then this is where your conviction becomes key.  Faith gives hope because it says that life, each life, has meaning and purpose.  Person of faith or not, your life is essential.  Your life has meaning. Out of the pain and hurt of your life, you have the power to empower others by just telling your story.  Telling your story to others who are also on this journey gives your life purpose.  That’s a future. And that gives hope.  Never give up. Each of us needs you. You hold some answers for some of us in our journey towards wellness.
  3. To live well, you and I have to choose to look for the golden nuggets in the “poo-piles” of life (Of course, there’s another way to spell “poo” but, I am going to stay with “poo”). There’s a lot of “poo” in life. No one gets through life without pain and brokenness to varying degrees. When you and I let go of our expectations of life, it allows us to find the “gold nuggets,” the silver linings, even in the most difficult of times. Part of doing this means that you and I must never lose our sense of humor about how goofy life and others can be!

So, I offer these five principles to wellness that I believe are some of the foundational principles of a life of wellness.  They are simple.  But, so very important and challenging to do at times.  I’d love to hear your input regarding them. And I would also like to hear from you about those things you have done and continue doing that help you live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.  It’s easy to do, just send in what you do or have done and we will add to the list!

In the meantime, keep looking for those golden nuggets!

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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Church Myths About Mental Illness By: Rick Qualls

Church Myths About Mental Illness By: Rick Qualls

“It’s all your fault,” said Job’s friends.  …”If you hadn’t done something wrong these troubles would not have come upon your house.”

But God reveals that Job’s problems were not punishment for sin. Sometimes troubles come into our life because we live in a fallen world where  troubles naturally exist.

Even though we know that a disease is not caused by a specific sin, our mind jumps to the ancient conclusion: If you have a problem, it is your fault because you lack enough faith. Repent and all will go well.

But repenting does not cure diabetes. There is no shame in taking meds for diabetes. Nor is shame found in taking meds for high blood pressure. But when troubles come and we don’t understand we blame the victim.

And so like Job’s friends we make the assumption the victim is at fault.

And like Job’s friends we particularly respond with blame or shame for someone diagnosed with a mental illness.

One of four families in our churches are dealing with a member with a mental health diagnosis. 

There are many kinds of mental illness, like depression, anorexia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. There are several categorizes for these illnesses as well. Everyone’s experience is different. Each person’s illness has different symptoms.

What are some of misconceptions we make about mental illness?

  1. God doesn’t care about how we feel. We are saved by faith. Believe and feelings will follow. If healthy feelings don’t follow then you lack faith. Something is wrong for you. 

But the problem is God does care about our feelings. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those crushed in spirit” Ps 34:18

God cares about every aspect of our lives.

2. It is wrong to use meds to help our mind. 

The problem is that many mental illness are a dysfunction of the brain. Chemistry and genetics can play a part. Scientist are still discovering the complex etiology of mental illness. Not taking medicine to help correct these imbalances is irresponsible to yourself, and to your family.

3. In an attempt to be helpful people will say many things.  “I know what you mean, I got depressed for a few days.”

The problem is the “blues” are totally different than clinical depression. Usually those who make those remarks are trying to be empathetic and mean well. But end up hurting more than helping their friends.

4. “Oh just get over yourself. I wish I could lose weight.” 

People who are comparing themselves to your disease reveal they have no idea how painful anorexia is.  

5. “Those with metal illness are not trying hard enough.”

While we would never say to someone with cancer or heart disease, “just get over it. Jump out of that bed and get going.” This is the advice given to mental illness by other church members.

The problem is that we think mental illness occurs because an individual lacks self-will. Theologically we believe that we find life and meaning through God’s grace, through His action of love for us through Jesus Christ. We do not find life by the efforts of our own self will.

“Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” Matt 9:3-5 1-2

Bible teaching helps us during times of difficulties such as mental illness.

The Bible teaches that we are to comfort each other.

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

We live in a broken world.

You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses.Romans 5:12-14 (MSG)

We have a responsibility to help those with mental illness.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16 Message

We must respond with compassion when one of four families are dealing with mental illness. Together we all need hope and grace.

 

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

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

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How I Went From Surviving to Thriving: 3 Simple Steps By: Samantha Karraa

How I Went From Surviving to Thriving: 3 Simple Steps By: Samantha Karraa

By: Samantha Karraa

The long journey towards finding a diagnosis was over. The battle had rendered us
exhausted. I wished the symptoms, the relationship problems, the suicidal impulses, the
emotional pain, the appointments with so many doctors had all been a nightmare but I woke up to find it was my reality. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The year before getting diagnosed had been like a hurricane that had gone by and not only had it destroyed almost everything that was already in my life but had also destroyed any hopes about the future. Led by my doctors, I started the trial and error process with meds until we found a combination that seemed to work for me. However, I was still under the weight of having to carry a mental health diagnosis. The secondary effects and the stigma around the topic were additional pains. My identity started getting attached to the illness’s  symptoms. I was merely surviving.

Nowadays my symptoms are in remission. I am living a full and rich life in spite of my
disorder. My relationships are better than they have ever been. A new love has covered my marriage. I’m being able to take care of and enjoy my parents and my children. I have new friends. New goals and dreams. I have taken on new projects. I am serving the Lord with gladness in my job and ministries at church. I am playing tennis, socializing, staying active and eating healthy.

Don’t get me wrong- I still have bad days. There are still days when it is hard to get up
and get moving. But even on bad days my hope tank is full. I manage my illness and it does not define me. I am thriving.

How did I get from surviving to thriving? To me, it happened in 3 simple but powerful steps.

1. I started attending a Fresh Hope group.

I live in El Salvador but, by an act of God’s providence, I ran into Fresh Hope’s online group. I started attending every Tuesday night. The topics were great, but more importantly the fact it was the face that I was accepted and understood. I was also exposed to stories of how the Lord had helped others in their recovery process and that filled me with hope. Right from the first meeting, I remember the impact it had on me to be able to be in a virtual room with 10 other people, all with different mental health issues, carrying on with hope in life..! They were graduating from a master’s degree, taking care of their families, getting married, helping others, serving at their churches. Hope is catchy.
If you haven’t yet attended a Fresh Hope group look for one in your area or connect to the online group. Here’s a useful link https://freshhope.us/find-a-group/

2. I read the Fresh Hope Workbook.

Written in a simple but powerful format, reading the workbook was easy in spite of my difficulties concentrating. It felt as though I was having a conversation with its author, Pastor Brad Hoefs.
I came to know the 6 tenets of recovery and each of them was a breakthrough for me.
These are not steps but rather blocks that compose the recovery process and, more
importantly, the solid ground where my recovery would stand.

3. I became a Fresh Hope group facilitator.

This is when I started really thriving. One night the facilitator in my group asked me if I
would like to become a facilitator myself. Eventually I signed up for the facilitator’s training program which turned out not only to be filled with really useful information but also very inspiring.
Simultaneously, the facilitator of my group started delegating small bits of the meeting to
me. One day I would lead the check-in process. The other one I would lead prayer. And
another day I would lead the topic! Eventually I completed the training program and I was ready to lead a group. My hope level was overflowing.

I thought about all the people in the world who speak Spanish but don’t speak English and their great need for a program like Fresh Hope. Eventually I translated the tenets and some topic cards and started an online group in Spanish on Wednesday nights. Being a facilitator has definitely been key to my recovery. They say that in spiritual matters the more you give something out, the more you receive. The more I share hope in every meeting, the more I am filled by it. In addition, I stay in touch with recovery material which propels me in the recovery direction. Seeing how the Lord gave purpose to all the pain I went through as I lead the group is a powerful healing component!… He is redeeming my past as I serve him every week and for this I am so grateful. If you want to up your level in your recovery I strongly urge you to consider stepping up and becoming a Fresh Hope facilitator..!

Check out this link https://freshhope.us/start-a-group/ to find out more about how to do this. I guarantee it will be a blessing, not only for your own recovery but for the people around you.

So how about you- where are you in your journey from surviving to thriving? I encourage you, if you still haven’t, to take one of these simple steps today.

 

Fresh Hope needs your help! At the core of Fresh Hope is the belief that it is possible to live well in spite of having a mental health challenge; that no matter how one feels, it is possible to still have hope and live a good life.

The need for all of the Fresh Hope materials to be translated into Spanish is a necessary next step. We are asking for your financial contribution to help us make this happen! Check out how you can make a difference HERE!

What Kind of Noise Do You Hear?

What Kind of Noise Do You Hear?

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Noise. It’s ALWAYS going on. Even if you have all the electronic items off, there is still noise. You still hear cars, the refrigerator running, the air conditioner/heater, etc. I asked my husband what sounds he hears at night when he is hunting in Colorado; he said the wind or coyotes. In the mornings when he’s hunting, he will hear ground squirrels and birds. He said the most quiet it gets is when a storm is coming.

Wherever we go in our day-to-day lives, there are noises. When we are shopping, we hear overhead music, announcements, or people talking while waiting in line. You may be at a sporting event where people might not be happy about what’s going on and maybe they are yelling bad things, possibly cussing. You could be at home with your family watching a TV show, but the commercial shows things you don’t want your children to see.

However, we hear good things too! Riding in the car we put on Christian music. At some type of tournament or competition, you might hear people around you talk about how good a particular child did or how kind they are. At work, you might hear someone tell another person how nice someone is or they enjoy working with them.

So that brings me to the next thought…do you have “noise” inside your own head? I believe we all do; some good and bad; some positive and some negative. This noise can be anything from planning your day, deciding what you’re going to wear, accomplishments you want to achieve in the future or maybe things you didn’t achieve in the past.

In the morning, as soon as I wake up, even before me eyes open, my mind starts moving/making noise. I sometimes wonder where the thoughts come from. I’ve been paying more attention to the noises in my head. It’s almost like a conversation going on; me talking to myself back and forth. I may think “I’m going to go to the gym tonight, but then I hear myself say no you’re not. You’ll be too tired and lazy. You know you’ll give up.” And there are many other noises just like this one. There is not a time during our waking hours when the noise stops. I wish there was an off button so I could turn off all the noise.

In the Bible, even David had problems with noise/thoughts in his head. In Psalm 13:2 NIV he writes “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”

I/We need to work on the kind of noises we have in our heads. The fact is we all face these problems. The majority of the time we do not realize what we are saying to ourselves. Here are some helpful things we can practice so the noises in our heads change from negative to positive:

1) Pay attention to what you are thinking about.
2) Ask yourself if it is positive. If not change the thought. Hebrews 3:1 says “fix your thoughts on Jesus”
3) Every time you think a bad or negative thought, do what Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Think of what God says about that particular thought. As an example: You might say to yourself I’m so unattractive, but that is not what God thinks about us. In Psalm 139:14 God says “you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
4) Replace the bad with good and negative with positive.

What are the noises/thoughts in your head?

Five Keys to Successfully Navigating Change in Spite of a Mental Health Challenge

Five Keys to Successfully Navigating Change in Spite of a Mental Health Challenge

As they say, “The only thing that never changes is change.” Life is full of changes. Some changes that we make, others make, or life makes for us. Some changes we like; others we do not. Change is unavoidable.

Several years ago, I learned a lot about how to navigate significant changes in my life while keeping my bipolar disorder in order.  That season in my life brought a whole list of changes: some of my own doing, some brought on by others, and others that life itself brought about.

Unaware of all of the big changes that were coming our way, my wife and I decided to jamie-street-331990start finishing our basement prior to all of the changes. In November of that year, we began the project that we’ve been waiting nearly ten years to do. We secured the finances and the contractor in early November, not prepared for the massive changes coming our way in our jobs (we both are on the staff of the church that I pastor). Not only did our job descriptions change (positive changes), but we had physical remodeling of office spaces that also needed to happen before the end of that year. The leaders of our church were also rewriting the by-laws of our congregation during this time. Our work days were consumed with planning and preparing for all the Christmas activities and services. Plus, we were getting ready for hosting Christmas at home for not only our children and their families but also my entire extended family.

Needless to say, I learned a few important keys to navigating a lot of change, while maintaining my emotional health. So I thought I would share with you a few of insights that were critical to navigating the changes successfully (this is by no means an exhaustive list).

  1. When experiencing a lot of change, keep your world as small as possible. In other words, limit your activities as much as possible. For example, I postponed some things on my calendar that could wait and delegated weekly activities such as my facilitating a Fresh Hope group. I took a 2-month break and had someone else facilitate for me. I knew that if I had too many activities, I would risk losing my wellness. I needed to keep my schedule as simple as possible.
  1. Know which changes you can reject and which you will have to accept. Sometimes changes come our way that we have no control over, i.e., the loss of a job, death of a spouse, or moving to another city or town. When a change happens that you can’t control, you have to come to terms with it and accept it as out of your control. If the change or changes are things you can control, then you need to do what you can do. And it’s important to know the difference between the two. (From the Serenity Prayer, “the things I can change and the things I cannot change…and the wisdom to know the difference.”)
  2. All changes, whether negative or positive – including the changes we desire – bring with them some grief.  Working through the grief is important. One of the monumental tasks I had to do regarding building changes in our offices was to empty out a “junk room” (which the staff lovingly referred to as my “hoarders room”). This room had all of the junk and boxes of the first years following my very manic episode, forced resignation, and my attempts to “find myself” through hobbies. A lot of “memories of pain” were stored up in that room. I dreaded having to clean it out. Some of the boxes had not been opened in nearly 20 years. I thought about having someone just toss it all out! But I knew there were things worth keeping, so I needed to go through them. With the great help of a close friend, the room was emptied with minimal emotional pain. But I still needed to grieve just a bit.
  3. Stick to your schedule.It was imperative during this time of significant changes that I stuck with a routine, especially my sleep routine. I made sure that I didn’t mess with my sleep schedule even though it was tempting to rise early in the morning and stay up late to get as much done as possible. Doing that would have most certainly led me either into a manic phase or hypomanic phase.
  4. Routinely take quiet time – get in touch with what and how you are feeling emotionally, and measure the clarity of your thinking.Each day I knew I had to pay close attention to how I was feeling. I’d ask myself, “Are you feeling a little too wound up? Are your thoughts clear? Are your thoughts racing? Is your thinking foggy?” I’d ask myself a couple of times a day, “How are you doing? What are you feeling? How is your thinking?” I found myself at times becoming overwhelmed and “shutting down”. At those times I would take a few steps back and do some breathing techniques that I’ve learned over the years. And if that didn’t’ work, I’d take a walk, or just do something that required no thinking, until the feelings of being overwhelmed had passed. With all of the changes going on, taking quiet time to pay attention to what was going on within me was imperative!

It’s was a crazy few months, but the changes have now been made, and I’ve adjusted to a new focus on my daily tasks at work. Overall, the changes have been good. But even these positive changes had to be navigated, felt, and worked through emotionally. For the most part, I fared pretty well through the changes. I did have some mornings where I was waking up much earlier than usual, which for me is that is a sign of an elevated mood. So, on those days, I paid even closer attention to what was going on with my thinking and emotions. I always attempted to make sure to get to the gym on those days.

The worst part of experiencing all these changes was that I allowed myself to fall off the “healthy-food-wagon”, and now I’m working hard to get back on it. I had done so well with healthy eating for the six months before the Christmas prior to all of the changes, having lost over sixty pounds (with another fifty to go). And as many as you know, detoxing from sugar and the craving of carbs due to medicine can be so difficult to do!

So, how about you? What are important keys for you in navigating change? What keys for successfully navigating change would you add to this list?

 

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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