Surviving Versus Enjoying the Holidays

Surviving Versus Enjoying the Holidays

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

My list for survival included things such as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Biblical Gratitude: Rethinking How We Give Thanks

Biblical Gratitude: Rethinking How We Give Thanks

If you read many Facebook posts or listen to media, it seems as though gratitude is a character trait that appears almost extinct. I can remember a time when that was not the case. Many things have changed in our world and our culture, not all of them positive. It would appear those that murmur and complain seem to have the loudest voices of all.It should not be so with us who believe.  IMG_0402

Last week I was meditating on the scripture in I Thessalonians 5:18; “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It’s important to note that the passage does not say that we are to give thanks “for” everything or even something by listing what we are thankful for.  Rather, we are to give thanks “in” everything!  Think about it; our minds are automatically geared to the negative. When we hear unpleasant news, we immediately go to the worst case scenario or become easily personally offended by what used to be mild offenses. (i.e., someone didn’t say hello).

In today’s world, the standard question I hear is, “What do I have to be thankful for?”  While that might be a valid question it’s really unrelated to the topic of Biblical gratitude. Scripture doesn’t tell us to make a list of what we are thankful “for” but instead that we need to be thankful “in” everything give thanks. There’s a big difference between the two.

See, when we determine to be thankful “in” all things then the focus is then not on you or me and we what determined to be thankful for on our list for thanksgiving, but instead it puts our emphasis on where it belongs; thanking our Lord and Savior for His faithfullness in all circumstances

So that, amid our pain and suffering, disappointments and crushed dreams we can give thanks that:

  1. We are loved and cared for by God himself.
  2. We are kept safe and secure by his power and goodness.
  3. Nothing can separate you or me from his love.
  4. We will never be left or forsaken by Him.
  5. We have a home in heaven prepared for us.
  6. We will be reunited with those we love and have left this world someday.
  7. Your life and breath belong to Him and Him alone.
  8. His plans for us are only for good and blessings.
  9. All things will work together for our good.
  10. You nor I am not alone; He is with us!  He is with YOU!

This Thanksgiving, look upward, for your redemption draws near, and in everything give thanks!

Go ahead and make a list if you wish. But, I’d encourage you to be giving thanks IN all circumstances, everything! Including thanks to Him while in the pain and difficulties.

Have a blessed time of giving thanks “in” all things as you celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness this Thanksgiving!

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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“How Joyful People Think: 8 Ways of Thinking That Lead to a Better Life”: Pastor Jamie Rasmussen

On this episode of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Pastor Brad Hoefs talks with Author and Senior Pastor of Scottsdale Bible Church, Jamie Rasmussen about his book; “How Joyful People Think: 8 Ways of Thinking That Lead to a Better Life.” Why is it important that we change our thinking? How does the Bible tell us to think? Is it possible to have joy when your depressed?

To listen to the podcast click here!

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We encourage you to share this podcast with your friends via your social media connections.

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

If you are listening to this podcast on iTunes, we encourage you to leave a comment regarding the podcast. Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:  www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

 

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

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

By: Pastor Dale Rose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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Perfection Versus Imperfect Progress

Perfection Versus Imperfect Progress

While waiting to weigh in at a Weight Watchers meeting many years ago, the woman in front of me stepped on the scale and began to cry. The leader, who was the person weighing her in, asked her why she was crying. Between her sobbing and trying to catch her breath, she said that she didn’t have a good week. The leader, of course, asked her why. And she replied that she had eaten some peanut M&Ms. The leader then asked her a very important question: “Did you eat as many of them as you would have consumed before coming to our group?” And the woman between her tears and sobbing chuckled and said,”Ohhhh NO! I only ate a small bag of them. Before group, I would have a huge family size bag!” The leader simply looked at her and said, “Good! See, that’s progress!”

The memory of that lady weighing in has been forever etched in my mind. It was at that moment I learned a life lesson about recovery; recovery is not about perfection, rather it is about imperfect progress.

If you’re like me when you step back into old patterns or are triggered by a situation and react in old ways you can easily believe that you have failed at recovery. And when this happensbrad-and-donna and old feelings come back like someone unleashed Hoover Dam: guilt, shame, anger, sadness, confusion, hurt and much more. And the overriding feeling is one of total failure. But, the truth is that it is not a total failure. It is imperfect progress if you recognize it and learn from it. See, it’s only failure if you don’t learn from it if you don’t recognize it. It’s only failure if you decide not to get back and remain “there.”

Again, this “journey of wellness” is not one of perfection. It is a journey of imperfect progress. To make this journey you and I must be willing to accept the fact that we are never going to be perfect. No one is perfect. Recovery, which I define as taking back one’s life in a new way, is built upon failures in which we learn from them, get back up and continue to move forward. Shaming ourselves and believing that a failure constitutes us as complete failures simply is a lie straight from the pits of hell! Everybody fails. Everyone falls short of the mark. What makes the difference between those who decide to give up and believe the lie that they are total failures versus those who succeed? It’s simple; understanding that moving forward is one of imperfect progress versus perfection.

Note: it is never too late to get back up and dust yourself off after failing, even after years of failures. No matter how long you might have been stuck believing the lie that you will never be able to change or move forward, it’s not too late to get back up, dust yourself off, learn from what has happened and begin to move forward. It is NEVER too late. When getting back up, it is important to take full responsibility for your issues. Make amends if necessary and decide to learn from it.

When failures involve others that we are in a relationship with it can be difficult to get out of the “stuck spot” of believing the lie of never being able to move forward when the other person doesn’t let it go. This type of situation is very challenging. When someone is “stuck” and not letting go of the past it can trigger you. It is at that point that you have to know that you’ve done what you can about the past (reconciling, taking responsibility, apologizing, asking for forgiveness, etc.), and you need to recognize that it is no longer your issue, it is theirs. I’m learning that when this happens within my relationships with others that I absolutely must have a loving response to their reminders of the past instead of getting triggered and repeating the same things over and over.

I want to encourage you. You are not a failure. Yes, sometimes you fail. So, does everyone else. But, failing does not make you a failure. Failing is a sign of moving forward and learning from it. Wellness does not require perfection at all. It is made up of imperfect progress that is simply handling one’s failures in a healthy and appropriate way.

How about you? Do you want to give up because you “slipped up”? Do you want to give up because this journey of wellness is hard work? Are you learning from your imperfect progress?

Check out Brad’s weekly podcast: Fresh Hope for Mental Health (www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com)

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

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

5 Insights on Forgiving Yourself

5 Insights on Forgiving Yourself

By Brad Hoefs:

When your brain is not functioning properly, it certainly affects your behavior, which then affects your relationship with others. Those of us with a mental health issue can end up hurting a lot of people that we love. Whether it’s through our words or because of something we have done, those closest to us are left wounded.

Those who have been hurt will either forgive us and give us another chance, forgive us but no longer be in the relationship or choose not to forgive us and leave us. And we end up feeling the deep pain our behavior(s) have caused for them and ourselves. It is at this point that we have a critical choice to make; whether we will forgive ourselves or not.

Even if others will not forgive us, it is important for us to take responsibility for any of our hurtful behaviors; asking for forgiveness and then choosing to forgive ourselves. If we do not, we end up getting stuck and unable to move forward in living well. Everyone gets stuck at times. But, staying stuck is not okay. Thus, being able to forgive yourself is an essential component of living well in spite of having a mood disorder.

These are some of the insights I offer to you about “how” to forgive yourself so that you can move forward in living well:

1. Come to this realization: no matter how hard you try, you cannot change what has happened. You can only learn from it, grow from it and move forward. Accept what happened.

2. Take responsibility for what you did and the pain it caused others, asking them for forgiveness. Even if they choose not to forgive you; you must forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself cannot be contingent upon them forgiving you. Remember, them forgiving you is going to be a process, it’s not like switching on or off a light switch, just as forgiving yourself is going to be a process.

3. If you are a person of faith, then ask God, your higher power, for forgiveness. If it is within your faith tradition to go to the clergy and confess to him or her what has happened, then I would encourage you to consider doing that. Sometimes we need to hear out loud from someone in spiritual authority that God has forgiven us.

If God forgives us (and He does), who are we to refuse to forgive ourselves? God sets the example for us. So be kind to yourself, just as you would be to a close friend.

4. Decide to stop rehearsing over and over in your head what has happened. Rehearsing it will not change it. Rehearsing over and over is a way abusing yourself for what you did or didn’t do. Decide that you will stop allowing the rehearsal of it in your head. Yes, it’s tough to do. But, it is possible. You and I can be in charge of what we think about in our thought life. At first, it will feel as though it is next to impossible to do. With time, it will get a bit easier.

To stop rehearsing over and over what I had done that had hurt so many people in my life, I disciplined myself to have two times a day where I would think about it and grieve it. I promised myself that I would only spend 20 minutes each time. During this period, I wrote what I was thinking down in a journal. At the end of that time, I always spent time in prayer and reading some carefully selected scriptures from the Bible.

Wallowing in what happened will get you nowhere. Allow those few times a day to do this and then get on with your day. Don’t sit around letting your mind “wander around” on its own. Take charge. As you do this, it will get easier.

5. With my therapist, I began to work through any emotional issues that I had that were being exacerbated by my mood disorder, that I could work through in the hopes that it would give me a breakthrough in any of my dysfunctional behaviors that were harmful to my relationships with others. Too often you and I think we behave a “certain way” because of our mood disorder. However, more times than not, much of our behaviors happen due to emotional issues that we have yet to resolve, and the mood disorder merely intensifies those issues. Plus, if you and I are not stable, we can have great difficulties with impulse control. So, in my thinking, it is imperative for you and me to be working through as many emotional issues and any of the dysfunctional ways of being in relationships as possible.

One of the emotional issues that I had to work through was not to hate myself. I did not like myself at all. I had a very critical parent tape playing over and over in my head. I had to erase that tape. And create a new healthy adult tape. It took time. It was a process. And even yet today, some 20 years later, that critical parent tape plays just a bit here and there, but I stop listening to it rather quickly.

These things helped me to forgive myself. I hope that some of them might be helpful to you. It is a day- by-day process, but you can do it. Remember, if you tell yourself, “I can’t forgive myself for that,” then you won’t forgive yourself, and you will stay stuck at that point. If you choose not to forgive yourself, then you will not move forward in living well. Without forgiving one another, where would we all be? We live in a broken world that necessitates forgiving one another and forgiving ourselves.

How about you? Do you need to forgive yourself? Have you forgiven yourself? If so, how did you go about it?  (We encourage you to leave a comment or question!)

Check out Brad’s podcast: Fresh Hope for Mental Health

For more information about Fresh Hope go to: FreshHope.us

 

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

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

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