Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

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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When Your Child is Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder: Becoming a Loved One

When Your Child is Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder: Becoming a Loved One

Recently someone my wife and I love very dearly was been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I find myself learning a lot from my wife about becoming a helpful and healthy loved one. It’s a new role for me.

You might say that my wife has a “doctorate degree” in being the loved one of someone with bipolar disorder. Not only has she been there for me for the last 20 years since my diagnosis, but also her Mother had bipolar disorder and took her own life 26 years ago. Painfully she is an expert at loving those with a diagnosis. And now together we have become loved ones of someone that we both love and have watched grow up.

As most of us know, bipolar disorder can run in families. As parents we’ve known this and have prayed that our children might be spared any more of the pain of this disorder that what they already had to overcome due to my struggle with the disorder during their childhoods. But, it has happened. One of our adult children has been diagnosed.

It’s been painful at times watching our child struggle and having to see them navigate through finding a doctor and the “trial” runs of various medicines. At times it has triggered both my wife and I of our past. Yet, both my wife and I know that our adult child can and will live a full and rich life in spite of the diagnosis. Because of our past experience, we knew that finding the “right” doctor and getting onto the “right” combination of medicine sooner than later was key to keeping our loved one from becoming sicker and to begin the process of healing.

Because of what we have experienced these past months I am once again reminded that getting well requires some initial ongoing elements to living well in spite of having bipolar disorder:

  • Finding the “right” doctor is key.

Your doctor needs to listen to and understand fully what you are experiencing before they jump to any medical conclusions. Unfortunately, some doctors have a habit of hearing key words that they assume you and they have the same definition of and they quickly jump to a diagnosis. When in fact, words can mean many different things at times and the better thing for a doctor to do is to ask, “What do you mean by that?

If your doctor does not ask you to clarify what you are saying or if they do not ask you more questions and you do not feel as though the doctor has really heard and understood you; you might not have the “right” doctor.

Your relationship with your doctor is key to getting well. If I felt as though my doctor didn’t listen to me and understand me nor care to understand me, I would be looking for a new one.

  • Having a personal advocate with at your initial doctor appointments is imperative from my perspective.

When you and I are not well our ability to be assertive for our own medical care is next to impossible. I can remember many of the years initially following being diagnosed and I found myself unable to even tell the doctor what was going on or how I really felt. I certainly didn’t have the ability to ask meaningful questions.

I believe it is imperative for your best care to have someone that you trust and that knows you well to go along with you to your doctor’s appointments. For me it made all the difference in the world. And it made a significant difference for our adult child to have someone there as an advocate. If you don’t have a family member or close friend who could be this person for you, consider having a certified peer support specialist be your advocate.

  • Having the support of family and friends makes a huge difference.

Doing mental health recovery alone is next to impossible. Those who have the support, love and understanding of family and/or a few close friends simply do better in the long run. If you don’t have those who are supportive in your life I strongly recommend that you find a good positive mental health support group and find the support and care that you need.

Our adult child is doing so much better today. And I’m learning from a different perspective that getting well is work; work that is not done alone in a vacuum.

I’m going to be selfish in this post and ask for those of you who have bipolar disorder and who have become loved ones of either children or others who have been diagnosed please give me your insights into becoming a caring and helpful loved one of someone who also has a mental health diagnosis. Thank you in advance.

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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Bundle of Joy to Postpartum Blues

Bundle of Joy to Postpartum Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬)

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

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

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How To Manage The Anxiety Of Meeting New People By: Stan Popvich

Meeting People Can Expand Your Horizons

By: Stan Popovich

Some people get very anxious when they try to make new friends. Meeting new people for the first time can be very stressful if you are shy.

Here are 6 suggestions on how you can make new friends without getting anxious and fearful.

1. The most important thing is to be yourself: Do not pretend to be someone you are not because it will eventually catch up to you. Being yourself will go a long way even if you are not the most popular person. Give people a chance to learn who you really are as person when developing new friendships.

2. Find people of similar interests as yourself: Meeting people with similar interests will make it easier to make friends because you will both have something in common. It will also make it easier to start a conversation with someone you just met.

3. Hang out with friendly people: Use good judgement in who you hang out with and try to find people who are friendly and easy to be with. If somebody gives you a hard time, then find someone else who may be easier to talk to. Don’t be in a rush to talk to the first person you see.

4. Consider the other person’s needs: Try to show some interest in the people you meet. Talk to them in terms of their needs and wants. Do not just talk about yourself. Asking questions and being a good listener can go a long way in developing long lasting friendships.

5. Keep an open mind: It is important not to judge people before you get to know them. Ask questions and get to know the person before deciding if you want to become friends. The key is to learn as much as you can about the person you are talking to. This will help you decide if this is a person you want to become friends with.

6. Talk to a professional who can give you more tips: Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your shyness. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your social anxiety and anxieties of meeting new people.

BIOGRAPHY:

Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods”.For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.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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“How Joyful People Think: 8 Ways of Thinking That Lead to a Better Life”: Pastor Jamie Rasmussen

“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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Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

 

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Dealing with fear and anxiety can be very difficult. As a result, using the help of God can be very effective in managing your fears. With this in mind, here are some suggestions on how a person can use the help of God in his or her own struggles.

The first step a person should do is to start talking and praying to God. A person can go to church or to a quiet place during the day to tell God that they are having a problem. They should tell God how they feel and ask God for some of his help. A person could also review the Bible and read some articles on trusting in God and then apply these concepts in their life. Each and every day, a person should make it up a habit to talk to God and ask for His help.

Remember that the one source that a person should use as a basis in managing their fears and anxieties is using God as a basis in dealing with their fears. Why? The power of God is the one power that is stronger than your fears and anxieties. Also, God loves each one of us and he is the one person who has the power to solve all of our problems. He will help you if you ask him to.

When using the help of God to manage your fears, a person needs to be aware of how God is working in their life. Most of the time God works in mysterious ways and the answers he provides might not be that obvious. A person must be aware of God being in their life even when they are dealing with their fears and anxieties.

A person must also be sensitive to the answers God gives them. Some people think that the answers that God provides must be religious in nature. That is not always the case. God may provide the answers in a way that might not be religious in nature. These answers could involve basic psychology and cognitive techniques that deals with how to manage fear and anxiety. The point to remember is that although a person may use these psychology methods, its important to use God as the center of everything in your life and in your struggle.

If you have trouble, talk to a member of the clergy or a professional counselor to help deal with your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.

Finally, the most important thing is to continue praying and talking to God. Talk to God as if you were talking to a friend. Read the Bible and pray hard. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask Him.

 

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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Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

https://freshhope.us/donate/

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