Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen_on_Apple_Podcasts_CMYK_US

If you listen to this podcast on iTunes, we encourage you to leave a comment regarding the podcast. Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:  www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.comPastor Brad Hoefs, host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

 

 

 

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

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

unnamed

 

Facing Real Together by Lindsay Hausch

Facing Real Together by Lindsay Hausch

I heard her cries with my heart, more than my ears, each wail reverberating in my aching chest. I cradled her head and held her rigid body against mine as she yelled, “no, no, no,” then heaved a shaky breath to release another loud howl. I whispered in her ear “I’m here. I love you,” again and again, as I swayed and tasted the salty tears that ran down her neck.

For five minutes I felt the waves of emotions that coursed through her tired body, confusion, anger, frustration, fear as she succumbed to exhaustion. I absorbed her helpless desperation, but wouldn’t, couldn’t, let myself collapse beneath it. Instead I just held her, rocked her, and continued my chant, “I’m here. I love you.”

There is a sacred space we enter with another person when we can let them feel what they are feeling without avoidance, advice, judgement, or tense discomfort. Simply to tell them, “I’m here and I love you.”

I am not in my daughter’s skin, and so I don’t know what it feels like to have steroids coursing through me, creating a surge of unpredictable emotions and moods. This little girl has all these new big feelings without words to even make sense out of them. I want to understand what she feels, I want to tell her how to make it better, or distract her somehow. But in this desperate moment, after a sleepless night, a long morning, and still no nap, I can only be here with her as a witness.

Yes darling, you are miserable. Your body aches, you are tired but your body won’t behave and sleep as it should. You feel angry and powerless. You want mommy to make it all better, and you are learning, maybe for the first time, that there are some things that mommy can’t fix. But I am here, I am with you in this. I love you.

And in this brave moment between a helpless baby, and her helpless mommy, I begin to learn a lot about how to help someone heal. Because when we are confused, overcome by big emotions we can’t explain, when life hurts and we feel too tired to even make our bed, we don’t need advice; we don’t need platitudes, or our pain to be wiped away like an unsightly smudge of dirt. We need a brave person to stay and hold us through the waves of grief, anger, desperation, and longing, to whisper lovingly, “I am here.”

Because when life knocks the breath out of us, sometimes the bravest thing to do is to inhale and exhale those first few breaths, to be held by the loving arms of those there to support you, and fearlessly succumb to the illusive sleep that our tired souls need.

Sometimes its another person holding us up. Sometimes its on our knees in the sacred  space of solitude. But as we cry out in weakness, “I am tired, I am scared, Lord I am hurting,”  He says “I Am.” In Him we find a perfect match for our needs and emptiness. So we can cry, and shout, or blink silent tears, and wait for His peace to roll over us like a blanket and His grace to hum like a lullaby, “I Am here. I love you.”

“Stubborn cloud, I watch you rolling past
What would it take for you to cry at last
Don’t be afraid to let your feelings show
If we dry up, then we won’t grow”

Grow by J.J. Heller

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.

unnamed

The Internet and Social Media:  Friend or Foe? By: Jamie Meyer

The Internet and Social Media:  Friend or Foe? By: Jamie Meyer

By: Jamie Meyer

I did it again.  Checked my email and Facebook notifications before my morning coffee has even finished brewing.  Before I know it I’m on my Facebook feed to see who has posted since I last checked. Next thing I know, two hours have passed and I haven’t moved from my comfy chair.  As a person who lives with mental health challenges I have to ask myself: Is this a good thing or bad? The answer I’ve arrived at after much contemplation is this: It all depends on what I use social media and the Internet for, how often, and if I’m able to control my use of it.  

No doubt, there are good things to be found on the Internet such as reputable websites to learn about specific diagnoses and options for treatment.  Websites I’ve found helpful include Mental Health America, the National Institute of Mental Health and Psych Central. Diagnosis-specific websites are also available such as DBSA for depression and bipolar, and the ADAA for anxiety and depression.

You can also find topic-specific forums or message boards online where people can have conversations via posted messages.  These are useful for mutual support, especially if you’re isolated at home or it’s 3am. Many people benefit from online support groups.  An online search of “mental health online support groups” will give you several options to check out. Fresh Hope offers both online support groups and mental health forums.

Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat can be both helpful and hurtful.  While I enjoy keeping up with the lives of family and friends and seeing their pictures, it eats up a big chunk of my day. For many people, being on social media can cause feelings of inadequacy, shame and envy.  It helps to keep in mind that we tend to compare our insides to other people’s outsides. What some people project on social media is really a mask to make others think their life is full of fun and adventure, when in reality their life lacks meaning or enjoyment.

To make social media and the Internet safe, healthy and helpful for those of us with mental health issues, I’ve come up with a few suggestions:

  1. Set a daily allowance for the amount of time you spend online. Use an alarm if necessary.
  2. When doing an Internet search, stick to well-known medical or mental health organizations (such as WebMD or NAMI).  A safe website will have an https:// before the address. Avoid websites hosted by individuals who are simply looking for an audience for their opinions.
  3. It’s ok to not “Like” or comment on everyone’s Facebook post or send birthday wishes to every “friend.”  Sending a text, email or card is more personal and meaningful to the receiver.
  4. When you post, don’t obsess over the number of “Likes” you receive.  It sets you up for feeling inadequate.
  5. Avoid going online when you’re experiencing a severe episode.  You’re less likely to think clearly and may end up more depressed or risk the chance of sharing something you’ll regret later.
  6. Check in with yourself.  Am I online to numb out or escape real life?  Am I using it to avoid responsibilities or get adequate sleep?

 

If you’re unsure if the Internet and social media has become an obsession, why not try going cold turkey for 24 hours?  It’s not easy, I know, but it helped me see how much time my computer use cut into each day. And the bonus? It feels pretty darn good to be free.

 

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.

unnamed

6 things I found in the Fresh Hope Support Group By: Samanta Karraa

6 things I found in the Fresh Hope Support Group By: Samanta Karraa

By: Samanta Karraa

When I started attending a Fresh Hope group I found-

  1. People who had a mental health diagnosis, who were living a full and rich life in spite of their diagnosis. They were working, taking care of their families, getting married, getting a master’s degree, serving at their churches and starting new projects in spite of having a mental health challenge. I cannot describe to you how loudly this spoke to me.
  2. A leader who had a diagnosis and therefore could understand me. She was well ahead in her recovery process and had been trained to facilitate the meeting. FH groups function peer to peer. Encouragement and hope are shared amongst the members.
  3. Acceptance. People accepted me for who I am and at the point of recovery in which I was.
  4. Confidentiality. What is said in a FH group stays there. We don’t mention who was at the meeting either.
  5. A community of faith who understood. With so much stigma going around and so much misunderstanding amongst Christian circles, finding a faith-based community who understood mental illness was like finding a treasure. Although the topics introduced at the groups don’t have the format of a bible study, but rather a recovery centered approach, our values and recovery principles are Biblically based.
  6. Answers. After having been diagnosed I had lots of questions and uncertainty. However through the Fresh Hope principles of recovery I received answers to my many questions. And this filled me with hope.

If you´re thinking about attending a Fresh Hope group or starting one in your area, think about it no more. Don’t settle for reading about the things that I found. Go and try for yourself. I am sure you will find these blessings and many more.

 

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.

unnamed

Allow Yourself to Grieve by Rick Qualls

Allow Yourself to Grieve by Rick Qualls

By: 

Grieving is part of depression. With depression come loss. Depression may have changed your feelings so that even positive things are seen negatively.

You may not “be yourself”.  Your energy levels are lower, you socialize less, you may think less clearly, medicines often have unwanted side effects.

You may feel as though you are not the same person as before depression. These losses are real.

Foggy headed, I remember one incident while severely depressed, I became confused driving familiar roads. It was startling and frightening. Afterwards I grieved over being confused.

I was angry, shocked about this symptom of my depression. Embarrassed I wondered what was happening to me. I wondered if this would be a permanent.

I grieved over “not being me.”

What is the answer to the questions?  First, remember there are treatments that can lift the fog of depression.  There are many treatments with new ones being pioneered every day. Don’t give in to grief.

Two, this depression will pass.

Three, with the help of your doctors and therapists look at your depression management program and see if changes are needed.

One of the first questions we ask in the middle of these “losses” is:  Why?  Why me, God?

Is it totally random?  Is it because of personal circumstances?  Is it the result of dysfunctional cognitive functioning?  Is is genetic?  Chemical?

We may never know.  What I have found helpful is to begin asking, “How” instead of “Why”.  Since I am depressed how will I deal with it.  If I can’t control having the disease, how can I manage it?

When you are grieving don’t beat yourself up.  Grief requires emotional and physical rest.  Grief is a process different for everyone. Take care of your physical needs, eat well, exercise and spend time with positive people.

One of the things that helps process grief is to repeat your story. In the repetition the mind and heart process feelings.

Allow yourself to grieve.

With the best of your ability turn to God as your refuge.

Psalm 46:1-2  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

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.

unnamed

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.

unnamed

“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.

unnamed

%d bloggers like this: