Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

“Breaking the Ice” By Christian Coleman-Jones

“Breaking the Ice” By Christian Coleman-Jones

I’m going to break the ice with this post…

We protect our identity so much, spend so much time devising strategies to keep “them” from finding out, that we end our days exhausted, blaming it on work or the heavy day.

I’m not going to make excuses for who I am anymore. This is what it is, and I plan to live it with those who appreciate it, from now on.

I am a person who has great difficulty concentrating on work I don’t enjoy, nor on conversations that are not stimulating. I am easily distracted, which may suggest that I am superficial and not interested in what the other person has to say. I avoid mistakes in social situations, for fear of not being seen as perfect. I have always had difficulty associating with people I don’t know. If I feel that I have been or will be rejected, I can feel sad and angry for hours or days. I don’t have a great ability to control my emotions, therefore, I give the impression of being very intense. I feel everything in excess, there is no in-between.

All of this has a medical name. It is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is how I was born and even though I am working on ways to improve that, I still maintain the patterns. This is who I am, by the grace of God.

Many of you reading this haven’t seen me for years. Perhaps they were left with ideas, estimates of who I really am. Well, this is it.

What’s more, my 30 years of corporate experience were years I could have devoted to my true passions: Christ, above all things and people, giving myself to those in need of compassion and understanding, writing, music and anything that involves creativity.

But, with the best of intentions, I was instructed that being a businessman would bring financial and emotional stability. The truth is that there is no financial stability that brings emotional stability. I reached my goals and when I was at the top, there was nothing, everything was empty. I found full and permanent satisfaction in the name of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. It’s who I am and I don’t make excuses for it.

The man with the short hair, suit, tie, and everything else has been a big mask. That’s not Christian, that’s an image of what society expected of me.

Today, I am a man free from the chains that bound me to an electrified cell. I have found that freedom in Christ. With Him I don’t have to pretend, or dress well, or have good relationships, or be efficient in my work, or be excellent in my career, no, I just need to believe, and He takes me as I am, without prejudice or conditions.

This authentic Christian was awakened 6 months ago when I was drastically diagnosed with ADHD. The first day of treatment changed my life completely. But am I the ADHD diagnosis? Not at all, that is one of several adjectives that define who I am. I am different, very different from what the social norm expects by that diagnosis, but it is what it is and that is not going to change unless God has other plans for me.

The invitation to you, who appreciate me, and I appreciate very much, have that pure and authentic freedom. Be genuine, be transparent, put yourselves at risk to love those you do not know, just as we have been loved infinitely.

My great life experience is that when I identify and understand what God created me for, and I carry it out, I find infinite and permanent satisfaction and joy. He wants me to be who I am and what I was created to be. And I find that that is precisely who I am – I am not ashamed of my eccentricities or my controversial ideas (which I always hope to convey gently), and above all, I … am … not … ashamed … of … the … name … of … Jesus!!!

I hope you are not ashamed of me, just the way I am.

I love you all very much.

The Secrets to Worship Your Way Out of Sorrow

The Secrets to Worship Your Way Out of Sorrow

During pain-plagued tragedies, when one must endure long days and late nights, sorrow threatens to overshadow any sense of hope. It’s a universal experience for sure…that jerk of reality and jumping lightyears into a realm of sorrow. It can appear inescapable, and last far longer than you’d have expected.

This new paradigm shift brings the strongest prayer warrior to their knees, but the wisest know the secret to finding the way out.

Already on their knees, they worship. And when it gets better, or worse, they worship.

Circumstances come and go, but praise is due to our God forever. And in a sorrowful state, we are being shaped. God is still using the bad to cause good to come from it. Surely, we can worship in the midst of any frame of mind.

Here are the secrets to worshipping your way out of sorrow, depression, and constant misery:

  1. Recognize what you’ve lost. Define it. Identify that it’s gone. That’s the first step in processing the trauma of the loss. If you need to express your grief and depression, look into talking with a counselor.
  2. Humble yourself. God opposes a proud heart, but a broken one can welcome Him into the pain. A mentor of mine once taught me that the fear of God is keeping in the front of your mind that He is with you at all times. Keep reminding yourself of His presence. It’s helpful to practice the next step in order to do that.
  3. Call on Him. Say the name: Jesus. That precious, powerful name. The only name. It’s the answer to every fear, every doubt, every weakness. And calling on him out of your pain will light the flame you need to see out of the darkness of your sorrow.
  4. Praise Him! I can’t stress his enough – if there was a way to highlight, bold, underline and italicize – this point is most important. Lifting our praise in song or voice to God is where the tables are turned. Demons flee, Satan cowers, situations change, and the whole spiritual environment quakes at the praise of His glory. Give Him credit, glory, a great name! He is for us! What isn’t to praise? Turning our eyes onto Jesus in the darkest of nights will cause “the things of this world [to] grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace,” as the old hymn goes.

If that’s true, then after you’ve recognized the loss, humbled yourself, called on Jesus, and essentially done all you could do to put the sorrow to rest, you find the victory comes. Maybe not right away, but in discipline and earnest prayers and supplications and praise, we can eventually rest in victory.

Acting on a command like “rejoice always” is not dependent on our feelings or emotional state. The scriptures don’t tell us to “let your feelings dictate your actions” – but rather, the action changes that scripture commands bring about emotion and spirit changes. Don’t believe me? Try it. Apply it. And then come back and let me know how it went for you. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Disclaimer: For someone dealing with excessive sorrow and depression for more than a month, you should consider talking to a certified counselor and even a psychiatrist for medication management. The effects of clinical depression can be long, lingering and debilitating, and unnoticed can cause more harm than good. Take counsel and medications as prescribed by a certified clinician. Always consult with a doctor for appropriate mental health treatment and care.

About the author:

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

“Broken Cisterns: Food” By Eli González

“Broken Cisterns: Food” By Eli González

“… and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

Fresh Hope has taught me that recovery is work, something that in the 25+ years I have been battling my mental health diagnosis I had not done. In the past, wellness was reduced to a period without depressive symptoms, and even, those periods of hypomania where I acted uninhibited and thought everything would be fine, periods that I tried to enjoy as much as possible because they were few and far between compared to the dark times of depression.

I must confess that during all this time there was a victim mentality in me, focused on what I was losing because of my illness, friendships, relationships, money, university courses and I was looking for guilty parties for what had happened to me.

My first diagnosis was depression, later, dysthymia, and when they came together “double depression”, and I lived believing the lies I was told about these diagnoses: “you will never recover, because there isn’t a treatment that is truly effective”, “if you can’t overcome depression, it’s because you are weak”, “suicide attempts are just attention seeking”; and since I developed a drug resistant depression in my youth, I even thought it was a divine punishment or some sort of demon that was chasing me.

Having no real hopeful answer for myself, I began to look for ways to fill my emotional voids and alleviate the “pain” that filled me to the soul. A relief for me was food, a false way to escape the pain, a broken cistern that never held water (Jeremiah 2.13).

In my 20’s and 30’s, eating mindlessly for a few weeks, gaining weight, but losing it quickly was not a problem. Now, in my 40’s the situation has changed, along with hormonal changes and my reluctance to do any exercise has caused me to gain almost 25 kg of weight. That undermines my self-esteem. Frustrated at not being able to control what I eat, I refuse to look at myself in the mirror and my self-confidence has diminished, which, in turn, affects my relationships with others and especially my relationship with my husband.

What does food mean to me? An escape. A mask. A disguise. Underneath those extra pounds I exist, but for some reason I hide deep inside myself. I run away from my pain, my denial of diagnosis, my anguish, and my fear of life.  I look in the mirror and it’s not really me. It’s a kind of surrealism, because I don’t accept myself, I don’t accept my body and my inability to do anything to change it.

But now I know that I CAN do things to recover my well-being, something that before was reduced to not feeling depressive symptoms, nothing more. Just waiting for the next episode. As one of the diagnoses that has accompanied me most of my life was Dysthymia, a mild but chronic depression, I had sentenced myself to live depressed all the time. Feeling good was short-lived because my own thinking reminded me to live according to my diagnosis.

Recovering my well-being implies a participation on my part, recognizing those behaviors that are not healthy, but that I repeat constantly because they have helped me to “hide” my pain. One of these behaviors has to do with my eating and I must accept it: I have an addictive relationship with food. If I am feeling sad, disappointed, tired, anxious, or facing a difficulty that I am struggling to overcome, I usually turn to food: soda, chips, snacks, desserts, and other things that contain a high degree of sugars or saturated fats.

In the past, I used to tell myself that I was happy with a soda and a bag of snacks (sweet and salty) with me, in front of the TV watching my favorite series. There was no such thing, it was the best way to hide my frustration or pain. This contributed to my already weakened self-confidence being an even bigger problem. I have already blamed the meds, the pandemic, anything but holding myself accountable for this behavior. “Diet” has been a bad word, because in the face of it I feel more anxious, I would start the diet Monday and break it the same Monday, because I felt anxious and would immediately go back to eating.

However, if I explore deeper, I know that the problem is not only the food, but the negative feelings of pain and frustration that I still struggle with inside me.

In the face of this, and thanks to Fresh Hope, I have delved into my irrational thoughts that come from my past, my emotions, and the wounds I carry. If I want a life of wellness, I must let go of those self-defeating patterns and be intentional about making changes in my life. My decision now is to eat healthier and start exercise routines. Also, exercise is scientifically proven to help improve depressive symptoms and give us more energy.

It may take time to get back to my ideal weight, but if I decide to “push through” my indiscipline and busy schedule, I know that I will, with the help of God’s grace, reach the goal I have set for my physical and emotional health.

No Place Like Church

No Place Like Church

Not In Kansas Anymore

Amidst the pandemic of COVID-19, it isn’t news that the mental health of many has suffered. For those of us in the tradition of gathering in the church, it has been a struggle in many ways. We are in unfamiliar territory, as if we were Dorothy transported to the land of Oz.

But what about getting back home, to church?

Whether your church took a reserved approach during 2020 with remote online services and virtual gatherings, or continued to meet in-person despite local jurisdictions’ mandates, church has not been the same. Not only has our routine to meet to worship and fellowship in person been unexpectedly interrupted, our minds have been strained.

The introduction of this new virus put unprecedented pressure on our minds to stay isolated to try to “flatten the curve” as the world health officials encouraged. All of the media voices concertedly stoking fear came at the cost of mental health because of socially isolating and suffering “alone together.”

During these times, the consequences of our choices haven’t always been straightforward, predictable, or easy to handle. We can probably agree, there hasn’t been much of anything “easy” about how to respond to the pandemic.

If anything, we’ve all had to reorient and adjust to the changes, akin to how Dorothy had to adjust to Technicolor!

Something Like a Twister

COVID-19 put the burden on each of our plates individually and corporately to make those choices to either meet together or stay home and isolate. Most of us stayed home, I believe, to the detriment of our mental health and the church’s wellbeing.

The question of how to respond as the body of Christ has not been easy to answer.

Many have returned to the sanctuary in the past few months as mandates loosened only to find an emptier, sparser congregation, or be the victim of the virus like my family and I were in January 2021.

While our own church stayed open for in-person services throughout the pandemic, many parishioners did not mask up. As a result, even though my family wore masks, we came down with the Coronavirus. Thankfully, we survived. I had a mild case of symptoms of slight congestion and loss of sense of smell and flavor. Nothing over-the-counter medicine couldn’t handle.

However, for all of us yearning to return to our church families, normal has left the building.

Don’t Forget Who Has The Answers

No matter how confusing, intimidating, infuriating, stressful, or risky these times have been, let’s remind ourselves of what has not changed.

There remains the constant, never-changing goodness of the one we gather for — God. His sovereign nature is to shepherd His sheep as He leads us through the valley of the shadow, into green pastures.

If we should follow our Good Shepherd who calls each of us by name, we will find ourselves where the Bible promises us: anointed by God, who prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies.

Since “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV), let us employ that manifestation in our gatherings.

In doing so, we should see that the church will rise to worship her groom, Christ, “to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:26, NLT).

When we continue to walk in the ways He is leading – together — we will find healing. The healing that comes from a spirit of unity, love, and peace between God and His children.

Can any of us be careful enough around a pandemic’s invisible virus that God foreknew would take many frail and vulnerable lives?

Neither our cautious efforts, nor the virus, can diminish or dissolve God’s goodness and mercy.

God remains the same, even though it would figure that such a strategy would be the Enemy’s attempt to steal the power of our gatherings and the ability to experience God’s omnipotent presence.

“You Always Had the Power My Dear, You Just Had To Learn It for Yourself”

-Glinda the Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz

Similar to Dorothy asking Glinda how she could have gone home all along, frankly, we as the church could have gone home all along. But for many of us, this tornado of a pandemic threw us for a loop and we became bewildered. It’s as if the CDC recently declared like Glinda, “You always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Let’s guard our minds against the fear of gathering in person when there is so much at stake. If “nothing can wholly replace the benefits of positive human touch,” as this article explains, then we are sorely in need of some long overdue contact. We are struggling alone at home, and even in the fabricated ways we try to connect as we do like in video calls and social media.

If anything, the church needs to return to fellowship and share our burdens with one another in the spirit of Christ – who suffered and yet “He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT).

Jesus risked his life touching lepers, healing the sick, delivering those serious about his call to the kingdom at hand. If the shadow of Paul could heal, what would keep us from the power of God by fellowshipping in person?

God clearly mandates his family to meet together, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

Fortunately, we can gather safely, guarding against the spread of infectious diseases by

wearing masks, physically distancing, spacing pews farther apart. Most churches provide hand sanitizers and sinks with soap and water. If you want, you can get a vaccine.

In moving forward into the freedom of God’s healing presence at church, I encourage us to remember and apply the following thoughts:

  • Let us not be ignorant of our Enemy’s schemes to “steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
  • Let us not forget our First Love, as the reason we gather together as the church (Revelation 2:4)
  • Let us gather to worship, and we will find we are stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  • Let us not be short-sighted: if we die, we die; our security and peace of mind is ultimately locked up in Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 1:21)

May God lead you back to your church family in a safe way and may you return to a healthy state of mind in the spirit of Christ’s peace. After, all, there’s no place like church.

About the author:

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health                                           Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Now is the Time

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

With so many of us in isolated status with COVID 19, the affects on our mental health have been evident.

Just take one look at your news feed in social media accounts to see what the mentality of our world has come to.

It should be no shocker that a lot of us have been emotionally taxed throughout the past year (plus) of lockdowns and weakened markets.

Certainly the world hasn’t seen such a shadow cast from stormy clouds of a pandemic in a long time.

Tomorrow is Coming

There is no better time than now to explore the way your mind has been working.

Before the world gets back on track, give your brain the time and knowledge to understand why it’s been so challenging to live in lockdowns.

When things start to open up again, it will not only be more “business as usual,” but some people might struggle a bit to return to “usual.”

Once most people get vaccinated, and governments lift all the mandates, things will inevitably pick up in pace and pressure.

People’s state of isolation and suppressed energy levels without outlet will dump us out into the freeway of life at the speed of life.

Unless you’re calibrated to a healthy mental state of being beforehand, life may get tough in the adjustment process.

I predict that returning to the world as we knew it won’t happen. The world as we knew it will never be that way, at least, not for a long time. We’ll be straddling to walk in the comfort of how things used to be, and how things have become. The new normal.

Take Inventory Today

We can’t afford to miss the opportunity to tune into our mental health in this window of time.

Not only have attempts on taking one’s life become more prevalent, but depression and anxiety aren’t such taboo notions to most anymore because of the indirect social effects of COVID-19.

If you’ve been unable to function to a relatively normal degree of output (which is skewed with all of us because, what is “normal” anymore?), I’d encourage you to grow your knowledge about your mind and its state of well-being.

Recommendations

I would strongly suggest looking at resources for your mental health, if you’re:

  • tempted to go to sleep at a new day, instead of waking up and being productive
  • not as social as you once were and you avoid going out or connecting with a friend virtually
  • making impulsive, unhealthy choices
  • overloaded with expectations and demands on you, and need healthy ways to cope
  • having low moods of depression
  • moving and/or speaking slower or quicker than usual
  • eating and/or sleeping more or less than usual
  • believing you’re a burden to others or not wanted
  • considering unhealthy ways to end your internal pain and discomfort
  • having thoughts that you would be better off dead
  • overreacting or irritable in response to others
  • having unexplained changes in thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors

After seeking out a trusted friend or family member to talk about these things, here are a few places to help guide your journey back to a healthier state-of-mind:

  1. Pastor Brad’s blog as a peer and pastor: Fresh Hope blog
  2. A Game Plan Resource Guide as a road map to wellness: BipolarBrave.com/resources
  3. A couple good books to read: I Love Jesus But I Want to Die by Sarah J. Robinson; Depression, Anxiety and other Things We Don’t Talk About by Ryan Casey Waller
  4. Some websites on all-things-mental-health: PsychCentral.com, Psycom.net
  5. Places to find a good Christian counselor: aacc.net, christiantherapistnetwork.org

As always, if you are experiencing a crisis and need emergency care, call 9-1-1

If you are wanting to talk to someone urgently 24/7, call the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 –     or text the suicide prevention text line at 741741

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

How Healthy Churches Foster Hope

Our current view of the church in our world of post-Christian culture may be one of dismay. After all, church attendance in the last 40+ years has dropped by 10% . Let alone the past year of the pandemic – a world-wide threat to the global church in 2020 and beyond.

However, churches that are to survive and thrive will recognize it takes more than abiding by the status quo. To cultivate a healthy community of members, especially at a time like this, our churches need to be encouraged on a personal level.

How Does the Message of Hope Get Across?

Some may think the leadership team is responsible for cultivating the health of their church, which is true in many ways. However, it takes a vision embraced by the entire church – from pastorate to parishioner – to grow in meaning, purpose, and hope.

Capturing this kind of focus on even the least of these (those with severe mental illness or mental health conditions, young and old), may be challenging if leadership cannot engage on their level.

Which is why every church needs to address purpose in their individual members, before they can see a hopeful future realized.

The needs of the church are quite discouraging if you’re not prepared or equipped to provide help for them.

To successfully instill purpose in individual members, leadership must be trained on meeting those basic needs “the least of these” are hurting for.

This is where the communication and focus on mental health can be instrumental in catapulting your church’s overall health and wellbeing forward into a hopeful promising outlook.

A Quick Review of the Church’s Influence in History

The church has been known for many generations, in fact centuries, and one may argue millennia, for the healing role in this world to meet physical needs. A glance through history will tell you the story of the church’s influence in the world’s spheres of science, art, politics, and medicine.

Medicine, however, has been the church’s main approach to the physical health of those it has ministered to. Since the last century, where technology in science and pharmacology and psychology has advanced, there are discoveries in this field that have begged the question:

where is God in mental illness?

And so, enter the church’s response to mental health and wellness. Where has that been? Unfortunately, not on the radar, let alone on the frontlines.

Until now. Now the church is awakening to the cries and light God has graciously shone on the final frontier of the arguably most vital organ: the brain.

Knowing what the world of science, medicine and pharmacology knows about mental illness, the church can benefit tremendously. If properly and vastly equipped, soon the church can be a lighthouse for the mentally ill in ways no faithless, secular organization or industry can be.

Now What?

The good news: this is already happening.

Out of churches and church-bred faith-based organizations like Fresh Hope, Grace Alliance and various other grassroots efforts for support groups based on Biblical principles, a movement has been stirring.

This is the answer to many lost and saved churchgoers’ mental duress.

This is growing hope for coping with the pandemic.

Realistic solutions are here to address the mind’s disorders.

Recovery and healing can be found in community and support, established by the church.

This is the answer that the secular brain disease advocacy organizations aren’t going to acknowledge, or believe.

But because of this hope, hope found in Christ, the church is already at an advantage.

Already, the support group Fresh Hope for Mental Health cites numbers that are astonishingly encouraging and hopeful:

  • 96% of weekly participants attribute their participation as the reason they now feel more hopeful than prior to their participation in Fresh Hope
  • 92% who have attended other mental health support groups say that Fresh Hope has been more positive and helpful in their recovery than any previous groups
  • 86% of those who were suicidal prior to coming to Fresh Hope report that they have not been suicidal since participating
  • 88% say that Fresh Hope has been extremely important in their recovery
  • 71% who have been hospitalized prior to attending Fresh Hope have had no returns to hospitals since attending the support groups

As sure as the church has been the body of Jesus for the last 2,000 years, it will continue to serve His hurting body and the minds therein. The path to wholeness is not just through ministries and programs. As we see, programs and ministries to serve the church are blessings and excellent purposeful activities within the church.

But take it a step further, and deeper, and the same kind of idea – worship through service to others hurting – will propel the church as a forerunner to contend in the battle of suicidality amidst salvation.

To learn more about starting a support group in your church or community, check out these resources:

  1. Fresh Hope for Mental Health support groups, founded by peer and pastor Brad Hoefs
  2. Grace Alliance support groups
  3. Fellow sufferer and former pastor, Tony Roberts’ book When Despair Meets Delight
  4. Pastor’s daughter and advocate Amy Simpson’s book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission
  5. Dr. Steven Grcevich’s book Mental Health and the Church
  6. Co-sufferer, counselor, and clergyman Ryan Casey Waller’s book Depression, Anxiety and Other Things We Don’t Talk About

About Katie R. Dale: Raised in a Christian home, mental illness wasn’t mentioned until after it reared its ugly head when had turned 16. Instead of a sweet 16 year, it turned out to be a bitter taste of our fallen nature as I became diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I with psychotic features. Now a caseworker and mental health advocate, I’ve written my memoir chronicling the journey through the psych wards, and blog regularly about my lessons on life, faith and mental illness at BipolarBrave.com. You can reach me on social media using handle @KatieRDale or email me, katie@bipolarbrave.com.

# SHARE

# SHARE

Where feet may fail
And fear surrounds me
You never fail
And You won’t start now”

(Oceans, Hillsong United)

What are some of the challenges you have faced, or are currently facing, amid your journey with depression? There is a whole realm of unhealthy emotions, inside and out that we have to deal with. Right?

Under the category of unhealthy emotions will fall some of these – Fear, Dread, Sorrow, Shame, Resentment, Loneliness, Confusion. If not all, at least some of these sound familiar, don’t they? These are the ones that we engage within us. The other challenges we face come from the outside – people, words, physical pain…

One of my bigger struggles was the shame factor. I was so ashamed. Ashamed of my depression. And I know that me, you, and many others have been cocooned in this shame, and maybe still are to this day.

Have you felt like you just want to run away. Run from the pain, run from people, run from your depression. And has it ever seemed like you needed to run away, from “you?”

I wanted to run. And I did. Many times. I would have this impulse, out of nowhere to pick up and run. I didn’t know what I was running from. I just knew I needed to get away. So, I would run, on impulse, until I couldn’t breathe almost. I’m not talking about your regular jog, or trek, or brisk walks. None of that. My runs were never planned.

I later realized where the impulsive running came from. It is intensely painful to live inside of yourself, when the pain within is too much to bear. The running was like an outlet. Where’s there’s depression, more often than not, there’s shame.

But…Depression and shame do not have to go hand in hand.

There’s one thing you can do to remedy this   #SHARE

Share your heart, share your pain. You may be surprised to know (or not surprised to know) that you are not alone. You will find comrades, within your own community, or church, or work place. Don’t run away from you. You are worth staying with. The only thing that needs to run, is the depression within you.

I love the lines from the song by Hillsong, Oceans. Your feet may fail you, because they are exhausted from the running. And you may be surrounded with fear and shame. So share, share your heart with God.

Pour out the pain before Him, like Hannah did as she cried out for a child. When Eli the priest at the temple, rebuked her because he thought she was drunk, she said to him, “…I am pouring out my soul before the Lord.” (I Samuel, 1:15, AMP). She poured out her sorrow, her complaint, her bitterness, her shame, from being mocked for being barren.

And it says in the same chapter that after all that pouring out, she returned home and her face was no longer sad!

“I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves”
                                            (Oceans, Hillsong United).

 

Stand up to Shame.      #SHARE

Breaking Through the Stigma Barrier By Jamie Meyer

Breaking Through the Stigma Barrier By Jamie Meyer

There is no shame in having an illness of the brain. Really, we should see it no differently than if we had diabetes or heart disease. Each are chronic illnesses that need to be managed with medication, support from others, and lifestyle changes. So what makes us ashamed to tell others that we have a mental health condition?

For one, we face the stigma in our culture towards mental illness. The media sensationalizes mass shooters as being mentally ill, leading people to believe that anyone with a mental health condition is dangerous.

While most of us understand this kind of stigma, we may not be aware of the stigma we place on ourselves. Self-stigma occurs when we begin to believe the negative messages we hear. We may feel “less than” those around us who appear to be more productive and successful. Self-stigma says “if others see me this way, it must be true.”

One of the dangers of self-stigma is that it distorts how we see ourselves. Studies have shown that people with mental health challenges have lower self-esteem and confidence in themselves. They isolate and are less likely to seek treatment. If that’s true, how can we eliminate the stigmatizing thoughts and behaviors that keep us from living fulfilling lives?

A recent article in Esperanza, a magazine for people with bipolar disorder (click here to learn more), offers these tips to reduce self-stigma:

 Work with a therapist to improve your self-image. A major benefit of therapy is that it can help you identify the negative ways you talk to yourself and how you can replace those thoughts with more positive messages;

 Using the Internet for peer support. Esperanza has forums on a wide variety of topics where you can connect up with and learn from others (click here to see forum topics).

 Becoming more comfortable with sharing your diagnosis. Start out by talking to safe people who understand mental health issues. Telling them about the challenges you face and how you’re living well in spite them will build your confidence in talking to people who lack understanding.

A few other ideas you might consider include participating in a mental health fair or walkathon; joining a support group such as Fresh Hope or starting one in your community; or by using social media like Facebook or Twitter to create awareness about mental health issues. For example, I use Facebook to repost mental health-related articles and motivational sayings.

Breaking out of self-stigma starts with seeing ourselves as an ordinary person with ups, downs and challenges, not as someone with a mental illness. I’m encouraged to see celebrities paving the way in changing our culture’s perception of mental illness by being open and honest about their own struggles. They set an example that even people we admire and look up to have mental health challenges and are leading productive, fulfilling lives in spite of them.

Of course we need to be cautious about who we open up to. I’ve found, though, that when I tell safe people “I have bipolar depression and I’m ok with that,” they are usually interested and will ask questions. Being transparent may even encourage someone who’s been hiding their diagnosis to risk telling you their story.

I think you will find that as you begin to share openly with trustworthy people, your own protective wall of self-stigma will start to crumble. When you let go of the shame and embarrassment of having a mental health diagnosis you’ll see both your self-image and confidence start to grow.

Outside the veil by Julie Thomas

Outside the veil by Julie Thomas

The unrelenting agony behind the veil of any of our depression struggles are rarely brought to light. You and I may …and I use the word may loosely, we may scrape up the courage to tell a friend or two about our struggle with mental illness. But many a times, the disclosing is left off at the title page. We may confess – “I’m struggling with depression,” or “I’m having anxiety attacks” or “please don’t tell anyone, but I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression.” We give out the title of our book. Only, no one, gets to read Chapter 1 or 2, or 3….

We are so troubled by what people may think, or what people may say. And rightfully so at times, because many people simply do not understand, or even try to understand, the challenges that those battling mental illness face. We battle one more symptom when it comes to this illness. It’s called shame… I have recently been so convicted of my shame in talking about the struggle. Because, this is real, the symptoms are real, just as real as they are in any other bodily illness.
If we can talk about the symptoms of illnesses that take our body down, we should be able to do the same with illnesses that plague our mind.

I’ve held back from sharing so many times. Because, I’ve been tirelessly instructed to “get over it” or that I was “imagining things” or that I needed to “eat more.” I was expected to get over my illness promptly, and at the command of the advise giver. And believe me, I really did want to “get over it“…except that I just couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried.

I had two babies to mother and a semester to complete in graduate school at the time and I just could not afford to stay down at will. If anything, the suggestions that were being imposed on me, when I really could not make them happen, started to get suffocating.

When I began to unveil my battle with depression, I was surprised to hear confessions from one person after the other that they have been struggling with the same. And yet, holding back because of shame. I didn’t share my struggle with anyone for a long time. I masked it as best as I could. However, when the struggle seemed endless, we started opening up to a handful of friends. Some of whom are still mentors and friends to this day. Some others, shied away from expressing support and rather expressed opinions.

So, it would be wise to use discretion in deciding between those you want to share your struggle with and those you don’t.
Especially, when you are smack down in the center of the struggle. Because one careless word from the other, will send you further downhill.

And so, I did start sharing. Little did I know, there were many just like me, concealed in the shadows. Painfully comfortable behind the dark veil of depression. Dressing up their everyday like I did. Masking their pain just as convincingly as I did.

Are you ready to open your book? Ready to share your chapter 1? Are you ready to step outside the veil of depression and into the light?

But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light” (Ephesians 5: 13)

Making Self-Care a Way of Life by Jamie Meyer

Making Self-Care a Way of Life by Jamie Meyer

Having a mental health diagnosis can make it difficult to care for ourselves. For people who don’t have a diagnosis, self-care is mostly a matter of choosing and making time for the things that will lead to better health. For those of us with a brain illness, it isn’t quite that simple. The question we’re more likely to ask ourselves is “Am I able?” Ability is the key word here because there are times when our symptoms can prevent us from caring for ourselves as well as we’d like.

Although we often think of self-care as something we do, it also means protecting our thought life. Nothing good comes from feeling ashamed when you can’t get out of bed or can’t concentrate because of racing thoughts.

We need to stop comparing ourselves to people who don’t have a diagnosis and let go of the messages from our culture that tell us productivity defines our value as a person. We need to be more gentle with ourselves and accept the truth–even if we don’t “feel” it’s true–that we have great value because we are God‘s creation and are loved unconditionally by Him.

After being diagnosed with Bipolar 2, I spent many years telling myself that my life was less valuable because I could no longer work full-time or take part in all the activities I had before. I beat myself up for being lazy and not trying hard enough. I felt ashamed because I didn’t want to be around other people.

When I began to interact with like-minded people in our Fresh Hope group, I came to realize that they too felt “less than” after their diagnosis. I learned from them that it’s okay to make caring for myself a priority. I felt understood and no longer needed to hide in shame.

I’ve come to accept that I’m not the same person I was before being diagnosed. But you know what? Neither is anyone else. Everyone grows and changes over time whether they have a diagnosis or not.

I’m learning to focus on the things I’m able to do, activities that are fulfilling yet keep me mentally stable. I work evenings part-time so I don’t have to get up early and I volunteer in smaller but just as valuable ways.

Another way I care for myself is by giving back to people like myself who live with the challenges of a mental health condition. In 2012, I put my personal journey into words when I wrote the book, “Stepping Out of Depression: Fresh Hope for Women Who Hurt” (available on Amazon). I wanted women to know they were not alone in dealing with depression, that true hope and healing are possible.

I also find fulfillment in giving encouragement and support to the wonderful people in our Fresh Hope group. Doing so helps me feel like I’m making a difference in my small corner of the world.

Caring for yourself involves more than eating right, exercising and reducing stress. It includes having supportive relationships and being involved in something that is meaningful to you. Self-care also means accepting the truth that you have value and purpose because of who you are, not what you do. You choose to let go of shameful thoughts and stop putting yourself down.

When we decide to make self-care a priority, life can become more satisfying and meaningful. Although we may not escape the ongoing challenges of our brain illness, we significantly improve our chances of living well in spite of it.

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