Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Life can be difficult.  No one makes it through life without painful trials and tribulations. And there is no doubt that having bipolar disorder on top of all of the typical trials and tribulations can make life even more challenging.  There’s just no sugar-coating it. Hopelessness happens all too easily.  But life can also be beautiful. The truth is, no one makes it through life without experiencing joy-filled events and blessings.  But having hope and being hope-filled takes effort, unlike hopelessness.

Probably one of the most peculiar things about hope and hopelessness is that they can co-exist in life. When I reflect on the greatest difficulties and deepest depression that caused extreme despair in my life, it was hope that got me through the hopelessness. But it was not the “wishful-thinking” kind of hope that life would get better that got me through the hopelessness.  That kind of “hope” is nothing more than wishful thinking that things may or may not get better.  And that kind of hope was not enough for me.  Hoping that things might get better could not even bring about the smallest of cracks within my despair.

img_6604So what is this “real” hope that got me through and continues to get me through living life with bipolar disorder?  It’s the Real Hope that was born and died on the cross and His promise.  In particular, it is the promise of Romans 8:28 that has gotten me through the many incredibly painful events that could have easily led to the bottomless pit of hopelessness. In Romans 8:28 the apostle Paul tells us that the Lord will work all things together for our good.  As a person of faith, I believe this.  Knowing and believing this real hope does not mean that I stuff my feelings.  Rather, it means that as I feel my feelings I’m able to work through them and deal with them because I know that He will take even the worst of life’s trials and tribulations and make them work together for me for my good.  That’s hope. That’s real.

See, I’ve come to understand how my faith has been instrumental in my living well.  I don’t do wishful thinking kind of hope.  Instead, I do Romans 8:28 hope.  In other words, as I go through difficulties (and there are plenty of them) I recognize them, feel the feelings because I know that the Lord will take all of the pain and make it work for my good. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden things become easy.  But I’m able to move through the pain, knowing how it will end.

The Lord is the real hope.  The Father sent His Son into our messy world to redeem us.  Born right in the midst of the stench of that stable,He came.  And on that cross, He died for you and me. Out of what appeared to be a hopeless beginning and an even more hopeless death on the cross, He rose as proof that He is indeed our sure and certain hope.

There is no way that I would be living well, much less living, without Him as my hope.  Romans 8:28 has gotten me through the hopelessness. Grab ahold of that hope my friend.  Whatever difficulties you are going through this day, He can and will make though things work together for your good.  No, he doesn’t promise a painless life. In fact, He says that in this life you and I will have difficulties.  Instead, He promises to never leave you, and to take those problems and work them together for your good.  And in knowing this, you and I can move forward in spite of our present circumstances.

On this day, my prayer is that you will grab ahold of the real and certain hope we have that He will take all of your difficulties, pain, and problems, and work them together for your good.  Keeping moving forward: moving one step at a time.  He loves you.  He is with you. He is for you. And Heis at work; making all things work out together for your good!

Blessings my friend,

Brad

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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Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Life can be difficult.  No one makes it through life without painful trials and tribulations. And there is no doubt that having bipolar disorder on top of all of the typical trials and tribulations can make life even more challenging.  There’s just no sugar-coating it. Hopelessness happens all too easily.  But life can also be beautiful. The truth is, no one makes it through life without experiencing joy-filled events and blessings.  But having hope and being hope-filled takes effort, unlike hopelessness.

Probably one of the most peculiar things about hope and hopelessness is that they can co-exist in life. When I reflect on the greatest difficulties and deepest depression that caused extreme despair in my life, it was hope that got me through the hopelessness. But it was not the “wishful-thinking” kind of hope that life would get better that got me through the hopelessness.  That kind of “hope” is nothing more than wishful thinking that things may or may not get better.  And that kind of hope was not enough for me.  Hoping that things might get better could not even bring about the smallest of cracks within my despair.

img_6604So what is this “real” hope that got me through and continues to get me through living life with bipolar disorder?  It’s the Real Hope that was born and died on the cross and His promise.  In particular, it is the promise of Romans 8:28 that has gotten me through the many incredibly painful events that could have easily led to the bottomless pit of hopelessness. In Romans 8:28 the apostle Paul tells us that the Lord will work all things together for our good.  As a person of faith, I believe this.  Knowing and believing this real hope does not mean that I stuff my feelings.  Rather, it means that as I feel my feelings I’m able to work through them and deal with them because I know that He will take even the worst of life’s trials and tribulations and make them work together for me for my good.  That’s hope. That’s real.

See, I’ve come to understand how my faith has been instrumental in my living well.  I don’t do wishful thinking kind of hope.  Instead, I do Romans 8:28 hope.  In other words, as I go through difficulties (and there are plenty of them) I recognize them, feel the feelings because I know that the Lord will take all of the pain and make it work for my good. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden things become easy.  But I’m able to move through the pain, knowing how it will end.

The Lord is the real hope.  The Father sent His Son into our messy world to redeem us.  Born right in the midst of the stench of that stable,He came.  And on that cross, He died for you and me. Out of what appeared to be a hopeless beginning and an even more hopeless death on the cross, He rose as proof that He is indeed our sure and certain hope.

There is no way that I would be living well, much less living, without Him as my hope.  Romans 8:28 has gotten me through the hopelessness. Grab ahold of that hope my friend.  Whatever difficulties you are going through this day, He can and will make though things work together for your good.  No, he doesn’t promise a painless life. In fact, He says that in this life you and I will have difficulties.  Instead, He promises to never leave you, and to take those problems and work them together for your good.  And in knowing this, you and I can move forward in spite of our present circumstances.

On this day, my prayer is that you will grab ahold of the real and certain hope we have that He will take all of your difficulties, pain, and problems, and work them together for your good.  Keeping moving forward: moving one step at a time.  He loves you.  He is with you. He is for you. And Heis at work; making all things work out together for your good!

Blessings my friend,

Brad

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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Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Life can be difficult.  No one makes it through life without painful trials and tribulations. And there is no doubt that having bipolar disorder on top of all of the typical trials and tribulations can make life even more challenging.  There’s just no sugar-coating it. Hopelessness happens all too easily.  But life can also be beautiful. The truth is, no one makes it through life without experiencing joy-filled events and blessings.  But having hope and being hope-filled takes effort, unlike hopelessness.

Probably one of the most peculiar things about hope and hopelessness is that they can co-exist in life. When I reflect on the greatest difficulties and deepest depression that caused extreme despair in my life, it was hope that got me through the hopelessness. But it was not the “wishful-thinking” kind of hope that life would get better that got me through the hopelessness.  That kind of “hope” is nothing more than wishful thinking that things may or may not get better.  And that kind of hope was not enough for me.  Hoping that things might get better could not even bring about the smallest of cracks within my despair.

img_6604So what is this “real” hope that got me through and continues to get me through living life with bipolar disorder?  It’s the Real Hope that was born and died on the cross and His promise.  In particular, it is the promise of Romans 8:28 that has gotten me through the many incredibly painful events that could have easily led to the bottomless pit of hopelessness. In Romans 8:28 the apostle Paul tells us that the Lord will work all things together for our good.  As a person of faith, I believe this.  Knowing and believing this real hope does not mean that I stuff my feelings.  Rather, it means that as I feel my feelings I’m able to work through them and deal with them because I know that He will take even the worst of life’s trials and tribulations and make them work together for me for my good.  That’s hope. That’s real.

See, I’ve come to understand how my faith has been instrumental in my living well.  I don’t do wishful thinking kind of hope.  Instead, I do Romans 8:28 hope.  In other words, as I go through difficulties (and there are plenty of them) I recognize them, feel the feelings because I know that the Lord will take all of the pain and make it work for my good. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden things become easy.  But I’m able to move through the pain, knowing how it will end.

The Lord is the real hope.  The Father sent His Son into our messy world to redeem us.  Born right in the midst of the stench of that stable,He came.  And on that cross, He died for you and me. Out of what appeared to be a hopeless beginning and an even more hopeless death on the cross, He rose as proof that He is indeed our sure and certain hope.

There is no way that I would be living well, much less living, without Him as my hope.  Romans 8:28 has gotten me through the hopelessness. Grab ahold of that hope my friend.  Whatever difficulties you are going through this day, He can and will make though things work together for your good.  No, he doesn’t promise a painless life. In fact, He says that in this life you and I will have difficulties.  Instead, He promises to never leave you, and to take those problems and work them together for your good.  And in knowing this, you and I can move forward in spite of our present circumstances.

On this day, my prayer is that you will grab ahold of the real and certain hope we have that He will take all of your difficulties, pain, and problems, and work them together for your good.  Keeping moving forward: moving one step at a time.  He loves you.  He is with you. He is for you. And Heis at work; making all things work out together for your good!

Blessings my friend,

Brad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, keep looking for those golden nuggets!

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

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

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Leave “Flat-Lined” Emotions Behind & Overcome The Fear Of ‘Feeling’

Leave “Flat-Lined” Emotions Behind & Overcome The Fear Of ‘Feeling’

By Brad Hoefs

It’s called a “decrescendo” in music: a gradual reduction in force or loudness. It’s part of what creates the beauty of music, crescendos and decrescendos, softness, loudness, intensity, fast and slow beats. Without these things and a beautiful melody line music would be lifeless. Well, that’s how I was feeling just months after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and adjusting to my medicines.

My doctor heard me loud and clear when I kept saying that I didn’t know if I could live feeling so lifeless. He kept telling me at each of my appointments that I needed to give it time. But, I felt as though I was a medicated zombie- just blah. I missed the ups, downs, intensity, the fast and slow beats yet, I was scared to death to feel anything of an up or down, sad or happy feeling. I feared that feeling nothing would be the permanent “music of my life”.

The doctor kept assuring me that he needed to get my mood stabilized. Stabilized? I felt so stabilized that it was as though I had emotional rigor mortis! At about four months into being medicated my doctor thought it was time to adjust the initial doses of mood stabilizer. He adjusted it just a bit. And I began to feel a little. And the little that I felt was extreme sadness and regret. It was awful. I told him if this was all I was going to feel, I’d rather not feel. He encouraged me to work through my grief and sadness and disruption my last manic episode had caused in my life and the life of my family.

For months I worked on the toxic remorse I had regarding what had happened during my manic episode. My loved ones forgave and began to move forward. I was stuck. All I felt was toxic remorse and depression. I was scared to death to feel happy; that it would trigger an onset of mania. It seemed as though my emotions and feelings had flat-lined. My feelings and emotions had descended to no longer blah, but now nothing but a pounding sadness. So, the doctor introduced a bit more of antidepressant into my “medicine-cocktail” and I continued to work with my therapist regarding my remorse, shame and sadness regarding all that had happened during my mania. But, the little new pill seemed to help just a bit.

It was approximately a year into my recovery that I was still feeling quite emotionally flat-lined and complaining about it to my doctor. I would tell him at each my brief visits with him that the range of my feelings and emotions was so narrow that I was not sure that I had a pulse anymore. His response shocked me! He said, “Brad, it’s time for you to stop fearing your feelings and emotions. You are a human being. You are going to have feelings and emotions, ups and downs. You’re going to feel sad and happy and blah. Get out of your head and start feeling! Start living! And no, you won’t handle all of your feelings and emotions perfectly. You’ll be like the rest of us, human. Allow yourself to laugh. Stop taking yourself so seriously!” And with that “gust” of advice he told me to lighten up, take my medicine and live.

The doctor was right. At first I maybe had just a little too much mood stabilizer and not enough anti-depressant. But, my shame and regret became toxic remorse and began to emotionally flat-line me to the point where I was frozen emotionally; at best I was barely coping. I certainly was not thriving. I feared becoming too happy; too sad; too mad; too anything! I was emotionally constipated. So, I took my doctor’s advice. I stopped trying to think my way through everything. I began to live, allowing myself to feel again. I began to feel like a human being again. In fact, today I thrive. Yes, I have some ups and downs, like everyone has. And no, I’m not perfect in how I always handle my emotions. After all, I’m human. But, my emotions and feelings do not interrupt my ability to live.

Throughout the last six and half years of facilitating a Fresh Hope support group I have seen a lot of folks who are emotionally flat-lined. Sometimes it’s due to being over medicated and other times it is because they are like I, fearing to feel too much at the risk of an escalating mood. And many times it is due to them getting stuck in toxic remorse or toxic grief over having a mental health issue. Of course, there’s a host of many other reasons that emotions and feelings can flat-line.

If you are feeling emotionally flat-lined, not feeling, no emotions (emotionally constipated) I’d suggest a couple of things to consider:

  • Are you over medicated? Talk with your doctor about it. If your doctor is not willing to listen to what is going on…do you need a second opinion? Sometimes doctors simply listen to “key” words that the patient uses without ever exploring with the patient what those “key” words mean to the patient.
  • Are you keeping yourself from feeling too much of anything out of fear that your loved ones expect you to perfectly handle your emotions and feelings at all times; otherwise you are just being “bipolar”? If so talk with your therapist about this, begin to work through it. Your loved ones may need some help in understanding what issues are due to having bipolar disorder and what issues are due to being a human!
  • If you do not have a supportive home environment I would strongly recommend that you find a positive, wellness focused and driven mental health support group either in person or online.
  • Set goals for your life. Without goals we become hopeless. When you and I have no place to move to in life we loose our hope. You need to have goals, what do you want out of your life?

I suspect that you can help me with this list of suggestions. How have you moved from flat-lined emotions and feelings to living again? What are your frustrated with? Let’s help one another!

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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Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Life can be difficult.  No one makes it through life without painful trials and tribulations. And there is no doubt that having bipolar disorder on top of all of the typical trials and tribulations can make life even more challenging.  There’s just no sugar-coating it. Hopelessness happens all too easily.  But life can also be beautiful. The truth is, no one makes it through life without experiencing joy-filled events and blessings.  But having hope and being hope-filled takes effort, unlike hopelessness.

Probably one of the most peculiar things about hope and hopelessness is that they can co-exist in life. When I reflect on the greatest difficulties and deepest depression that caused extreme despair in my life, it was hope that got me through the hopelessness. But it was not the “wishful-thinking” kind of hope that life would get better that got me through the hopelessness.  That kind of “hope” is nothing more than wishful thinking that things may or may not get better.  And that kind of hope was not enough for me.  Hoping that things might get better could not even bring about the smallest of cracks within my despair.

img_6604So what is this “real” hope that got me through and continues to get me through living life with bipolar disorder?  It’s the Real Hope that was born and died on the cross and His promise.  In particular, it is the promise of Romans 8:28 that has gotten me through the many incredibly painful events that could have easily led to the bottomless pit of hopelessness. In Romans 8:28 the apostle Paul tells us that the Lord will work all things together for our good.  As a person of faith, I believe this.  Knowing and believing this real hope does not mean that I stuff my feelings.  Rather, it means that as I feel my feelings I’m able to work through them and deal with them because I know that He will take even the worst of life’s trials and tribulations and make them work together for me for my good.  That’s hope. That’s real.

See, I’ve come to understand how my faith has been instrumental in my living well.  I don’t do wishful thinking kind of hope.  Instead, I do Romans 8:28 hope.  In other words, as I go through difficulties (and there are plenty of them) I recognize them, feel the feelings because I know that the Lord will take all of the pain and make it work for my good. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden things become easy.  But I’m able to move through the pain, knowing how it will end.

The Lord is the real hope.  The Father sent His Son into our messy world to redeem us.  Born right in the midst of the stench of that stable,He came.  And on that cross, He died for you and me. Out of what appeared to be a hopeless beginning and an even more hopeless death on the cross, He rose as proof that He is indeed our sure and certain hope.

There is no way that I would be living well, much less living, without Him as my hope.  Romans 8:28 has gotten me through the hopelessness. Grab ahold of that hope my friend.  Whatever difficulties you are going through this day, He can and will make though things work together for your good.  No, he doesn’t promise a painless life. In fact, He says that in this life you and I will have difficulties.  Instead, He promises to never leave you, and to take those problems and work them together for your good.  And in knowing this, you and I can move forward in spite of our present circumstances.

On this day, my prayer is that you will grab ahold of the real and certain hope we have that He will take all of your difficulties, pain, and problems, and work them together for your good.  Keeping moving forward: moving one step at a time.  He loves you.  He is with you. He is for you. And Heis at work; making all things work out together for your good!

Blessings my friend,

Brad

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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Staying Stable While Grieving

Staying Stable While Grieving

By: Brad Hoefs

This post is dedicated to my Dad, David J. Hoefs

My dad passed away on May 12th of 2017. He was the first person I knew who had bipolar disorder. While we knew his health was declining and he had some major health issues, we didn’t know that death was imminent. He had a heart attack and was gone immediately. So, when my sister called me that he had passed, it was shocking news. At that point, I knew I needed to do the work of grieving. After all, as a pastor, I have encouraged people to do the work of grieving, and now it was my turn to grieve.

My wife and I had just gotten to our son’s house for a visit the day before this all happened. So I had to return home right away. Flying back home gave me time to think and ponder. One of the first things on my mind was that I needed to pay close attention to any signs of depression, as I was grieving. I knew that the grief process could develop into or trigger depression, or destabilize my mood. I wanted to avoid becoming depressed if at all possible. I wasn’t sure I would know the difference between feelings of grief and depression. My experience up to this point had been dealing with the severe depression and grief from being forced to resign from the church that I was serving at the time. That was pure hell. And if I could avoid that, I wanted to do so at all costs. But I also knew that if you don’t do the work of grieving, the grief will deal with you at some point.

So on the two different plane flights home, I found myself emotional and sad, but also cognizant of the fact that because of having bipolar disorder, along with the process of grieving, that avoiding the destabilization of my mood might be a bit tricky. I promised myself that I would pay attention to the process and attempt to maneuver through the emotional sadness of losing Dad without stumbling into a depressive episode. And I was concerned that I would know the difference. I felt a little as though someone had put me on a rollercoaster ride that I didn’t choose, and I wasn’t sure how wild the ride might be.

 

So, I promised myself to do several things:

  1. I promised myself to feel what I was feeling; to go through it, but “pay attention” to all of it by purposefully taking the time to be self-aware. I was not going to attempt to avoid the grief, the sad feelings, and tears. To do this, if I was feeling sad or down, I decided I would ask myself, “Is this grief? Or is this depression?”
  2. I promised myself that if I was either confused by the feelings of grief and potentially feeling depressed, that I would not wait too long to talk to my Doctor, a therapist, or a friend. Too often I think we believe that we can handle it on our own and wait to be proactive.
  3. I promised myself that I would attempt to keep some balance between the work of grief and continuing to live. I’ve seen people just keep themselves too busy with life to avoid the pain. But, I’ve also seen people, who following the loss of a loved one, just sit down and stop living. Neither is good. I knew I needed to keep it as balanced as possible.

 

It’s been approximately ten weeks since the death of my father. So far, so good. As I experience the various aspects of grieving, they seem to come in waves. I can’t explain it any other way but as waves of emotions, not always sad emotions, but a range of emotions. Some of the waves are enormous and last a while, and others are small little waves. And it is impossible to know when the waves will hit. I also find myself thinking about my dad so much more than when he was living. Also, I find myself continually thinking about the fact that he is gone. There was no time to say good bye or prepare for it — which was good for him, but I would have loved to have the time to say goodbye.

One of the things my extended family decided to do when we were picking my Dad’s burial plot at the cemetery was to go ahead and buy ten plots that would all be in the same row. To know where my burial plot would be brought about more emotions to deal with; but many others have processed these things, and I saw it as simply my turn to do so.

Up to this point, I don’t think I’m experiencing any depression. Of course, you and I both know that could change. So I’m still paying close attention to what is going on with my feelings and emotions. There have been a few times through all this that I’ve had to set aside my emotions and carry on with my job. For example, my Dad’s funeral was on a Tuesday and on the Friday of that same week I had a wedding. I had to continue with daily living (my work as a pastor). Part of the work of grieving is balancing the emotions and feelings, and at the same time continuing with life. It’s a delicate balance.

Grief is a journey. And just like the journey of mental health wellness, the journey of grief looks different for each of us.

One thing I know is that my faith as a Christian has been critical for me as I’ve gone through the loss of my father. Because I believe I will see him again, it brings comfort and hope. For me, it would be challenging without this sure comfort and hope. So, I find myself leaning on the Lord a bit more than usual.

My hope is that my transparency about this might be helpful to some of you who might be going through the same thing. It doesn’t have to be the loss of a loved one; it could be the loss of a relationship or the loss of a job. It could be grief that is following your initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder. You might love someone who is struggling with bipolar disorder, and you’re grieving.

Grief is a journey. And just like the journey of mental health wellness, the journey of grief looks different for each of us. If you are going through a season of grieving, how are you doing? What has worked for you? Are you mindful of the difference between the sadness and emotions of grief vs. depression?

If you are grieving a loss in your life, please know you are not alone. I’m right there with you.

 

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

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

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The “Elephant” in the Sanctuary

The “Elephant” in the Sanctuary

In this video Katie R. Dale from http://www.BipolarBrave.com reads the letter that she wrote to the pastor who misguided her regarding taking medicine for bipolar disorder.  Pastors need to see this video to help them realize how serious their lack of understanding is regarding mental illness.  Why?  Because more people go first to a clergy than to their doctor, a therapist, a psychologist and/or psychiatrist combined!  Pastors are on the front lines of the mental health crisis!

Please watch this video and share it on social media, it’s one way to begin to address the “elephant” in the sanctuary!

Letter to a Misguiding Pastor by Katie R. Dale from Brad Hoefs on Vimeo.

Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Real Hope Has Gotten Me Through My Hopelessness

Life can be difficult.  No one makes it through life without painful trials and tribulations. And there is no doubt that having bipolar disorder on top of all of the typical trials and tribulations can make life even more challenging.  There’s just no sugar-coating it. Hopelessness happens all too easily.  But life can also be beautiful. The truth is, no one makes it through life without experiencing joy-filled events and blessings.  But having hope and being hope-filled takes effort, unlike hopelessness.

Probably one of the most peculiar things about hope and hopelessness is that they can co-exist in life. When I reflect on the greatest difficulties and deepest depression that caused extreme despair in my life, it was hope that got me through the hopelessness. But it was not the “wishful-thinking” kind of hope that life would get better that got me through the hopelessness.  That kind of “hope” is nothing more than wishful thinking that things may or may not get better.  And that kind of hope was not enough for me.  Hoping that things might get better could not even bring about the smallest of cracks within my despair.

img_6604So what is this “real” hope that got me through and continues to get me through living life with bipolar disorder?  It’s the Real Hope that was born and died on the cross and His promise.  In particular, it is the promise of Romans 8:28 that has gotten me through the many incredibly painful events that could have easily led to the bottomless pit of hopelessness. In Romans 8:28 the apostle Paul tells us that the Lord will work all things together for our good.  As a person of faith, I believe this.  Knowing and believing this real hope does not mean that I stuff my feelings.  Rather, it means that as I feel my feelings I’m able to work through them and deal with them because I know that He will take even the worst of life’s trials and tribulations and make them work together for me for my good.  That’s hope. That’s real.

See, I’ve come to understand how my faith has been instrumental in my living well.  I don’t do wishful thinking kind of hope.  Instead, I do Romans 8:28 hope.  In other words, as I go through difficulties (and there are plenty of them) I recognize them, feel the feelings because I know that the Lord will take all of the pain and make it work for my good. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden things become easy.  But I’m able to move through the pain, knowing how it will end.

The Lord is the real hope.  The Father sent His Son into our messy world to redeem us.  Born right in the midst of the stench of that stable,He came.  And on that cross, He died for you and me. Out of what appeared to be a hopeless beginning and an even more hopeless death on the cross, He rose as proof that He is indeed our sure and certain hope.

There is no way that I would be living well, much less living, without Him as my hope.  Romans 8:28 has gotten me through the hopelessness. Grab ahold of that hope my friend.  Whatever difficulties you are going through this day, He can and will make though things work together for your good.  No, he doesn’t promise a painless life. In fact, He says that in this life you and I will have difficulties.  Instead, He promises to never leave you, and to take those problems and work them together for your good.  And in knowing this, you and I can move forward in spite of our present circumstances.

On this day, my prayer is that you will grab ahold of the real and certain hope we have that He will take all of your difficulties, pain, and problems, and work them together for your good.  Keeping moving forward: moving one step at a time.  He loves you.  He is with you. He is for you. And Heis at work; making all things work out together for your good!

Blessings my friend,

Brad

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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