Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

Bipolar and Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

Bipolar and Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

To change our default setting it must be done one mini habit at a time.

If you are like me, there have been numerous times you were highly motivated to make BIG changes in your mental health journey. One of those times for me was deciding that I needed to exercise at least three times a week. That was a big change to make since I wasn’t even exercising once a week. So I exercised three times that first week, but by the next week I had given it up. I just couldn’t do it. It was too big of a change.

I’ve done this over and over throughout the years since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. I would be highly motivated to make a healthy change regarding my sleep, eating, exercising, thinking, or working. It seemed that the motivation to make the change would last a short time before I would revert to my “default settings.” And each time I would feel like a bigger failure. I began to believe that my inability to stay motivated to make a healthy change had to be connected in some way to having bipolar disorder. After all, I could easily become “laser-beamed-focused” on something I wanted or liked to do, so I became convinced that my repeated failures had to have something to do with having bipolar.

It was as though any unhealthy “default settings” I had or any changes that I wasn’t allyousef-al-nasser-261164 that interested in – even though they would be good for me – could only be made little by little because I just didn’t have enough self-motivation to do them all at once. I figured I just didn’t have the self-discipline necessary, or somehow there was a flaw in my character. Those beliefs changed recently when someone introduced me to a book that they had found very helpful in making changes in their life. The title of the book is Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. I discovered that if I began making small changes for extended periods of time, the changes would stick.

In the book, Guise clarifies the difference between motivation and self-will. He says that motivation is short-lived, and to make real change you have to begin doing small things that can be done via pure self-will, and not depend on motivation to do it.

He started to change his health by doing one push-up daily. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But think about it. Had he decided to do 50 per day, that would have required ongoing motivation, and he would have given up when the motivation to do the 50 push-ups had passed. (Which would have been on the first day for me! lol) So his first mini habit was to do a single push-up. Doing just the one push-up, he could make himself do it via self-will power. What he found was that once he would do one push-up, he always did a few more, but no matter what, he always did at least one. He changed his brain’s default setting slowly, over time, and it stuck.

I’ve got to tell you that this little book on mini habits is changing my life!

I’ve stopped beating up on myself for not being able to make sweeping changes in my life. It makes total sense to me. There are small things I can choose to do whether I feel motivated to do them or not. For example, I know I need to drink more water, especially with the meds that I take. But, the thought of drinking eight full glasses of water overwhelms me, and I end up drinking nothing. So, I started with the mini habit of drinking one large full glass of water with my meds first thing in the morning, and I’ve found myself drinking more water throughout the day and enjoying it! I know, it’s not an earth-shattering change, but earth-shattering changes won’t work. Most of us do not have that kind of motivation with or without bipolar disorder.

It only makes sense that our brains have default settings. Those are the settings that our brains default to when we are stressed or things we can do with little to no thought. For example, my default setting for when to eat is when I’m sad, happy, tired, stressed, or when I’m awake! This eating default setting has been a well-worn patterned default in my brain for many years. Unfortunately, unlike being able to go into your computer default settings, make a change and click “save,” we cannot do that with our brains. Instead, if we want to make changes to our default settings, we must make them bit by bit, by starting a mini habit that we can do without one ounce of motivation on our part; a simple thing that can be done by sheer self-willpower.

Discovering these things have become the single greatest key to making change happen in my life.

Your inability to not make sweeping health changes in your life is not a character flaw. It’s called being human!

So, what mini habit can you do by sheer self-willpower that will bring about a simple, healthy change in your life?

 

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

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

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How to Support Our Children with Depression

How to Support Our Children with Depression

Every child experiences “the blues” every once in a while, but when the sadness becomes relentless, it could manifest into depression. Depression can affect a child’s personal life, school work, and social or family life. Children, versus adults, can develop depression based on additional factors like peer pressure and changing hormone levels. It’s important to be alert and supportive of our children in order to help them.

Symptoms

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recognizes the following symptoms as warning signs of depression in children:

  • Feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • A decrease in interest in activities once found enjoyable
  • Decrease in energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Talk of suicide
  • Poor school performance

 If you recognize any of these symptoms in your child there are ways you can help:

 Support

After an initial diagnosis of depression, the best thing you can do is become informed, for you and your child. Jumo Health, a digital health resource for families, offers a depression discussion guide which provides questions to help foster conversation with a doctor after a diagnosis.

Moreover, there are productive ways to create a dialogue between you and your child. Start by letting your child know why you care about how they are feeling. Ask your child about their feelings, but don’t expect them to completely understand or have all the answers. Follow up with connections and examples of some of your own feelings so that they feel relatable. It’s important for children to know that they are not alone.

 If you want to help your child even further, we previously suggested the “Three L’s”:

  • Logging thoughts in a journal
  • Laughter
  • Long walks

Have your child interpret thoughts through writing. They can use a journal to keep track of moods, visualize patterns, and even write down inspirational thoughts. Journaling is a great way for your child to get their thoughts down on paper to clarify and reflect on their feelings.

Better yet, help your child combat sadness with its opposite: laughter. Activities such as watching a funny movie or show can use humor to play an important role in depression management.

Lastly, utilize the curative effects of exercise. Physical activity has healing benefits that release endorphins in order to relieve stress.

Connect with God

It’s important to remind your child that if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

 

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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Finding Emotional Satisfaction

Finding Emotional Satisfaction

Having a mental health issue can be and usually is life altering.  So often after coming to terms with the diagnosis and the side effects of medicine can leave you asking, “Is this as good as it gets?  Really??”  This can lead us to believe that life is “over” as we knew it.  In fact, it can lead us to actually feeling lifeless.

In the edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Pastor Brad and Jason Petersen discuss how Jason found his emotional satisfaction, his “sweet spot” for living after being diagnosed.  Jason talks opening about his journey to finding his passion for life once again.

Jason is a husband, dad, business owner and video blogger.  Be sure to check out his website at: www.JasonPetersen.com

After listening to this podcast we encourage you to email us at Podcast@FreshHope4MentalHealth.com with a comment or question that we will share on our next podcast.  Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site: www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

To listen to the podcast click on the icon below:

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

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

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Perfection Versus Imperfect Progress

Perfection Versus Imperfect Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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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Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

https://freshhope.us/donate/

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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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Forgiveness: The Power to Heal by Jamie Meyer

Forgiveness: The Power to Heal by Jamie Meyer

By: Jamie Meyer

Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive hurts you more than it hurts the other person. I liken it to being held captive by a ball and chain. Unable to move forward in life we remain stuck in the past, continually ruminating on what someone did to us. Unforgiveness makes it more difficult to “live well” in spite of having a mental health diagnosis.

It’s human nature to want justice. We want the other person to pay for what they did. At the very least we want an apology. Deep down we even question whether the way we were treated contributed to triggering our mental illness or worsened it.

How were you hurt at the hands of another? Were you bullied, made fun of, or stigmatized because you were different from your peers? Maybe you were hurt, or continue to be, in a relationship. They didn’t understand so they said hurtful things, ignored you, or walked away, leaving you feeling abandoned and alone. I’ll let you fill in the blank.

As is true of all things in God’s kingdom, hope for healing is found in Christ alone. Are you thinking that there’s no way you can possibly forgive your enemy? Jesus tells us “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27). I think that pretty much covers everything, no matter how grievous the violation. If we invite God into the process, then forgiveness is possible.

Refusal to forgive is often the result of not understanding what it means to forgive a person. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to forget what the person did or tell yourself the hurtful experience didn’t matter. As much as you might want to, you can never erase those painful experiences from your memory.

Forgiveness does not mean you let the other person off the hook either. They are still responsible for what they did. The person who hurt you may never come to you and say they’re sorry. In fact, they may have already passed away. Regardless, it’s comforting to know they’re accountable to someone greater than you: “Never take your own revenge….’Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19).

Probably the greatest misunderstanding about forgiveness is that it involves reconciliation with the offender. That’s wonderful if it’s something you want but in most cases there’s no desire to restore the relationship. Why risk the chance of being hurt again? Part of caring for ourselves and maintaining stability requires choosing healthy relationships.

Forgiveness is a process, one that takes time. You don’t wake up one morning and decide you’re going to forgive someone. Telling yourself “I forgive ___” won’t take away the hurt and resentment you feel.

A better place to start is by asking yourself some questions: Do I honestly believe the person who hurt me will someday tell me they’re sorry for their actions? What if they did apologize and beg for my forgiveness? Would that make up for the damage it caused in my life, the happiness and peace of mind I could have had, or how my life may have turned out differently? If that day came, it honestly wouldn’t be enough.

The process of forgiveness begins with accepting the reality that in all likelihood there will be no admittance of guilt, no apology, nor will they have become a better person over time. Letting go of those expectations and the need to get even will enable you to break free of the ball and chain.

The past and its memories will always be a part of you but you’ll no longer be weighed down by them emotionally. Although the length of time it takes to heal varies from person to person, forgiveness is something you do for you. In return you receive freedom, joy, inner peace, and the ability to move forward with hope.

 

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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