Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

When Christmas Is Difficult

When Christmas Is Difficult

This is a special Christmas edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health. 

In this edition, Pastor Brad talks with Perry Root, Sr. about experiencing grief or depression during Christmastime.  Perry is an M.S.W. student doing his practicum with Fresh Hope and is also a fulltime member of the Community of Grace staff.  He shares some insights as to experiencing grief or depression at this time of the year.

We encourage you to share this podcast with those that you believe might benefit from it.   Even posting it on your social media may reach someone who is very lonely, sad and depressed during this what many call “the most wonderful time of the year.”

To listen to this episode click here or click on the icon below:

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

If you are listening to this podcast on iTunes, we encourage you to leave a comment regarding the podcast. Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:  www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

Pastor Brad Hoefs, the host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

Brad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. He is a weekly blogger for www.bphope.com (Bipolar Magazine). He is also a certified peer specialist and has been doing pastoral counseling since 1985. Brad is also the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, which is available on Amazon or at http://www.FreshHopeBook.com

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to http://www.FreshHope.us or email info@FreshHope.us or call 402.932.3089.

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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Music for Your Soul When You Are Going Through Difficulties

Music for Your Soul When You Are Going Through Difficulties

This edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health is for anyone who is going through a difficult time in their life whether they have a mental health issue or not.  So, this is one podcast that you are going to want to share with any of your friends or family who are in a valley of challenges right now.

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health Pastor Brad shares four songs that have been extremely helpful to him as he has faced some of his darkest difficulties.

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

To listen to this podcast just click on the icon below or click here

small logo for Fresh Hope

If you are listening to this podcast on iTunes, we encourage you to leave a comment regarding the podcast. Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:  www.FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

Pastor Brad Hoefs, the host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

Brad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. He is a weekly blogger for www.bphope.com (Bipolar Magazine). He is also a certified peer specialist and has been doing pastoral counseling since 1985. Brad is also the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, which is available on Amazon or at http://www.FreshHopeBook.com

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to http://www.FreshHope.us or email info@FreshHope.us or call 402.932.3089.

To donate to Fresh Hope go to http://freshhope.us/donate/

For a complete list of where Fresh Hope groups are presently meeting, go to www.FreshHope.us and click on “find a group.”  Or you may attain an online group of meetings of Fresh Hope by going to www.FreshHopeMeeting.com

If you are interested in starting a Fresh Hope group within your faith community, contact Julie at Julie@FreshHope.us 

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is a production of Fresh Hope Ministries. 

Fresh Hope Ministries is a non-profit ministry.  

The copyrights of this program belong to Fresh Hope Ministries and may not be duplicated without written permission. 

All of the podcasts of Fresh Hope Today, as well as numerous other videos, are all available on our YouTube channel: Fresh Hope Network

 Fresh Hope for Mental Health is on Facebook at  www.Facebook.com/FreshHopeforMentalHealth

30 Things You Can Do When Someone You Love is Clinically Depressed

30 Things You Can Do When Someone You Love is Clinically Depressed

When you love someone that is experiencing deep depression it can be exhausting and melanie-wasser-233297frustrating.  You want to encourage your loved one but don’t want to push them too much. Encouraging them to “push through” but knowing when not to do so is a delicate balance.  You might even find yourself feeling the depression emotionally.  No doubt caring for someone who is in the depths of depression can feel as though life is being sucked out of you.  You can end up having no idea as to how to help or encourage your loved one.

Here’s somethings my wife did for me and/or encouraged me to do when I was in the depths of depression:

  1. Encourage them to do something that they usually have enjoyed doing and do it with them.
  2. Watch an uplifting movie with them.
  3. Make them their favorite meal.
  4. Sit quietly with them. Hold their hand.
  5. Take a walk with them.
  6. Take care of yourself!
  7. Help them establish and stick to a schedule if possible.
  8. Have some expectations of them.
  9. Assure them of your unconditional love.
  10. Assure them that this will pass sooner or later.
  11. Give them a back rub.
  12. Listen to soothing, spiritually uplifting music with them.
  13. Ask them to help you make or do something.
  14. Encourage them to talk and listen carefully.
  15. Encourage them to see a doctor if they have not done so.
  16. Assure them you don’t believe that they are weak or lack faith, but that you know their brain chemistry is experiencing imbalance.
  17. Ask them to promise you that if they ever begin to feel like they begin to feel suicidal that they will tell you. If they tell you, consult with their doctor as soon as possible or contact the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If the situation is an emergency, dial 911.
  18. Ask them what might bring them comfort.
  19. Talk about the future. Help them see there is a future.
  20. Encourage them to exercise with you.
  21. Turn on the lights, open the windows.
  22. Find out as much as you can about depression. This is a great website: https://www.lighterblue.com/#lighter-blue
  23. Change your light bulbs to full spectrum light bulbs.
  24. Give your loved one a mood light. Northern Light Technologies has a wide variety of options.  http://northernlighttechnologies.com/  (Before purchasing these you’ll want to check with the doctor.)
  25. Get them vitamin D and B12.
  26. Remind them of times when they have overcome adversity so they know it is possible for them to do so again.
  27. Encourage them to get outside for a walk and some natural sunlight.
  28. Turn off news programs and other negative media. Control negative inputs.
  29. Where possible, encourage them to connect with friends.
  30. Pray.  Every time you find yourself worrying about your loved one, pray instead.

Please know, as a loved one it is SO important that you do take care of yourself too. Stay balanced and do somethings that you enjoy.  Take care of yourself spiritually and emotionally.  Also, know this, the Lord is with you too!  He will see you through this valley. Stay in His word. Hold to His hope. And when you can, laugh a little!  You are not alone. There is hope.  And there is healing.

Cover photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

 

 

Life Is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React to It

Life Is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React to It
This past year my wife and I went to my 40th high school class reunion. I had not seen many of my classmates since graduation. So, you can imagine how strange it was to see them after so many years of life. Fortunately, those in charge of the event provided us nametags to wear that not only had our name on it but also our senior class picture. And boy was that helpful!I found myself reflecting the entire evening about how fast life goes and how no one’s life necessarily turns out like they thought it would. When you have not seen someone for 40 years, you could see in their physical appearance the toll of living. Of course, we all had aged (some better than others). And our journeys have been very different. But, it seems that even though the journeys have been very different, there is a common thread that life weaves in each person’s journey. That thread is made up of joy, happiness, disappointments, hurts, fears, brokenness, grief, hopes, mistakes, success, failures, dreams lived and many dreams lost. I could see in my classmate’s eyes that disappointments and brokenness had taken their toll. Living life can take the life out of you.So, why do I share this with you? Here’s why I share it: life brings with it a lot of disappointments, pain and brokenness. It’s part of the human condition. And life keeps going on whether or not you are stuck in those things. See, I believe that you and I can easily get into a mindset that having mental health diagnosis “ruins” your life and we can begin to think that we can’t move forward in life and enjoy it. The truth is that everyone faces something in life. Living can quickly suck the life right out of any and everyone. Bipolar disorder is just one of the many obstacles found in this “thing” we call life.

It’s easy to begin to focus so much on ourselves and how “hard” we have it that self-pity can start to creep in and take up residence in our beliefs. And while we get stuck in the pain and brokenness of a mental disorder, life keeps going on. Life doesn’t stop. And for me, life is way, WAY too short to get so stuck in self-pity or stuck in believing that now life is “over” because of having a mental illness. Yes, a mental health challenge can suck. Yes, a mental health challenge can hinder ones’ life and alter the course of what we had hoped life to be. Yes, a mental illness is a “cross to bear” in life. But, lest you and I forget, there are many other crosses in life that are just as difficult and some even more tragic and painful to bear. For me, it has been imperative that I remember that there are much worse crosses to bear in life than bipolar disorder. Remembering this helps keeps my self-pity at bay.

I spent seven very long years stuck in my pain and brokenness following the manic episode that brought about the collapse of my life. Self-pity was part of those seven years. I was stuck in it. I felt as though my life had been robbed from me. But, really was being stuck and feeling sorry for myself that was robbing me of life, not the bipolar disorder! And I didn’t get unstuck until I got sick and tired of feeling sorry for myself and believing that my life was over.

So, I decided I was going to live well in spite of having bipolar disorder. Those three little words, “in spite of” are the mantra of my recovery.  In order to get unstuck I did three things:

  1. Changed how I was thinking by taking control of what I was thinking about.  I did not allow myself to continually rehearse the pain and brokenness.  Instead I began to think about how the pain and brokenness could propel me into living well. (This was the hardest thing I had to do in recovery!)
  2. Set reasonable and reachable goals that continually moved me towards living life well.  I stuck to the goals and when reached, I set new ones. Failure was not an option. Yes, there were failures and set backs.  But, I chose to see the set backs and failures and learning opportunities for living well.
  3. Started helping others with mental health challenges and got my focus off of myself.  (This probably was the major game changer for me.)  When I started focusing on helping others I found my passion again; there was purpose for all of the pain I had experienced.

Here’s what I know about life and how people live it based not only on my life but also after pastoring for the past 30 some years: everybody has “stuff.”

Everybody has pain. Everybody has tragedies and losses in their lives. Pain is pain. Whether it is the loss of a child, cancer, financial collapse, divorce or a mental illness: you either work through it, or you get stuck in it. (By the way, if this blog post is “ticking you off”, then you are most likely stuck in your pain.) As they say, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

So, how are you responding to the things that life is throwing you? How are you reacting to having a mental health challenge? Are you living well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis? If not, why not?

You can check out Brad’s podcast at: FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

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

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

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Pastoring and Suicidal: Insights from a Pastor Who Has Been There

Pastoring and Suicidal: Insights from a Pastor Who Has Been There

The loss of yet another pastor to suicide this week was not a surprise to me.  Why? Because handling the challenges of modern-day ministry and the challenges of having a mental health issue can become deadly. I know all too well. Since 1995, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have spent every single day delicately balancing the demands of pastoral ministry, family life, and managing my bipolar disorder.

I’ve been an ordained pastor since 1985. And ministry is more demanding today than ever. The culture, the expectations, and the speed of life have changed greatly since I started over 30 years ago. Life is more stressful today for everyone, not just the clergy. However, that growing amount of stress has created even more pressure within the demands of pastoral ministry. Ministry is difficult and challenging. So when you add a mental health challenge on top of it, one must take double- and triple-care to manage the mental health challenge.

Just a few of my observations:

  • In pastoral ministry, it seems to me that at least 85% (maybe more) of the situations I deal with are negative. And too often there is not ample time to become refreshed and replenished before the next one ‘hits’.  Research by Duke University shows that demands put pastors at far greater risk for depression than people in other occupations.  LifeWay research gives us insight as to some of the reasons pastors struggle with depression.  Pastoral Leadership is a tough job, not as difficult as being a stay at home Mom, but it is ranked by Forbes as being one of the 9 most difficult leadership jobs in America.
  • People are not as respectful to pastors as they used to be. The sheep seem to be more irritated with life, more aggressive, and willing to “bite” at their shepherd. And those things that people say about you hurt.
  • Consumerism runs rampant in the Christian church. Instead of coming alongside their pastor in ministry, many folks are there to ‘receive’ from the pastor. And when what they ‘get’ from the pastor doesn’t meet with their expectations, they begin to peck away at what he or she is doing wrong. So, there’s frequently extremely high expectations and low tolerance. Pastors suffer many heart-wounds that are inflicted by sheep that they have loved and cared for over the years. 
  • Pastors are first-line responders to the crisis situations of their people’s lives. Thus, they have a lot of second-hand trauma. It makes a significant impact on the mental health of every pastor, even if he or she does not have a mental health diagnosis. The effects of second-hand trauma are real.
  • Pastors tend to feel isolated and alone. And so we find it hard to talk openly about our deepest and darkest issues. Sometimes it seems even to those of us who are pastors that we shouldn’t be struggling as we are to be ‘examples’ of faith. Shame keeps us shackled and tongue-tied when it comes to sharing our deepest struggles. There is always that fear that we could lose our job if word got out. Churches are not always the safest places to find grace. As pastors, we encourage people to be authentic, transparent, and confess failures and struggles. Yet, we find that to be one of the hardest things to do personally.
  • Knowing how to process pain and suffering is foreign to us in today’s culture. So we end up not processing the pain or suffering that comes with life. The interesting thing about emotional pain is that if you don’t deal with it, it will deal with you. And pastors struggle just like everyone else. We live in a culture, even within the church culture, where people do not know what to do when others are struggling and in pain. Too often we sugarcoat it with toxic positivity or spiritualize it. It’s no wonder then that people simply don’t talk openly about a struggle, for fear of being seen as complaining or not having enough faith.
  • Oftentimes those of us in the helping professions are people-pleasers, which makes ministry fraught with all kinds of dangers. Also, many of us in these professions suffer from low self-esteem and take everything personally – which then compounds depression and anxiety even more.  This issue adds even additional stress to an already stressful profession.
  • And of course, there is the issue of spiritual warfare that is always at play also. The enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there certainly are many joys in the ministry and while the church has always had flaws, I love the church and God’s people.  But, let’s be honest, some of God’s people require more grace than others!  And when you are dealing with a mental health challenge, it is even more complex and more of a challenge to deal with all of the conflict issues that arise in an imperfect church, which is all churches.

It’s important to understand that things such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder – as well as other mental health disorders – are episodic. This means that while I will have bipolar disorder the rest of my life if I’m not experiencing an actual depressive or manic episode, I’m living basically symptom-free like anyone else would be experiencing life. For example, I’ve not had any kind of major episode of depression or mania for the past 17 years. But I have to stay on top of managing the disorder daily, which means that someone with a mental health disorder can serve as a pastor or hold other jobs and manage their disease without it ever becoming an issue.

However, if the pastor is having a depressive episode, ongoing anxiety attacks, or a manic episode for whatever reason, then it becomes exceptionally difficult to navigate daily life, much less ministry. In other words, if their mental health challenge is affecting their ability to cope with the demands of their life, then they must take care of themselves just as they would if as if they needed to have open-heart surgery. It’s no different than if someone were dealing with any other serious physical illness. It is during times like this that one must focus on getting well before returning to work.

Here are a few things that I encourage my fellow pastors who might be struggling with any type of mental health issue – either secretly or publicly – and especially if you have suicidal ideations:

  • Talk to someone immediately, don’t listen to your brain’s thinking, tell someone before it is too late. Don’t wait. Don’t even finish reading this blog. Do it now. You don’t need to handle this on your own, nor can you handle on your own. You need someone to listen who knows how to help you. Don’t play that game where you tell yourself, “You can do this”.  See, while you are listening to that little voice in your head that says, “You’ve got this.” But things get worse, and you don’t have it. And before you know it, you find yourself being swallowed up by hopelessness. By that point, you can barely stand up against it. STOP participating with the lies of the depressive state of your brain!

If you wait too long to talk to someone, you come to a point where the darkness of depression tells you not to speak – and before you know it your brain succumbs to the illness of depression. You then end up at a point where you can’t fight it any longer. So, STOP playing the game. Tell someone that you AREN’T OK! Tell it before you can’t fight against the lies of the depression.

  • Know this: Your struggle is not because you are weak emotionally or spiritually. That’s nothing more than stigma telling you that. Everyone struggles. And we aren’t meant to struggle alone. You know that. You’ve taught it in your preaching and teaching. You know that we were created for relationship. You are weak when you think you are strong enough to handle this yourself. So, don’t handle it alone.
  • This struggle is real. It is physiological. If you don’t tell someone and keep thinking you can handle this, the brain will sooner or later cause you to be out of your mind. Your brain is just another organ in your body. Your mind is what your brain does. And when your brain is sick it’s hard to be in your right mind. And in this case, the brain is the only organ in your body that gets to determine whether or not you talk about this with someone else. Your brain can get sick enough that it will lie to you telling you that you need to take your life to get out of the pain. Your brain will become sick enough to make you think that your loved ones would be better without you. DON’T believe the lies of your sick brain. It’s an easy slippery slope to suicide, and the evidence of that slippery slope is when you think that you can handle this struggle on your own. DO something now before it is too late.
  • Please know that depression will make you feel very guilty and shameful. Depression will tell you that you shouldn’t burden the people around you anymore. Depression will tell you that things will never get better. And if you aren’t telling anyone, then in one quick very dark moment, depression can pull you down into the cesspool of hopelessness and an abyss of darkness that you have never known.
  • Depression will make you feel like you should be ashamed of yourself for having suicidal ideations or that you should be ashamed of yourself for not trusting the Lord. After all, you’re a pastor. Pastors should not struggle with these things, which is a bunch of B.S.! Those of the lies of depression.
  • If the fear of having to be hospitalized is what is keeping you from actually telling someone that you are suicidal, that is your own stigma that is within you. Override it for the sake of your spouse, children, friends, and your flock.  If you were having a heart attack you would go to the E.R., right? Well, this is NO different than that!

Twice in my life, I have been suicidal.  The first time I did not go to the hospital.  Someone was around me nearly 24/7.  I was not left by myself.  I ended up in a curled up fetal position on the floor of our bedroom closet, it felt like a safe place.  The emotional pain and anxiety were worse than any pain I’ve ever had to this point in my life.  The second time I was suicidal I could literally feel the dark pit of despair and hopelessness engulfing me.  I intuitively knew that there was very little of my ability to fit it left.  I was clinging to the very edge of the deep hole with a few of my fingernails.  Making the call to the doctor was more than I could think of and but, I knew I had to tell someone, or I probably was not going to be able to fight the hopelessness and despair.  The disease was eating my ability to hold onto life.   It felt much like I would imagine it might feel to die of any disease.  I ended up in the hospital.  Locked in the hospital.  No shoe strings, no electrical cords and no razor.  But it saved my life no differently than if I had suffered a major heart attack that day.

For those of you who don’t understand how one can get to that point of despair, thank the Lord you don’t understand.  Believe it or not, it is quite possible to live at the intersection of hope and hopelessness at the same time.  Hopelessness is a street of despair that is littered with lies and pain that runs horizontally.  It is of this world.  It’s physical, it really is all in the head, because of a diseased brain.  Real hope, no wishful thinking hope, that is a Romans 8:28 hope, is a street that is vertical.  It is the truth.  It isn’t always felt in the natural.  But, it is rock solid.   And you can be living in that intersection and have the real hope but the hopelessness takes over in the natural because of a diseased brain.

In the end, someone who dies by suicide does not choose it, so, they are not “committing” it.  I believe it would be more accurate to say that someone dies from a mental illness.  The mental illness takes them.  Just like when people die from cancer.  And pastor, you don’t need to die that death.  Get help.

I’m a pastor who has bipolar. I will die having bipolar short of the Lord’s miraculously healing me.  (And like Paul experienced, the Lord has not removed that thorn up to this point.) But I refuse to die from bipolar.  If you are struggling with suicidal ideation or are suicidal, choose to live before the disease takes over.

 

Pastor if you are struggling with a mental illness or mental health challenge, please consider attending our online Fresh Hope group meeting on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. central time zone. It is a safe place to not be OK.  If that time slot does not work for you, please email Nicole@FreshHope.usand we will start an online Fresh Hope support group for clergy only.

 

 

 

Life Is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React to It

Life Is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React to It
This past year my wife and I went to my 40th high school class reunion. I had not seen many of my classmates since graduation. So, you can imagine how strange it was to see them after so many years of life. Fortunately, those in charge of the event provided us nametags to wear that not only had our name on it but also our senior class picture. And boy was that helpful!I found myself reflecting the entire evening about how fast life goes and how no one’s life necessarily turns out like they thought it would. When you have not seen someone for 40 years, you could see in their physical appearance the toll of living. Of course, we all had aged (some better than others). And our journeys have been very different. But, it seems that even though the journeys have been very different, there is a common thread that life weaves in each person’s journey. That thread is made up of joy, happiness, disappointments, hurts, fears, brokenness, grief, hopes, mistakes, success, failures, dreams lived and many dreams lost. I could see in my classmate’s eyes that disappointments and brokenness had taken their toll. Living life can take the life out of you.So, why do I share this with you? Here’s why I share it: life brings with it a lot of disappointments, pain and brokenness. It’s part of the human condition. And life keeps going on whether or not you are stuck in those things. See, I believe that you and I can easily get into a mindset that having mental health diagnosis “ruins” your life and we can begin to think that we can’t move forward in life and enjoy it. The truth is that everyone faces something in life. Living can quickly suck the life right out of any and everyone. Bipolar disorder is just one of the many obstacles found in this “thing” we call life.It’s easy to begin to focus so much on ourselves and how “hard” we have it that self-pity can start to creep in and take up residence in our beliefs. And while we get stuck in the pain and brokenness of a mental disorder, life keeps going on. Life doesn’t stop. And for me, life is way, WAY too short to get so stuck in self-pity or stuck in believing that now life is “over” because of having a mental illness. Yes, a mental health challenge can suck. Yes, a mental health challenge can hinder ones’ life and alter the course of what we had hoped life to be. Yes, a mental illness is a “cross to bear” in life. But, lest you and I forget, there are many other crosses in life that are just as difficult and some even more tragic and painful to bear. For me, it has been imperative that I remember that there are much worse crosses to bear in life than bipolar disorder. Remembering this helps keeps my self-pity at bay.

I spent seven very long years stuck in my pain and brokenness following the manic episode that brought about the collapse of my life. Self-pity was part of those seven years. I was stuck in it. I felt as though my life had been robbed from me. But, really was being stuck and feeling sorry for myself that was robbing me of life, not the bipolar disorder! And I didn’t get unstuck until I got sick and tired of feeling sorry for myself and believing that my life was over.

So, I decided I was going to live well in spite of having bipolar disorder. Those three little words, “in spite of” are the mantra of my recovery.  In order to get unstuck I did three things:

  1. Changed how I was thinking by taking control of what I was thinking about.  I did not allow myself to continually rehearse the pain and brokenness.  Instead I began to think about how the pain and brokenness could propel me into living well. (This was the hardest thing I had to do in recovery!)
  2. Set reasonable and reachable goals that continually moved me towards living life well.  I stuck to the goals and when reached, I set new ones. Failure was not an option. Yes, there were failures and set backs.  But, I chose to see the set backs and failures and learning opportunities for living well.
  3. Started helping others with mental health challenges and got my focus off of myself.  (This probably was the major game changer for me.)  When I started focusing on helping others I found my passion again; there was purpose for all of the pain I had experienced.

Here’s what I know about life and how people live it based not only on my life but also after pastoring for the past 30 some years: everybody has “stuff.”

Everybody has pain. Everybody has tragedies and losses in their lives. Pain is pain. Whether it is the loss of a child, cancer, financial collapse, divorce or a mental illness: you either work through it, or you get stuck in it. (By the way, if this blog post is “ticking you off”, then you are most likely stuck in your pain.) As they say, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

So, how are you responding to the things that life is throwing you? How are you reacting to having a mental health challenge? Are you living well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis? If not, why not?

You can check out Brad’s podcast at: FreshHope4MentalHealth.com

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

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

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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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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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Choosing Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Choosing Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Hopelessness is serious. Every day people fall into the hopeless hole of hopelessness due to their struggle with a mental health issue. Hopelessness begins to knock at the door of one’s heart when you feel and believe that you have no future. It happens so easily, and it can take root all too fast. Each time we face one of life’s interruptions which change our perceived future hopelessness can settle in and live rent free in our hearts and minds.

Over 20 years ago I faced a life-altering interruption due to having bipolar disorder. At that time I was pastoring one of the fastest growing churches in my denomination. However, following that painful manic episode, which had interrupted my life, I was asked to resign. It was earth-shattering. My position and the church had become my identity. I was devastated to the point of complete hopelessness. I had lost my future. Hopelessness had set in. And the deep dark hole of depression became a shameful guilt place of familiarity for me; months and months of severe depression followed.

For years prior to this interruption I had felt as though I had a monster inside of me that I had to manage.

The more stress I experienced with pastoring a growing church, the more impossible it was to control the monster within me. More times than not, the monster was controlling me. So, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I found out that the monster had a name. And strangely enough, a small ray of hope began to break through the hopelessness what had swallowed me whole.

Why would there be a small ray of hope following my diagnosis?   After all, usually people see the diagnosis of bipolar disorder as the difficult thing to accept. Well, it was because of the people around me who helped me to see that the diagnosis and treatment of my bipolar disorder were a way back to having a future. It was the idea that the bipolar could be treated and I could have a future poked a small pinhole of hope into the darkness of hopelessness. It was not an easy journey, but it was more than worth it. With that small pinhole of hope, I could see a way forward. I began to grieve what I had lost and began to embrace a new and different future; believing that I could live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.

Dr. Sean Lopez, the author of Making Hope Happen, has done extensive research on hope for over 14 years. His research supports what I experienced. When I thought I had no future, hopelessness set in and took over. And when I could see the way to a future, hope began to start. And the clearer the future became for me, the more hope I felt.

Interestingly enough, hope can be borrowed, shared and it can be caught! Think about it, if you hang around a lot of hopeless friends, you will begin to feel hopeless. And if you hang out with people who are filled with hope you will begin to feel hopeful.

So, I have a question for you: How is your hope tank doing? Do you feel like you can see a way forward? If not, do you potentially need to let go of the future that as you thought it would be, grieve it and let it go? Do you need to embrace the new potential future? There’s no doubt that doing this is a process. It is not like switching a light switch on. But, it is a choice.

Hope is truly a choice. For me as a Christian, hope is not only a choice, but it is sure and certain. Paul reminds us that no matter what our circumstances might be there is a future because the Lord will work all things out together for our good. (Romans 8:28) So, I certainly may not “feel” hopeful, but I choose to believe Romans 8:28 and that means that there is a future. It may not have been the future as I thought it would be, but it is a future.

So, again, my question is: how is your hope tank? Is your hope tank empty? Is being a caregiver sucking the hope right out of you? Do you see a way forward into the future?

Are you strong enough to make the choice of hope? If not, I have some hope you can borrow.See, I know because of the storms I’ve been through in my life that God is at work in all things. He is with you. He has not left you. He won’t leave you. And He is FOR you and your entire family! He has a plan. It may not be the life you and I planned prior to bipolar showing up, but in spite of us having bipolar disorder He has a plan!

Everything may not be “good” right now, but all is well because of Him. He has heard every single one of your tears as a liquid prayer.   Look for that little tiny bit of light coming through the “pin” hole poking through the hopelessness you might be feeling. Choose hope. Choose it minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day and your feelings will begin to catch up. There is a future and joy is included in it.

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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30 Things You Can Do When Someone You Love is Clinically Depressed

30 Things You Can Do When Someone You Love is Clinically Depressed

When you love someone that is experiencing deep depression it can be exhausting and melanie-wasser-233297frustrating.  You want to encourage your loved one but don’t want to push them too much. Encouraging them to “push through” but knowing when not to do so is a delicate balance.  You might even find yourself feeling the depression emotionally.  No doubt caring for someone who is in the depths of depression can feel as though life is being sucked out of you.  You can end up having no idea as to how to help or encourage your loved one.

Here’s somethings my wife did for me and/or encouraged me to do when I was in the depths of depression:

  1. Encourage them to do something that they usually have enjoyed doing and do it with them.
  2. Watch an uplifting movie with them.
  3. Make them their favorite meal.
  4. Sit quietly with them. Hold their hand.
  5. Take a walk with them.
  6. Take care of yourself!
  7. Help them establish and stick to a schedule if possible.
  8. Have some expectations of them.
  9. Assure them of your unconditional love.
  10. Assure them that this will pass sooner or later.
  11. Give them a back rub.
  12. Listen to soothing, spiritually uplifting music with them.
  13. Ask them to help you make or do something.
  14. Encourage them to talk and listen carefully.
  15. Encourage them to see a doctor if they have not done so.
  16. Assure them you don’t believe that they are weak or lack faith, but that you know their brain chemistry is experiencing imbalance.
  17. Ask them to promise you that if they ever begin to feel like they begin to feel suicidal that they will tell you. If they tell you, consult with their doctor as soon as possible or contact the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If the situation is an emergency, dial 911.
  18. Ask them what might bring them comfort.
  19. Talk about the future. Help them see there is a future.
  20. Encourage them to exercise with you.
  21. Turn on the lights, open the windows.
  22. Find out as much as you can about depression. This is a great website: https://www.lighterblue.com/#lighter-blue
  23. Change your light bulbs to full spectrum light bulbs.
  24. Give your loved one a mood light. Northern Light Technologies has a wide variety of options.  http://northernlighttechnologies.com/  (Before purchasing these you’ll want to check with the doctor.)
  25. Get them vitamin D and B12.
  26. Remind them of times when they have overcome adversity so they know it is possible for them to do so again.
  27. Encourage them to get outside for a walk and some natural sunlight.
  28. Turn off news programs and other negative media. Control negative inputs.
  29. Where possible, encourage them to connect with friends.
  30. Pray.  Every time you find yourself worrying about your loved one, pray instead.

Please know, as a loved one it is SO important that you do take care of yourself too. Stay balanced and do somethings that you enjoy.  Take care of yourself spiritually and emotionally.  Also, know this, the Lord is with you too!  He will see you through this valley. Stay in His word. Hold to His hope. And when you can, laugh a little!  You are not alone. There is hope.  And there is healing.

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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