Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

Depression in Men – Symptoms, triggers, and how to cope with it

Guest Blog By Ralph Macey

People become disheartened, irritable, or tired and experience issues with a good night’s sleep when they face severe emotional turmoil. These are some of the common reactions of human beings when they are going through stress, anxiety, or mostly…depression issues within a few days.

Lots of men struggle with depression throughout their lives which may harm their normal life cycle in many ways. Men may have a greater tendency to feel anger, show aggressiveness, and engage in substance abuse, compared to women.

Most men hesitate to discuss their feelings or seek help for depression. This is because men believe that depression is an emotional sign of weakness or a failing of masculinity. That’s why discussing this weakness can make them weaker. As a result, their depression gets worse with time.

How common is depression?

Both men and women may experience severe depression issues, but the signs and symptoms in both cases can be much different.

Depression can affect millions of men all over the world, of all ages and cultures. But one thing we must also consider is that not only the men but people around them are also getting affected. For loved ones such as spouses, kids, parents, friends, and other family members, neighbors, everyone’s life is more or less faces an impact.

When men are having depression, sudden changes might be seen in their thinking, feelings, and functions in their daily life. Those rapid changes may also affect their productivity at the workplace or schools and harm their relationships, sleep habits, diet, and overall lifestyle. Severe depression can be intense and may cause physical and mental damage.

Men suffering from depression can harm themselves mortally and the count is four times more than women. So, it is necessary that men should take help regarding depression before it is too late. They should discuss their issues honestly with a friend, or a doctor and clearly open up about what’s going on in their mind, along with their body. For a perfect diagnosis, the signs and symptoms should be carefully noticed in the patient.

Signs and symptoms

Depression signs and symptoms are much different in men compared to women. Men sometimes use different coping skills just as women do.  Normally men show different signs and symptoms while experiencing depression, due to their brain chemistry, hormones, and life experiences.

Practically, men may show the following symptoms of depression:

●        Sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness

●        Feel extremely tired

●        Insomnia or sleeping too much

●        Less interest in regular activities.

●        Lack of concentration

●        Headaches

●        Tightness in the chest

●        Joint, limb, or back pain

●     Digestive problems

Apart from these symptoms, there are a few behavioral signs that may be considered depression in men:

●        Spending too much time alone.

●        Spending a lot more time at work.

●        Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, and pain

●        Losing interest in sex and experiencing sexual issues

●        Avoiding family or social situations

●        Irritability

●        Taking unnecessary risks while driving

●        Drinking more or taking drugs.

●        Controlling, violent or abusive behavior

●     Attempting suicide

Triggers

As per the experts, there might be multiple reasons for depression in men such as Biological, psychological, and social. Apart from that lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills also play a serious part in this issue.

So, men who suffer from severe depression, might encounter the following triggers or risk factors that make the situation worse:

●        Loneliness and lack of social support

●        Early childhood trauma or abuse

●        Anxiety and stress

●        A past record of alcohol consumption or substance abuse

●        Having a divorce, job loss, or bereavement

●        Having serious physical health problems

●        Family history of depression or other mental health issues

●     Experiencing sexual dysfunction

Coping strategies

  1. Some unique lifestyle changes and coping strategies can help men to manage depression to a certain level.
  2. Creating a daily routine and maintaining it may help a person to avoid all the hassle every day.
  3. Speed walking or running can help to produce endorphins which can boost a person’s mood and heal depression.
  4. If big tasks look unmanageable and confusing, people may divide them into smaller tasks. It will help them to achieve their goal and remove depression.
  5. Meditation and yoga may help a lot to reduce stress and support well-being. As a result, the sense of depressiveness will be reduced.
  6. Connecting to your dear ones, sharing feelings with friends, may make people feel less overwhelmed. As much as people keep away from loneliness, the depressive mood will also recover faster.
  7. Reducing alcohol intake can boost mood. Apart from that, it will also keep the body toxin-free and healthy.
  8. Have a pet and start taking care of it. The sense of responsibility sometimes removes stress and boosts your concentration.
  9. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits. At Least 7 to 8 hours of sleep can help to charge the mood and reduce depression.
  10. Spending time in nature may also boost the mind and bring positivity.
  11. Think twice before making important decisions, such as shifting jobs, until you get over with depression symptoms.

Connect with God

It’s important to convey the message to the men who are suffering from depression that – if you believe in god, know the fact that He comes close to those who suffer. So keep your eyes open for Him.

Believe the truth that the almighty God is not silent when people suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children can find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

In your darkest days, you may follow the guidelines of the Bible. Here are a few suggestions for Bible passages that you may find helpful.

●        Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14.

●        Depression could make you weak and easy prey for Satan’s. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)

●        Know about persevering and enduring. Read on (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4)

●        Read Hebrews 11 and 12. You’ll know that many before you have walked this path and they will assure you that God did not fail them.

●        Know your purpose for being a human. Read (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20,  2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)

●        Use Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 as your personal prayers to God.

Author Bio: Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He has provided mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community. To connect with him, go to his Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Staying Sane When Times are Crazy Such as Now!

Staying Sane When Times are Crazy Such as Now!

As I write, we are about 240 days into the COVID-19 corona virus global pandemic. Do you remember when we first initially heard about it and it sounded so far off, so far away? And then we faced the lockdowns.

To be honest, when that happened, I thought – in my simplistic way of looking at things – ‘Okay, we’ll stay at home and we’ll get through this, and it’ll be about six weeks long and then life will return to normal.’ And so I just plunked myself down and became a total couch potato, watching the news and every report for several weeks. And at that point, I said, ‘Okay, this doesn’t look like it’s very good, and it might go on forever. So, I’ve got to get my buttootie up and start working.’ So, I started working hard and working from home. 

What have I learned about how to stay sane during crazy times like this? So many of us are simply trying to make it through a time where nothing is normal and we’re isolated in many ways. For those of us in the United States, we’ve just gone through a confusing whirlwind of an election, where people burned bridges with family and friends due to politics, fueled by the influences of social media.

Let’s look at ways to stay sane as we now approach what is being called the ‘Dark Winter’. At this writing, COVID numbers are critically rising across the United States. Hospitals are filling, and many can take no more patients. Most likely, more restrictions will be coming, especially with the holidays upon us. Traditional gatherings and celebrations will be smaller and far different than what we look forward to.

So how do we stay sane during times like this, where everything we thought was certain now becomes uncertain, and life becomes rocky and we don’t know what the future looks like? At times, we end up isolating ourselves due to difficulties, and isolation in and of itself can bring on even more issues. I have gone through basically storm after storm with my family: losing our home, losing my mother-in-law to suicide, my episodes with bipolar disorder and hospitalizations which all became public, as well as experiencing difficulties in ministry through the years. So how do we survive these times? 

Here’s some of the things I found. One very important point I want to share right up front is that you’ve got to grab hold of how you are thinking. You must maintain your thoughts. You must pay attention to that. Especially during crazy times, you cannot let your thinking be on automatic pilot. And so, here’s three core values that have helped me and are underscored by a psychologist I found on the web. These are proven to be effective and they’ve been clinically researched. 

First of all, you’ve got to get it clear in your mind that you can choose to believe in your ability to manage whatever is going to come and for however long it takes. So it really is okay to take it one day at a time. In other words, you have to believe in yourself and you have to choose to believe that. You have to choose to think that. You have to choose to see that – that you will in fact have what’s necessary for the day that you are in. But if you start looking at everything society will experience weeks, months, and a year from now, you won’t know what you have for that day. 

I many times think of the passage from Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ To me, that means I’m going to have everything I need for every single day that I’m alive. But if I start looking at months and months ahead, I worry how the Lord’s going to provide for all those things. And so, I just need to rest in my faith and in the abilities that God has given me – that I in fact can and will have everything that is necessary for day to day. And I will be able to cope with all of this. I’ll be able to manage it no matter what. Now, that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. It doesn’t mean that I have to like it, but I certainly don’t have to see it as being something I hate and detest- and complain about. I’m only making myself more miserable by detesting it every inch of the way.

There comes a point where you just say, ‘It is what it is. I cannot change it, therefore I accept it. And I accept the fact and I believe that I will be able to manage, however I need to manage through all of this, but I will only take it one day at a time.’ 

Secondly, you and I can remind ourselves that uncertainty does not guarantee that bad things will happen. It just means ‘I don’t know yet. I don’t know what it’s going to be like.’ For instance, you may be dreading getting the COVID virus. And if you do, how bad is it going to be? And when are they going to get that vaccination? Honestly, I find myself thinking that way. After all, I’m overweight, I’m older (let’s just say over 60). And on top of that, I have asthma and mildly high blood pressure that I take medicine for.

And so I find myself having anxiety about, ‘Oh gosh, do I want to get together with this person or do this at the risk of getting sick?’ And my assumptions always lead right down a dark rabbit hole that says, ‘Oh, I’m going to get really sick if I get this and may even die.’ Well, that’s kind of catastrophizing, isn’t it. It could be that some people get it and some won’t. Anxiety and angst come from the uncertainty with the virus, the economy, and the election. We don’t know what the outcome is going to be yet.

The fact that I worry about COVID-19 does not increase the likelihood of having it or not having it. It just feels like it becomes more intense because we keep ruminating about it. And we live with a lot of unknowns in our lives. Choose to believe that, ‘Hey, today is good. Don’t have it today, not sick. I’m going to live. I’m going to take today and enjoy it and live and get things done that I need to get done.’ In fact, I initially said, ‘Oh, let’s hit the pause button here and wait until they get this figured out. And then I’ll press play again and go about living.’ 

Instead, it’s unknown. There are a lot of unknowns right now, but we actually live with all kinds of unknowns every day. It might help to remind yourself of some of those unknowns. Thirdly, you and I can recognize that we cope with uncertainty in other parts of our lives all the time. Try to envision exactly what your relationships are going to be like a year from now. How about work? What will two years, three years, four years, five years from now look like? There’s just a lot of stuff you and I don’t know. So we’ve had lots of practice in tolerating unknown things.

You and I can believe and recognize this is, in fact, true – that we’ve learned to tolerate the unknown all through our lives, and this is just another unknown. And in fact, I really see it happening within myself, and maybe within society in general, that we’re just learning to accept that this is a new thing we have to navigate. But it’s like a lot of other things in life – we don’t sit around worrying whether we’re going to get cancer or have a heart attack, or whether we’re going to do this or that.

To recap, the three ways of looking at things and thinking about them, are 1) we can choose to believe in our ability to manage whatever may come. 2) we can remind ourselves that uncertainty does not guarantee that bad things will happen. And 3) we can recognize that we can cope with the uncertainty in other parts of life. Certainly, we can deal with the uncertainty in these matters. 

Part 2 will focus on things to remember when you’re going through tough times. And Part 3 will be about how to do some practical things to help cope. 

I’d like to pray for you…

Father, the Apostle Paul said that we need to take captive our thinking and that we need to hold on to all of those things, and we need to control how we look at things and frame them. Paul says it, Your word teaches it, that we need to take captive our thinking. So Lord, help us during this time that just seems crazy and uncertain and all over the place, just to take this one day at a time. Knowing, Lord, that You have given us the ability along with You and using our faith to manage uncertain times. And Lord, help us to remember also that uncertainty doesn’t mean bad things are happening or will happen for sure.

Lord, sometimes I think I understand why we have and will live with a lot of uncertainty in our lives, because if things were always 100% certain, we wouldn’t trust in You as much. So in this uncertain time, in these times of craziness, Lord, we turn to You, we trust in You, and we know that You never ever change. So help our faith rise to the top of all the uncertainty and all the noise that’s going on in the world today. And to help our faith, fill us with hope in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

If you’re looking for mental health help during these trying times, consider participating in a Fresh Hope support group. You can go to our website to find where we have groups, both in person and online, in English and Spanish. We also have books and other resources. Check us out at FreshHope.us and share with your friends, too.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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