Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

How to Empower Yourself in Living Well in Spite of Your Mental Health Diagnosis

How to Empower Yourself in Living Well in Spite of Your Mental Health Diagnosis

When Thomas “melted-down” in the small town of only 600 people he felt as though everyone was talking about him and that he had become the town “monster.” So, following his move back to his parents’ home in a metro area, he began a remarkable journey of healing that led him to find hope through Fresh Hope.

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Thomas talks about his various diagnoses, which include schizoaffective disorder and borderline personality disorder. He discloses the importance of researching and understanding your diagnosis and how medicine does 50% of the work, but you have to do the other 50% of it. Through researching his diagnoses, he became empowered to live well in spite of them.

Anyone facing a serious mental health diagnosis will be greatly encouraged in hearing Thomas’ journey to living well in spite of a mental health diagnosis. You don’t want to miss this interview!

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 the podcast you can click on the icon below and it will take you to our podcast website.  (Or if you want, you can listen on iTunes/ApplePodcasts by clicking on the second icon below.)FH PodCastArt (160dpi) 02_Splash 480x854

To listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts/iTunes- click on this icon:

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If you listen 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.comPastor Brad Hoefs, 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.

 

 

 

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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Getting Hopeful: Seven Reasons to Start a Fresh Hope Group in Your Church By: Katie Dale

Getting Hopeful: Seven Reasons to Start a Fresh Hope Group in Your Church By: Katie Dale

 By: Katie Dale

  1. The first place Christians with mental health issues go for help is to their church

Think about 25% of your church. One in four Americans suffers from a mental health challenge in their lifetime. If the staggering number of 1 in 4 doesn’t quite hit home, think about times in your life you have had a meltdown, a breakdown or an experience of large enough proportion that you couldn’t function 100% because of an emotionally and mentally challenging time. Then think about the guidance many of us seek out from our pastor or other church member who appears to have it more “together.” According to a Lifeway Research poll, the percentage of churches that are actually equipped to respond to such distress is 3%.

The church is a beautiful body of redeemed souls, yet our minds are still subject to the effects of sin in our fallen world. This is a truth we can’t ignore. Which is why it is so crucial that the church proactively and appropriately responds to hurting members that are in need of attention and proper treatment of their mental health conditions.

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is such a way to assist in the healing process. Having a Fresh Hope group in place in your church will empower participants to live a full, rich and faith-filled life in spite of their mental health challenges.

2. Fresh Hope empowers your church to reach out and minister many at one time

Fresh Hope groups are offered through local churches and online mental health support groups sponsored by local churches and ministries. As part of their mission, Fresh Hope also supports and encourages faith leaders to help their faith community through resources for pastors such as webinars.

Churches that facilitate these groups are trained and certified by Fresh Hope in a 8-hour online training course with quizzes followed by a personal interview. They also offer free phone and online support and a facilitator website to help troubleshoot problems and receive peer advice on leading a group. They provide promotional materials (videos, press releases, sample articles) and curriculum for facilitators and participants. New content is offered regularly to help empower group participants in their recoveries.

Groups usually meet weekly for up to an hour and half each session and are not limited to a specific number of participants. Both those with a diagnosis as well as their loved ones attend the group together for the first half of the meeting.

3. Fresh Hope leads to healing and a better quality of life

The proven track record of Fresh Hope groups’ success is shown in that:

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

 

4. Fresh Hope is created by a pastor who has been there, experienced that

Pastor Brad Hoefs was diagnosed with Bipolar I himself, and drawing on his first-hand experiences, has been able to relate to lead others to a place of healing through six tenets that he has composited based on Scripture that have been foundational for living well in spite of a mental health diagnosis.

The tenets are for both the person who has the diagnosis and the loved ones of those who have a diagnosis. Each tenet is based upon a Scripture, read at the beginning of each meeting. They are not “steps,” but rather building blocks of wellness. They have not been created by a doctor or therapist but by Pastor Brad Hoefs who “discovered” these faith-based principles on his road to wellness.

5. Fresh Hope is facilitated by peers who have mental health issues

Fresh hope support groups are peer-led, where members encourage one another under the guidance of a facilitator, and have up to 4 facilitators, with at least one with a mental health diagnosis. The meeting format includes both a large and small group experience, where members can share as little or as much of their “journey” as they desire.

6. Fresh Hope is more than just a peer support group – they are not a constant vent session

Fresh Hope has a high regard for the processing that goes on in a support group that is not curriculum-driven (considered as short-term interventions which research shows is only helpful in the short term) but rather is an ongoing peer-to-peer support which allows people to actually process together mental health recovery approaches as adults truly learn through interaction, not being taught. (If recovery could be taught in 12 weeks, A. A. would have been doing that years ago).

They also have a high regard for how the majority of adults learn and that is by them interacting, which is what happens in an authentic safe support group setting. While venting is a necessary thing in recovery, it cannot be the only thing; otherwise those in the group simply get worse and not better.

7. Fresh Hope has proven success

Self-reported results of those who attend Fresh Hope groups meetings for six weeks showed that:

  • 78% of the participants say they are extremely hopeful about being able to live a full and rich life in spite of their mental health diagnosis since coming to Fresh Hope. Another 22% say they are “becoming” more hopeful about living a full and rich life. 0% say they don’t feel hopeful since attending.
  • 97% say that the fact that Fresh Hope is faith-based is extremely important to them
  • 94% report they have a better understanding of their diagnosis since attending Fresh Hope
  • 96% report being more compliant to their medical treatment and using wellness skills in their recovery since attending Fresh Hope

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the types of groups offered?

  • Fresh Hope for Mental Health groups
      • Churches or local ministries start and sponsor these groups
      • Facilitators are trained and certified by Fresh Hope
      • Local and online groups are offered
  • Fresh Hope for Teens (FreshHope4Teens.com)
      • Churches or local ministries start and sponsor these groups
      • Facilitators (usually young adults) are trained and certified by Fresh Hope
      • Parents meet in a separate group
      • Teens may bring their friends with them
  • Fresh Hope for Living Free (FreshHope4LivingFree.com)
    • Fresh Hope for Living Free is both a curriculum that can be taught within the correctional setting and also includes a group that is on the “outside” for when inmate/prison is out of jail/prison
    • Chaplains in local jails, prisons, correctional facilities may use the curriculum and a local ministry or church starts the “outside” support group for those getting out of jail/prison along with their loved ones

Who can start groups?

Local churches, ministries (homeless shelters, half-way houses, etc.) start our groups

How to start a group?

Email us at info@FreshHope.us

Katie Dale is the mind behind BipolarBrave.com and the e-book GAMEPLAN: A Mental Health Resource Guide. She works full time at a behavioral outpatient clinic, ministering to those with mental illness. She can be found on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

Relaxation Tips to Calm Anxiety

Relaxation Tips to Calm Anxiety

Are you feeling anxious lately?   Times are so uncertain now and trying to stay current on the latest COVID-19 news, working from home or keeping up with your child’s homeschooling is enough to make any person anxious.  Maybe your anxious about your safety or what the future holds. Whatever the reason, it is important to find a way to calm that anxiety. Below are some helpful techniques to relax:

 

  1. Controlled Breathing*: 

 

Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.  Breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. It helps to stay focused if you think a word upon inhaling/exhaling, such as peace/calm.  Also try counting 1-2-3-4 as you inhale, 1-2-3-4 as you hold your breath, and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale. 

 

2.  Sounds/Music*: 

 

Play relaxing music or calming sounds such as nature, ocean, or rain.  Close your eyes and repeat a meaningful word or scripture.  There are lots of videos on Youtube, channels on Pandora or Spotify full of inspirational and relaxing music.

 

3. Do Something You Enjoy:

 

Take time to do something you enjoy, whether baking, painting, gardening, knitting, reading or whatever.  Focusing your attention on doing something you enjoy or have enjoyed doing in the past, will help you clear your mind and ease anxiety.

 

4. God’s Word*:

 

Find peace in the following scripture verses: John 14:27, Phil. 4:7, Gal. 5:22, Matt. 11:28, Psalm 103:1, Zeph 3:17.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Take some time today to do something calming to ease your anxiety.  You’ll feel better and will better equipped to face the day.

We pray these tips help you.  Remember, we are all in this together and God is with us!  

© Fresh Hope for Mental Health

*(1) Borchard, Therese J. 12 Best Anxiety Busters, belifnet.com, last accessed 8-22-2010, (2) Lucado, Max, Max Lucado on How to Overcome Fear, beliefnet.com, last accessed 8-22-2010.

 

Five Keys to Successfully Navigating Change in Spite of a Mental Health Challenge

Five Keys to Successfully Navigating Change in Spite of a Mental Health Challenge

As they say, “The only thing that never changes is change.” Life is full of changes. Some changes that we make, others make, or life makes for us. Some changes we like; others we do not. Change is unavoidable.

Several years ago, I learned a lot about how to navigate significant changes in my life while keeping my bipolar disorder in order.  That season in my life brought a whole list of changes: some of my own doing, some brought on by others, and others that life itself brought about.

Unaware of all of the big changes that were coming our way, my wife and I decided to jamie-street-331990start finishing our basement prior to all of the changes. In November of that year, we began the project that we’ve been waiting nearly ten years to do. We secured the finances and the contractor in early November, not prepared for the massive changes coming our way in our jobs (we both are on the staff of the church that I pastor). Not only did our job descriptions change (positive changes), but we had physical remodeling of office spaces that also needed to happen before the end of that year. The leaders of our church were also rewriting the by-laws of our congregation during this time. Our work days were consumed with planning and preparing for all the Christmas activities and services. Plus, we were getting ready for hosting Christmas at home for not only our children and their families but also my entire extended family.

Needless to say, I learned a few important keys to navigating a lot of change, while maintaining my emotional health. So I thought I would share with you a few of insights that were critical to navigating the changes successfully (this is by no means an exhaustive list).

  1. When experiencing a lot of change, keep your world as small as possible. In other words, limit your activities as much as possible. For example, I postponed some things on my calendar that could wait and delegated weekly activities such as my facilitating a Fresh Hope group. I took a 2-month break and had someone else facilitate for me. I knew that if I had too many activities, I would risk losing my wellness. I needed to keep my schedule as simple as possible.
  1. Know which changes you can reject and which you will have to accept. Sometimes changes come our way that we have no control over, i.e., the loss of a job, death of a spouse, or moving to another city or town. When a change happens that you can’t control, you have to come to terms with it and accept it as out of your control. If the change or changes are things you can control, then you need to do what you can do. And it’s important to know the difference between the two. (From the Serenity Prayer, “the things I can change and the things I cannot change…and the wisdom to know the difference.”)
  2. All changes, whether negative or positive – including the changes we desire – bring with them some grief.  Working through the grief is important. One of the monumental tasks I had to do regarding building changes in our offices was to empty out a “junk room” (which the staff lovingly referred to as my “hoarders room”). This room had all of the junk and boxes of the first years following my very manic episode, forced resignation, and my attempts to “find myself” through hobbies. A lot of “memories of pain” were stored up in that room. I dreaded having to clean it out. Some of the boxes had not been opened in nearly 20 years. I thought about having someone just toss it all out! But I knew there were things worth keeping, so I needed to go through them. With the great help of a close friend, the room was emptied with minimal emotional pain. But I still needed to grieve just a bit.
  3. Stick to your schedule.It was imperative during this time of significant changes that I stuck with a routine, especially my sleep routine. I made sure that I didn’t mess with my sleep schedule even though it was tempting to rise early in the morning and stay up late to get as much done as possible. Doing that would have most certainly led me either into a manic phase or hypomanic phase.
  4. Routinely take quiet time – get in touch with what and how you are feeling emotionally, and measure the clarity of your thinking.Each day I knew I had to pay close attention to how I was feeling. I’d ask myself, “Are you feeling a little too wound up? Are your thoughts clear? Are your thoughts racing? Is your thinking foggy?” I’d ask myself a couple of times a day, “How are you doing? What are you feeling? How is your thinking?” I found myself at times becoming overwhelmed and “shutting down”. At those times I would take a few steps back and do some breathing techniques that I’ve learned over the years. And if that didn’t’ work, I’d take a walk, or just do something that required no thinking, until the feelings of being overwhelmed had passed. With all of the changes going on, taking quiet time to pay attention to what was going on within me was imperative!

It’s was a crazy few months, but the changes have now been made, and I’ve adjusted to a new focus on my daily tasks at work. Overall, the changes have been good. But even these positive changes had to be navigated, felt, and worked through emotionally. For the most part, I fared pretty well through the changes. I did have some mornings where I was waking up much earlier than usual, which for me is that is a sign of an elevated mood. So, on those days, I paid even closer attention to what was going on with my thinking and emotions. I always attempted to make sure to get to the gym on those days.

The worst part of experiencing all these changes was that I allowed myself to fall off the “healthy-food-wagon”, and now I’m working hard to get back on it. I had done so well with healthy eating for the six months before the Christmas prior to all of the changes, having lost over sixty pounds (with another fifty to go). And as many as you know, detoxing from sugar and the craving of carbs due to medicine can be so difficult to do!

So, how about you? What are important keys for you in navigating change? What keys for successfully navigating change would you add to this list?

 

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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Jesus Take the Wheel By: Samanta Karraá

Jesus Take the Wheel By: Samanta Karraá

This person I had not seen in 17 years had shown up. My husband and I were having strong disagreements and simultaneously I happened to be having a hypomanic episode. These three separate events blending in together were a recipe for disaster.

Everything in my life seemed to explode and I found myself asking why. Why had God allowed this person to show up exactly when I was experiencing hypomania. Why had God allowed my husband and I to be going through what we were going through. Why didn`t God heal me of this illness. Why. Why. Why.

Until my dad told me the 4 wisest words I`ve ever heard: “God is in control”. And then I could breathe again. It was then that, listening to a playlist on youtube, by “chance”a song by Carrie Underwood started to play. It´s called “Jesus Take the Wheel”. I invite you to look it up and listen to it. This is what it says:

“She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati on a snow white Christmas Eve
Going home to see her mama and her daddy with the baby in the backseat
Fifty miles to go, and she was running low on faith and gasoline
It’d been a long hard year
She had a lot on her mind, and she didn’t pay attention
She was going way too fast
Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass
She saw both their lives flash before her eyes
She didn’t even have time to cry
She was so scared
She threw her hands up in the air

Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
‘Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
And save me from this road I’m on
Jesus, take the wheel

It was still getting colder when she made it to the shoulder
And the car came to a stop
She cried when she saw that baby in the backseat sleeping like a rock
And for the first time in a long time
She bowed her head to pray
She said, “I’m sorry for the way
I’ve been living my life
I know I’ve got to change
So from now on tonight

Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
‘Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
And save me from this road I’m on.”

Yes. Even in the chaos- God is in Control. Even when nothing seems to make sense. Even when “life” throws at us its greatest ironies, God is in control. Even when doctors cannot figure things out. Even when relationships are complicated. God is in control. 

No matter what you`re facing today, peace is not to be found in understanding everything. Peace is to be found in the fact that, if you belong to the Lord, your life isn’t like a ship going adrift in a vast ocean- no. It has a definite path and a destiny holding it together, in Jesus hands. Ask Him to take the wheel today.

Nowadays not only are my symptoms in remission and my marriage is better than it has ever been- wounds from the past have healed and we are taking joy every day in serving the Lord by sharing the hope that we found only in Him, and spreading it throughout all of Latin America. 

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Rom. 8:28

Heavenly Father, I can’t thank you enough for being in control. Help me surrender everything in my life to you and help me trust your Sovereign hands to take me where you want to take me. Help me rest in the knowledge that, even when I don`t understand, I can rest in you because You are in control. In Jesus´ Name, Amen.

 

Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

 

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Dealing with fear and anxiety can be very difficult. As a result, using the help of God can be very effective in managing your fears. With this in mind, here are some suggestions on how a person can use the help of God in his or her own struggles.

The first step a person should do is to start talking and praying to God. A person can go to church or to a quiet place during the day to tell God that they are having a problem. They should tell God how they feel and ask God for some of his help. A person could also review the Bible and read some articles on trusting in God and then apply these concepts in their life. Each and every day, a person should make it up a habit to talk to God and ask for His help.

Remember that the one source that a person should use as a basis in managing their fears and anxieties is using God as a basis in dealing with their fears. Why? The power of God is the one power that is stronger than your fears and anxieties. Also, God loves each one of us and he is the one person who has the power to solve all of our problems. He will help you if you ask him to.

When using the help of God to manage your fears, a person needs to be aware of how God is working in their life. Most of the time God works in mysterious ways and the answers he provides might not be that obvious. A person must be aware of God being in their life even when they are dealing with their fears and anxieties.

A person must also be sensitive to the answers God gives them. Some people think that the answers that God provides must be religious in nature. That is not always the case. God may provide the answers in a way that might not be religious in nature. These answers could involve basic psychology and cognitive techniques that deals with how to manage fear and anxiety. The point to remember is that although a person may use these psychology methods, its important to use God as the center of everything in your life and in your struggle.

If you have trouble, talk to a member of the clergy or a professional counselor to help deal with your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.

Finally, the most important thing is to continue praying and talking to God. Talk to God as if you were talking to a friend. Read the Bible and pray hard. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask Him.

 

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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A Tool of Hope in the Palm of My Hands – The Spanish Fresh Hope Book

A Tool of Hope in the Palm of My Hands – The Spanish Fresh Hope Book

 By: Samanta Karraa

I am so glad to announce to all my Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters that                   the Fresh Hope book is now available in Spanish!

   Prior to reading the Fresh Hope Book, I was merely surviving. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and my whole world was falling apart. On top of the discomfort, the heartache, the apathy towards life, I was experiencing a lot of guilt because of things I had done and said during a manic episode right before having been diagnosed. I had lost all confidence in myself and felt like I was never going to be able to work or to serve my family again. I was hiding behind a curtain of shame, feeing trapped between a rock and a hard place between symptoms and the medicines’ secondary effects. I felt alone and misunderstood. And frankly, I could see no way into the future.

   Totally by an act of God’s grace I happened to find Pastor Brad’s book online: Fresh Hope: Living Well in spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis. Although the title was very promising and compelling, and I was excited to find a Christian resource that spoke bluntly about Mental Health, at first I wasn’t convinced I wanted to read it. It was so hard for me to concentrate – how was I going to be able to read a whole book! But I did go ahead and order the book, only to find it was God´s gift to me during the worst moments of my life! In the book I found so many blessings, but here are the Top 11 Blessings Received by reading Fresh Hope: Living Well in spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis (because the Top 10 wasn’t enough!):

  1. Ability to accept my diagnosis. Denial was no longer necessary. First, I was able to see where exactly I was in denial and how denial works. Secondly, I was able to overcome denial and peacefully accept my diagnosis without succumbing to it.
  2. Freedom from the power that the symptoms had to define my life. Before reading the Fresh Hope book, whenever I heard or read about a symptom of bipolar disorder, I would immediately magnify it in my mind and let it start dictating my behavior. Anxiety would creep in as I heard or read stories of others who were always beat up by their diagnosis and reached unthinkable levels of desperation, shame, and even tragedy. But after reading the book, I stopped identifying with the illness and started enjoying my true identity – as a child of God. 
  3. Empowerment to manage my illness as opposed to it managing me. I was no longer helpless. I understood I had to own my recovery and have a protagonist role in it. I learned to identify when I was making excuses and I learned to push through and overcome.
  4. Answers to my many questions. Had I been to blame for the things I had done and said during the manic episode, or was the illness to blame? Was I ever going to be able to live a productive life again? Could a Christian be depressed? Did God still love me? Was God still with me? Did I need to tell others about my diagnosis? And if so, how was I going to tell them? Was it a sin to take medicine? How could my husband support me? All of these questions found their answers in this book.
  5. Connection to others. An end to feeling lonely!! Pastor Brad´s story, as well as other stories that appear in the book, made me feel welcome into a community of overcomers in the name of Jesus!
  6. Principles on which to base my life. The 6 Tenets of Recovery did not only provide answers to my questions – they also gave me a new perspective, a fresh world view, and new criteria to live by.
  7. A renewed mind. Tenet 5 specifically deals with the fact that while medication is a key part of recovery, it is not the only answer. We need to work on our recovery, and one of the most effective ways to do that is to renew our minds with the Word of God. This book taught me how.
  8. Detachment of victim mentality. I finally admitted that there were actually worse things and worse situations than mine, and that I needn´t allow my diagnosis to reduce me to a defeated, helpless woman walking around with her head down and her eyes to the ground. 
  9. Encouragement and strength to love those around me. Specially my family. The book provided me a perspective on how my illness affected everyone else around me and hence provided me a way to love them as a motive to make the effort to recover.
  10. Healing from my past. I was now able to be honest about it. I was now able to forgive myself as well as others. I could finally stop asking “why?”.  I was now able to turn the page and walk into a brighter future, with the assurance in my heart that God is a God who Redeems. 
  11. Hope like I had never known or understood before! I now felt it was possible to live a full and rich life in spite of my disorder. I now did not only hope to be the mother, daughter, and wife I used to be, but I actually expected to be an even better mother, daughter, and wife than I used to be! I no longer only hoped to continue serving the Lord like I used to do, but I actually expected to have an even better relationship with Him and to serve Him a lot more! Now I had a way forward; a future and a hope just like Jeremiah 29:11 promises.

To my surprise, the entire book was easy to read, and it had such a comforting tone. It felt familiar. It felt like I was having a candid conversation with someone more experienced and wise than I was in hope and recovery matters. After reading the book, I was no longer surviving but thriving. I had a Wellness Plan. A circle of accountability, a new perspective, and an entire future had opened wide ahead of me, ready to be conquered. Romans 8:28 took on a whole new meaning. 

If you haven’t read Pastor Brad’s book, I would strongly recommend that you do. I am thrilled to know that now my Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters have the opportunity to read it!! No other book exists with this unique peer-to-peer, faith-based focus. You can order yours through Amazon (both in digital or paperback editions), or write to samantha@freshhope.us to order one straight from the office. But beware – your life might undergo strong positive changes after you read it! 

You can purchase the Kindle version at the link here: Purchase Kindle Edition!  

Or your can pre-order a paperback copy that will be available June 1st at the link here: Pre-Order PaperBack Edition! 

 

Times like this can be a challenge to our mental health. Navigating all of the life altering changes that are coming at us can not only cause anxiety, but the anxiety can lead to a sense of fear; which can lead us to shutting down or finding unhealthy ways of coping.

We are committed to guiding you through this unprecedented time in our history. We are willing to walk along side of you and empower you practical ways to navigate this time of social distancing and isolation through our weekly Mental Health Mondays on Facebook Live!

 

Each Monday for the foreseeable future Pastor Brad will host a Mental Health Monday gathering on Fresh Hope for Mental Health’s Facebook page. The gathering will begin at 8.30 p.m. Central Time Zone. If you’d like to receive reminders about the gathering, please click the link below and we’ll send a reminder each week about it along with other practical tools for emotionally managing a time such as this.

Depressed? How to Avoid Fueling Hopelessness

Depressed? How to Avoid Fueling Hopelessness

Hopelessness can’t flourish if we work alongside our medication to redirect our thinking towards hope instead. 

By Brad Hoefs

For the last year or so, I’ve been going through what I would say has been the second-most challenging situation in my work life that I’ve ever been through in the church that I pastor. As some of you might know, conflict in a church is really messy and can be extremely painful.  

I’ve come to the conclusion that why it is so messy and painful is because the wounding is coming from people that you love and care about and have been in relationship with and in my case some cases for many years.

Without going into the details, I’ve gone through an extremely challenging, hellish last year or so. I don’t tell you this so I can complain some more about it but so that you know that the insights I’m about to share with have been genuine insights that have come from what I’ve been through these past months. See, I’ve been living teetering on the edge of hopelessness. I have had to struggle and hold onto hope through all of it while hopelessness and giving up kept knocking at the door.

Early on as the hopelessness began to creep into my thinking and my feelings I knew I had to fight against it. So, I actually sat down and made a list of ways that I was feeding the hopelessness or that I needed to stay away from doing lest I feed the hopelessness.  

I truly believe from my experiences of managing bipolar disorder that more times than not, I have not worked with my medicine. In other words, while taking the antidepressant I many times have not changed my thinking (feeding my hopelessness) and just waited for the medication to be some sort of magic bullet in getting better.   

I knew from having fed my hopelessness in the past, that I better be proactive in working alongside my medicine or I would simply end up in a deep dark hole of depression and despair. 

Hopelessness can’t flourish if we work alongside our medicine and don’t feed it and feed hope instead. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the feelings and work through the pain, but don’t feed it.  What we don’t “feed” can’t flourish. 

So, here are a few of the items I listed that I needed to stay away from as to not feed the hopelessness and instead actively process the pain and feelings and to instead feed hope:

#1) Isolating & wanting to be alone

So, I committed myself to be around people no matter how much I wanted to be alone!

Nothing feeds hopelessness more calories than isolating yourself.  After all, usually when I’m going through something emotionally hurtful, I want to be alone.  And in the aloneness, I begin to ruminate about the situation, and the hopelessness starts to grow.  Isolating along with the ruminating are like yeast to bread dough. 

We were not created to do life alone. Brene Brown says, “Connection is why we are here.  We are hardwired to connect with others, it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” 

When you are feeling hopeless, one of the most important things you can do is get around people that you love, trust and care about you.  Process your hurt and pain with them. Don’t isolate.  Doing life with others is what we were created for!

By the way, for me, lots of sleeping can quickly provide a way to isolate.  So, I knew that I had to be careful to not escape the emotional pain by sleeping a lot. 

#2) Shame

So, I committed to not shaming myself even as I had made mistakes in the situation of conflict that I was going through. 

Shame makes you feel like you have to cover up what is “wrong” with you, you can’t have this problem.  Shame makes you feel like you should not make mistakes and should handle yourself correctly at all times.  Shame doesn’t allow you to have personal grace.  Shame demands perfection.  

Shedding one’s shame is a must! And keeping shame at bay is a constant commitment I have to make to myself.  

#3) Ruminating

Thinking the same negative thoughts over and over merely burn into our brains a deepening “groove” that makes getting ourselves unstuck or out of that groove nearly impossible.

#4) Shutting down emotionally

In other words, zoning out emotionally would do nothing but feed my hopelessness.  So, I committed to keep moving, to keep my schedule, not to merely zone-out, shutting down emotionally.  I was not about to let what I was going through become such a crisis that I couldn’t function with everyday tasks and the rest of my job. 

#5) Bad Habits 

Bad habits like eating to cover up the painful emotional feelings.  So, I knew I had to process my feelings and not stuff them, or eat them.

Bad habits like not going to bed at a decent time, job or not!  Not being in sync with your routine like the rest of the world is going to cause you to feel even more alone and feed hopelessness. 

Bad habits like not having a schedule, eating lots of sugar would only going to stir up my mood challenges even more. 

#6) Believing lies

You know, the lies that make you feel as though the tough time you’re going through will go on forever.  Or lies that tell you “you can’t endure this, so give up” just cause hopelessness to flourish.  So, I committed myself to believe the truth, speaking out the truth and holding to the truth.

#7) Not processing and working through your emotions and feelings in healthy ways 

So, I committed myself to process and work through my feelings and emotions.  I knew that I had to be in charge of them versus them having charge over me. 


Well, these are the main things I knew would allow hopelessness to grow in my situation these past months.   No doubt committing myself to hold the hopelessness at bay helped me go through the last year.  However, it does not mean that I didn’t feel sad and alone at times.  It doesn’t mean that there weren’t some sleepless nights.  It hurt emotionally.  I had to “go through it.”  As they say, when you are going through hell, keep going!  And that is what I’ve been doing. 

I’m hopeful that I’m on the other side of things now.  But, there are still some tougher days.  Every now and then I have some enormous waves of grief.  But, I refuse to yield to hopelessness.  I’m fighting back. And I won’t let up.  And I’m not doing it alone.  It is what it is.  It’s lasting longer than I want it to, but it will pass sooner or later.  And I’ve committed myself to learn from it and grow because of it.  

Recently my wife and I had lunch with a very dear friend.  As we talked, we talked about the sadness and heaviness we are still feeling at times.  We talked about what we can do to process it, to help it “move along.”  And as we got in the car to go back to the office, I said, “You know, I think I’ve gone through all of this rather well.  After all,  I’ve gone through in spite of having bipolar disorder.  In other words, the bipolar disorder has stayed in check throughout this.  Yes, the struggle with hopelessness continually knocking on the door may indeed be due to the bipolar disorder, I haven’t caved into it.  After all any time you have bipolar disorder, and you go through a significantly painful situation, and you are still managing it, that’s a good thing!  Years ago, this situation would have wiped me out.  It would have ended with a hospital stay and not working nor functioning with the daily routines of life for months. 

Did I handle everything correctly?  Of course I didn’t.  You can’t get perfection from an imperfect person, whether they have bipolar or not! But, by the grace of God and a whole lot of work, hopelessness has not won. Hope is prevailing. And I’m getting through it one piece with peace of mind in spite of having bipolar disorder.  

How about you?  Are you like me and too easily go to the door when hopelessness is knocking?  Do you feed hopelessness?  If so, how?  And if you do, how might you better starve hopelessness and instead feed 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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God Has Never Left You By: Samanta Karraá

God Has Never Left You By: Samanta Karraá

“One of the Ways to become hope filled again is to Remember God has never left you in the past”

I remember it clearly- it was the last Sunday of the year and there I was, standing in the middle of the congregation at church. My right arm around my husband and my left arm around my children. It had been an extremely difficult year- the year I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a hypomanic episode that almost cost me my marriage. My eyes closed as I heard the voices united in singing the classical hymn:

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me”

Mixed emotions flowed inside of me. Had it not been because the meds I was taking made it difficult for me to cry, I would have been bathed in tears. Not tears of sorrow but of amazement at God`s faithful character. The year had been a rocky road. Hundreds of images crossed my mind like a movie of the best and the worst moments. One element stood out as the prevailing factor- God`s faithfulness towards me and my family. I could see that he had not forsaken us, not even for a moment. His ear had always been attentive to our prayers and sighs. His sovereign hand had always been our home. He had carried us through both the good and the bad, and no matter how foolish we had been, he had not left our side. 

It is true, he had allowed some trials to come our way, but He had set a limit on them. Not even my worst mistakes had convinced him to give up on me. I was reminded of the scene described by the poem called “Footprints in the sand.” Which ends like this- 

“He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

While it is true that we should not allow ourselves to let our eyes get fixed in the past, it is important that, whenever thoughts from the past flash through our minds, we focus on the right thing- praising the Lord for His faithfulness to us. 

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

Heavenly Father, Thank you for Your faithfulness. I honestly don`t know where I would be without you. I praise you for both the good and the bad and mostly I thank you because You never change, You are good and You have never left me. This fills me with hope and gratefulness and peace. Help me leave whatever is worrying me today in Your Faithful hands. I love You. In Jesus´ Name, Amen.

 

Finding Emotional Satisfaction

Finding Emotional Satisfaction

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

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

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

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

To listen to the podcast click on the icon below:

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

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

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