Pastor Brad Hoefs

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

A Doctor’s Insight on Maintaining Mental Health While Providing Care During the Pandemic

A Doctor’s Insight on Maintaining Mental Health While Providing Care During the Pandemic

There is no doubt that those who are on the medical frontlines of this pandemic are true heroes! But even heroes have to care for their mental health. Dr. Babbitt, a hospitalist in a primary healthcare system in Omaha, Nebraska, shares insights into how she maintains her mental health during the daily stresses of being on the front medical line of this pandemic.

While these insights on maintaining one’s mental health during the pandemic are helpful to all, they provide transparent hope and great insight for those stressed to the maximum while giving medical care right now! So, I invite you to pass this onto to anyone you might know who is providing medical care during this time of COVID-19.

Dr. Jocelyn K Babbitt is a Hospitalist Specialist in Omaha, Nebraska. She graduated with honors from University Of Nebraska College Of Medicine in 2008. Having more than 12 years of diverse experiences, especially in HOSPITALIST, Dr. Jocelyn K Babbitt affiliates with many hospitals including The Nebraska Methodist Hospital, Midwest Surgical Hospital LLC, cooperates with many other doctors and specialists in medical group Physicians Clinic Inc.


You can listen to or watch this interview.

Click here to listen.

Click here to watch.

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

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

By Brad Hoefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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