Statistics suggest more than one in four Americans suffer from some form of mental illness.
Pastor Brad Hoefs was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has found a way to live the life that God has called him to live, in spite of his condition. He reflects back on episodes in his life prior to receiving the diagnosis.
“For about a year and a half I wasn’t doing well. I was doing some really crazy things like driving 80 miles an hour on country roads, turning up my car lights, sticking my foot out of the door, etc., doing some real risky things. It was my way of managing the mania.”
He recalls not being able to identify what was happening in his life at the time.
“I thought I was burnt out; I thought everything would be okay after everything settled down, etc., so I didn’t know. I couldn’t explain much of my behavior because it was just not who I am, and yet, I was so out of control and I couldn’t control this monster.”
After he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Pastor Hoefs says that he was able to gain a much better understanding of his manic thoughts and behaviors, and find the proper treatment for them. This is not the case for everyone. Many people fight against receiving a medical diagnosis because of the stigma or labels attached to it.
“For many people they fight it because they think it sounds terrible, especially bipolar disorder versus depression.The society seems to understand depression better, and maybe that’s because 80% of the American population will have depression at one point in their lives, either situational or clinical at some point.”
“Finding out you have bipolar disorder to many people is just devastating. To me, I was glad that the monster that I felt like I was living with, that was living inside of me, had a name and something could be done about it.”
Pastor Hoefs’ testimony is proof that it is possible to live in relationship with God, no matter what physical, mental or emotional opposition may come our way.
“It is very possible to live well, in spite of a mental health challenge in your life. Many times if we only are left with the medical model, we end up with learned helplessness. It is possible to take your life back and live well in spite of it.”
God can use our greatest weakness in life and turn it into our greatest strength.
“Kind of like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, it becomes something that God can use in spite of all the brokenness in our lives and He can shine his light through that.”
Pastor Brad Hoefs is the senior pastor of Community of Grace church in Elkhorn, Nebraska. He was diagnosed in 1995 as suffering from Bipolar Disorder as a result of experiencing the very painful side of undiagnosed manic behavior. It is out of this experience that Pastor Brad and Community of Grace have started Fresh Hope, which is a network of Christ-centered support groups for those who suffer from mood disorders as well as their loved ones.Fresh Hope for Mental Health