This is the last in a series of posts commemorating Mental Health Awareness Month.

Pastor Brad Hoefs, author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, refers to the importance of “pushing through.” But what does it mean to push through? For those of us who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, Pastor Hoefs says this simply means that we won’t use excuses to hinder our recovery. That might sound easy enough, but in this day and age in which many would rather pass the buck, than to look in the mirror, “pushing through” isn’t nearly as automatic as it may sound.

Consider: My wife was a special education teacher, and it was not uncommon for “Johnny’s” mom to tell her that, “’Johnny’ won’t be able to do any school work today because he forgot to take his Ritalin this morning.” Would it be more difficult for Johnny to get his school work done without his medication? Probably. But did it mean he couldn’t anything done? I doubt it. And while this is an example of a child, the truth is that adults are pretty good at making excuses, too. After all, wasn’t Johnny’s mom making excuses for him?

I hope I do not seem overly harsh – it’s just that I have witnessed how much of a crutch some people let their medication become. “I can’t do this because my meds weren’t adjusted right.” “I can’t do that because my ADD was acting up.” Pushing through means we’re going to do our very best regardless.

“It means that no matter who’s told you what, you’re not going to remain where you’re at; you expect to get better to the point that you are no longer experiencing the daily effects of your disorder, and you are successfully managing and enjoying your life rather than letting your disorder manage you,” says Pastor Hoefs in his landmark book.

Is this easy? Of course not. Will we become discouraged that we’re not making any progress toward living the life we want to live? I venture to say that nearly all of us will have our share of bad days. But what does “giving in” to a mental health diagnosis prove? That we’re going to be satisfied with living a lesser life because it’s easier to complain and bemoan our circumstances, than it is to do something about it?

Now I am not saying that having a mental health diagnosis is just a case of “mind over matter,” that we can will ourselves to recovery. If there is a chemical imbalance in our brain, getting and taking the right medication can go a long way toward improving our state of mind and well-being. But I am suggesting that we can be like the little boy (and his mom) who were convinced he might as well stay home from school because he forgot his medication. … Or, we can “push through” and do our best regardless. Will we have as good a day as we might have had, had we taken the med? Possibly not. But what would it hurt to try?

Part of getting better is up to a doctor and being properly diagnosed and then prescribed with the right medication. But some of getting better is also up to us. We can choose to succumb to a mental health condition, or we can choose to overcome. Which will it be?

If you’d like to learn more about Pastor Hoefs or Fresh Hope, check out https://freshhope.us/