What Will Your Kids Think?

Ever since I started blogging and writing columns for the local newspaper, friends and even strangers have asked me if I’m going to let my kids read my articles when they’re older and what will my kids think about what I’m writing. When first asked, I thought it was strange, but it’s been asked many times. It’s odd to. me because I’m very open in my struggles and don’t mind sharing them. To me, and maybe I’m wrong, there’s the implication that I’m writing something that my kids shouldn’t see, which is bullshit.

In my house, we talk openly of me depression. My kids know I struggle at times and understand to the best of their ability. We don’t talk about my suicidal thoughts, but they realize when I’m not doing well. It’s kind of hard not to notice.

Maybe people don’t mean it that way but aren’t I doing this all for my kids? And their generation? When I first started this blog (spurred by Kate Spade’s suicide), it was to stop hiding, to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness. I want it to be second nature for someone to talk about their struggles and illness in general. I don’t want them or anyone to feel the shame and guilt that seem to come with every depression diagnosis.

Lying and keeping my illness to myself only worsened by condition. Not being educated about mental disorders only hurt me; had I had early intervention when I first started showing signs of anxiety and depression, I might not have ended up at a psychiatric facility. I certainly would’ve been better off learning about coping skills at that age. I’m not trying to blame anyone in particular but society as a whole. When you know what to look for, it’s a lot easier to get help.

And now we know what to look for, but we’re still thwarted by the stigma, thwarted in our recovery and maintenance.

So, yes, I do want my kids to read my articles and blogs. I want them to be aware that it could happen to them. I want them to know that even if they don’t struggle with mental illness, they still need to be empathetic and not cast judgement on others. I need them to know that it can happen to anyone and that you can’t just wish it away. I surely would have done so a million times by now.

I also need them to know that it’s not their fault that I’m the way that I am. It’s not theirs, and it’s not mine. It’s a disease like any other, and that’s something people choose to ignore.

I’ve had many people send me messages and emails saying they love my blog but can’t talk to their family and friends about their mental illness because they were afraid of the consequences — I know them too well. The ridicule and ignorant statements that it’s something that we choose. Just the other day, a good friend came over and was admiring how new house. He then looked at me and said, “I wouldn’t have any mental health issues in this house.”

I scoffed. I thought he was kidding, and maybe he was, but it’s not funny. I am blessed and fortunate to say the least, but even my good blessings can’t keep the dark, lonely, violent throes of depression. That’s the kind of thinking that keeps people quiet. And when people keep quiet about their struggles, they’re more prone to kill themselves. We must stop that dangerous rhetoric now.

Honestly, it will probably be a little painful when my kids read what I write, but at least they’ll know that I’m honest and authentic in my struggles and I worked very hard to lend my voice to those who couldn’t quite find theirs, by no fault of their own. That I stood up for people like me, that I demanded change. That I fought for their generation to be different. That ever since I gave birth to Isla, I’ve been fighting every single day for my life, and it’s because of them that I will never stop fighting.

Never.

I Hate My Brain

Ever have a long day and think to yourself you deserve a treat? So you get ice cream and start to feel better? That sounds normal to me. My problem is that I think I deserve a treat multiple times a day. I constantly want to feel good. To feel happy. I compulsively eat to get that high and, enjoy that “treat.” Then I feel sick. After I’ve recovered, I look for another treat, forgetting how sick I felt earlier. It’s a vicious cycle.

I do this a lot but especially when the kids are away at my mother-in-law’s. I tell myself that I need to relax, enjoy the quiet and that I need to feel good. Last night, even after I had a big dinner, I sat there thinking of what I could eat that would make me feel good. And I even tried many things, despite being uncomfortably full already. M&Ms didn’t work. Neither did peanut butter crackers, ice cream or SweeTARTS.

But there is nothing I can eat that will make me truly happy.

Now, I’m trying to give myself a break because I am in need of an ECT treatment, which is scheduled for Friday. Usually the week before treatment I run out of gas, and I try to cope however I can. BUT this doesn’t just happen in the weeks leading up to treatment. This happens all the time, even when I’ve just had an ECT.

So I pose this question, “Why do I feel the need to be happy all the time?” Honestly, that question was asked by my therapist last week. She following up with, “Can’t we sit with other emotions? Nobody is happy every minute of the day.”

And she’s right. We don’t need to be happy every minute. I think my problem is that I HATE being uncomfortable, so I’ll do anything to push those negative emotions aside. Emotions like anxiety, stress, anger or sadness. It’s clearly not working for me to ignore these problems, and even if overeating has helped in the past, it sure as hell is not working now.

This may sound strange, but I think I need to acknowledge and honor whatever feelings I’m having. Maybe I need to grab my journal whenever I’m feeling negative emotion, talk about what’s going on and then release that feeling. I don’t know.

All I know if that I need to stop coping by bingeing. It’s made me gain a bunch of weight and really, aren’t I just eating my emotions?

Sometimes I really hate my brain, which I hold responsible for my debilitating-at-times depression and anxiety. I hate that it doesn’t respond to other treatments. I hate that my mental health is so precarious, and I resent that I have to be so careful as to not disturb it. I hate that happiness seems so fleeting at times. I’m not a big fan of my eating disorder either.

I don’t like to say hate; It forces a dichotomy with the idea that I should love and respect myself. I’m trying really hard to love myself, even almost 30 pounds heavier and a handful of mental disorders. But I feel betrayed by my brain. I know I need to reconcile those ideas. I know there is more benefit in loving all of me. I’ll get there. Despite everything that my brain has thrown at me, I’ve only become stronger. Take that, asshole.

And there are times that I think God made me this way because He thought I could handle it. I can, and I will. I remember this quote: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” I don’t mean to sound haughty, but maybe He knew I would use my voice and (hopefully) help others through my writing. That’s why I can’t stop blogging so much about mental health; there are so many who feel alone and haven’t found their voice yet. I certainly don’t mind lending mine in the meantime.

I guess my brain is just as much a blessing as a curse.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I hope y’all are doing well. It’s been awhile since I posted an update, so here goes. First of all, I want to wish everyone who celebrates a Happy Easter. We’re Jewish but we still do an Easter egg hunt and the Easter Bunny drops off goodies in their baskets.

This past week was a little trying for me. I’ve had an ECT appointment scheduled for next week, which is the eight-week mark. I really thought I could push past eight weeks but I’ve noticed I’m more irritable and my temper is shorter than normal, so I should probably just do it. It’s hard for me to admit that I need one because I hate them so much. I really dislike going under anesthesia; it makes me anxious and scared. My pulse quickens and my blood pressure goes higher than normal, and I have to use all the strength I have not to start bawling and begging to get me out of there. I know it doesn’t make sense — I’ve had almost 30 treatments, and I’ve never had a bad experience. But that’s just how it is. Anyway, I’ll try not to focus on that this week; I’ll just think how much better I’m going to feel and what a difference it’ll make.

In other news, tomorrow (Monday), one of my latest columns will be printed in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. They’re letting me write some more mental health columns, and I’m hoping it turns into a regular columnist job — it would be a dream of mine. So if you’re not too busy, go to Caller.com tomorrow and check it out.

That’s it for now. I hope you guys have a happy, healthy week.

Stay in the light.

Favorite Products That Help Me Keep My Chill

I’ve really been focusing on self-care lately. My goal is to space out my ECT treatments to eight to 12 weeks, so in between sessions I need to step up my self-care game. That includes exercising more and eating a healthy diet. It also includes taking advantage of the little things at home that add up to a lot when you’re trying to take care of yourself. Remember, self-care is not selfish — it’s necessary.

Below you’ll find my favorite things around the house and products that help me keep my chill and decrease anxiety.

My favorite books — I don’t get to read much these days but when I do, I usually go for a book I’ve already read. There’s no mystery, no twists and turns to upset my anxiety, just my favorite characters and their stories. I’d also add The Red Tent to this list — that’s another of my faves but not an easy read. You’ll also see The Big Activity Book for Anxious People, which always helps me feel better. It’s not a boring workbook, it’s a hilarious take on how to calm down and I love it.

Lauer Under Eye Patches — I found these on Amazon , and I really like them. They’re inexpensive but feel so good under my eyes after a long day. They feel cool to my skin, and I think it helps minimize some of my lines. It definitely helps with puffiness.

Not Your Mother’s Butter Masque (Green Tea and Apple Blossom) — I follow the Curly Girl Method for my hair, so after using my conditioner on my curls, I put this hair mask on and it makes me hair feel so hydrated and helps with the curls. The mask is inexpensive and can be found in a number of places. I use Target and Amazon.

OPI Nail Colors — I went more than a year without going to a nail salon, so I quickly learned to do my own manicures. Every few days, I change the color and it makes me so happy to see all the bright colors. I recommend getting a cheap manicure set and buying your favorite colors. Definitely get a Base Coat and a Top Coat, too.

Sephora’s The Peeling Mask — This a disposable face mask that you do for just a few minutes, but I love how relaxing it is to lie down with this mask on after the kids are asleep. It brings a touch of luxury to my day that’s usually not luxurious at all. The mask is under $10; I usually find it for $4.

Candles — In the past I’ve never been able to tolerate candles, because fragrance can cause migraines, but I’ve been able to use more, sometimes every day. I love waking up in the morning and lighting a candle while I’m getting the kids ready for school. It’s calming and certain smells can definitely reduce the amount of stress you feel and decrease anxiety. My fave candle right now is Cactus Blossom from Bath & Body Works. The three-wick candle usually sells at $24.50, but they have sales quite a bit.

Slippers — When we moved to the new house, my feet started hurting from all the back and forth I was doing while organizing. I put on a pair of Ugg slippers and rarely take them off. They are so comfortable! Sometimes I forget I’m wearing them and accidentally leave the house in them. I love that they have a strap around the back and how cushy they are. They are expensive but in my opinion, they’re worth it. I love putting my comfy clothes on at the end of the day and sliding into my slippers. I feel it helps me relax better.

Soft Touch Foot Peel Mask — This is another Amazon find. I bought it after I saw a video of a woman peeling off dead skin after using the peel mask. It was so satisfying. What you do: put the mask footie on your feet and leave on for an hour. Then you wash your feet off and in a couple of days your feet will start to peel. Not only is it fun to peel them, but it leaves your feet so soft. I used these every few months. It was especially helpful because I couldn’t go to the nail salon for a pedicure. It’s affordable too — about $20 for a two pack.
Udderly Smooth Hand Lotion and Body Cream — The lotion is no joke. I use it on my hands (and sometimes my feet) and it makes them feel so soft, and I hope it’s helping all the wrinkles on my hand. I have old lady hands. But this stuff goes on and makes your hands soft like buttah. It costs $16 for a 12-oz pack of two.

Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Bath Foam, Body Lotion and Salt Scrub – I LOVE the smell of the pink himalayan salt. It smells so good, and I instantly relax in the tub when I use the bath foam. There’s nothing like taking a long hot bath, using the bath foam and the salt scrub. Followed by the lotion. It makes me feel like I’m at a spa. None of the products are expensive. You can find them at HEB, Target and Amazon. I heard the lavender fragrance is good, too but that’s an instant migraine trigger for me.

Last but not lease — Karribi Paint by Number Kit — I thought doing a paint by number piece would be relaxing and help me to focus on something other than my anxiety. I love putting my headphones in and painting these kits. There are several kits that have birds, so I bought all of those. It’s relaxing, it gives me some uninterrupted “me time” and I get a beautiful bird painting afterward. I highly recommend this for anxiety and stress. It looks like Amazon no longer carries this particular kit, but there are tons of paint by number kits for adults.

I am in no way being paid for these endorsements — I just wanted to share what goes into my self-care routine. If you want to add anything, please feel free and drop it in the comments. I’m wishing you all good health and peace. Thanks for reading.

Stay in the light.

The Dark Always Precedes Light

Before the pandemic started, I was experiencing a depressive episode. It wasn’t too bad but enough to struggle day to day with some activities. With Major Depressive Disorder, people like me experience episodes where they’re moderately or severely depressed for more than two weeks. Nobody knows exactly what triggers the episodes, and they recur periodically throughout one’s life. There is no cure, just treatment.

When I’m experiencing an episode, my symptoms can be what I consider mild — loss of interest in hobbies and activities, feelings of sadness, fatigue, headaches and changes in my eating habits (read about my eating disorder and how it plays a role in my depression here). During a severe episode, it’s hard to get out of bed. I feel weighted down all the time and very emotional, weepy even. I can’t take a shower, as gross as that may be. I can hardly brush my teeth. Every little thing feels overwhelming and impossible. In the past, I abused my anxiety medication because I just didn’t want to feel what I was feeling. And I have thoughts of suicide. I don’t want to die, but my brain focuses on it and tells me I should kill myself. It’s awful.

Anyway, I was experiencing a mild to moderate episode before the pandemic hit. When the schools closed and we went in lockdown, instead of crumbling into a more severe episode, something just clicked in my brain. A survival instinct maybe? I don’t know, but all of a sudden I had more energy and even more patience with the kids, even though I had no breaks or backup. I had to dig deep, become more mentally tough. David and I learned to cook, I learned to bake bread, I started sewing again, I took showers more frequently and everything stopped feeling so damn hard. I also started blogging more consistently, once a week, then twice weekly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but blogging helped me so much. I needed to get everything off my chest and be honest about what I was experiencing. Soon, others were telling me how much I helped them, so I kept going, and a year later I haven’t stopped. If I helped even one person, I’m happy. And I’m proud of myself.

Now I easily take showers every day to every other day. I brush my teeth more and sleep a lot less (no naps during the day). It’s easy for me to get out of bed every morning at 5 a.m. (when Eli wakes up) and the sadness I felt before only comes and goes. My anxiety is still pretty bad, but I’m able to manage it with therapy and healthy coping skills — most of the time.

I don’t know what it was about the pandemic that caused this seismic shift, and maybe it has nothing to do with it, but I’m so grateful. I’m still continuing therapy and ECT treatments, but I’m able to go longer in between treatments, which is a huge accomplishment for me. Before, I was going every four to six weeks, and as previously mentioned, I hate them!

Moving to our new house has improved my quality of life as well. For one, I don’t have to share a tiny shower in the kids’ bathroom. Now it’s enjoyable to take one and I have lots of space and hot, hot water. Having my own office is nice, too. And a laptop — now I can blog from anywhere in the house and am able to write more during the day while keeping an eye on the kids.

All in all, I’m happy. I have my moments, we all do, but I’m so, so much better. I didn’t ever think I could be this happy again. And I told David that I’d NEVER shower every day, that it just wasn’t possible. I’d be thrilled if this lasted awhile, even forever. I could do this forever.

I know I’ll still have bad days, be uncomfortable and have spells of great sadness even, and that’s OK. Because now I know that darkness isn’t forever. That it always precedes light — warm, beautiful light where I can shine and grow. But to be honest, I can grow in the dark, too.

That’s the thing about depression — it makes you stronger and beautifully resilient. One of my favorite quotes is “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”

And my friends, I’ve been planted.

I Hate Asking For Help – Guest Blog

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog, written by a dear friend. If you’re interested in being a guest blogger, please email me at heatherannloeb@gmail.com

I hate asking for help.

Which is what makes dealing with stress, anxiety and depression even worse. We all hear help is out there. That all we need to do is ask. I have made these same sentiments countless times.

Yet, I hate asking.

Some might think it’s out of pride, that I don’t want to be seen as weak. Others assume that I’m Wonder Woman and act envious or surprised about how I have it all together.

I wish it was that simple. I wish I had it all together.

No, it’s more about the feeling of betrayal.

By no means am I the best: friend, sister, or even mother out there. I have never claimed to be and never will. Yet, I know in my heart that when I can, I help my loved ones even in the smallest ways.

When they’re sick, or injured I check in. I may not always say the right thing or give the best advice. A lot of the time I probably don’t even say what they want to hear.

But I show up. At least I think I do. I did. Hell, maybe I don’t anymore. Maybe that’s why at the end of the day I don’t ask for help.

I don’t ask because it always feels like anytime I do ask, there isn’t a helping hand.

So instead I usually stay silent. I continue to suffer and drown in my own pain because in my experience.

It’s easier than being ignored or brushed off.

It’s easier than being told, “It will get better.”

It’s easier than being told, “Maybe…”

It’s easier than being let down again and again by my loved ones.

It’s easier to put on the fake smiles and forced laughs.

I recognize to some this sounds like a pity party. But when you’re the one who is always seen as the one who has it together, or the one who can be relied on, it’s hard to ask for help because you’re the one who is supposed to be doing the helping.

I also know full well that others can’t always help. They have their own lives. Their own problems. Which makes me hate asking for help even more.

This is My Fight Song

Last night, Isla had her first sleepover at the new house. We’ve never hosted one, though she went to a sleepover last year at her BFF’s. I’m not going to lie, I was scared. I wanted it to go well for Isla’s sake (and mine). I don’t know the two girls that well (thanks, COVID) but their moms are very nice, and I want to get to know them better. I know it’s silly — and these particular moms aren’t judgmental at all — but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, despite my depression and other mental disorders. That I’m a fun mom, a responsible one. So, it was important for me to put on a good show.

And a good show it was. We swam, ate snow cones, got in the hot tub, did facials, had a charcuterie snack board and a dance party. The last was my favorite. I started playing my music, but one of the girls requested “Fight Song,” which I didn’t have. No problem — I downloaded it and they began to sing, dance and flex their muscles. While they were singing at the top of their lungs and dancing around, tears came to my eyes. They were so happy and carefree. So strong for being only 6 years old.

Then I started listening to the words to the song and wondered why I’d never downloaded it before. It resonated with me, and I was proud that Isla somehow knew the words. I should learn them. I should be more like these 6 year olds, screaming and dancing around without a worry in sight, because my mental illness doesn’t define me. Why was I so wrapped up in the idea that this sleepover had to be perfect just because I have depression? Silly. Despite what I go through, I’m still a responsible, fun, kind, loving person. People respect me, so maybe I should follow suit.

Those kids had a blast, and so did I. I need to remember that all that hardship I endure is worth it to see moments like these in my kids’ lives. This is what it’s all about, and I refuse to worry that I’m not up to snuff anymore. This is my fight song. My anthem is written all over the faces of my kids, husband, in my blog, and this is one song that I have memorized. And it’s a happy one.

It’s OK that I’m a little broken — we’re all a little broken; that’s how the light gets in.


FIGHT SONG by Rachel Platten

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong (I’ll be strong)

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Yesteryear

Last year, I took my kids to Dallas for Spring Break. David couldn’t go because of work, so the three of us drove up to spend the week at my parents’, stopping at every Buc-ees along the way.

While we were there, the news starting to report more and more cases of the virus we kept hearing about. Cases were multiplying and spreading across the U.S. at an astounding rate. Cases were even reported in Corpus Christi, which is a bit more remote than the bigger cities.

I got the email that my kids’ preschool was closing for a week, and I started to panic. I didn’t want to stay in Dallas any longer, so we cut our trip short and again made the seven-hour drive home. This time we didn’t stop at Buc-ees.

The following week with all of us home was not so bad. We played, went to the beach and watched movies. Then the school emailed again saying that school would again be closed the following week. And the one after that. The teachers starting sending out packets for the kids to complete each week, but they didn’t get done, not without yelling and crying on both our parts.

I started to realize that our lives weren’t going to go back to “normal.” And I started to worry about my mental health, always precarious but now even more so because I had virtually no breaks from my kids. Eli’s sleeping pattern changed and he started waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, further compounding my stress and anxiety.

I finally gave up on the packets and starting teaching them what I could. We played more outside and watched more movies. We baked a lot. We survived.

Last Saturday I received my second vaccine and contemplated the past year. Even though my mental health has taken a hit, I survived. Not just survived but thrived in some ways. For one thing, I started blogging once a week, then twice a week. People started commenting on how much my blog has helped them or how I was brave. I was even asked to join State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and spoke at a symposium about my experience with suicide. I also had a mental health series published in the local paper. I became more confident and have evolved into a version of myself that I’m pretty proud of. A more authentic, more fearless version.

I’m also able to go longer between ECT treatments, which has been my ultimate goal. I did gain 26 pounds in the past year, and sometimes that really bothers me, but I coped the best I could. If I come away from this only having gained weight, then I am considerably lucky, and I’m grateful.

I often joke that the pandemic is an introvert’s dream — socializing has never been my thing. But there’s really nothing funny about what we’ve been through. The past year has been gut-wrenching, difficult to say the least and heartbreaking for those who have struggled with COVID or lost a loved one. I’d like to believe that now more people are getting vaccinated, we’re closer to the end, but I just don’t know. I’m afraid to hope, but at the same time, I just can’t help but hope. Being optimistic is newly acquired, too.

So many of us will not come out of this nightmare unscathed. Millions will continue to struggle with their mental health, not to mention grief or financial ruin. I don’t mean to sound tone-deaf in writing about the positives I’ve gained this past year. I acknowledge and deeply sympathize for those who are struggling, whose lives are indelibly changed.

It’s only been a year, but there has been enough heartbreak for a lifetime. If you are experiencing any fraction of that I’m so sorry, I pray that this year will be a vast improvement.

One can only hope.

Where Does the Time Go?

Today I got an email saying that Kindergarten graduation pictures were next week. This stopped me in my tracks, and I couldn’t help but tear up. My daughter has been going there since she was 2. She’s now 6. Everyone tells you when you have kids to slow down and enjoy it because it goes by fast, and it’s cliche but true.

I remember not even wanting to take Isla to JCC, because I had her at a different day care, but David insisted because he went there. I just didn’t want to change my routine, but God, am I glad I did. I found a home at JCC. The teachers and directors were so nice, and I met amazing mom friends. I even joined the PTO and ran the book fair for two years, which I both dreaded and loved. I’m also on the board.

I love that the kids are learning about Jewish traditions, holidays and culture. I love the diversity and inclusion taught by the school. I love everything about it except for the fact that it doesn’t go all the way up until college.

My kids are so blessed to be there, and I’ll still be around because Eli has two more years. But it just tugs at my heart that Isla will be graduating and leaving this place we both cherish. Isla made her first best friend there. She learned her ABCs and now she’s learning how to read, write and how to do fractions.

The JCC has always been there for our family, a home away from home. They’ve been accommodating and so caring toward Isla and Eli. I can’t say enough good things about the J. And I’m so proud that my kids have followed in their dad’s footsteps.

Next year, Isla will start a new adventure at Windsor Park, the gifted and talented school, and I know she’ll do great because everyday for the past four years JCC as prepared her.

And not just academically.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This past week we spent the kids’ Spring Break in Mabank, where my parents have a lake house. The weather wasn’t that great, so we couldn’t fish, swim or go on the boat but we still had a good time. My mom found all my old Beanie Babies from when I was a kid and Eli played with those quite a bit.

I’m going to cut this short, because I got the second covid vaccine yesterday and it has knocked me on my ass. If you’re not vaccinated, please find out how you can be.