Author

Heather Loeb

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It’s Mental Health Awareness Month. While every month is Mental Health Awareness Month to me, I want my non-mental health-field friends to know a few things. Maybe I’ve mentioned these before — I can be quite loquacious at times and certainly in this blog — but I feel the need to repeat myself. I have a bad memory, too.

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Depression is awful. You’re not just sad when you have depression; you lose the ability to care about and enjoy things you once loved doing. And that sucks. It’s like the whole world is black and white, and nothing makes you feel good at all. You can’t shower (in my experience) or do anything to improve your personal hygiene. Just thinking about taking a shower is too much work. You isolate. You don’t want to hang out with friends. You just want to be alone, and even though you feel the need to recharge, you don’t ever get recharged. You stay exhausted and lonely. You miss school or work. You get written up. Nobody understands. People think you’re being selfish or lazy – or the worst – people think you’re not being grateful as if that has anything to do with the neurons and chemicals in my brain. You lose your appetite or start to binge eat because your depression has triggered your eating disorder. Your sleep schedule gets messed up. The pain you feel is deep and you just want to drop to your knees and moan or scream. A guttural noise that expresses your misery.

That’s just a preview. And that’s just depression.

Anxiety sucks, too. Sometimes it’s worse than the depression. I think I wrote a blog about that, too. I also have a rare personality disorder, and as previously mentioned, an eating disorder. I can detail each condition, it’s just too much.

I don’t want to make this about me, though. I’m just one person experiencing depression and other mental health conditions when actually 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience mental illness each year, but only half will receive the help they need. Now that sucks. And if that’s not bad enough, the average delay is 11 years between the onset of mental health symptoms and getting treatment. That’s insane. I say that, but it took me even longer.

1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year — think Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder (that’s me) and Schizophrenia. Not nearly enough will receive treatment either.

Something that’s eye-opening to me is that 1 in 6 youth experience a mental health disorder each year. And that 50% of all life-time mental illness begins by age 14 and 75% by age 24. This is exactly why we need to be talking about mental illness all the time. If we did, parents and teachers could better recognize warning signs of mental illness which could lead to early intervention, which could save a child/teen years of struggling.

I had my daughter evaluated for ADHD, which she did have, but the psychiatrist suggested she go to therapy first for self-esteem and anxiety issues. His exact words were “Let’s get her into therapy now so she’s not going to therapy her entire life.” I must’ve made a face because he quickly said unless you like going to therapy, lol. I don’t love therapy but I have been doing it most of my entire adult life. But I digress.

We have to start talking about this. There is nothing wrong with getting or asking for help. Because let me tell you this: suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among children aged 10-14. Our children need to be able to talk to us about their feelings, and we need to listen without judgement. To be able to find them help. To advocate for them.

The time is now, friends.

Let’s talk.

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I’m not in a greatish place. As you may know, the organization I volunteer for just had its big fundraiser, which I worked really, really hard on. A couple of nights leading up to the event, I missed a couple doses of my medication. It wasn’t on purpose. I was stressed.

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So that has affected me a bit. And the event being over has affected me, too. I mean, I’m glad it’s over because it was stressful, but I’m going to miss working on it, too. This happened last year. I’ve been working on this for months, and it’s one of my favorite projects. I think that’s normal.

So that and missing the meds has definitely affected me. Plus, I’m a little overwhelmed today because I’ve had to get back to every day NAMI things that need to be dealt with. The grind never stops. And I’ve been reminded that I’m a volunteer. And that I only have to do one thing at a time. And to give myself grace. I know all this.

But I’m not myself right now. I’m depressed, stressed-out, missed-doses-of-medication, sleep-deprived Heather who doesn’t always remember that every single moment of the day. While I was waiting in the carpool line today, I was starting to panic about how badly I felt. Even though I missed just a couple of doses of meds, I can go zero to suicidal ideation in no time, and so I made an appointment for a ketamine infusion treatment for Wednesday. I started to think that maybe that wasn’t good enough. And as the panic increased, and I thought well, maybe I need an ECT, my phone buzzed. I looked down and realized tears had filled my eyes. And then I smiled down at my phone.

It was an affirmation. I get them sent to my phone/watch from an app every hour or so. This particular one said, “It’s ok to feel bad sometimes.”

I laughed at myself. I don’t need an ECT. I’m still going to keep the ketamine appointment as of this minute (because of the suicidal ideation), but of course, it’s ok to feel bad. IT’S OK TO FEEL BAD SOMETIMES!

It’s ok to feel sad about a fundraiser I put my heart and soul into. The event went well, and I think we reached a lot of people, but I still feel bad. I’m grateful for the event, and I’m grateful for everything that I have. I’ve made a gratitude list.

But I feel bad. I do. I feel like crap. And that’s ok. I’m smiling as I write this, but I feel bad.

I have a plan for some serious self-care this week. Maybe it’ll make me feel better.

If it doesn’t, guess what, that’s ok. Sitting with my feelings has never been my strong suit so I’ll stew a little, no too long, and then — when I’m ready — I’ll move on and feel better.

I’m actually feeling better just getting this out and feeling my feelings.

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I’m always sick. I’m sick now (I’ve having annoying thyroid issues). I had the flu last month. I get migraines. I have depression and anxiety, not to mention a few other mental health conditions. I’m sicker than I am healthy. But you know what? It’s just part of my illness.

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I’m still on that grind more than I’m not.

I thought I was okay and accepting that I was sick a lot, but then a friend made a snippy comment about me getting sick when I was offered to help her with something for a big event I help plan. It hurt my feelings. It’s true that a couple of weeks ago I had asked for help getting things off my plate because I was so sick with my thyroid, and I felt terrible and fatigue. But looking at the calendar, and knowing the event was coming up, I couldn’t really do that. So I had to keep on truckin’. I made the decision to take a little break after the event.

I really should brush the comment off because I know I’ve been working hard. I sold all the tables myself at the fundraiser, wrote all the questions and answer for the game show — you know what? I’m going to stop there because I don’t have to justify what I do or did. I work hard – it’s not debatable. And I’ve done it all while being sick. I shouldn’t have to say that either.

Really I shouldn’t even be writing this blog.

But it bothers me sooooooo much. I’m getting all upset now even though I had let it go. Sort of let it go.

I’m always there when it counts. If I’m really needed. I’m dependable when it matters.

I am sick all the time. That’s just me. Lately, on some days, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Others, I’m completely fine. I can’t predict whether sick Heather or on-the-grind Heather will wake up in the morning. But again, that’s okay. I know these two versions are really part of the whole me, and it’s my job to accept myself.

Through sickness and in health, lol.

My new therapist (my former one retired; I was with her for nine years) and I were talking about a comment someone had made to me, and she stopped me and said, “Wait, she said that to you. Why is that your deficit?” I had taken this comment (and others like it) to heart for years – there were multiple variations of it – and I had never thought about that. Why had I taken it so personally? Those words and ideas were not my own – just as the aforementioned comment is not my own – yet I’m ruminating and doubting myself when it’s really their bullshit that made them say it. They were hurting or being defensive or whatever and lashed out – I just happened to be there.

I know I’m sick a lot. And I’m okay with that (I say for the third time, lol). It’s not a flaw, if anything, it makes me more compassionate and understanding to others. It makes me appreciate and enjoy the times that I’m not sick. Some of my favorite times are being cuddled up in my heated blanket, resting with my husband next to me.

It’s not all bad.

And the good always outweighs the bad. What a good reminder from an unhappy place.

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The Power of No

by Heather Loeb

I have had a difficult time with my binge eating disorder lately — since October I’ve gained 10 pounds. It’s not just about the weight gain, it’s the way I feel: so sluggish, uncomfortably full, and I’m getting more stomach pain (I’ve had the sleeve surgery so eating too much causes a lot of pain) and acid reflux.

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Normally I don’t each much because of the sleeve, plus my migraine prevention medication is an appetite suppressant. But I just can’t seem to stop eating. It doesn’t matter what it is — candy, Girl Scout cookies (which I don’t even like much) bread, chips, hell, even raisins. Whatever it is, I overindulge.

I’ve talked to my therapist about it many times. Of course I’m seeking comfort. This is my pattern. If I’m not compulsively shopping, I’m taking too many anxiety pills. If I’m not doing that, I’ve overeating. And this by far is the worst, in my opinion. I have so many body issues, and even though I’ve tried to battle them all my life, somewhere along the line I’ve learned the worst thing you can be in this world is fat (even I don’t think that way about my loved ones). LogicalIy I know better. But I just can’t go down that path anymore.

I don’t feel depressed at all, and my anxiety has been stable.

My therapist says I need to be mindful when I feel like eating. I agree. She says I’ll figure out what’s bothering me if I sit with my feelings and do some introspection. I know she’s right, but the urge to eat is too powerful. My need for comfort is too strong. She says I need to tell myself no.

But I never do. Well, rarely.

My loved ones rarely tell my no, except David — he’s definitely the best at it, and I love him for that. I need to hear no, not just from my friends and family. I NEED TO HEAR IT FROM ME. But it’s like I feel like I need a treat all the time, whether it’s food or something I want to buy. Nobody needs that many treats. I realize I deserve nice things, but that’s different. There are healthy ways to treat myself, like doing self-care. Logically I know that.

So my question to myself is not what am I eating, it’s what’s eating me?

I do have a lot going on right now at home, and of course, NAMI GCC is keeping me busy. I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I like to keep busy; I like to be challenged, and I definitely am being challenged. Maybe it’s too much and I don’t recognize that? I don’t know, I think I would feel it in my body if it were too much.

Good things are coming up. I’m getting a new car, NAMI is getting a new, bigger office and we’re preparing for Celebrity Jeopardy on April 27. NAMI is also offering new classes, and I feel that bigger things are ahead for NAMI. My therapist (who I’ve seen for 9 years) is retiring, but we’ve been preparing for that, and I have already selected a new one, and we have a transition plan. I feel good about it.

SO WHAT IS IT?????

Why am I shoving food down my throat?

What am I punishing myself for?

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As you may know, I don’t believe in making New Year’s Resolutions for myself (but if you do, that’s amazing!). I like to work on myself 24/7 and make small goals every month. Sometimes every day if needed, lol. For me, the New Year, New Me idea was too much pressure and something I could easily give up on, so now I take baby steps and work on myself non-stop. Or I at least try.

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2024 Goal, Plan, Action checklist text on note pad with laptop, glasses and pen.

Since 2019, when I went to a psychiatric hospital and started my recovery, every year has been better than the previous one. Yet when each year rolls around it’s hard for me to think it could get much better. It does, but still I fret. I guess when you’ve been living with a list of mental health conditions, you still live in fear of the other shoe dropping.

But if these past few years have taught me anything, it’s that if I work hard on my recovery and rely on my support network, everything will be fine. More than fine.

I also came up with a checklist on how I’m going to take care of myself in 2024:

  1. Make self-care a priority. When I get stressed and busy, this is usually the first to go, which is silly. This should be a top priority, especially when times get tough.
    • I’m going to get massages, facials and my nails done more
    • I’m going to read more. Just the other day my son asked me why I didn’t read anymore, and it kind of broke my heart. I love to read, and I’m also setting a bad example by not doing it anymore
    • I’m also going to write more
    • I’ll really try to unplug from electronics
  2. Reach out to friends. It’s hard to ask for help, but one thing I noticed this year is that when I did reach out and told my friends what was going on, they checked on me constantly and helped me stay on track with my self-care plan and reminded me to take it easy on myself. Always ask for help, especially if you’re having dark/intrusive thoughts or suicidal thoughts. Call 988 or 911 if you need immediate assistance or are in danger of self-harming or killing yourself.
  3. In December I talked about getting on the treadmill for endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. I’d like to continue that – not to lose weight but to feel better and healthier. Right now I’m just doing 20 minutes a day, and that’s totally manageable
  4. I’m going to try to complain less. I like to keep my mind positive, but I do notice I complain a lot, so I’ll focus on my positive affirmations and get rid of the complaints much like I do intrusive thoughts.
    • Note: When I have an intrusive thought, I say to myself, “pull back.” I imagine pulling on the reigns of my very beautiful unicorn who has rainbow-colored hair in braids and a sparkly horn. As I pull back, we go in a different direction, toward better thoughts. You’re welcome, lol. It works.
  5. I’m going to practice better sleep hygiene
  6. I’d like to do some therapy work on my eating disorder

Of course, I’ll continue to compliant with my medications, therapy, etc.

What about you guys? Do you have any resolutions or goals you want to share? And how you’re going to get there? Leave it in the comments!

And Happy New Year!

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Something amazing happened today, but let me back up. I’ve been struggling with depression for the past couple of weeks. Yesterday was pretty bad. So bad that I went ahead and called the clinic that offers ketamine treatments. Something told me they didn’t do them anymore and when I called, sure enough. They no longer offered them.

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Panic, fear and just raw, raw pain rattled inside and made me groan. What was I going to do? I got through the day and fell asleep without answers.

The next morning I felt differently. I sang on the way to my kids’ school, which I’m sure they didn’t appreciate. I sang on the way back and danced. Then it occurred to me. Screw depression. I’m Heather Ann Loeb. I’m a fighter, and I’m scrappy. Every time my depression and other conditions have come at me, I’ve beaten them all, and I’m living proof.

Depression won’t hold me down.

So, I did a thing. I actually put on workout clothes and got on the treadmill. I’ve thought about doing this a million times, but it never came to fruition.

I grabbed my air pods, found my play list titled, “Work B*itch” (lol), and I walked. I walked for the dopamine and all those hormones that will make me feel better. My feet pounded the machine and every step I took I thought about how mad I was at my mental illness. Like this is my favorite time of year, and depression is trying to hold me back from enjoying it?

Hell no!

There are only like 20 something days left of December…I don’t know, I can’t count. But I want to soak up every minute. I’ve waited all year long for this.

I want to enjoy the taste of hot chocolate on my tongue and lips. I want to watch my kids’ faces as they look for their elves in the morning. I’m so looking forward to Christmas Eve and Morning when they get to unwrap their gifts and see what Santa brought them.

I want to hang out with my dad and watch football. I want to see my mom’s face when she opens a special present I got her.

I want to….ok, you get the point.

From now on, I’m being mindful every minute, and I’ll beat back depression and its stupid friends with all my might.

Because I’m a warrior.

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Judge Not, Recovery is Hard

by Heather Loeb

I was talking to a friend recently and we were talking about Thanksgiving and if we would see our families. She was in the mental health field and had an uncle who was mentally ill. My friend vented because that family member never seemed to take his pills or go to therapy. 

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“You take your pills and go to therapy. You’re in recovery,” she said . “How hard could it be?” 

I let my friend vent then reminded her that it wasn’t easy for me. I detailed my struggles before I went to a psych hospital, then after: the ECT treatments, the medication changes, the therapy, road to recovery. Plus, her uncle and I have two different diagnoses. 

She blinked tears away and said you’re right, which doesn’t happen often. 

“I forgot,” she said. “I’m used to the you in recovery. and it seems easy now. I know better.”

She continued on about how her uncle hasn’t really come to terms with his mental illness and that he comes from a different generation where talking or having mental illness was taboo. 

That makes sense. Therapy probably scares him to death. And he probably doesn’t grasp the concept of recovery in terms of mental illness, I didn’t at first. 

It’s easy to get frustrated at someone with a mental illness, but you have to remember: they have a mental illness, and everyone’s different. They might not have the ability or capacity to understand their illness or recovery. You should never compare them to someone else, especially to someone who doesn’t have an illness. 

Also, the holidays can stress everyone out. It also can trigger those with a mental health condition so please be patient and know that it can be triggering and bring out certain symptoms. 

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Will It Ever End?

by Heather Loeb

Recently I’ve lost a bit of weight. I’ve never been this thin, except as a child. And while I’m enjoying it and getting to wear smaller clothes and being more comfortable in my body, I still don’t feel thin enough. 

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I still weigh myself when nobody’s looking. I still try to eat less so I can lose. 

And so I wonder — will it ever end?

I’m in the 150s. I look good. I feel good-ish but what happens when I get in the 140s? 

I’ll be 40 in February — do I just grow out of this? Probably not because I know friends in their 50s and 60s who still do this. 

I mean it’s gotten better. (Has is though?) I still don’t weigh myself in front of the kids, and when we’re eating in front of the kids, I eat healthy things. But they also see me eat candy all the time, and I’m sure they’ve picked up on my disorderly eating even though they’ve never seen me binge. Ugh, I’m such a mess. 

I’ve been stressed so much lately so I’ve been craving junk food, candy and comfort food big time. So it’s making me see-saw to the high 150s to the low. Then I stress away and eat light then get stressed again and eat like crap. I’ve had some stressful events at work, but it all worked out in a very awesome way. But more stuff is coming up and now it’s the holidays so I’m assuming I’ll be stressed out until January. Or until I’m dead, so I have to figure out some stress relief that actually works and works long term. 

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I mean hello, I talk about self care all the time. I gotta walk the walk. 

I just wish it didn’t have such a hold on me. Why do I care so much if I “gain” two pounds one morning to the next. I know it’s probably not even a real gain, and you’re not supposed to weigh yourself everyday. I know, I know, I know. But I don’t. So then I lift up my shirt and analyze how much my stomach is sticking out. How well my jeans are fitting. If one metric fails me, there’s always another. And another. 

This is torture. 

Will it ever end? 

Will I ever let it?

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Hair on My Head, Part II

by Heather Loeb
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Not too long ago I blogged about whether I should stop my preventive migraine medication because I thought it was making me lose hair and changing the texture. I was hesitant to do so because it also helped me control my appetite, but I stopped anyway because I was so obsessed with my hair.

I didn’t think what it would do to my migraines, and now I’ve had a migraine for a week straight. Man, I’m stupid. So last Friday I started back on the Topamax again. Sigh. I honestly didn’t give much thought to my migraines because I’m on another preventive medication, but clearly I need both. I forgot how badly it sucks to have a migraine every.single.day.

I’ve had to leave work functions early. I couldn’t do anything fun on the weekend. I threw up multiple times. I basically lied around the whole week waiting for relief. And I’d get a few hours then the pain would bounce right back. It’ll take me a while to titrate up to my normal dose, so I guess I gotta be patient. My specialty, lol.

I can’t believe I used to suffer from chronic migraine, where I’d have 16 or more migraines in ONE MONTH. No wonder I had depression. No telling which came first. A true chicken or the egg situation. You just can’t live a live with that much chronic pain. Sucks.

Maybe the meds aren’t the reason for my hair changes. I mean, I’ll be 40 in six months. Maybe it’s hormones. It’ll be fine. It’s just hair. I’d rather have little to no migraines. I’ve lived far too good a life to go backward. I’ve seen the light.

I feel terrible for those who have chronic pain; my heart goes out to you.

And now I don’t have to worry about my weight fluctuating, which is also a huge struggle for me (because of my eating disorder). The only downside to that is the Topamax makes all carbonated drinks taste like crap, so I don’t enjoy my beloved Diet Cokes like usual, but that’s a bad habit I could stand to lose.

All I see is what I stand to gain.

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The Plunge

by Heather Loeb

For the past two-plus years, I have been the communications director for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, and I have loved every minute. This organization has helped in my recovery so much that I now associate the two. You won’t find a more loving, judgement-free group of people in the world. We refer to our tight-knit group as the NAM FAM. We’re even presenting at a NAMI conference about how our NAM FAM works and helps us give others support and education.

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When I was first approached about the communications position, I was a bit wary, but it wasn’t a paid position so I didn’t feel suffocated by the job. For some reason I didn’t feel like I was beholden to something if I weren’t paid. My therapist tells me that’s wrong, though. I’ve never held a job down for more than two years, maybe three, because something was always at play — severe migraines or my depression, anxiety, eating disorder, etc. I missed work. I felt guilty and unworthy.

But at NAMI is different. I don’t mind doing the work. I show up when I can, and I always try to do my best. At one point, I thought I might take the affiliate over in about five years or so should the opportunity present itself. I guess I imagined I would have all my stuff together then, but let’s face it — I might never have it together. But the idea of “5-year Heather” meant that I would be more responsible, consistent, mature, hard working and so on.

But as it turns out, five years has now turned into now.

My close friend, the affiliate leader and program director is stepping down because her husband got a new job, and they’re relocating. I’m heartbroken of course that I will no longer have my fearless leader and good friend, but I’m really happy for them because it seems like a good move.

Naturally, because I had mentioned taking over in the future, it made me the top candidate for the job.

But I’m not “5-year Heather yet!” I thought. I have chronic illnesses and two young children, all of which take up my time. A lot. And surely they’ve noticed that I’m not a Certified Adult yet.

Taking the position (I have to be voted in by the Leadership Team first) would mean that I HAVE to be more responsible. NAMI GCC’s volunteers will be looking to me to make sound decisions about the organization and represent it well in the public. I will have to show up, which is something I’ve never been good at, honestly. I’ll have to be a Certified Adult (does anyone know the process on this?).

As I ponder these new responsibilities, I’m reminded that this was something I asked for. Something I wanted to do.

When I was going through the worst depressive episode in my life, I felt alone. Nobody talked about the cruel and debilitating realities. My friends and family didn’t know what they knew then — they couldn’t have helped me even if I did tell them what I was facing. I spent each day hoping I wouldn’t succumb to the persistent voice in my head telling me to kill myself. I hated life, and I hated who I had become. That was before I received help at a psych hospital.

My husband always says that if you have the ability to help others then it becomes your obligation to do so. That’s what I want to do. I want to let others know that they are not alone, that recovery is possible, that the dark doesn’t last. I want NAMI GCC to be the top mental health organization that other agencies and community members think of.

I want to help in anyway I can. And I see now that desire is stronger than being inconsistent or immature.

I will be so humbled and grateful to the Leadership Team should they appoint me affiliate leader. I hope it is my calling, and that our small, but mighty, organization thrives. It assures me that our team of volunteers is the best of the best, and I want to reflect that.

Am I scared? Yes, but I know what it’s like to be brave even when the odds were stacked against me. I’ll tell myself what I tell my kids: You can hard things.

Sometimes the most difficult thing is to just jump in.

So it looks like I’m taking the plunge.

Update: Saturday, Aug. 26: The Leadership Team voted me in as affiliate leader, effective Sept 15.

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