Author

Heather Loeb

276135946_10105161609530174_7123678452280294580_n-5410283

Last week my husband and I took a trip to Turks and Caicos to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. It was totally amazing; I can’t wait to go back. It was definitely hard to readjust to our routine and structure today, but we did it.

276135946_10105161609530174_7123678452280294580_n-5410283-824x1024-6686546-8156909

But I can’t stop thinking about the vacation. I’m not trying to relive it; I’m just going over how different I was there. I packed a different dress to wear ever day, heels and sandals. I did my hair and my makeup, something I rarely do in every day life. I was put together, chic, and most importantly, I was confident. So confident. I wore a different swimsuit every day, too. Including a two-piece. I didn’t use a coverup either, something I always do around pools/beaches.

I just felt so fantastic. I even drank a few daiquiris, something that rarely happens also. I remember telling David that Vacation Heather was fun, confident and relaxed. He replied that he loved Vacation Heather.

So I’ve been wondering — why can’t I be that version of myself here at home? Surely there’s a way to merge the two. I realize that it can’t be exactly the same. After all, I’m taking care of two children and volunteering for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi. I don’t get paid, but it IS work. Then there’s bills, taking the kids to karate and waking up at 5 a.m. just to list a few.

My husband also mentioned that when he comes home, I’m already in my sweats and he doesn’t get to see me in “real clothes.” I have to admit, that’s my favorite time of day: coming home after picking up the kids/going to karate and putting on my comfortable PJs or lounge wear. I have to balance this love with David’s need to see me in real clothes. I don’t want that to sound like he’s bossing me around or anything. I think it’s good that he sees me in nice clothes; I certainly like him when he dresses nicely.

276286875_10105161609036164_2159072820131565123_n-7696779-819x1024-5347807-3964954

So today I wore a yellow blouse, jeans and nice sandals. I put a beautiful headband on, and I feel good…confident. But adding Vacation Heather is more than wearing makeup and dresses everyday — I need to alter my attitude. I need to relax, especially when it comes to the kids. I want to yell less and be more laid back. My depression and anxiety don’t make that easy, but there’s room to loosen the reins on everything, I think.

I will make an effort to look nice. I’ll put on a dress because it makes me feel light and sexy. I have to remember that I’m a human being, not just a mom in the trenches of parenthood. I’m more than sweatpants and PJs. I deserve to feel good about myself and to show off my personality. I’m more than my depression and anxiety. Sometimes I feel like I eat, breathe and sleep mental health and I get caught up in my conditions, treating them like a ball and chain I’m lugging around, but that has to stop.

From now on, I’m going to be me — the real me who celebrates herself, no matter if she’s on a tropical island or in Corpus Christi.

And I can’t wait to see it.

0 comment
1 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
freelancer-girl-with-many-hands-sits-in-yoga-lotus-position-and-doing-several-actions-at-the-same-time-multitasking-vector-illustration-concept-of-business-woman-practicing-meditation-cat
freelancer-girl-with-many-hands-sits-in-yoga-lotus-position-and-doing-several-actions-at-the-same-time-multitasking-vector-illustration-concept-of-business-woman-practicing-meditation-cat-3

This morning was slow. I took the kids to school, worked on a couple things for NAMI and made #MentalHealthMonday videos. Now that I’m typing that, it doesn’t seem like such a slow morning.

After I did all that I turned on the TV and thought I’d enjoy some chill time before my noon meeting. Except I couldn’t enjoy it. I keep thinking that I was squandering my time, and there were things for me to do that I didn’t realize. A blanket of anxiety came over me, and I started to get that uncomfortable feeling in my chest that tags along with anxiety. I kept checking my phone, then Facebook, then back to my email.

I tried exploring the emotions that popped up. Why do I feel anxious? What would help me right now? That’s about as far as I got because then the word “squander” came to mine. Ouch. I hate that word. I’ve been accused of squandering in the past: money, time, energy, etc., so I was sensitive to it.

But was I really squandering time if I have all my “work” completed. Now, I shouldn’t have put work in quotations, but I’ll deal with that later. What’s wrong with watching a little TV and enjoying the silence that blooms once the kids are at school. Later today I’ll have a noon meeting, I’ll pick up my son at 1:45 p.m., then my daughter at 3 p.m. Then it’s karate class at 4 p.m. Mondays are always big days, so why not take a break now while I can get it?

Why must we keep ourselves busy? Most of the time I don’t like to be busy, although I admit it (sometimes) can help when I’m anxious and depressed.

I guess a lot of us measure our worth, our days, by productivity. It’s hundreds of years in the making, but the belief that you are success based on productivity is crap, especially if you have a mental health condition.

Depression and anxiety often dictate my schedule and how my dad will go. Sometimes I want to stay in bed or don’t have the energy to be around people, no matter who they are. And that’s okay. Successful days to me look like taking a shower, brushing my teeth and not yelling at the kids. Sometimes that’s a lot. Hell, sometimes I can’t even do that. For anyone with a serious mental illness, things that are seen as simple tasks can look daunting, like climbing a mountain. We don’t control it— we can manage it, but there’s no cure, and we’re definitely not doing it on purpose.

When I was a lot sicker, just a few years ago, taking a shower and brushing my teeth seemed like monumental acts of greatness that I just couldn’t manage. I’m doing better now, but I still struggle with it sometimes.

Can’t we measure our days by something else? Presence, self-care, being kind to ourselves and taking breaks? I realize there are a lot of people who don’t agree with that, but that’s old school thinking. Our generation is more gentle, I think. The stigma of mental illness, while presence, isn’t as strong as it was with our parents and their parents.

We can define our days how we want.

If all you did today was roll out of bed, that’s something. You are more than your productivity.” You are worthy and more.

And so am I.

0 comment
1 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
young-woman-is-having-mammography-examination-at-the-hospital-or-private-clinic-with-a-professional-female-doctor

I hear these words far too much, and I’m here to tell you that if you have anxiety (multiple forms), you can’t help but worry.

young-woman-is-having-mammography-examination-at-the-hospital-or-private-clinic-with-a-professional-female-doctor-5

For example, I noticed that my left breast had a red spot and I could feel a tiny knot/lump. It hurt a little. This has happened before — I had to get a mammogram then a biopsy. Luckily, it was benign, but the radiologist told me that I should start getting mammograms because my breast tissue is so dense.

Looking back, it wasn’t a huge deal. Was I worried? Yes. Did I ruminate? Oh, yeah. And now that it’s happening again, it seems like my anxiety disorder is in overdrive. Since discovering it, I’ve Googled everything from “dense breast lump” to “lump in breast” and “breast cancer lump.”

I feel like it’s normal for me to do that, but then my brain takes it to another level. I start to think about getting cancer, and losing my hair, and radiation, and whether I’ll be able to work as I’ve been doing. I texted the picture of the red spot to a friend and kept repeating myself, “It’s probably nothing. It’ll be like last time, right?” Then I awaited her reply, searching for assurance. I did the same to another friend.

I realize that it is probably nothing, that I’m overreacting. I also know that my brain is an asshole, always exploring the worst case scenarios. This is what I hate about anxiety. It’s relentless. And what also sucks is knowing that there are people out there who can really tuck an issue away and worry about it later. Or not at all.

It’s important to know a couple of things: when someone has an anxiety disorder, they can’t control it. Also, it takes a physical toll.

The Mayo Clinic reports the following symptoms:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”

Physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Nervousness or being easily startled
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritability

Some people think that anxiety is “all in our heads,” but for me, and millions of others, it affects our everyday life and relationship to others. It’s difficult to deal with. It’s difficult to control with medicine. Believe me, I’ve tried. I even got addicted to Klonopin a few years ago. It’s pretty easy to do.

The Mayo Clinic also reports the following:

Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs along with other mental health problems, which can make diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Some mental health disorders that commonly occur with generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide
  • Substance abuse

Unfortunately it’s not something that goes away. Learning healthy coping skills helps, as well as therapy. It can be manageable, but it’s still a major bummer to deal with it. To say the least.

My whole point during this rant is that I can’t control my anxiety. I try my best, I take medicine and I go to therapy but it’s still there. It’s like my brain just wont turn off. It’s non-stop intrusive thoughts, and I rarely get breaks. It’s just fucking dark in here, y’all.

I know there are others like me, and I’d just like to say that you’re not alone. I urge you to seek help, such as support groups and therapy.

I’d like to hear from you guys and ask what you do to manage your anxiety?

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening. Stay in the light.

0 comment
1 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
closeup-image-woman-sitting-in-bed-feeling-stomach-ache

I can’t stop binge eating. It’s so out of control. It’s been weeks, hell maybe months, which is longer than usual. I thought I was upset over some family stuff, but I feel like I dealt with that and moved on. Apparently not. Something is hounding me, and it’s scary. I hate feeling this way. I wake up planning breakfast. After breakfast, I’m already planning lunch and so on. I build my day around overeating and bingeing so that nobody sees me. Rather, judges me.

closeup-image-woman-sitting-in-bed-feeling-stomach-ache-5

I also noticed that last week I was keeping myself extremely busy with NAMI work. I kept getting pats on the back from it, so I did more and more each day, not realizing I was keeping myself busy on purpose — avoiding my problems more like it.

I’ve gained 10 pounds…well, that’s how much I gained the last time I got on the scale. I’m avoiding that, too , right now.

It’s like an open sore that I don’t tend to, and now it’s infected, and I’m sick. I feel so sick.

I think my eating disorder is just as bad as my depression. I know it is. As soon as I gain weight, I get depressed and eat more, and the cycle continues.

Usually it’s about what’s eating me rather than what I’m eating. I need to figure out what’s bothering me before more damage is done. It’s weird because I feel like I’m in such a good place in my life. I love my life, and I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do (column, blog and NAMI). I just love it; it sets my soul on fire. I just had a birthday, but I think I’m truly getting better and better with age. Life is truly good despite my mental health conditions.

But there’s obviously something troubling me. The only thing I can think of is that deep down I don’t think I’m worthy of all the positive things in my life. It all goes back to my core beliefs that I’m not good enough, I guess. But I’m worked hard — I can acknowledge that — and I love where I am.

It’s so confusing. I need to do more digging.

What the hell is eating Heather Loeb?

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
274491744_10105137047138404_6750070661493211909_n-6276804

It’s My Birthday

by Heather Loeb
274491744_10105137047138404_6750070661493211909_n-6276804

Today I turn 38 years old. Usually, I don’t celebrate my birthdays, other than going to a somewhat quiet dinner with my family. But this year is different.

Months ago I started planning a birthday party — a George Strait themed party. I bought a life-size cut out of King George, a George Strait cake and cookies. And I set up my daughter’s karaoke machine out on the porch so sing his songs.

I had more fun than I thought I would. I don’t like parties, and I don’t like socializing in big groups. But last night I did.

It kind of makes me sad that I went decades without a party, but I think I just was afraid of being in the spotlight, and I feared that nobody would come. That’s terrible, I know. But it kept me from celebrating for years.

But I want to celebrate myself. I’ve come so far, and I love where I am. I still have more work to do, but who doesn’t? I’m all about growing out of the past versions of me. Growth is so uncomfortable at times, but without it, I’d be that scared little girl who didn’t talk much and didn’t take care of herself. Maybe this isn’t a one-time thing? Maybe I’ve grown into a person who wants to be with her friends and celebrate.

I love my family, friends, house, cats and the work that I do to end stigma of mental illness. I already feel like a pretty perfect version of myself, if there is such thing.

I want to thank all my friends who showed up last night. Who show up for me everyday. Your love and support means so much to me. Y’all are a wonderful blessing. You’re my people.

I’m so grateful.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
the-abbreviation-adhd-made-out-of-polymer-clay-letters

In the past week my son has hit me twice and bitten me, bringing on a dark purple bruise on my arm. All were done during a meltdown. He screams and cries, indignant and out of control. The slightest thing can set him off.

Combined with his hyperactivity and lack of focus, I knew he had ADHD long before a psychologist recently diagnosed him last week.

the-abbreviation-adhd-made-out-of-polymer-clay-letters-3

The doctor said Eli’s ADHD isn’t severe, just a “mild case.” It doesn’t feel mild, to me or Eli’s teacher, who has been so supportive through this journey. She told my husband and I that we should consider getting him tested late last year. I had already seen him in somewhat of a classroom setting and he couldn’t sit still. He didn’t look anyone in the eye because he was so distracted by the toys, books and desks.

I haven’t observed him in his classroom, so I don’t experience the worst of his hyperactivity. But I have witnessed his impulse control many, many times. I’ve been hit, slapped, screamed at and more. He blows in my face because he knows it will annoy me, but he apologizes for all of this behavior soon after he calms down.

I realize he can’t control it. He doesn’t mean to do it; he just needs to figure out how to control his emotions, which is hard for a 5-year-old, nevertheless one with ADHD.

It would be easy to take all of this personally. When his teacher first brought ADHD up, I felt terribly guilty. I was so sure Eli was experiencing this because of my diagnoses — two types of depression, anxiety and a personality disorder. I went home and googled it, sure enough ADHD kids often have mothers with mood disorders. Obviously I don’t want him to struggle with this. I’ve struggled almost my whole life, and it’s no picnic.

I know it’s not my fault, but it’s hard to shake the guilt and shame that all moms experience.

The only thing to do is learn everything I can, modify our parenting, consult experts and just accept it.

I have to accept it. I have to accept that both my children may have inherited the illnesses I have. It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault. It’s not anybody’s fault.

I’ll do everything in my power to learn more and help him.

But I need to remember: In order to help him I have to work on myself, make sure I’m not pouring from an empty cup. I have to provide structure and routine. I have to set boundaries and actually stick to them.

I’m in recovery when it comes to my mental illnesses. Recovery doesn’t mean I have to be perfect, just that I’m always trying to grow.

I imagine Eli and I will grow together, be stronger because of the paths we’ll walk.

I know in my heart that he’s still the same sweet, loving little boy he was before the diagnosis. He just has his moments.

Lord knows I have mine.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
confused-woman-looking-in-open-refrigerator

I’m in a bad mood today. I don’t know what caused it, but I’ve felt terrible all day. Something has been nagging at me. At every meal, I’ve had an overwhelming to binge. So I ordered a pizza for lunch. I didn’t get down but once slice when I started feeling guilty. I felt even worse.

confused-woman-looking-in-open-refrigerator-2

Then the afternoon rolls around, and I have that wild urge again so I order snacks to be delivered to my house: chips, popcorn, ice cream, M&Ms, but when I started eating I didn’t get that high I always get, however temporary it might be. I stopped. I’m not used to not getting pleasure from a binge.

But that nagging feeling continued. What am I upset about? It’s an awful feeling not knowing what’s bothering me. It’s like a remembered something important but then immediately forgot so I have to retrace my steps (in my brain) and figure it out.

And then come the tears. Why does it have to be so hard to be me? I know that sounds pathetic, but why isn’t it ever easy? If it’s not my depression, it’s my anxiety. If it’s not my anxiety, it’s my eating disorder. I though that I had been doing well with sitting with my feelings and avoiding binges, but I can’t even identify the emotions I’m feeling. What am I supposed to do with that?

I start thinking…is it the kids? Do I feel guilty about them going over to my mother-in-laws? Is it that I’ve had a long, long week and just need to chill? Maybe. Did I somehow mess up my meds? Doubtful. Am I missing my parents? Usually. Have I been keeping up with work stuff? Yes. Am I regretting our social engagements this weekend? Yes. But is that enough to binge? I don’t think so.

I am clearly seeking out comfort, so what do I need comfort for? What’s going on? I had a ketamine treatment yesterday; maybe that has messed with my head, although it was a pleasurable experience. Is it not working now? Did it ever work?

So many questions. And I have so few answers.

I’m sure there are others with a laundry list of diagnoses who feel this way. You never really know what the exact culprit is, but you knows it’s there.

I’m going to go with it has been a long week, I’ve been out of routine, seriously out of routine. I haven’t been able to relax so that’s probably what’s bothering me. That and the things I have to do this weekend will be interrupting precious me time.

I don’t even feel like eating most of the junk I got at the store, which really just makes me want to know…

what the hell am I hungry for?

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
woman-pulling-a-heavy-weight-on-a-chain-concept-of-a-womans-heavy-social-load-woman-carrying-huge-weight-business-woman-struggling-with-mortgage

My family and I were invited to an event during the week. We usually don’t do activities Monday through Friday, but my husband was excited about it. The event would start at 6 p.m., and as soon as I saw that, my chest tightened. I could feel anxiety wash over my body. My son (who’s 5) goes to bed at 7 p.m., and the event would go well past that. I tried to calm down, and rationally I knew it would be okay, but that did not stop the awful nagging feeling that we shouldn’t go. The problem is that my brain, riddled with misfiring neurons, doesn’t always think rationally. It’s rare. Anxiety always wins.

hands-tied-3

My thinking is rigid, very black and white. I’d like to think I’m open minded about most things, but I don’t have the ability to adjust my behavior at times. Cognitive rigidity (lack of mental flexibility) is a sign of poor mental health. It’s associated with many mental health conditions, but others can experience it, too. Like when you’re solving a problem and think your way is the only way to go. Rumination also is a big part of cognitive rigidity

Honestly mine’s not so bad (depending on who you ask). After I had my first child I read about what temperature parents should set in a baby’s room. I saw that number (I can’t remember it now) and obsessed. I bought little thermostats for each room in the house, and I watched them closely, adjusting the air or heat to reach that magic number. That’s anxiety at its “best.”

Things aren’t much different now. My daughter, a first grader, has to be at school at 7:50 a.m., so in the mornings I watch the clock and bark “you have 30 minutes” then “five more minutes, stop lollygagging.” I feel like we have to leave at 7:20, even though we’re five minutes from her school. And they don’t open the doors until 7:30. If we’re running behind, each minute passes painfully, and my anxiety ramps up. We’ve never been late though. What exactly do I think is going to happen if we don’t show up 20 minutes early?

Why does it matter if the temperature is one degree off?

Is the world going to end because my son goes to bed later than 7 p.m.?

Again, Rational Heather says no, but it’s hard to hear her over the thunderous voice of anxiety, which gave birth to all this rigidity. I know it’s not healthy, and it can damage relationships I have with others because I think my way is the only way, the right way. We have to do things my way, per my anxiety. Who cares if it’s irrational?

Sometimes I feel trapped in my body and that it’s betraying me. Anxiety is a liar, I know, but it’s hard to differentiate between the truth and lies. It makes me wonder if I can trust my brain. The fact that I really can’t is scary. I try not to pull at that thread too much.

I wish I could relax and go with the flow, but that’s just not who I am. I have to live with the rigidity and try to manage it best I can. There are positive aspects of anxiety (like always being prepared), and that’s what I must focus on.

I need to figure out how I can manipulate my black and white thoughts and add a little color.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
img_6534-7925194

Last week I did a ketamine treatment, the first in years. Before I was hospitalized at The Menninger Clinic in 2019 for depression and anxiety, I’d done about two or three but never felt better after doing them.

img_6534-7925194-768x1024-3340033-9971035-3182463-7716039

I tried again last week because it’s easier for me to do ketamine treatments than ECT treatments, which I’ve been doing since 2019. Those are a pain; I have to drive 2.5 hours to San Antonio, undergo the procedure (which includes anesthesia) and then have my husband drive back home while I battled an inevitable migraine. I’m usually out of it for the rest of the day and some of the next.

I haven’t had an ECT in months, the most I’ve ever gone since being hospitalized, but I started recognizing some of the signs that I might need one. Enter ketamine treatment.

I was very nervous when I got there and as they begin to set up the infusion and IV. I was scared that I would feel out of control and that I’d be overwhelmed. I was sweating. The nurse could tell I was nervous so she stayed with me for a few minutes. That’s all it took, really. I started to feel the warm flush feeling of the medicine entering my body and I started to panic. It was just so overwhelming, so I asked the nurse to slow it down, which she did. After that, it was a gradual high and I didn’t feel out of my mind. I started laughing, saying “wow, I’m so fucked up.” She left the room so I could vibe.

Because the infusion was going slower, I was able to realize that I was “high” and able to enjoy it. I did inventory on my emotions and felt hope that this would help improve my mood. I wasn’t sleepy or tired, but I could tell my eyelids were at half mast (plus I took a picture).

I felt a feeling of euphoria and thanked God for all I was thankful for. I relaxed and explored any emotion that came up, which is cool because normally I swallow my emotions, never giving them any time or space.

Finally, as I did become sleepy, time was up. They took the IV out. They let me “come to” after about 10 minutes. I was a little tired for the rest of the day but wasn’t totally useless, which is good. That’s how the ECTs leave me.

I felt like the treatment worked right away but thought that maybe it was just a lingering feeling of euphoria. It has been several days now and I still have that feeling — that I feel good. That I’m thankful. And like it’s going to be okay. I’m so pleased with how it went and I’ll be doing five more treatments to do.

I’m just so thankful that I didn’t have to get an ECT. I hate anesthesia and memory loss. It’s just too much to deal with, so I’m really hoping I can keep up with ketamine treatments instead.

Here’s hoping.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

fashion-garment-setwomens-clothinggirs-clothes-isolated-on-white

I spent my summers in high school and college at my parents’ house alone (for the most part). I loved it. I remember I would grab some Chick-fil-a and eat it in from of the TV as TLC’s What Not to Wear came on. I loved that show and was fascinated with the makeover aspect. I had gained a lot of weight in high school, then lost it in college and would try to glean wardrobe tips from the show. Good times.

Recently I searched how to stream the show, and alas, I found it on Hulu. The particular season I’m watching is 19 years old. Holy crap. While the clothes are a little outdated, I still enjoy it. Except for one thing — Clinton and Stacy are downright mean, at times! It strikes a sharp contrast from Queer Eye, which I’m also watching.

I hate the way they make fun of the guests on the show and how push the hair stylist is. In my opinion, how you style your hair is so personal. It can be a security blanket, but what the hell is wrong with that? Back off, Nick!

I love the episodes where the guest actually enjoys themselves, but more times than not, they hosts beat all the creativity and comfort out of them, not always showcasing what makes them unique.

Have I gone soft?

Spoiler alert: I’ve always been soft.

I’ll admit that recently I’ve tried to dress better but only to feel better about myself. It makes me feel more confident, which is hard for me (thanks to body dysmophic disorder). I can’t help but project my feelings on the guests on What Not to Wear. I want to shake them and say, “Don’t listen to them! You do you! You’re perfect the way you are.” The same thing I should tell myself.

We don’t need to dress alike. We’re all different shapes and in different places in our lives. I love that my hair is big, frizzy and wavy (adding about two inches to my height, lol). I love my shirts with mental health slogans — Mental Health Matters, It’s Cool to Go to Therapy, etc). I love my leggings and oh my god I love my Uggs. That’s okay. I like bright colors and baggy clothes even though I know Clinton and Stacy would tell me that adds volume. Screw it, add that shit on. I love fun socks and underwear and my many patterned headbands.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to show out, too, but that’s rare.

Maybe I’m overanalyzing this revered show of mine, but that tells me I’ve evolved from who I was nearly 20 years ago. I love myself more. I’m more accepting of myself. I’m not anywhere near done with my story, but it’s better than I started.

Progress, no matter how little, is still progress.

 

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail