Being Sick is for the Birds

I used to love getting sick. To me it meant all my troubles melted away while I sat around in my jams and watched TV. When I was in school, it was easy to catch up with what I missed. But when I started working, I met with resentment from coworkers and hostility from bosses because I missed so much work. And I was sick a lot, and sometimes I was faking for the down time or because my depression was so bad.

I wrongly thought that the world stopped when I had a migraine or virus (or when depression hit). I welcomed being ill because I thought it was a Get Out of Jail Free card, and now I know it wasn’t.

A lot of that was the depression talking. I didn’t always care who was inconvenienced by my illnesses, and now the one who is most inconvenienced is me. Go figure.

Today I woke up feeling dizzy and nauseated, among other things. I asked my husband to take the kids to school, but he couldn’t. I asked my mother-in-law to pick them up after camp, but she had an appointment. Some things can’t be helped, and it’s a reminder that now I HATE being sick because there’s only me to take care of the kids. And that’s fine. It sucks sometimes, but that’s the way it is. (Although usually I do have help with my kiddos).

When you’re an adult there’s not always someone to pick up the slack, and there’s nobody to wait on you hand and foot — believe me, I’ve looked everywhere as I love being waited on and adored.

I don’t mean to complain about adulthood (we can do that another time), but my point is that I don’t like being sick anymore because I’m not as depressed. I don’t have to fake a migraine or other illness to get some “me” time. I generally feel good and every morning I’m ready to get up and get going. It turns out, I like being healthy, and I love being happy. I’m truly miles from where I was just two years ago when I was at the psychiatric hospital.

This is progress! I welcome it because it makes me appreciate all the things I’m able to do now because my depression is managed at the moment. And I celebrate that — or I will when I’m feeling better.

To all you moms out there who don’t have help with the kids, I see you and admire you.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I did it — I survived the weekend, mainly just Friday when my daughter had FOUR friends over for a sleepover. They had fun and the house is only a little messy so all in all, it was good.

This coming week is the last week of summer camp, the last camp that Isla can actually go to, next year she’ll be too old. I’m nostalgic I guess because it’s the last week, and she lost a tooth AND she’s starting first grade at a new school in just a couple of weeks. Even though I get misty thinking about it, I’m ready for school to start. I like the structure and routine, and I know deep down so do my kids, lol.

I’m looking forward to this week because the kids are going to my parents and we’re gong to Vegas for a couple of days. I need a break!! Especially since school is about to start, and we wont be able to go anywhere for awhile.

Anyway, I hope y’all have a good week, and as always, stay in the light.

Thanks For Not Canceling On Us

Last night I had a movie night when two of my girlfriends. We didn’t get to hang out much last year (Covid), but we’ve had about two movie nights this year, which is better than nothing. Time with them is something I need. We eat junk, talk through whatever movie we’re watching and laugh. Laughter is the thing I need the most.

Three friends watching romantic movie on tv sitting on a couch at home

At the end of the night, one of the girls texted that it was fun and thanked me for not canceling on them. For about two seconds my feelings were hurt, but then I realized me canceling plans is status quo. I do it a lot. There are many times I feel good so I make plans but by the time the date rolls round, I’m feeling terrible, depressed and need to conserve energy in order to take care of my kids.

I imagine it’s not fun being cancelled on so many times, but my friends seems to take it in stride. They know what’s going on with me now as opposed to a couple of years ago when I wasn’t always honest about my depression and anxiety. It took a psychiatric hospital stay for me to be upfront about what I was dealing with. The stigma of mental illness kept me quiet before. And since telling them the truth, they’ve been so supportive. I’m lucky to have them. They check in with me to make sure I’m doing OK, and if I’m not, they ask how they can help. And I know they really mean it.

So I read my friend’s text again after climbing in bed and mulled it over. My friend was NOT trying to hurt my feelings. She knew I had a rough week and was acknowledging the fact that I kept our plans despite struggling (and having a migraine). That’s never really happened before. I feel like it’s a sign that I’m miles away from where (and who) I was. I’m better now and I’m coping. I’m not letting depression run my life. I’m evolving.

Depression may win the battle from time to time, but I’m winning the war. All the literal blood, sweat and tears that have poured out of me has been worth it. I look at my life, and I’m so grateful I’m where I am. I fought hard to get here, and I’ll have to be dragged away kicking and screaming.

I’m perseverant, and I have grit. And I’m not going any damn where.

In a Nutshell: My Week In Review

Getting ready for a cowboy/western themed fundraiser.

I was sick this past week, but I’m starting to feel better. The most exciting part of my week was a woman from the local NAMI chapter contacting me, asking me to be a speaker at their suicide prevention symposium. They’re also going to feature my blog in their monthly newsletter. I’m so happy! I feel like I can reach a lot of people through my writing and this is a great step toward doing that.

Also, I went to a fundraiser last night and several people — strangers — stopped me and told me they appreciated my column in the paper and how I was removing the stigma from mental illness. That made me feel so good. It’s nice to know there are people besides my family reading, lol.

This coming week you won’t see any new blogs because I’ll be on vacation — I’m very excited about that, too. I hope you week goes well, and as always, stay in the light.

A Letter to My Daughter on Social Media

Dear Daughter,

Let’s not rush this. Social media can be so great, a way of meeting others and catching a glimpse of the world you might not see otherwise. But there are sinister parts to social media, too.

My worry is your self-image and self-esteem. Pictures on Facebook and Instagram aren’t always real, and if they are real, they don’t exactly depict reality. It’s hard to tell the difference, even for me at 37. I look at some of the pictures on Insta and I can’t help but compare the thin, beautiful pics of friends and strangers to myself. And if you don’t know, comparison is the thief of joy. I start comparing my body to others’ (whose bodies haven’t been through what mine has) and I’m doing myself a disservice. There’s no reason to compare, and definitely not a reason to compete, yet I do it anyway. We’re all beautiful and special in our own ways.

You might promise to never compare your body to other’s, but because of society’s toxic diet culture, you’ll end up doing it anyway. It’s in some people’s — industry’s — best interest to perpetuate the allure of being thin, young and beautiful, but just think what it would mean to not want, or need, beauty products, dieting services, plastic surgery and so much more. I don’t think anything is wrong with using said products or services — I certainly do — but I think it’s dangerous to want and need them so badly, to think you’ll be ugly, fat or old without them. Or that you’d be unworthy.

I hope you never feel those things, but I understand if you do. Let me tell you that you are beautiful, not just outside, but inside. You are amazing for more than your looks. You are a kind, loving, generous, passionate kind of girl, and I have no doubt that you’ll grow into a wonderful adult. Because I’m your mother, I want to protect you and shield you from things like body dysmorphia, low self-esteem and eating disorders. I’ve struggled with them for the majority of my life, and it has been no picnic. I’ve dieted and lost the same 40 pounds over and over again. I have had plastic surgery and gastric sleeve surgery. I’m still not thin. I’m trying to be OK with that but can you imagine being almost 40 years old with the same body image issues from the sixth grade?

I don’t want you to go down the same road, and you might think I’m a hypocrite because I’ve gone to so many extremes to be thin, but trust me, the path I’ve taken is full of heartache and self-hate.

You might also think I’m a stick in the mud, but I don’t even want you using filters on your selfies. You don’t need to change a thing; there’s nothing to improve upon, and I mean that as a compliment.

Stay away from bullies and trolls — those people are deeply unhappy to want to hurt others. Don’t waste a tear or a minute on them. I hope if you are being bullied, you’ll speak up. You can tell me anything, I’ll lock it in the vault.

Childhood and adolescence are hard. There are so many changes happening and you might feel awkward but please know every kid feels that way regardless how they act. You’ll get through it, you’ll flourish. It’ll be OK.

I’m always here, and I’ll love you (just the way you are) forever.

Love,
Mama

p.s. Stay off Tik Tok, too lol

Don’t I Deserve a Break?

Last week was a good one. I started eating healthier, I worked (jogged) three days I week, I drank fewer Diet Cokes, replacing them with water and I kept up with personal hygiene. It wasn’t a good week, it was great.

Those kids of weeks don’t happen often, not for me. I caught myself thinking about it as a fluke, some hormonal gift that was sure to fade away because doesn’t it always?

I haven’t had more than one of those weeks in years. I didn’t want to get attached to the idea of it for good reason. Depression has reigned in my brain for too long. It always comes back, and it’s hard to beat.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a small part of me saying, wait — isn’t this what we’ve been working on? What we’ve trained for? I haven’t modified my behavior, taken all these pills and gone to therapy just so I could tread water for the rest of my life, because damn, isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Getting through the day, weeks, months and even years to only keep from drowning? NO! I have not. I want to live, really live without the ball and chain of depression and its comorbidities.

If I’m happy now, it better not be a fluke. I’ve worked too hard. There’s been literal blood, sweat and tears thrown into my recovery and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please tell me this isn’t an accident.

I want to believe it’s real, that it’s not hormonal or manic phase. I want to believe that sometimes I can catch a break, at the very least an intermission from the pain and heartache my treatment-resistant depression and anxiety have caused me. And not to mention my family and friends.

I want to live and not just count down the minutes until I’m unconscious again. To wake up and literally smell the roses. I want to be happy and enjoy everything I’ve been given. Some may ask, can’t you do that with depression, and the answer is yes. But having depression is like only seeing in black and white when you know others can see color, that you once saw color. It dulls all your senses and sometimes, a lot of the times, you can’t feel anything at all except for loss. Heavy, penetrating , overwhelming loss.

I don’t want to feel that anymore.

Don’t I deserve a break?

Unruly Neurons Celebrates 200th Blog Post

My last blog post (read it here) was officially my 200th blog post since I created it in 2018. I didn’t write much when I first started; I have the pandemic to thank for posting regularly and getting into a groove. And it’s led to me being a regular guest columnist at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, one of my dreams come true.

Thank you so much for reading, leaving comments and sharing my blogs. I’m so grateful to each one of you who has aided in the small successes of this site.

I created Unruly Neurons after fashion icon Kate Spade killed herself in June 2018. Her sister gave an interview saying that Kate suffered with depression and didn’t want to seek help or speak out because she was afraid of hurting her brand. Something inside me just snapped, so I started writing Op-Ed pieces on mental health to the Caller, not knowing that within a year I would be in a mental hospital for six long weeks.

When I came back from the Menninger Clinic in August 2019, I was a bit embarrassed at first then realized that I had to talk about it. I had to be honest in my struggles and in my journey. I was hoping to free myself from the shame and silence depression and my other mental disorders had bred inside me, but it wasn’t just about me either. So many of you reached out to me, confiding that you suffered and how my writing helped you feel less alone.

If I never do anything else in my life, that’s OK. Knowing my blog helped someone, even just one person, is enough for me.

I’m proud of the work I’m doing, and I know it’s been good therapy for me to vent and talk to others going through the same thing. So thank you — all of you.

If you’re not quite ready to talk openly about depression (and other mental disorders) that’s OK. I know you’re brave and a survivor because that’s what mental illness is — a battle with yourself every single day, and it’s so hard! I just want you to know you’re not alone.

I’m going to keep writing, because I’m still battling my demons, too.

Unruly Neurons By the Numbers:
– 12,500 blog views
– 8,246 visitors to the UN site
– 200 posts
– Most viewed post: Emotional Pain
– 31,897 words

All the Versions of Me, Heather Loeb

There are many versions of me: depressed me, anxious me, on-the-ball me, manic me and happy me, just to name a few.

My moods and energy are always changing and sometimes volatile.

But there’s something bothering me: I now have to cope with actions the other Heathers have done. For instance, when I’m depressed or anxious, I have certain compulsions that (temporarily) make me feel better, such as overeating or shopping. I do these things knowing I’m not supposed to, but when I’m feeling blue I can’t — or don’t — always control it, which causes problems with my husband and is very unhealthy.

Right now, I’m on the ball Heather, and I wake up energized, exercise, brush my teeth (a big feat), make plans with friends, cook, etc. Basically, I do everything I don’t always have the mindset or energy to do. I like on-the-ball Heather. I wish she stuck around all the time, instead of a couple weeks. But I shouldn’t complain; it’s better than being depressed for sure.

So this week I’ve been worried about money — I’m (supposed to be) on a spending hiatus. I know I’ve blown my budget on my credit card (thanks, depressed Heather). And I started exercising this week — yay! — but I’m mad that I have all this extra weight caused by bingeing and eating junk. I first blamed the pandemic, but things are getting better now; there’s no need to stuff my face until I’m uncomfortably full. While we’re not out of the woods, the hardest part is over (I hope).

Even when I feel great, like right now, I still have these compulsions but it’s easier to fight them. I”m able to access logic and self-control which is hard to come by, but it’s a reminder that my depression and anxiety are always lurking. Eventually, I need to consolidate these versions of me, but right now I don’t know how to do that. For me depression and its comorbidities are going to be a life-long struggle. But that’s OK. I’m a faithful student of learning how to cope, and I will never give up the fight. And that’s exactly what it is — a battle where often I’m at a disadvantage to my brain and its misfiring neurons. That’s OK, too. I’ll get there. I’ll keep learning and working on my defensive skills.

I will win the war, if not the battles.

Thanks for reading. Stay in the light.

Like what you read? Catch my mental health column in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and read my previous posts here.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I haven’ written one of these updates in a while; I’ve gotten off my normal posting schedule since starting my column in the Caller-Times. Which reminds me, the Caller does a “Best of the Best” contest where people can vote for their favorite Mexican restaurant, etc. There’s a category for Best Columnist, so if you have please take a moment and write my name under the Media category.

A few weeks ago, my oldest graduated Kindergarten, and they had an amazing graduation. I’m now buying new clothes, shoes and school supplies for her new school. I know I have a couple of months, but I like to be prepared. She’ll be a first grader at the gifted/talented school, so we’re all excited.

During the summer we’re going to visit some museums in Houston and probably visit my parents in Dallas. No major plans. I am, however, really looking forward to the Olympics, which start in July.

After school starts in August, I’m thinking about having a hysterectomy. I don’t love the idea of it (because of the anesthesia), but I think it’s the best decision. If you have any experiences you’d like to share, drop them in the comments.

That’s about it in my world. I hope y’all are doing well, and as always, thanks for reading!

Stay in the light.

Love, Heather

10 Bad Habits of a Depressed/Anxious Person

Let me preface this blog by stating these are my experiences only – not all depressed people are the same, nor do they experience depression/anxiety in the same way.

When I first wrote this blog I didn’t have a problem with the title but now I do. Labeling the following as “bad habits” implies to me that these actions can be prevented but these things are uncontrollable side effects of depression and anxiety.

So let me say, “10 Things That (Almost) Every Depressed/Anxiety Person Does”

1. Cancels plans – I cancel plans a lot, and I feel really bad about it. When I’m feeling good I reach out to my loved ones and make plans but when the time comes my mood and demeanor have changed. It feels physically impossible to hang out, especially if it’s in public. My depression/anxiety is so unpredictable, and because of this, it makes it hard for me to maintain some friendships.

2. Sleeps too much – When I’m in a depressive episode I can’t get enough sleep. Mostly because I feel extreme fatigue, but I also don’t want to be awake much because it’s too much work. I get overwhelmed, and it’s painful to be awake, so I go to sleep early and take naps during the day. This is a problem because it can intensify things like obesity, headaches and backaches. You miss out on things, and it’s just not healthy. It’s definitely not a long-term coping strategy.

3. Isolates – As I mentioned earlier, when you’re depressed it’s so much effort to be awake and functioning. This includes socializing with family and friends. Even texting seems hard, so it’s easy to just withdraw but this too is dangerous. Feeling alone can increase feelings of depression — mainly loneliness and despair — which could lead to suicidal thoughts.

4. Neglects personal hygiene – Sadly, this is a huge problems for me. For a long time, I could only shower once a week. I also have trouble brushing my teeth. It seems silly because these tasks don’t seem hard but if you’re depressed, they’re an impossible task. I would feel gross, slovenly and even worse about myself.

5. Overuses drugs and alcohol – I abused my anxiety meds because I wanted to feel anything but the pain and discomfort depression and anxiety were making me feel. So I took pills to feel loopy and out of it. This obviously doesn’t aid in recovery of depression, and it can kill you. Using anything to numb the pain is dangerous, whether it’s prescription meds, drugs or alcohol. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, please reach out to your doctor.

6. Dissociates – I just wrote a blog abut this, check it out here. Dissociation is common to those who have depression. It’s one way the mind copes with too much stress or trauma. Experiences of dissociation last hours or days. That feeling that I’m detached from my body is why I like to binge eat or take pills — it’s just a feeling of escape. It doesn’t happen often with me, but I totally understand why.

7. Doesn’t eat enough or eats too much – I have Binge Eating Disorder, where I eat until I’m uncomfortably or painfully full but don’t purge. Overeating like that isn’t much different from me abusing medication — I just want to feel “good” for awhile. The problem with bingeing is that I only temporarily feel good. The aftermath and effects are terrible, but I seem to forget this when I’m bingeing.

8. Snaps at loved ones – Sometimes anxiety can manifest as anger or rage. I didn’t know that until recently. When I start snapping at my husband or yelling at the kids, I know it’s my “check engine” light coming on and I need to take a break or practice self-care.

9. Overthinks – This is called rumination, and it’s hard to stop. I’ll get a thought in my head or replay a scenario and think about it for hours, even days. It’s hard to control, and it causes me to feel shame and guilt. Believe me, I don’t need anymore of those.

10. Worries too much about the future – Sometimes I’ll get caught up on the future. I’ll worry excessively about it (and even ruminate), even though I know it’s irrational to do so. Mainly, I’ll think about finances or my husband dying. It’s unpleasant and just causes more anxiety. This is also hard to control.

Any others you can think of? Leave them in the comments.