Category:

Depression

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I started a new preventive migraine medication about a week and a half ago (Topamax), and it has not gone smoothly. It’s an older pill, with a lot of side effects. I’ve been on it quite a few times before but have never experienced this many effects.

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First, there’s how carbonated beverages tasting like crap. Fine, who really cares? Then there’s indigestion – another slight annoyance. Then my eye constantly twitching. Also, I can’t sweat when my body temperature rises (say, when I’m doing karate) so I have to take lots of breaks and drink A LOT of water. More annoying. There’s major fatigue and tiredness (I took five naps in one day). Brain fog. Memory loss. My thinking is very slowed. Diarrhea. Oh, and there’s a weird taste in my mouth. Fine.

None of this would matter to me if I hadn’t just have started karate. I started training because I thought it was cool watching my kids. I wanted it for me. I was pumped. I wanted to be physically fit. Then I had to switch to this medicine. I lost my confidence. How was I supposed to tell my instructors — hey I can’t sweat so I have to leave the floor to suck down water every five seconds on top of hey I have retrograde amnesia and also I can’t retain a lot of new information so I need to do private lessons, too. I got issues. And those issues are only mine, I’m sure. But I’ve always hated having them. Some of of exclusion keeping me from being like the others. Keeping me from being healthy — that’s what it is. I’ve always hated hearing, “OMG, you’re so unhealthy. You take too many pills. You’re too young to be this way, etc. “

Cringe.

But I tried to keep my instructors up to date. I tried explaining the best I could. I tried to hang in there until I couldn’t possible go any more. I took my water breaks then got back in there. I wanted to more, yes. But I did enough, and sometimes, that’s what it takes.

That’s what it took yesterday when I earned my first stripe on my white belt. It was not given. It was earned, and I truly feel that way. I have loved getting every bruise on my body. I’ve loved every self-defense move. I’ve loved practicing every round kick (which I’ll continue to do). This is for me. And even though my kids were there (supposed) to be watching me, this was for me. I’m proud of me. But tell you the truth, I could have done without them saying, “Mommy is soooo slow.” or “Mommy is not doing that right.”

I did it the way I was taught and I did it to the best of my abilities. And I could totally kick both their asses, should it come to that. Totally kidding.

Another cool thing is that I see and feel my body changing. I’m getting stronger. I’m trying to condition every day — not to lose weight — but to make my training easier. It’s just going to get harder from here. I like the way it’s changing….how I’m changing. Physically and mentally.

If I can do all that I’m doing plus get a stripe while taking the medication from hell, my depressed, anxious, column-writing, retrograde amnesiac, migraine-having, no-sweating, no-Diet Coke-tasting ass can do anything.

Bring it.

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I was hanging out at my desk this morning, waiting on a Zoom meeting to start. I pulled out one of my drawers, just looking around when I saw my Wellness & Relapse Prevention Plan from the Menninger Clinic on top of some papers. I wrote this plan before I left the psychiatric hospital, as everybody does. It’s mandatory before leaving. I was at Menninger for six long weeks, and I was ready. I couldn’t remember what was inside, so I took a gander.

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It started off by saying that triggers and warning signs of relapse will occur, but by preparing the best we can could help prevent another relapse or depressive episode. It urged you to be honest in your answers, share it with you loved ones and refer to it often. It was in question and answer form.

It covered areas of wellness such as Emotional Wellness, Relationships, Physical Health, Work/School, Spirituality, Financial, Leisure, Self-Awareness/Insight and Addiction Management. It asked what did I look like or act like when I looked healthy in all the areas I just mentioned. Under Physical Health I put that I would exercise, eat healthy, stop drinking Diet Coke, not use food as a coping mechanism, I’d have good hygiene habits, and that I’d appreciate my body for what it is. Sounds good, right?

Then I skipped to my Core Problems, my deepest, darkest secrets. I listed all my diagnoses: Persistent Depressive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder. I listed the negative thoughts that too often cross my mind: I’m a bad mom and wife; I’m a burden to my family; I’ll never be good enough; and I’m worthless.

Next I wrote about short and long-term goals I had socially, emotionally, spiritually and physically. For example, for the social goal, I wanted to volunteer for my kids’ school book fair in the following September (I left the hospital in August). Long term I wanted to have a girls’ night at Alamo Drafthouse every month.

I did the book fair (and met a really good friend!) — I was actually in charge of it that year — and the girls’ nights were at least every other month if not every month.

But other things like, “take a daily walk around the neighborhood, go on a healthier diet, go to the gym three times a week, make an effort to go to the synagogue more often,” things like that didn’t become a habit. Not because they aren’t important, but because life happened when I stepped off those hospital groups. I had a four- and two-year-old to take care of. I had to figure out how to be a healthy me — a wife me, a mom me, a friend me, a daughter me and a me me — in just a few hours a day I had to myself. I had just begun blogging, and I knew that I wanted to write, but I was still lost and overwhelmed with all the working parts I was supposed to incorporate into my “new” life.

But, as I look as this wellness plan, I see that a lot of the goals on here I’ve hit. I may have done it in a number of years or taken a different approach, but I still made it. I still go to therapy every week (every other week now because my therapist says I don’t have to come weekly anymore). I am healthier. I work out each week. I eat a healthier diet. I volunteer. I have my own column in the Caller-Times. And that did not come easily. I monitor my self-talk. I check in with friends.

And get this: I can ask for help. I can say, “can you take this off my plate, please?” and not feel the slightest guilt about it.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was filling out that Wellness Plan. I didn’t know what challenges would occur or how hard it would be. I just knew it would be hard. Real hard.

But was nothing compared to hitting rock bottom and being sent to a hospital, away from your friends, husband and children (and other family).

I would’ve never dreamed I’d be this happy. I still have bad days; we all do. That just makes the good ones all the more sweet.

Here is a summary of my strengths from my Wellness Plan:

“I’m grateful for my kids. I’m a good writer. I’m grateful for my husband. I’m compassionate and empathetic. I’m a good friend. My cherished moments include both of my children and my wedding. I have more work to do here.”

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Limitations

by Heather Loeb

Before I realized I was out of survival mode and truly in recovery, I would always say to myself, “I have limitations.” And it was true, and maybe still is, but in the past few days I’ve noticed that I have moved past certain “limitations.” Some of physical barriers.

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For instance, I had a private karate lesson with my karate instructor on Friday. We have a test for a stripe next week, and I wasn’t feeling confident. It’s hard for me to keep up in class because there are so many people in there — beginners and advanced — and I just wanted to make sure I had everything down. I practiced my kicks and the mitt drills. I felt strong, and I’m truly looking forward to the test.

When I got home, I practiced my kicks on my punching bag, but it’s a little awkward because of it’s shape. I really have to pull my kicks high to strike. I digress. After that I wanted to work on my push-ups. I have very little upper body strength, only able to do push-ups on my knees. And barely able to do that. So I did that. And I did some against the wall. I figure I need to be doing push-ups every single day until I can do them on my toes.

The old, depressed Heather would never have cared about that, never would’ve challenged herself in anyway. So after the wall push-ups, I did some light weight lifting.

I then worked on my abs. Lately my abs have been on fire. I put my hands under my back and bottom and lifted my legs, I did the Superman pose, and finally, I wanted to try a sit up. I stalled awhile before attempting it because it has been years since I’d even tried. It was a daunting task. And I have limitations, right?

I tucked my feet under the couch and breathed in. I exhaled, pulled my ab muscles in, coming all the way up to my knees.

I DID IT!

I tried to do it again, but no dice. That’s okay. You gotta start somewhere. Really, you just gotta start. And that’s what I have done. I’m super excited to see where this takes me.

I love karate, and I feel stronger every class. Actually, I felt beat down after the last class, and I have the bruises to prove it, but I’m better than the class before.

I hate to quote Kanye, but I’m really harder, better, faster, stronger. One sit up, one lap, one round kick at a time.

Limitations can’t hold you back if you don’t let them.

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This past week went pretty well, other than me catching a bad cold. The most exciting thing that happened was that I started karate. I took two classes last week, and even though I’m sore, I’m super pumped for the classes this week. After attending the second karate class, I realized something pretty huge: I’ve come through to the other side of depression. I’m officially in recovery. I’ve made it. I know that I could fall into another depressive episode, but I have to make hay when the sun shines.

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The old Heather couldn’t do much. She couldn’t even shower regularly. She was limited. She would’ve never tried a karate class because it’s intimidating, and it means she has to show up. I’ve convinced myself that I don’t stick to things (like a gym membership), but that’s the old Heather, too. The new Heather likes the challenge — she can do hard things. I can’t wait to see what I can accomplish. But I won’t lie, I do hate warming up in karate because I haven’t worked out in so long. I turn bright red and sweat. I’m also pretty slow. BUT you have to start somewhere. It won’t be that way for long.

I’m proud of myself. I’ve come so far, and it has been nothing but hard work. I have my weak moments, but for the most part I’m walking on sunshine.

I’ll still have to work…and work hard. But it’ll get easier. I’ll likely be in recovery for the rest of my life, but if this is how it feels, I’m good with that.

I hope you guys have a great week. Here’s hoping I do!

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I don’t know if it’s the motion of repetitive chewing or the first delectable bites that set my taste buds on fire. Sometimes it starts with, “I deserve a treat,” even when I’ve indulged myself multiple times throughout that day. Sometimes it happens because I’m alone (rare), which in my eyes, is always a time to celebrate. Maybe I just need comfort…but at every meal?

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I don’t understand my binge eating. I mean, I do to an extent. I know it’s a behavior I learned that once served a purpose but doesn’t necessarily work for me now. One book I read said that the binge urges come from your “primitive brain,” meaning the lower brain, my limbic system. That part of the brain is supposed to warn you of danger — the part of the brain that would kick off your flight, fight or freeze responses.

Except I’m not being preyed on. But I am in danger. I always am when I binge.

I keep thinking what I need comfort from. My life is good, so good. I still struggle with depression, anxiety, and of course with binge eating. But I have no complaints about the life I’m living. Just the other day I realized how far I’ve come since being hospitalized in 2019. I went to a karate class, for heaven’s sake, when just a few years ago I couldn’t get out of bed or shower.

So what is my problem? Is it habit? I’ve read all kinds of books on bingeing, but I couldn’t tell you one thing I really learned because of my bad memory.

I started karate because I thought it would be fun, that I would learn self-discipline and honor my body by making it stronger. Maybe I should start asking myself before I eat if what I’m eating honors my body? But will that work? I seem to lack rationale before a binge, so will I even care if it doesn’t honor my body in the moment?

I hate the way I feel after a binge. My body is so heavy, my belly so full. I’m sluggish, and then the guilt comes in, followed by shame. I watch the numbers go up on the scale, then quickly turn away from the results it shows. I shove that pain down and go about my day then daydream about what I’m going to eat the next couple of meals. Actually, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to eat. I think nonstop of food, which I know isn’t normal. One of my best friends told me she never thinks of food, it’s just fuel to her body. Why can’t I think like that?

I’m hoping that karate will push me to the edge and make me jump far away from binge eating and overeating. I have to be in shape. I can’t keep gaining the same 30 pounds. I want to be strong, for my body to be strong. I want to be example to my kids.

Throwing away the “bad” food in the house isn’t enough. It has to come from inside. But it has to be now — I’m not doing my body any favors by doing this. I don’t want to die young. I want to lead a healthy life.

I want to lead a healthy life.

Looks like I’ll be digging deep with my therapist next week. There’s some reason I’m doing this. If it’s not my depression, it’s my anxiety. If it’s not my anxiety, it’s my eating disorder. Now that I have depression and anxiety taken care of (for the most part), my eating is out of control. I picture myself on a large ship on the sea (for some reason it looks like the ship in The Little Mermaid) and there are multiple holes in the wood. Big, round holes. When I plug one, the others gush, and I’m constantly patching them all day, every day.

I have work to do. It’s daunting, but I can do hard things.

I can do this.

I can be healthy.

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Just a few years ago I couldn’t get out of bed. I was consumed with depression and anxiety. I lied to my husband about being sick or having a migraine so he would take the kids to preschool for me. I couldn’t take regular showers or brush my teeth. I spent as much as my energy as I could on the kids, leaving me running on fumes.

I abused my anxiety medication, taking six to seven pills instead of the one or two I was prescribed. I binged on unhealthy foods, seeking comfort where I could. But it wasn’t real, just temporary, and after the binge was over I felt nothing but guilt and shame.

I was suicidal, and at one point, had a plan to die by suicide. The pain was relentless. My own brain betrayed me, telling me I should die, that I wasn’t worthy, and I would never feel better. My psychiatrist told me I had treatment-resistant depression and said most medications wouldn’t work. He didn’t offer any plans, solutions or other therapies. I didn’t think I would live to see my children grow up.

It was bad.

I was hospitalized in 2019 for all the aforementioned symptoms. I was there for only six weeks, but it still felt life-changing. I got on different meds, I did intensive counseling, I took classes on how to cope with my many diagnoses. I also started electroconvulsive therapy, which probably saved my life.

After I left the hospital it felt like I was walking on eggshells…or a minefield. I quickly realized that I would never be “cured.” This would be a lifelong journey for me, and that’s okay. I’ve accepted that.

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Fast forward a few years and here I am with my blog, with a column in the local newspaper, and I’m the Communications Manager for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi. I eat, sleep and breathe mental health, but in a good way. I share my story and hopefully help others who can’t be so open about their struggles.

I’ve become stronger. Just the fact that I’m able to look outside myself and try to do something helpful is a sign that I’m on the road to recovery. A long, hard road but one I’ve started on nonetheless.

What really strikes me as amazing is that I tried out a karate class. Last summer my kids started karate at Life Martial Arts, and I immediately fell in love with it. I toyed around with the idea of taking a class myself, but was too scared. Two days ago I did my first class and fell in love. Tonight’s class was harder but rewarding. I didn’t want to start karate as a way to lose weight or exercise, but I want my body to be stronger. I want to accept it as is right this minute, and I want to honor it. I also want self-discipline. Discipline is a huge part of karate (as I’ve learned through my kids’ classes), and something that has always eluded me.

When I came home from class tonight I was beaming. I know I’ve only had two classes, but that’s not the point. This means that I am physically and mentally healthy enough to do something that was completely healthy and fulfilling. I’m doing something for my self (#selfcare). I can still do hard things even though I’m 38 (still youngish).

I can do hard things.

I can put in the work to be healthy.

I can be in recovery from depression (and all the other disorders).

I can be happy.

There will be bad days, even in recovery, but look what I’ve already been through. I’ve come so far, and I’m so close to accepting myself and treating myself well.

But there will be good days, too. Like today.

Today my legs are jello after karate class, and my abs on fire. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

It’s nothing in comparison to the joy in my heart.

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Last week was a tough one. I had an intractable migraine and had to go to the hospital to be treated. It threw my whole week off, and it was a very busy week. I had four events to go to, and I usually hate going to events, but not this week. This past week I wanted to be at each one (mental health forum, karate graduation, fundraiser and NAMI meet and greet). But I still was a little off because of the time in the hospital and trying to get back into my routine during the week.

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This week, I’m hoping, is more peaceful. I don’t have as much to do, and I’m looking forward to a couple things, such as attending an adult karate class for me. I’m also excited about training I have to do over the weekend to become a support group facilitator for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi. I’m also getting my braces off! I’m sure there are other things to look forward to, but I can’t think of anything right now.

Right now, I’m struggling with the Sunday Night Blues. I always get a little anxious on Sundays in anticipation of the week, but it’s more than a little anxiety. Sometimes it depression, a sense of overwhelming and impending doom. The question that’s bouncing in my head right now about this is, “what happens when you do your best and your best is not good enough?”

To me, that sounds depressing. I didn’t exactly do everything I needed to do last week to be healthy because I was sick, but I was pretty close. So why do I feel the way I’m feeling now? I take my meds, I go to therapy, I do support groups, I get enough sleep, go to doctors appointments, etc. I walk the line to be healthy but am I? It doesn’t feel like it. Right now, it feels like depression is slipping in the backdoor and tears crowd my eyes as I think about it. What if I walk the line, and it’s still not good enough?

But then I think…maybe the depression wins sometimes, but it’s mostly I who is winning. There will be bad days, just as there are good days, and I’ve had a large amount of good days lately. I’m thankful. But I’d be lying if I weren’t looking in the rear view mirror waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It’s just the Sunday Night Blues. That’s all. My week will be good. I will start each day in recovery, one more step from the dark place I used to live in.

It’ll be okay. It always is.
Does anything else get the SNB?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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