Category:

Depression

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It’s My Birthday

by Heather Loeb
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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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I was on the phone today with a friend who had just read one of my blogs about core beliefs. Without getting into all the details, my friend thanked me for being vulnerable, but at the time, I couldn’t really remember what the blog was about.

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So I re-read it.

Wow, I thought. I put my deepest, darkest secrets in my blog including that deep down I don’t think I’m good enough. That I’m fat and lazy and worthless. Why didn’t I remember this blog? I re-read it again. Then again. I grabbed a notebook, wrote my negative core beliefs down (not good enough, fat/ugly, lazy and a bad mom) and started “looking” for evidence that they were true but couldn’t come up with anything.

There was one belief that seemed to hold more water than the others. The “fact” I think I’m fat and ugly. That it’s bad to be fat. And honestly, I laughed. My first thought was “so what if I’m fat?” Then it evolved into “fat is something that I have, not what I am, which is exactly what I tell my daughter. I’m overweight according to the BMI chart but barely. I guess it would matter if I were unhealthy and overweight, but I’m not. I’m healthyish.

Why is there so much stigma attached to being fat? Ugh, I hate that word. Like I said, fat isn’t (shouldn’t be) something we are. And if that’s the “worst” problem I have, my life is pretty good. And it is…really good. Who wouldn’t want to be me? I have everything I need — a great support system, good physical health, means to take care of my mental health conditions, a beautiful home and a kickass therapist. I’m grateful for everything I have. Does that mean I cant complain or vent? Hell no. I still deserve to hold space for myself.

Let me address another core belief: I’m lazy. I started to jot down all the ways I’m not lazy then stopped. I am lazy sometimes. My car stays messy, as does my desk and work space. I have crap everywhere, and most of the time I don’t care to change that. But that’s okay. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s not hurting anyone. This core belief came directly from my childhood so it’s deeply ingrained. But it doesn’t matter? I don’t need to change this part of myself, I just need to acknowledge and accept the fact that I am. Really, who the fuck cares? It’s no reflection of my character; it’s not a flaw.

I realize now that I’m more than these thoughts. I’m more than my mistakes and worst moments. I’m complex, but I am love. I’m beautiful, even with my flaws and illnesses. Especially because I’m flawed. I couldn’t do what I do without them.

What would I write about if this weren’t the case? How boring that would be?

I love what I do. I’ve learned to be vulnerable. I’m brave — I put my weight in the newspaper, and I confessed my darkest secrets on my blog. I help people. I lend my voice to others’ pain and give them permission to feel what they feel and share their experience. That’s huge. I’m not tryin to toot my own horn. I only want to honor my journey, which has been dark and so taxing. And it’s still not over. I’ll battle depression and anxiety my whole life. My eating disorder, too.

Yet I’m free. I’m so damn free, and it feels so good. I’m not a prisoner to everything bad in my life. By talking about my issues, I shine a light on them, ridding them of shame (which always lurks in the dark). I’m learning to love myself, despite my mental health conditions. I don’t fit the mold, no.

But I don’t want to.

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In therapy this week I talked about how I’ve been bingeing and overeating and how it felt like there was no end in sight. I felt there was an elephant in the room, that maybe it was time for another ECT (It has been awhile). But my therapist said she didn’t think that was a sign I needed one or a symptom of depression.

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She said it was a message, then went on to say that a lot of people think having an eating disorder is about control, but it’s not. She asked me what I thought and immediately I said comfort. She nodded her head.

I don’t remember the first time I binged, but I know I did it because I wanted to be comforted. That a heavy problem was looming, and I didn’t know how to sit with my feelings, instead eating until I couldn’t breathe so I could feel something other than scared or uncomfortable. It helped me then. I didn’t know it would turn into the beast that it is now, but a beast it is.

So now I wonder…why do I need comfort? Why am I seeking it in the wrong way?

I was hoping my therapist would give me the answers, but she didn’t. She told me it was up to me to figure that out. But really I have no clue. My best guess is that I wanted comfort after spending time with my parents for Christmas and having to leave earlier than I wanted. I’ve lived away from them for more than a decade, and it never gets easier leaving them.

But it has been three weeks since I was there. Do I really need that much comforting — three weeks’ worth?

What else is going on? As I’m writing this I remember the fact that my mother-in-law is still out of town. She usually takes the kids on the weekend so I can get a break, and I just haven’t had one in about five weeks. That could be a contributing factor. I’m used to taking breaks, but it just hasn’t happened. Thankfully, she’s coming home this weekend.

Is that it? Sigh. I just don’t know.

I’m going to meditate on it while the kids are at school and see if I can come up with any other answers. Until then the only thing I can do is do what I feel I need to do to survive. If that means overeating, I understand it. I don’t condone it, but I do understand survival. That’s what my life has been about for the past few years.

But I know it’s time to live, not just survive.

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This month my son will be evaluated for ADHD, as previously mentioned. We filled out Vanderbilt forms and the pediatrician said the forms were suggestive for ADHD, but my husband wants a formal diagnosis from a psychologist, which is understandable. My son is only 5.

I’ve had a lot of time to ponder this situation. I won’t lie, when Eli’s teacher first suggested he has ADHD I felt so guilty. I just knew it was my fault somehow. I went home after our parent-teacher conference and googled whether there’s a link between mothers having mood disorders and kids with ADHD. And there is.

But I don’t think that’s helpful. It doesn’t matter that there’s a link or that it runs in my family or anything else. It’s not my “fault.” It’s just something he may have, like I have depression and anxiety. Will we have to adjust some things if he has it? Yes. We’ll do behavioral therapy and look into medication if the doctor suggests it. We’ll do what we need to do to make sure he’s on equal footing with his peers. He’ll be in Kindergarten next year and testing for the gifted and talented school, so we’ll help him with that, too.

Still it’s hard not feel guilty, but there’s nothing to feel guilty about. This isn’t something I did to him — nothing is wrong with him. He’s not broken or flawed. He’s my beautiful, sweet, bright boy who loves to laugh and cuddle with his mama.

I’ve always considered my various mental conditions as an albatross around my neck. But I don’t want Eli to feel that way about his possible diagnosis. Everyone has something, whether it’s anxiety, depression, addiction, problems at home, etc. We’re all dealing with some sort of issue or problem. Such is life.

That’s why we need to be kind and compassionate — you never know what someone is going through. We’re all in the thicket, and we all need support

I’ll be there for Eli, and we’ll navigate this diagnosis together.

It’s nothing more than a bump in the road, but we can do hard thing

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I’ll admit it: I yell at my kids. I don’t like to and don’t mean to, but holy hell it’s hard not to lose it when they’re fighting, whining and screaming at me. Yes, they yell, too. I don’t like that either.

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I’ll tell them something three or four times, and when they don’t listen, that’s when I raise my voice. But I don’t mean to pin my problem on them. I don’t think I should be yelling as much, and as loud, as I do.

Research shows that yelling and harsh verbal discipline can have similar negative effects as corporal punishment, according to MedicineNet. Children who are constantly yelled at are more likely to have behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, stress, and other emotional issues, similar to children who are hit or spanked frequently.

I don’t want to do that to my kids, but why is it so hard for me to not yell? My husband never yells. It pisses me off, although I do acknowledge that the kids are around me more, and they don’t treat us the same way. Why is that? I have so many questions but not a lot of answers when it comes to parenting. Especially when I consider that I’m parenting with several mental conditions. It’s hard and my depression and anxiety often dictate how I parent. I feel so out of control.

At times it seems I’m more frustrated with myself than them, and that’s not fair. And sometimes they cry after I yell, and that breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. I always apologize, but I fear the damage has been done. I talk to my therapist (who also works with children), and she helps me with parenting issues, but it never feels like enough. I’m not enough, not when it comes to my kids.

All I can do is just try not to yell. Practice my breathing when they throw a tantrum or are fighting. I used to count to 10 before I responded in those situations, but my short fuse can make me snap at anything. I can step away from the problem, start acknowledging my triggers and find solutions to them. I’ll do my best to talk with them about bad behavior instead of responding with fury. All this is easier said than done, but I’m desperate to try.

And I’m desperate that they don’t develop depression or anxiety over something I’m doing. They’re already genetically prone to mental conditions (on both sides of the family), so I refuse to take a part in causing it myself.

I can’t stop thinking about their faces when I’ve yelled. I hope I’m only imagining the fear in their eyes. I pray that the good in me as a mom outweighs the bad.

A lot of parents feel like they’re failing when it comes to their kids. We just have to do our best and remember that we’re not raising kids, we’re raising healthy adults.

There’s nothing I want more than for my kids to be healthy adults because I’m not one. Even at almost 38 years old. Even after a stint at a psychiatric hospital. Bad habits and behavior are hard to change, and if you don’t do it early, it’ll be so much worse as an adult. Trust me.

But I can do this. I can do hard things. And I start now. Day 1.

Short-term effects of yelling at your kids

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Behavioral problems (for example, boys are more likely to lose self-control, and girls may react with anger or frustration)
  • Withdrawal from the parent

If you want the long term effects, go here.
Source: MedicineNet

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It has been awhile since I last post, but I traveled to Mabank for Christmas, and we just got back. Our Christmas was great, and I loved spending time with my parents. The kids loved their gifts, and I loved mine, too.

We didn’t do anything for New Year’s Eve, and I didn’t even make it to midnight. Oh well. I’m looking forward to this year, but I didn’t make any resolutions — I never stick to them, and I think it’s a little silly to assume that I’m a new person just because of the New Year. But that’s just me. I have goals and intentions, so I’ll just stick to those. They include working out (for endorphins)

It has been pretty stressful having the kids home so I’m so excited that school starts back up on Monday. I need to get back into my routine for my mental health’s sake.

That’s it for now. I hope your holidays were good, and I wish you a healthy and happy New Year.

Stay in the light.

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As Christmas approaches, a lot of us are spending time with old friends and family, which can be stressful for anyone.

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I checked in with one friend who traveled to Texas for Christmas, and even though she was around her sisters and her parents, she felt left out. They still treated her like a child, she said. It was like they could only see her as a bratty teenager, a role she has long abandoned.

I can understand that. Not about the teenager thing, but I feel with some people who have known me for a long time see only a past version of myself and don’t see or acknowledge that I’ve grown.

It feels like I’ve grown a lot, especially in the past three years. I’m not even the same person I was last Wednesday, and I think that’s fine. But it can be disappointed when someone gets stuck on who you were. An example (I admit it’s not the greatest example) is a comment a family member made about me being a picky eater. I was puzzled when the comment was made and later I asked my husband if I was a picky eater. I remember being one as a child but not so much now. A better example might be when another family member prefaced her statements with, “OK, try not to fly of the handle when I tell you this…”

I thought it was weird. I don’t usually get overly emotional or irritated when people tell me things, contrary to what my husband might say. I took the news just fine — it was nothing to get emotional about.

But that’s what I’m talking about. Maybe years (previous Heathers) before I would’ve gotten upset, but not now. Maybe my growth isn’t apparent to others, but I definitely know it’s there. My therapist would agree with that, for sure. I’ve come a long way, and I work hard to be emotionally healthy. Especially since returning from the psychiatric hospital. Before I didn’t take care of myself. I was about instant gratification, doing things that I thought felt good (binge eating, cutting, abusing meds, etc). I was suicidal, but didn’t take my meds regularly or even attend therapy often. I ended up being a sick, miserable version of myself, and it was hard to swallow who I was.

That person wasn’t bad, necessarily. It was just I was then. I was doing my best to survive, and I think it’s important to appreciate that. Sometimes we have to go through things like that to grow; I’m just glad I came out of it healthier. Now I’m a better wife, mom, friend, daughter, etc.

Maybe I should’ve pointed out my growth to those family members, but then again, I’m not growing for them. This is about me. I’m proud of who I am and the 796 previous versions of me.

So if you’re spending time this week with loved ones who have known you for a long time, give them a little grace. And be sure you’re not judging them for who they used to be, too. It’s easy for me to list my limitations, but when it comes to others, I don’t always acknowledge theirs, or their growth. I (you) should be present and get to know them as who they are now, not who I think they should be or want them to be. Read that again.

I hope y’all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I can’t wait to see who I grow to be this coming year.

As always, stay in the light.

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Recently I went to a fundraiser for a local politician. While my husband and I were there, many people commented how they liked my column, blog and videos I make for Mental Health Monday. I joked with my husband (a former city councilman) that I was now more popular than he was.

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It felt good to be recognized for something I absolutely love doing. But when I went home that night, after we had dinner, I binged on junk food: chips, chocolate and candy.

The next day at therapy I told my therapist how good it felt to be praised, and she replied, “Did you sabotage it in some way?” She already knew. I nodded with tears in my eyes.

We explored it some, but I already knew where it was headed — to the core belief that I’m not good enough.

I don’t know why or how it started, but it has been difficult to fight. It’s lodged way deep down inside me and seems to drive my depression, anxiety, eating disorder and compulsive shopping. My therapist said that turning to things like binge eating or spending money is just me compensating for all I feel I lack.

She said it’s almost like I’m trying to get away with being a good person, a worthy one who is accomplishments — that it’s all a façade. And then I punish myself for feeling good or happy with myself by repeating self-destructive behaviors.

It’s so dangerous to live this way, to be ruled by a negative core belief that dictates how you live yourself, because let’s face it, that’s exactly what they do. You form a core belief by lived experiences, childhood, what others say about you and any assumptions you pick up along the way. They are embedded in our thinking and shape our actions. I would argue that nothing is more important or influential to your development than a core belief. They can be empowering, or they can limit you. If they’re limiting they can keep you from reaching your full potential and affect your relationships with other people.

So, obviously not all of them are positive. I didn’t grow up with mean parents and while I was picked on a bit during childhood so I don’t understand how I ended up like this. I realize it’s not a life sentence — you can refute and change core beliefs — but I’m learning that it’s very hard and even when you think you’ve made progress, you often move backward. Negative thinking can hinder your efforts. That’s hard to change, too.

What I’ve started doing is keep a list of what I believe are my core beliefs:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m lazy and worthless
  • I’m fat and ugly. It’s bad to be fat
  • I’m a bad mom

This is hard for me to write because these are my deepest, darkest secrets — my fears and insecurities and what I try to hide from people who get to know me. But I feel like I must come clean to heal. I know I’m not the only one who believes they’re not good enough and then practices self-sabotage. I can’t be alone. Am I alone?

The only thing I know to do is debunk these statements with evidence. And to replace each negative belief with a positive one.

Instead of “I’m not good enough,” maybe I use “I am a good person, and I am enough.” No evidence exists proving otherwise. Despite any shortcomings I may have, I’m still enough and I believe G-d made me to be exactly who I am.

I’m worthy because I try to be a good person and do good in the world. Not because I’m David Loeb’s wife, Isla and Eli’s mom, etc. I’m worthy because I myself am worthy. I’m deserving of being worthy.

I believe you are, too.

I know that ugly thoughts collect in the dark corners of my brain, and maybe that’s just part of who I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe them. I know enough to know that my brain is a liar. Depression is a liar. And anxiety, too.

It’s kind of scary to admit your brain doesn’t always tell the truth because how are you supposed to know the difference between reality and its lies? It’s terrifying.

But if your brain is telling you negative things about yourself, such as you’re not worthy, it’s time to reassess. Nobody deserves hearing that. Nobody deserves to believe it.

Write it all down. Back it up with evidence. If you can’t find the evidence, it’s likely not true. Talk to your family and friends. Replace all the negative with positive. Start with baby steps. I realize this is easier said than done, but just know that I’m right there with you. Sometimes our brains tell us to do something to survive, but it can be wrong.

Maybe we should stop merely surviving and start living.

We can do this. We can do hard things. We are worthy of love and acceptance, even from ourselves

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