In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I hope y’all are doing well. It’s been awhile since I posted an update, so here goes. First of all, I want to wish everyone who celebrates a Happy Easter. We’re Jewish but we still do an Easter egg hunt and the Easter Bunny drops off goodies in their baskets.

This past week was a little trying for me. I’ve had an ECT appointment scheduled for next week, which is the eight-week mark. I really thought I could push past eight weeks but I’ve noticed I’m more irritable and my temper is shorter than normal, so I should probably just do it. It’s hard for me to admit that I need one because I hate them so much. I really dislike going under anesthesia; it makes me anxious and scared. My pulse quickens and my blood pressure goes higher than normal, and I have to use all the strength I have not to start bawling and begging to get me out of there. I know it doesn’t make sense — I’ve had almost 30 treatments, and I’ve never had a bad experience. But that’s just how it is. Anyway, I’ll try not to focus on that this week; I’ll just think how much better I’m going to feel and what a difference it’ll make.

In other news, tomorrow (Monday), one of my latest columns will be printed in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. They’re letting me write some more mental health columns, and I’m hoping it turns into a regular columnist job — it would be a dream of mine. So if you’re not too busy, go to Caller.com tomorrow and check it out.

That’s it for now. I hope you guys have a happy, healthy week.

Stay in the light.

I Hate Asking For Help – Guest Blog

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog, written by a dear friend. If you’re interested in being a guest blogger, please email me at heatherannloeb@gmail.com

I hate asking for help.

Which is what makes dealing with stress, anxiety and depression even worse. We all hear help is out there. That all we need to do is ask. I have made these same sentiments countless times.

Yet, I hate asking.

Some might think it’s out of pride, that I don’t want to be seen as weak. Others assume that I’m Wonder Woman and act envious or surprised about how I have it all together.

I wish it was that simple. I wish I had it all together.

No, it’s more about the feeling of betrayal.

By no means am I the best: friend, sister, or even mother out there. I have never claimed to be and never will. Yet, I know in my heart that when I can, I help my loved ones even in the smallest ways.

When they’re sick, or injured I check in. I may not always say the right thing or give the best advice. A lot of the time I probably don’t even say what they want to hear.

But I show up. At least I think I do. I did. Hell, maybe I don’t anymore. Maybe that’s why at the end of the day I don’t ask for help.

I don’t ask because it always feels like anytime I do ask, there isn’t a helping hand.

So instead I usually stay silent. I continue to suffer and drown in my own pain because in my experience.

It’s easier than being ignored or brushed off.

It’s easier than being told, “It will get better.”

It’s easier than being told, “Maybe…”

It’s easier than being let down again and again by my loved ones.

It’s easier to put on the fake smiles and forced laughs.

I recognize to some this sounds like a pity party. But when you’re the one who is always seen as the one who has it together, or the one who can be relied on, it’s hard to ask for help because you’re the one who is supposed to be doing the helping.

I also know full well that others can’t always help. They have their own lives. Their own problems. Which makes me hate asking for help even more.

I’ve Gained 26 Pounds

Last Friday I had an ECT treatment. I hadn’t been there in four weeks, so they asked to weight me (to calculate how much anesthesia I get). Usually, I avoid the scale. The number shouldn’t matter to me, but it does. Big time. I looked down after I stepped on the scale, and I was shocked. I’ve gained 26 pounds since the pandemic — 26 POUNDS! I’m almost 200 pounds, which I swore to myself I’d never be again. I mean, who has weight loss surgery and doesn’t lose the weight? Me, apparently.

I have all the reasons in the world to lose weight and be healthy, mainly my kids. I want them to see me be healthy so that they can be healthy. I want to lose the weight because I want to live a long time. It would benefit my mental health greatly if I maintained a healthy lifestyle. But I don’t.

Even after my ECT, while feeling happy and more stable, I had the intense urge to overeat and binge. And I did. The ECT is supposed to reset my brain. Last week, I was so depressed and even had suicidal ideation, so I needed the ECT. But the ECT can only take me so far. I’m responsible for making health decisions for myself. And I need to hold myself accountable. At some point, I have to make the effort to be healthy without expecting something or someone else to help me.

I don’t know what drives me to overeat or binge. It sort of makes sense when there’s conflict in my life, and I feel the need to be comforted by food. But right now, there’s no conflict in my life. There’s no logical reason for me to shove food in my face. It bothers me so much that I don’t know why I binge, and I’m not sure it would even help if I did know. It’s just frustrating. And I know it’s a hard time because of the pandemic, but we’re not getting back to any kind of “normal” I know any time soon. So, it has to be now. I have to make changes now. But honestly, I don’t know if I will. I don’t know what it will take.

I bought a treadmill that will be delivered this week. I bought a food journal to help me track my water and meals. I have a brand new pair of running shoes to use for exercise. Conditions are favorable for change. My brain, my stubborn brain, is the only thing holding me back. Even now, as I’m typing this, I want to eat, to be comforted. To lose myself in the taste and texture of something delicious. I fear my urge to escape the real world will be permanent, as it manifests in other ways, too like abusing my anxiety meds. And again, I don’t know why or what I’m trying to escape. I have a great life — better than most — and I’m so grateful for everyone in my life and everything I have. So, I really can’t tell you why I want to escape.

At one time, I thought it was emotional pain that was holding back — trauma from my past. But I feel like I’ve dealt with that. I’ve talked to my therapist about it extensively. I wrote a blog about it that I will never share. I got if off my chest, but still the pain resides. At least, I think so. Why else would I be trying to fill this unrelenting void?

I so want to be able to wake up in the morning and not immediately think about what I’m going to eat. To plan my next meal, as I’m licking off my current meal’s crumbs from my lips. I live meal to meal, snack to snack, and I hate it.

I hope this week I can make changes to my daily life and incorporate healthy habits. I pray for strength and guidance. I pray for what feels like a miracle.

Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are 30 million Americans who suffer with an eating disorder. There are so many people suffering right now, who are suffering more because of the pandemic. Only 1/3 of people receive help for their eating disorder. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with nearly one person dying every hour as a direct result of their eating disorder.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone. It’s a challenging time for us, but it’ll be OK.

We will be OK.

The Personality Disorder I Didn’t Know I Had

In 2019 I went to a psychiatric hospital (The Menninger Clinic) after battling suicidal thoughts, abusing my anxiety meds and hitting a low I didn’t know was possible. For six weeks, I was away from my family, which is almost as painful as fighting depression and anxiety.

While I was there, I was assigned a psychiatrist, social worker, therapist and a psychologist. I underwent many psychiatric tests and was taken off all my psychiatric medications. It was rough.

I knew I had major depressive disorder, because I’ve struggled with depression for almost two decades. I knew I had anxiety, because of the crippling panic attacks and intrusive thoughts – thoughts telling me I should kill myself or that my family was going to die.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder. I had never even heard of it. Avoidant Personality Disorder, which affects about 1 percent of the general population, is described as having feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy and sensitivity to negative criticism or rejection. It’s more than being shy or awkward in social situations (which I am). It makes it hard for those suffering with the disorder to interact with others and maintain relationships. It’s also common for “us” to avoid work or school, mostly because of extreme low self-esteem.

It was hard hearing this new diagnosis. For one, I already felt saddled by depression and anxiety. I wasn’t fond of the idea that I had this disorder, another albatross around my neck. And yet, I couldn’t deny it. Reading about the disorder was like reading from my memoir; I knew the symptoms and behavior well. I’ve always been social awkward. I avoided school like the plague, and later when I worked, I avoided that, too. I haven’t worked outside the home since 2013.

There was no denying the diagnosis. And, even though I’d probably been dealing with it since adolescence, I felt more broken because my many flaws were well documented and it was “official.”

But that’s bullshit. I was broken but not because of the diagnosis. I was broken because I had kept my struggles to myself and hadn’t reached out until it was almost too late. I was stifled by the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental disorders. The stigma and keeping my struggles to myself almost killed me.

Having depression, anxiety, a personality disorder and binge eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s what I have – not who I am.

Now, I blog about my troubles and speak freely to others about anything and everything mental health related. I’m no longer afraid of being judged. The weight of others’ opinions is far too heavy to bear.

Now, I’m free.

Reject the stigma. Be proud of the fighter that you are. Seek help if you need it. By doing so, we help eradicate the judgement and stigma. Be free with me.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, go to the nearest emergency room or call a trusted friend. You are not alone.

Radical Acceptance

I had an epiphany today. I was watching an episode of Bones where they were talking about young girls being in beauty pageants. Please note that I am not judging that — I mention it because it got me thinking about all the things girls and women go through to appear beautiful. In that episode, young girls were dyeing their hair, wearing corsets to define their waistlines and watching their weight. It depressed me, honestly. It brought back memories of being called fat when I was in the 5th grade — 5th grade, people! I should have brushed the comments off, but there were already seeds of fatphobia planted in my little head — from society, friends, family, etc. That seed grew and now is a full-blown eating disorder (Binge Eating Disorder).

I’m only 12 here, but this is when I really started to worry about my size.

My worth has been tied to my weight. The way I feel and care for myself is tied to my weight. When I’ve gained some extra pounds, I punish myself…hate myself.

I eat my feelings, which leads to more weight gain. Which fuels more self-destructive behaviors. It’s a vicious cycle. To help break it, I signed up to do one-on-one coaching on intuitive eating with my beautiful and sweet cousin, who’s a registered dietician. On our last call, she told me to get rid of the ideas of “bad foods” or “being bad” or “cheating” on a diet. There are no forbidden foods. There’s fueling your body and doing everything in moderation.

I have a lot more to learn and I’m eager to do it.

But here’s my epiphany — what if I just accept who I am? What if I give myself some grace — some compassion? What if when I gain weight, I just buy bigger clothes and focus on my health and not my caloric intake?

What if I practice radical acceptance? I learned about radical acceptance in therapy. It’s a skill or tool that can help people face painful emotions and experiences by accepting them fully WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.

This may not sound much different than a blog I previously posted about loving myself and body positivity. But the thing is, I’m still struggling and writing helps me come to terms with my feelings. And this is a topic that can’t be fully explored with one blog. Or three. Maybe 10. And that’s OK, too.

My point is that maybe I don’t think I need to focus on losing weight or looking a certain way, so much as I need to reprogram my brain. And those of you who follow me should know — my brain is a stubborn asshole. It’ll take time. So much time.

But I’m done with fatphobia, fat-shaming and all that judgement that goes along with it. I’ve had gastric sleeve surgery and a tummy tuck. Guess what? I’m still not skinny and I don’t think I’ll ever be. Why has that plagued me so much?

Why are people so afraid of being fat?

The Art of Being Uncomfortable

After MANY therapy appointments, my therapist and I have discovered that I don’t like to be uncomfortable. Of course, I’ll write about it and I’ll be the first one to tell you that real growth starts by being uncomfortable. But holy hell, I will go to great lengths in order not to feel discomfort in almost all aspects of my life.

This “ah-ha” moment came yesterday after telling my therapist that if I eat something and it gives me pleasure, I will continue to eat that thing over and over in order to feel the pleasure. I’m always chasing that high you get when your pleasure center is activated. We then jokingly decided that I would make a fantastic drug addict. Maybe not that funny but it’s true. I wasn’t far off when I started abusing my anxiety meds in 2019. I would take six or seven a night — six or seven benzodiazepines. It’s a wonder I didn’t do serious damage to myself. But I’d take all those pills so I wouldn’t feel what I was feeling. And guess what that was? Discomfort.

When I went to The Menninger Clinic, a psychiatric facility in Houston, I didn’t have any choice but to be uncomfortable. I was hundreds of miles away from family, I couldn’t abuse my meds and I was forced to come face-to-face with all my demons: depression, anxiety, a personality disorder, Binge Eating Disorder and my medication abuse problem. And when I became uncomfortable, I had no excuse but to cope with what I was feeling in a healthy way. But out of that feeling of discomfort came growth.

And as previously mentioned, personal growth can be so annoying. But necessary. I’m by no means cured of all that ails me, but coming face-to-face with my demons has forced my hand — I have to grow. I have to survive. I guess I don’t have to, but that’s what I choose. It’ll take time and practice but I’ll do the work. I’ll be freed from the bondage of mental illness that’s had such a tight hold on me for the past two decades. My liberation — I already feel it. I see it.

Here’s what I want to work on: breaking the self-destructive cycle of binge eating, being compassionate and appreciative of my body (and even my weight), being mindful all times when it comes to eating as well as identifying and experiencing my emotions. I don’t want to bury or ignore my emotions. That’s just part of being free, in my opinion.

I want to feel unencumbered, empowered, in control of all my mental disorders. And I’m hopeful that I will. I’m looking froward to the journey and I’m glad you’re along for the ride.

Stay in the light, my friends.

Painting Memories

We just moved into our dream house about a week and a half ago, a year after the contractor said it would be ready. We started packing more than a year ago, so honestly I had forgotten the contents of many, many boxes.

Once we started opening boxes in our new home, I found a box of ceramic figures our family painted at the mall. There was this cute store where you could pick out a figurine then paint it, and the kids loved it. We would have to go to that store every time we went to the mall, which was a lot.

I loved going myself, too. Painting the little figurines was calming and it was a great way to spend time as a family outside the house. Last year, when we started packing some non-essential items, my housekeeper started to pack those and I had forgotten just how many we had. I opened box after box after box of ceramics, colorfully and messily painted by my kids (and a few David and I had done). It made me smile, and I was quick to include them as decor in my sunroom. My husband didn’t want them in the Great Room (he’s more formal than I), so I placed a few here and there, just as a reminder of my kids’ whimsy.

I’m so glad I did, because I recently learned that the store, Paint It, had closed. Another victim of COVID-19. When I found out, I was crushed — I’d never see my kids concentrating so hard, with their tongues stuck out, painting a princess or some type of vehicle. Another place could open up, sure, but I’ve so missed seeing them channel their artistic ability and proudly give it to me, a cherished token.

So many things have changed because of the virus, and I’m so mad that it has affected my kids’ childhood so much. I know I shouldn’t worry — kids are far more resilient than adults — but I do worry and fret over the changes and obstacles we’ve faced this year. The closing of that beloved store is just a reminder that we’re still in the thick of it, and there will be long term affects of this pandemic. We’ve lost so many people and so much time with family and friends — when does it end?

It may sound silly to be waxing poetic about some ceramic figures, but they were a part of my children’s childhood. We weren’t just painting figurines, we were painting memories, and I will forever have a place for them in my home.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

Me getting ready for family pictures.

This past week I have done nothing but unpack boxes in the new house. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished for having just been here a week. And I truly love it. Everything in this house makes me happy, and I’m so glad we decided to build.

The kids are getting more used to their new rooms and they’re sleeping through the night again, without much interruption.

I still have some work to do on the playroom, but for the most part, everything’s done. My sun room is the most beautiful room in the house — it’s where I’ll do all my writing and reading. We had a photographer here earlier doing our annual family photos and she took some of me in the sun room because she loved it so much. I can’t wait to get those pictures back.

There’s not much else to tell. I did get some bad news this weekend, but all I can do is take it in stride and keep going. If I think too much about it, I just get sad. But oh well, there are good things to concentrate on.

I hope y’all have a wonderful week. Stay in the light!

Why People Self Harm

The first time I cut myself, I had the same thoughts cycling through my brain.

“You’re a loser. Nobody likes you. You’re worth nothing.”

I don’t know if a certain event set off my anguish or if it was just another depressive episode. Either way, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and retreated to my “Woman Cave.” I dragged the knife across my skin until I drew blood.

I felt instant relief, as weird as that sounds. I was in so much mental and physical pain from depression, and all I wanted was to feel something else. Anything else. This is called self-harming. By definition, self-harming or self-injury is the deliberate act of harming your body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It is not intended to be a suicide attempt.

Usually, people tend to self-harm when they’re experiencing overwhelming emotions and don’t know any other way to cope.

Research shows that self-injury occurs in about 4 percent of adults in the U.S., according to Mental Health America. The most common methods of self-injury are cutting (70 to 90 percent), head banging or hitting (20 to 40 percent) and burning (15 to 35 percent).

Obviously, this isn’t a health way of coping, but I understand all too well the need to escape intense pain and doing anything that might make you feel better, however temporary that is. But evidence shows that over time, those emotions, along with guilt and shame, will continue to be present and may even worsen, according to Psychology Today.

The roots of self-harming behavior are often found in early childhood trauma, including physical, verbal or sexual abuse. It’s also an indication of serious mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or borderline personality disorder. I had zero childhood trauma, but do have major depression and anxiety.

It’s important to note that self-harm occurs most often in teens and young adults (I was in my early 20s when I started self-harming). Data shows that 6 to 14 percent of adolescent boys and 17 to 30 percent of adolescent girls are self-harming.

Just reading that overwhelms me. This is an issue that we can’t just skip over. Every adult needs to be educated on the warning signs, symptoms and treatment. Early intervention is crucial when it comes to mental health.

Failure to respond to this behavior when it firsts starts could lead to a lifetime of mental illness, and I definitely don’t recommend that.

I was lucky taht I only had a few instances of self-injury. Some get addicted to hurting themselves or develop other reckless behavior to help cope. Fortunately, this is something that can be treated and people can make full recoveries from.

Here are some symptoms of self-injury:

  • Scars, often in patterns
  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, bite marks or other wounds
  • Excessive rubbing of an area to create a burn
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
  • Frequent reports of accidental injury
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
  • Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness

Warning signs/risk factors:

  • Unexplained frequent injuries including cuts and burns
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty handling feelings
  • Relationship problems or avoidance of relationships, and
  • Poor functioning at work, school or home

If you are suicidal , please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I had an exciting week this past week.

Our new house is closer to completion and they showed me a picture of my sunroom where I’ll be doing all my writing and it’s stunning. I picked out a colorful bird-print wallpaper and it looks so good.

Just a couple more weeks, then we can move in.

On Friday, I was a speaker at Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Symposium, which was open to the whole community. About 100 people were there, and even though I was very nervous, I think I did an OK job. I spoke about my experience being suicidal and gave a few statistics as well.

I’m hoping to work with Rep. Hunter more on mental health initiatives — I’m really impressed with his dedication to mental health and to the community as a whole. He’s not a politician, he’s a public servant and it’s obvious. Very admirable.

This week, I’m hoping to get more packing done and set a date for the movers.

I hope you all are well.

Keep reading, and stay in the light, friends.