Tag:

anxiety disorder

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Pump My Brakes

by Heather Loeb

NAMI had an event last night, and I’ll admit, I was riled up. I don’t think in a bad way; I just get excited, talk fast and get a little high strung. I think I’m probably always high strung, but I’m ok with that.

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I didn’t feel stressed at all — I was speaking at the event, and I wasn’t in charge of anything except our stuffed llama and his accessories (that’s another story for another time). Well, I had misplaced his accessories and started asking my cohorts if they had seen the llama’s accoutrements. One of my buddies helped me look, and after finding them, he said he could teach me some strategies to decrease my anxiety.

I didn’t even feel anxious, but perhaps I was. I told my cohort that I did have ways to help me calm down and that I appreciated the offer. He told me to visualize my mind as a garden. That you can’t help what grows there, such as weeds, but you can pull the weeds out and keep you garden looking good. He said it a lot more eloquently.

I loved that.

And he’s not the first one to suggest I’m too anxious.

So maybe what I think is baseline for me is really a bit much for others. Granted I had taken my Adderall late in the day yesterday, but still. The point is maybe I should pump my brakes and keep a tighter hold on anxiety. Or loosen my grip?

I’ve never had a “green thumb” but it sounds like my garden could use some weeding.

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Recently I posted on Facebook about this, but I think it merits a blog. I came across some papers from the Menninger Clinic as I was cleaning my sunroom the other day, and they threw me for a loop. The papers were test results I had taken shortly after I arrived at the hospital. We had to take a lot of tests. They tested my quality of life, which was at 25 percent, physical disability caused by my depression/anxiety at 48 percent and cognitive function at 33 percent. My memory was at 3 percent, which was the most shocking. I guess being on all that medication and abusing my anxiety meds really screwed me up. My memory just got worse after the ECTs if you can believe it.

I felt so many emotions as I cradled these papers. I was heartbroken that I let myself get that bad but elated that I’ve come so far. I’m certain my quality of life has improved, somewhere in the 90s, I’d say and my disability is near non-existent. I still get migraines and sometimes I have bad days, but overall I get out of bed every morning and get on that grind. It’s amazing what I can do now.

  • Run my Unruly Neurons blog
  • Write a column for the Caller-Times
  • Make #MentalHealthMonday videos for State Rep. Todd Hunter
  • Work as the Communications Manager at NAMI Greater Corpus Christi
  • Sit on the board at JCC
  • Be a member of State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force
  • Join NAMI Texas’ State Advocacy Networking Team
  • Regular contributor to the national NAMI blog
  • Do public speaking

Plus, I have two kids, lol. That takes up quite a bit of my time. And my husband.

It may seem like I’m bragging, but I’m just amazed. I look at this list and know that I couldn’t do that four years ago. But I’m doing it now, and I’m so proud of myself. Yes, that’s it. I’m just so proud of myself. I’ve done it — I’m in recovery. I’ve made it to the other side, with help from my support system, of course.

All these good things keep happening to me, and it’s unbelievable to me sometimes. I can’t help but think when is the other shoe going to drop. And maybe it won’t. Maybe I deserve these good things. That’s hard to admit. All I know is that I’m grateful, so grateful.

I get to do what I love and love what I do — help others. I didn’t have a lot of help when I was first diagnosed, and I don’t want anyone to feel alone on their mental health journey.

I’m always here. And I mean that.

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A friend asked me to send her a link of my articles regarding anxiety and what helps. I quickly did a search for my columns at the Caller-Times, but I noticed that 1. there weren’t many and 2. I didn’t give any advice about what to do, I just talked about what it was.

I did write more blogs about it, so I sent those. But it made me think — I still don’t have a handle on my anxiety. It has been three years since leaving the Menninger Clinic yet I have few ideas on how to cope, even for myself.

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As of now, I’ll do some deep breathing or box breathing. I’ll take some anxiety meds (which usually help very little). I’ll talk to my husband or a friend about what I’m feeling. I’ll get under my weighted blanket, which honestly feels the best — when an anxiety attack occurs, I often feel like my insides are trying to get outside of my body. Weird, I know. I digress. A lot of times, I’ll slip and overeat on snacks or candy. That would be an unhealthy coping skill. I used to get weekly massages, but now I don’t. I haven’t seen a difference in anxiety levels.

Even if some combination of these things helps, it doesn’t make it go away completely. And the anxiety always comes back. Most people think it’s just everyday worries, but it’s not like that. It’s often worst-case scenarios that get trapped in my brain and intrusive thoughts that I can’t control. I counter them by praying over and over to the point where it gets obsessive. I’ll try to distract myself. It’s hard. And depression is hard, too. I am in no way saying it’s easy, but at least I get relief from the crushing sadness, fatigue and apathy. I never get a break from anxiety.

And if you Google tips on coping with anxiety, you get some annoying answers. I say annoying, because while these tips do help some, they don’t help someone like me who does them anyway and who has a severe anxiety disorder.

For example:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Try yoga
  • Watch for triggers

I guess we get the same trite answers because nobody knows how to really help — and again, I’m talking about people with severe anxiety, not those with day-to-day worries (not that I’m discounting them either).

So really all I know that helps in the moment in my weighted blanket. But the problem with that is I’m not always home when anxiety strikes. Breathing helps, too. Sometimes singing at the top of my lungs in the car helps. Oh, and bingeing on my favorite shows. I’ve watched them all 100 times. The familiarity is comforting. Nothing new is going to surprise me. It’s just the same old characters doing the same old things. That may seem sad to you, but it’s calming.

I gotta do what I gotta do.

It’s just that sometimes that’s not enough.

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Often when I describe recovery to someone, I say it’s like walking a tight rope. One false move and your ass is back on the ground. And sometime you can get back up there, no harm, no foul. But there are times when you can’t. To switch metaphors, you’ve already let depression’s foot in the door and that bitch got in just a bit. That’s all it takes.

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For weeks I’ve been letting her in, it just took until now to notice. My hygiene is slipping. I’m sleeping more, even past my alarm, which I never do. I’m so tired; my limbs feel 50 pounds each. I’m sad and worn out. I feel insecure and not excited about writing or work events. I’m even having trouble getting my thoughts out in this blog.

I have no energy. Gone is my pep. Maybe it’s time to try ketamine again, I don’t know. But I need to do something. I don’t like this version of Heather. Definitely not. I know I can achieve more than this, and I know I don’t need to compare this Heather to my most motivated and winningest one. It’s okay to have bad days. It’s when the days become months that I need to worry.

I won’t lie, I’m pretty worried now. It’s not completely dark now, but conditions are right for it to get darker – and fast. But it’s hard to say that this isn’t just a brief mood swing or if it’s going to last 6 to 8 months. My brain can’t tell the difference.

So here’s my plan: I go into Low Battery Mode which includes asking for help when I need it, taking more breaks than usual, try to eat healthy diet, see my therapist more often, do self-care as much as I can and celebrate the little things. That’s not much but it is when you’re floundering. I’ll really try hard on personal hygiene and getting enough sleep.

I’ll try.

That’s the least and most I can do.

Try.

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It happened yesterday. Eli was scheduled to test for his green belt, his older sister tested earlier in the week, but Eli didn’t want to. Before we got to karate, Eli threw a fit about not wanting to go and wanting to quit, but I made him get dressed anyway so he could tell the instructor himself he wanted to quit or work something out if he wanted to continue.

I admit, I don’t want him to quit. Both kids have to do some activity. They can’t just stay on the phones/computers all the time. And when he goes to class he has fun. I don’t get it. But on the way over he said he didn’t want to quit, he just didn’t feel like testing.

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I didn’t listen. We got to karate and the instructor was talking to him, telling him that he could test today or he could wait until the next cycle but he would remain an orange belt until them. Then I butted in saying that his sister would be a green belt and it would only take a few minutes to take the rest.

Why was I rushing him?

I then heard the instructor say to Eli that he could go at his own pace. I heard him say it, but I wasn’t listening.

I butted in again saying it wouldn’t take long and reminding him that Isla would be ahead of him.

I said this because I didn’t want Eli to get down on himself for not being a green belt. I didn’t want him to get discouraged and really want to quit. But I was so pushy!

The instructor told Eli again that it was at his own pace and he didn’t have to test. I truly heard him this time, but Eli had already decided to test.

He passed and earned a green belt, but I walked out there cringing because I had been one of “those moms” — a helicopter parent, a bossy, I-know-everything kind of mom. And I hate that.

I should’ve listened to Eli when he said he didn’t want to do it that day, even though he was obviously ready because he passed. But I shouldn’t have pushed and manipulated.

My kids are totally different, and I shouldn’t expect them to do the same things at the same times. I should listen to their needs and evaluate them separately.

I should remember that Eli gets so overwhelmed sometimes (part of having ADHD) and needs breaks to process things. I’m no different. None of us is.

I expect people to cater to my needs and diagnoses (depression, anxiety, eating disorder, etc) all the time, fair or not. I should do the same with my family. I’m going to start by listening more.

Thanks to the karate instructor (he’s mine, too) for teaching me a valuable lesson. I’m sure they’ll be many more.

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A couple of days ago my family got back from a week in Jamaica. While I had a good time, I admit I wasn’t looking forward to the trip and I had a bad attitude.

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First of all — and I’m not saying I was right (I wasn’t) — I didn’t plan the trip, not one single thing. My husband, not wanting to bother me with details, planned it. When he told me he’d worked out every detail, I was bold enough to be mad! I was being ungrateful. It was my anxiety talking. My anxiety dictates that I plan, that I know everything that’s going to happen so I can properly prepare. It makes me feel safe. I didn’t even know the departure/arrival dates or the name of the resort we were staying at. I also didn’t bother to ask. I stayed in the dark because I was so busy leading up to our trip.

I wasn’t excited to go, even on the day we left. I packed up both kids’ and my suitcases, but it seemed like such a bother to fly to a different country, go through customs, take a bus ride to Negril, etc. After a long day of traveling, we got there around 6 p.m. so we went to dinner. I actually complained about the menu because it wasn’t “real Mexican food.”

It was then I heard myself. It was then I realized what trouble my husband had gone through to plan such a trip. I immediately adjusted my attitude. I remembered back in March when my husband and I went to Turks & Caicos and how different Vacation Heather was then. I tried channeling her again, although this one would be a little more sober and less glam.

The next few days we went to the water park, pool and beach. We hung out together and truly enjoyed it. I had delicious drinks while sunbathing and watched Eli go down the water slides about 25 times. Over the course of two days, he lost two teeth (they were very loose even before we got there).

We had fun. We played foosball. We ate good food. We rented a cabana on the beach that included a ceiling fan, cooler of drinks and food delivery — I never want to do the beach any other way, lol.

I relaxed. I stopped working. I let myself enjoy.

I don’t know why I held back before. For some reason I just thought the vacation would be terrible because the kids would hate it there or constantly be asking for things or complain. But it was me who started the trip complaining.

I was a little sad to leave. I realized when I got home I’d have to start cooking, tidying up, working, etc, again. I remembered Eli has a birthday in a month, that school starts in a month. There’s always something.

But I had a good time drinking Island Smiles by the pool and on the beach. My family took some great photos. I relaxed and now I’m back at my cozy home.

I’m so grateful for both.

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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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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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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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Vacation Heather

by Heather Loeb

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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