Tag:

anxiety disorder

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Fearless..?

by Heather Loeb

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I was meeting a friend for coffee to go over some stuff last week, a friend who I didn’t know that well. Although earlier that week I talked more about my story during a volunteer orientation at the NAMI office. I knew bits and pieces of hers and I heard more of her story that night, too. It made me want to know her more, and I was glad that we were working on fundraiser ideas together, and even happier that we had the some vision.

We started talking about getting to know each other better, and she mentioned that she was inspired by my story because she had a family member who had a mental health condition and she had hope that said family member would be highly functioning and happy one day because she saw it in me. I’m not trying to toot my horn here, I have a point.

Then she said I was fearless. I kind of scoffed at that, it’s not a word I’m used to hearing. Matter of fact, if I listed 100 adjectives about myself, fearless wouldn’t make an appearance once.

But I really appreciated her saying it.

We finished our work, and went about our days, but I couldn’t get our conversation out of my head. I started thinking my new, dear friend was right. I am fearless. Sometimes.

When I first started this blog and admitted I had depression and anxiety — that took guts. I felt like no one else was talking about it. At that time, I didn’t know about NAMI GCC. When I started writing Letters to the Editor about my conditions and eventually turn it into a column, that was fearless. It’s hard to put all your business in a newspaper. And I felt I was still doing it all my own. Then State Rep. Todd Hunter asked me to speak at his (virtual) Suicide Prevention Symposium, and it felt like I was telling my darkest secrets, which I guess I was.

It was after that night NAMI GCC found me, and I no longer alone. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing support group after I left the psychiatric hospital, but NAMI GCC just got me — they knew what it was like to have depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, etc. It was a different kind of support, not better, just different.

In some ways, I am fearless. I mean, I did write a column about not being able to brush my teeth in the newspaper this past Monday. A lot of people won’t understand it, but I know my people will feel relieved someone is speaking their language. We gotta stick together.

And that’s the whole reason why I do it. Because when I first started writing my blog, I felt so alone. Nobody was talking about mental health, as far as I knew. Feeling alone just intensified my depression, and I don’t want anyone to feel like I felt then.

We have to bring it all to the light, all together.

But all of us with a diagnosis are fearless; that’s just what it takes to fight.

I’m thankful to my new friend for reminding me of who I was..or rather, who I still am. we

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Valentine’s Day 2023

by Heather Loeb

Yesterday one of my columns ran about loving yourself and being your own Valentine. Sometimes I tend to give good advice but not always follow it myself, but this time I really mean it — I love and appreciate myself. Do I treat myself badly at times? Sure. I’m very bad at self-talk right now, but I catch it and tell myself something nice. But I’ve learned to appreciate myself, and my body, for who I am, who I was and who I hope to be.

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Here’s a little snippet from the column, “Valentine’s Day has never been my favorite holiday. Until my marriage (10 years ago), I wasn’t a fan — of love, any possible paramours and especially of myself. 

What a shame. I feel like I’ve missed out on something huge. My chest tightens, and regret fuels tears. I didn’t care for myself back then. I believed what poisonous lies others were saying about me and didn’t notice how they replaced the words of my inner monologue with theirs. My body dysmorphia formed and, shortly after, my eating disorder. It’s more complicated than that, but I didn’t see a connection. ” 

It’s so true. I believed others who called me fat. From that I understood I was worthless, ugly and stupid because that’s what society tells you, right? I was first called fat in the 5th grade then on and off until my senior year in high school. I was held captive by the scale and even now I still get caught in its trap.

But. A powerful but. Now I know I’m not fat. I wasn’t fat then (fat isn’t something you are, it’s something you have). I wasn’t ugly, stupid, lazy or anything close. I was me, listening to the wrong people, not celebrating myself as I should have. And I really should have because I am amazing. I took me about 38 years and a six-week hospital stay to figure it out, but that’s okay, because I did. Now I’m living the best years of my life.

And now, during this month of self-love, I appreciate myself, all of me. How far I’ve come, the accomplishments I never thought possible and the lofty goals I’ve set because of that.

Just a few years ago I couldn’t get out of bed or shower because of my major depression and anxiety. I was a bare minimum mom and wife. I counted down until I could go back to sleep, and when I was awake, I was in so much misery. Thank God I’m not in that place anymore.

Gratitude is a huge part of my journey, even when it comes to loving and accepting myself.

I want to thank y’all, too. For reading my columns, blogs, dropping me a note, showing up to NAMI events or just sending good vibes my way. I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know. You are a big, wonderful part of my recovery, and I love that.

And I love me.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Gains and Losses

by Heather Loeb

I’ve been trying to keep busy so I don’t stop and realize just how depressed I am over losing my best friend. I haven’t contacted her in over a week. I’ve let her know that I’m here, and that’s all I can really do. So I’ve tried to just not think about it but then it manifests in other ways: hello, binge eating disorder. It’s not that I’ve binged on a meal here and there, I overeat or binge EVERY meal, and when I got on the scale tonight (don’t ever get on the scale at night), I weighed 10 pounds more than usual. Ten pounds!

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I’ve worked really hard to get to a healthy weight, and now it’s slipping away because I can’t get my shit together. I’ve talked to my therapist and she has given me healthy coping skill to do, but I always fall back on the unhealthy ones.

I realize it’s time to change.

All the snacks in the world won’t bring my friend back.

All the snacks in the world won’t bring my friend back.

Tears threaten to fall as I write that twice.

I know what to do: I need to throw out all the junk food. I need to be mindful when I eat. I need to listen to my body and its hunger cues. I don’t need to freak out over 10 pounds. I might be a little more uncomfortable, but it’s temporary. This is all temporary.

Until it’s not.

Sitting with my feelings, being in the moment and dealing with the pain is so hard. I’ve never been one to actually do it, but the only way out is through, right? It has been four weeks, and I’m still here. Just a bit heavier, in so many ways.

I’m resilient, thanks to my mental health conditions and journey, so I know I’ll make it through. It just sucks now. I want my security blankets: bingeing, shopping, using too much anxiety meds, sleeping too much. But I know that if they haven’t worked in the past, AND THEY HAVEN’T, they’re not going to work now.

Binge eating does not soothe me the way I want. It actually stresses me out and only soothes me for a few seconds. The aftermath is painful, and I feel very guilty once I see the bottom of the popcorn bag or candy wrapper.

I’m throwing away my snacks today. It’s the beginning of a new week. Good things are happening at work, I’m very excited. I have a lot to look forward to and a lot to let go of. That can be very freeing.

I’m ready.

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I’ve been in pain. I’ve wanted to die. Even now in recovery, painful things still happen. My heart breaks, but I know I’ll survive it because I’ve done it again and again. It baffles me how resilient I am and how the pain fades but is automatically replaced with wisdom and hope. I almost don’t get to mourn, second nature kicks in. I’ll be okay. Tomorrow will be better. Mainly because they’re all watching and expecting it.

Heather Loeb

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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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