Tag:

anxiety

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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 spent my summers in high school and college at my parents’ house alone (for the most part). I loved it. I remember I would grab some Chick-fil-a and eat it in from of the TV as TLC’s What Not to Wear came on. I loved that show and was fascinated with the makeover aspect. I had gained a lot of weight in high school, then lost it in college and would try to glean wardrobe tips from the show. Good times.

Recently I searched how to stream the show, and alas, I found it on Hulu. The particular season I’m watching is 19 years old. Holy crap. While the clothes are a little outdated, I still enjoy it. Except for one thing — Clinton and Stacy are downright mean, at times! It strikes a sharp contrast from Queer Eye, which I’m also watching.

I hate the way they make fun of the guests on the show and how push the hair stylist is. In my opinion, how you style your hair is so personal. It can be a security blanket, but what the hell is wrong with that? Back off, Nick!

I love the episodes where the guest actually enjoys themselves, but more times than not, they hosts beat all the creativity and comfort out of them, not always showcasing what makes them unique.

Have I gone soft?

Spoiler alert: I’ve always been soft.

I’ll admit that recently I’ve tried to dress better but only to feel better about myself. It makes me feel more confident, which is hard for me (thanks to body dysmophic disorder). I can’t help but project my feelings on the guests on What Not to Wear. I want to shake them and say, “Don’t listen to them! You do you! You’re perfect the way you are.” The same thing I should tell myself.

We don’t need to dress alike. We’re all different shapes and in different places in our lives. I love that my hair is big, frizzy and wavy (adding about two inches to my height, lol). I love my shirts with mental health slogans — Mental Health Matters, It’s Cool to Go to Therapy, etc). I love my leggings and oh my god I love my Uggs. That’s okay. I like bright colors and baggy clothes even though I know Clinton and Stacy would tell me that adds volume. Screw it, add that shit on. I love fun socks and underwear and my many patterned headbands.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to show out, too, but that’s rare.

Maybe I’m overanalyzing this revered show of mine, but that tells me I’ve evolved from who I was nearly 20 years ago. I love myself more. I’m more accepting of myself. I’m not anywhere near done with my story, but it’s better than I started.

Progress, no matter how little, is still progress.

 

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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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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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Absolute Zero

by Heather Loeb
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My body hurts today. Maybe hurts is not the right word…maybe heavy. So very heavy, and I’ve slogged through each hour of today expecting it to feel different, but it hasn’t. Do you know why? Because the body always keeps score.

It has tallied up all the extra Diet Cokes, Adderall and junk food. Not to mention all the junk I’ve been entertaining mentally. Not on purpose. Sometimes it just happens. You entertain one negative thought then that one gives way to 20. Soon the confines of your psyche are bursting at the seams. There’s no elbow room.

Someone might say it’s my fault for hosting those thoughts in the first place, and maybe it’s not the ideal way to go about on your healing journey, but I would argue that it’s a necessary part of healing. Healing’s not linear, and it’s individualized, but just because I’ve come to a fork on this road doesn’t mean I don’t want to go forward. I do.

But sometimes you have to stew in your own brain filth. You need to sort through the trash and decide what’s valuable and what will serve you. And light the rest on fucking fire.

That’s what’s going on tonight. At first I panicked and thought oh my god, I’ll have to get an ECT, but then it occurred to me that if I get an ECT every time I feel sad or bad, I might never learn to navigate my way out of here.

So I’ll rely on my reserves, go into Low Battery Mode. I’ve definitely been there before. I’ll prioritize what events and tasks that need my attention most. I’ll wear comfy clothes, I’ll make myself drink more water, I’ll go to bed early and give myself some grace. I talk about that all the time yet I never do.

I’ll pray. I’ll read. I’ll practice self-care. I’ll walk the line because I know it will be painful (more painful) than it already is.

I ask myself all the time — why is it so painful being me? And I never quite remember. All of this because deep down I don’t think I’m good enough? It doesn’t make sense. Because I hate myself? I don’t. I don’t even truly hate my depression even thoughI say I do. Maybe I’ve said it enough to believe it. But I don’t like to have hate in my heart, my precious, well-behaving heart. These ideas swirl inside my head then forgotten because I have retrograde amnesia. Can you tell who my ill-behaving organ is?

It sucks holding on to a thought or memory only to have it forgotten an hour later. It sucks more on days like this.

I know it’ll get better. I might feel 100 percent differently tomorrow, but this is me now. And how I feel. My feelings are valid, including the negative and frustrating ones.

The sun will come out tomorrow, I’m told.

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Good Vibes

by Heather Loeb
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It has been 14 weeks since my last ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), a milestone for sure. That’s the longest I’ve been able to go since 2019, after leaving a psychiatric hospital for depression and anxiety.

It makes me so happy because, frankly, I hate them. I developed a phobia to anesthesia last year and have panic attacks before treatment. For those who don’t know, ECT entails going under anesthesia then doctors induce a seizure. It’s usually a short seizure and they give me a muscle relaxant so I’m not thrashing around. The seizure sort of resets my brain. Doctors aren’t sure why or how exactly it works, but it’s very beneficial to people like me who have treatment-resistant depression.

I thought since it has been awhile since my last treatment that my memory would start coming back, but there are still huge chunks of my memory I can’t recall. It’s common for people to experience retrograde amnesia, but usually memories return.

Not only can I not remember things from the past but also it affects my short-term memory. I can’t always retain new information. It’s especially hard to follow recipes or instructions on how to do something. Now I need assistance from my husband when I’m cooking.

It’s also embarrassing.

I’ll meet someone and not remember we met. Or I’ve forgotten people who I knew. People come up to me all the time and ask how David is or the kids, and most of the time I just can’t place them so I try to hide it. Hopefully they can’t see it in my face.

Still, even with the memory loss, it’s one million times better than being where I was. I was so lost and unhealthy, relying on binge eating, abusing my medication, cutting and shopping to distract me from my pain. I was suicidal all the time. Somehow I was able to take care of the kids, but my health suffered greatly. The kids sucked up everything I had. I don’t regret going to the mental hospital at all.

I wrote about ECT and losing my memory for a mental health site, The Mighty, and some people — a lot of people — thought it was so horrible that I was risking my memories. They couldn’t comprehend it, but one of the best things about my memory loss is that I don’t remember all the ugly, dark parts of my illness before I went to the hospital. It’s a blessing, actually. What I do remember is so awful and sad. There’s no part of me that wants to relive that at all.

So while my memory (what’s left of it) is terrible and it can be embarrassing, I’m so fucking grateful for where I am. For my support system, all my friends and family members who stepped up and completely support me. For being able to find joy in the little things. For being able to enjoy watching my kids grow up. For laughing until tears come to my eyes. For the growth that I’ve seen in the past three years. I’m just so grateful. I’d do it all again if I had to in order to feel as good as I’m feeling now.

I know there’s always a possibility of a depressive episode recurring, but that’s why I’m doing the difficult work of confronting my demons and putting into place healthy habits. I have to walk a fine line in order to be healthy, and sometimes that can be annoying, but it’s so worth it.

For anyone struggling with their mental health, I see you. I pray you don’t give up, and I have to tell you that it gets better. It gets sooo good.

There’s great divinity in finding the light where it is dark. And I hope you find the light.

You can do it. I clawed my way back from hell, and I’ll keep fighting to stay where I am, every single day.

Thank you to all my loved ones (and even strangers) who have been rooting me on all this time. It’s a beautiful thing to receive that kind of support.

And I love you all.

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