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Binge Eating Disorder

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What’s in a Binge?

by Heather Loeb

I can’t stop binge eating. It’s so out of control. It’s been weeks, hell maybe months, which is longer than usual. I thought I was upset over some family stuff, but I feel like I dealt with that and moved on. Apparently not. Something is hounding me, and it’s scary. I hate feeling this way. I wake up planning breakfast. After breakfast, I’m already planning lunch and so on. I build my day around overeating and bingeing so that nobody sees me. Rather, judges me.

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I also noticed that last week I was keeping myself extremely busy with NAMI work. I kept getting pats on the back from it, so I did more and more each day, not realizing I was keeping myself busy on purpose — avoiding my problems more like it.

I’ve gained 10 pounds…well, that’s how much I gained the last time I got on the scale. I’m avoiding that, too , right now.

It’s like an open sore that I don’t tend to, and now it’s infected, and I’m sick. I feel so sick.

I think my eating disorder is just as bad as my depression. I know it is. As soon as I gain weight, I get depressed and eat more, and the cycle continues.

Usually it’s about what’s eating me rather than what I’m eating. I need to figure out what’s bothering me before more damage is done. It’s weird because I feel like I’m in such a good place in my life. I love my life, and I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do (column, blog and NAMI). I just love it; it sets my soul on fire. I just had a birthday, but I think I’m truly getting better and better with age. Life is truly good despite my mental health conditions.

But there’s obviously something troubling me. The only thing I can think of is that deep down I don’t think I’m worthy of all the positive things in my life. It all goes back to my core beliefs that I’m not good enough, I guess. But I’m worked hard — I can acknowledge that — and I love where I am.

It’s so confusing. I need to do more digging.

What the hell is eating Heather Loeb?

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger

by Heather Loeb

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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Truth Hurts.

by Heather Loeb

Last week I received an award from NAMI Texas for portraying and advocating for mental illness. It was a huge honor of me, and I felt very validated. I think it was probably the best award I’ve ever received in all my life. But just days after winning, I was sobbing in my therapist’s office.

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I feel like I have overcome something — being suicidal and getting help for my terrible depression and anxiety. I feel like I give good advice in my columns and blogs. I feel like my hard work has been noticed and that people are listening. But I’m a far cry from the “badass” in my columns or the rockstar everyone in NAMI thinks I am. I don’t mean to sound conceited or like I’m bragging; I only mean to highlight the dichotomy between healthy me and not-so-healthy me.

I’ve never claimed that I’m totally fixed or anything. As a matter of fact, I talk about how another depressive episode is likely and that I’ll never be “cured.” But surely I can take my own advice as I’m penning my innermost thoughts. No, I definitely don’t practice what I preach.

You see, today, as I was sobbing in my therapist’s office, we determined it was because I wasn’t being honest with myself. It was like I’d never met the Heather in the paper and on my blog. Red flags warning of relapse were flying by me, but I couldn’t have told you one healthy thing to do to fix it. Except go to my therapist’s, so I guess that counts.

Giving into my eating disorder is me lying to myself. Taking too much anxiety medication is me lying to myself. Cutting, sleeping too much, isolating — it’s all a big fat lie I tell myself to get by. And it never works.

It’s just so goddamn painful being me sometimes that I will find any way I can to escape. So I do. But in the end it only hurts me and subsequently my friends and family.

My therapist says I have to sit with my feelings, in addition to being honest. I can’t just get uncomfortable and run (or overeat or get high). I have to sit there and explore what those feelings mean and find out who I really am. As I’m writing this, I’ve daydreaming of my next meal, or rather, what I can binge eat. That’ll make me feel good…for about five minutes.

I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’ve portrayed myself as a well-adjusted, healthy woman, but that’s just not the case. My journey with mental illness is far from over. Right now it’s very turbulent, and I might puke. It feels like I’ll never stop battling my demons.

I don’t know why it’s so painful being me, but I suspect it’s because I have a core belief that I’m not good enough, that I’m a bad person, and that fuels my compulsions and bad habits. I don’t know how to fix that though. I tell myself that I’m a good, worthy person, but it never seems to stick.

I’ve really got to dig deep right now and give myself some grace. I’m going to try meditating about my core beliefs. I’m going to try to dispel all the negative core beliefs and come up with new ones.

I can do this. I feel so close to a breakthrough, and it’ll be a long time coming. Before when I struggled with my anxiety and depression, I just accepted it and didn’t try to get better, not really. I would ignore all the demons in my head and pay the price of binge eating, abusing meds, etc. I’d cut myself, get new tattoos and compulsively shop. One months the credit card bill was over $10,000. Ludicrous.

It’s time I grow up, experience negative emotions and not ignore them. I have to get this right.

Because now it’s all wrong.

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Freedom

by Heather Loeb

When I started this blog, I was not free. I hid my depression, anxiety and binge eating disorder from the world, mostly because I was embarrassed. I also have a personality disorder, but I didn’t know it when I started writing.

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I felt weak because of the depression. That’s not uncommon, mostly because society still buys into the stigma surrounding depression and other mental disorders.

It took going to a mental hospital for me to finally “come clean” about my disorders. Before I left for The Menninger Clinic, I was abusing my anxiety medication, suicidal and it was hard to get out of bed. I was at my lowest.

Then, surrounded by people just like me, I realized that I wasn’t weak — it takes a strong person to fight their own brain in order to stay alive. And that’s what I was doing. My brain was telling me I needed to kill myself and that nobody wanted me around. That I was a burden. But I resisted.

Depression not only made it hard to get out bed but also it was difficult to brush my teeth and shower. I also started isolating, not answering texts from my friends and wanting to spent more time by myself. That’s depression’s game — to isolate you and make you think you’re not worthy. And what helped me while hospitalized was discovering that it wasn’t my fault. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s situational and genetics. Anyone can become depressed — just think about what the pandemic has done: people have lost loved ones, they’ve gotten sick themselves, they’ve lost jobs and people are isolated from family and friends. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to depression right now, for anyone.

And it’s so lonely. So, so lonely.

My goal starting this blog was to help others not feel so lonely. So ostracized. To fight the weariness that you feel in your bones when struggling with depression. I want those suffering to know that you are worthy and not alone in this fight. There is light at the end of the tunnel, at least I think so. I’m still trying to get there.

What I’ve come to know is this: It’s OK to have depression. It’s OK to admit it and talk about it freely. There’s nothing wrong with having a mental disorder. People who suffer with mental illness are survivors, warriors. I am a warrior.

Every single day I wake up and fight depression and anxiety. I fight body image issues and experience terrible, hateful intrusive thoughts telling me I’m ugly, fat and a loser. Or that I’m going to die. Sometimes, it’s no picnic. But again, I’m a warrior.

I’ve learned that I can run on hate, so I’m learning to love myself. On a good day, I see a beautiful, wild-haired woman who loves her friends and family fiercely. Who has awesome tattoos and is not afraid of speaking her mind about anything. An advocate who desperately wants to help others.

I’ve come a long way, and this blog has helped me navigate my journey, which is just beginning.

What I am now is free — free from the shackles of other people’s opinions and the stigma surrounding mental disorders. I have major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, avoidance personality disorder, binge eating disorder and I have problems abusing prescription medication. I’m still amazing. I’m brave. I’m a fighter.

I’m unapologetically me and so fucking free. Join me.

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Buried Secrets

by Heather Loeb

I’ve lived with what I thought was a shameful secret for two decades. I buried it deep inside me, so deep I never thought I’d never have to deal with it again. But it turns out shameful secrets will come to surface no matter what.

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I binged for years, shoving food in my mouth trying to keep it down. I swallowed pill after pill trying to escape from the reality where that secret lived. I got tattoos and piercings, hoping that that pain would distract me from the pain inside me. The needles are nothing compared to emotional pain.

Alas, none of it worked.

It wasn’t long before I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety. I kept my mouth shut about that, too until I could no longer hold it in because I was abusing my anxiety meds and it was too hard to get out of bed, despite my growing list of responsibilities. I ended up at a psychiatric facility, which confirmed that I had major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, binge eating disorder and avoidant personality disorder. It cost tens of thousands of dollars for me to stay there six week and get back on the straight and narrow. Or close enough, anyway.

And one day, after a binge session and tons of guilt, I started to think: maybe I’m bingeing because I’m punishing myself. Punishing myself for what happened to me. Punishing myself for never truly confronting my demons. Punishing myself for being a kid and not knowing any better. And that’s silly. Because I was just a kid. I didn’t know better. If the same had happened to one of my kids, I would never let them partake in the blame game, because it simply wouldn’t be true.

Maybe I should forgive myself for whatever role I thought I played. I should forgive myself. I forgive myself. I forgive myself. I forgive myself. It was not my fault. No matter what my brain tells me, it wasn’t my fault.

However, it is my fault if I don’t change my behavior and keep hurting myself to forget or escape. I am needed here, with my family, and hurting myself only hurts them. That’s my fault. It’s my fault if I don’t forgive myself. If I don’t do the work to forgive. I’ve spent two decades ignoring this bullshit, so I know it won’t happen overnight, but I can take the steps to forgive myself now. Starting today.

Starting now.

My life is so good. There’s no reason to escape it, through any means I might’ve relied on in the past. I need to be here now. I need to show myself love, because my kids are watching, and God do I want them to love the shit out of themselves. My way — my past ways — are no longer the way to go.

The thing about secrets is that they feed on shame. I was feeding it with my bingeing and abusing meds, but I don’t need to feed it anymore. I’m done feeling shame over it. At least I’m trying to be. I’m not giving this thing any more life than I have. It’s dying now. It will soon be dead.

If you have a buried secret, please forgive yourself. Love yourself. Do the work and work it out. Forgive yourself and live the life you are meant to live.

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Y’all. Last week was ROUGH, likely due to me confronting some past trauma and not just shoving it in a drawer somewhere in my messy, complicated brain. Again, personal growth is so annoying.

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While I do feel better having faced my demons, I can tell it’s still bothering me a bit because of my binge eating and thought patterns. Either that or I’m just so used to used to “crisis mode” that I don’t know how to get out. And that’s OK for a little while but it’s no way to live everyday life.

This week I’m going to try and get back to my intuitive eating skills, because I think they’re so helpful and make me feel better about myself. Last week, I just chucked everything I’ve learned out the window and purposely overeat and/or binged.

I’m also going to do some thinking on where I want this blog to go and what I want people to get out of it, so I can take it to the next level.

All in all, I’m ready to get out of crisis mode and be mindful in everything I do. I know I can do it. It’s never too late to learn how to live your life in a healthy way. And even though it feels like I start all over every week and don’t make strides, I know I’m a million times better than last year. And the year before that. Progress is hard to see sometimes.

I hope y’all have a great week. Stay in the light, my friends.

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Recently, I was told I posted too much about depression — that I was “bumming” people out. This comment not only infuriated me, but it hurt my feelings. How often do people like me — the chronically ill, depressed and others suffering with a mental disorder — deal with some inane comment like that. A comment that’s meant to shame and only discourage people’s truths.

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I’m sorry, not sorry that I’m “bumming” people out. People need to know what it’s like to have a mental disorder. I’m done being told to “chin up,” “get some fresh air,” and “exercise” to cure my depression. That’s not helpful.

When you’re depressed and anxious, you can’t “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” In my case, when I’m going through a depressive episode, all I feel is pain. I get bone tired that no amount of sleep can alleviate. In my head, all I hear are criticisms of myself, how I’m a loser and unworthy. That nobody loves me. That I should kill myself. And the guilt — it’s overpowering. I feel guilty that I’m a depressed mom and that I have limitations that other moms don’t have. I feel guilty because I can’t control how I feel. I feel flawed, defective because growing up I came to understand that depression was something you could wish away with fresh air and sunshine. That strong people didn’t get depressed.

So, that makes me weak, right? That’s the stigma of depression talking.

I know better now. There’s nothing weak about me, or anyone who suffers with a mental disorder.

As I write this — and I’m not even experiencing a depressive episode — I’m purposely overeating, doing anything that will make the pain I feel go away. Overall, I’m doing great right now, but the thing about depression is that it lurks, always waiting for an opportunity to blanket my brain in doubt, fear and pain. And it’s so lonely. Not everyone understands and there are so many misconceptions about depression. My brain, my own brain, tells me to isolate from friends and family, making me even lonelier and in despair.

Luckily, I was able to go to a very good psychiatric hospital where specialists properly diagnosed me, prescribed the right medication and started me on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I’m so sick that doctors have to pass electric currents through my brain to trigger a seizure, resetting my brain. I have to do treatments every six to eight weeks, along with weekly therapy, just to feel almost normal.

My diagnoses are as follows:
Persistant depressive disorder (dysthymia)
Major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, severe
Generalized anxiety disorder
Binge eating disorder
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Opioid use disorder, moderate
Sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder, moderate

I’m one of the lucky ones because I can afford a high-dollar hospital and therapy. There are people who can’t. There are people who are suffering in silence, all because some people feel uncomfortable and “get bummed out” talking about mental illness. It’s bullshit. No one — and I do mean no one — should ever suffer in silence. There’s nothing embarrassing about struggling with depression. It’s not a weakness. It’s the same as having any other disease or disorder. So many people put on a happy face in order to hide their illness, and that too is bullshit. And that can be so dangerous if that person has suicidal ideation. People literally die because they don’t feel free to share how they’re feeling. The CDC reports that more than 48,000 people die each year by suicide. That number is surely to rise because of the pandemic.

It has to stop. I’m done being embarrassed by the fact that my brain is wired differently. I’m tired of feeling weak, when in reality I fight for my life every day. I’m strong as hell. I’m scrappy and I have grit. I’m proud of who I’ve become. And I will certainly NOT stop talking about depression or other mental disorders. I don’t give a fuck who I’m bumming out, because I’m also giving a voice to those who can’t quite find theirs yet.

I’m free from the embarrassment and guilt. I’m done with caring what other people think — the weight of their opinions is far too heavy. I will continue to lend my voice because I want others to be free too.

Please let us be free.

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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.

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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.

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I’m coming off a very happy weekend. My parents drove down on Thursday to visit and it was so good to see them. I usually see them a lot more often but the pandemic has halted our travel. The kids were so excited and my parents were very happy with the new house.

It was also a good week. One of my blogs was published on The Mighty website! I have submitted two other blogs that they’ve decided to publish, so maybe it can be a regular thing. And because of that, my friend who’s a TV news producer said she’d like to do a story on my blog getting published and how important body positivity is to children, especially girls.

That’s really all for now. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. Stay in the light!

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My Body, Myself

by Heather Loeb

I love the bird tattoo just below my shoulder on my chest.

The tattoo I have on my left arm, a bird on a typewriter, makes me feel so sexy. And strong.

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I love the Phoenix on my back that reminds me that I will always rise.

The Hebrew on my side tells the story of Ruth, the first convert, and reminds me why I’m Jewish.

I love the color of my eyes, green with a bit of brown circling my pupils. Green eyes are rare, and I enjoy being rare.

I love my curly, wild hair, because it never looks the same from one day to another.

I love my boobs, which I had surgically reduced and that’s OK. I acknowledge and appreciate that they fed and nourished both my babies.

I love my legs, which are shapely and sexy.

Sadly, I don’t love all of me. I look at my stomach in the mirror and frown. It’s swollen and puffy from weight gain and eating poorly since the pandemic started. I tell myself that I’ve carried two babies and try to appreciate my womb as much as I appreciate other parts of my body.

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I ignore the guilty feeling that’s spurred when my thighs uncomfortably touch when I walk.

I also try to ignore my chins when I take a selfie and the fact that I probably “need” Botox.

I avoid jeans and opt for leggings or sweats. I pick sweatshirts and baggy shirts to hide my insecurities, but I’m pretty sure my uncertain gait gives me away.

I try to give myself some grace. Be kind and do my best but I’ve been in autopilot for months, attempting to fill whatever void I feel at the moment. It never works. It’s always there and unless I do some real, hard work it will continue to be there.

My progress is not linear; some days are better than others. But I want to love all of me.

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I think I’m pretty amazing (most of the time). I fight depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder every single day. I’ve suffered a mental break, having to go to a psychiatric hospital for six weeks. I do ECT treatments, shock therapy, every six to eight weeks just so I can feel OK and get by. And I do it all for my family. And me, of course. I am a fighter, a survivor and advocate.

My heart, my strong yet tender heart, swells with pride when I think about it all. And how I’m setting an example to my kids by taking care of my mental health and making myself a priority. They’ll see my perseverance and resilience. They’ll also see my flaws and I’m OK with that. They need to see them, see me.

I want them to see how much I love and appreciate my body and self and I’ll continue to work on that. Even though I’m almost 40. It’s never too late to try. To love yourself.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

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