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Binge Eating Disorder

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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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Emotional Pain

by Heather Loeb

Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years are over. And we’ve moved into our house. There are no big events looming, nothing I need to focus on at the moment. I’ve been so busy packing up the house and getting ready for the holidays, I haven’t had time to think about much else.

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Now that I’m not in overdrive (as much as a girl with no serotonin can be in), my brain idles and I feel it — old, familiar pain. It’s like a TV show on repeat, constantly playing in the background, grating my nerves and triggering bad habits. I can’t turn it off, I don’t even know how.

Emotional pain is more painful than anything I’ve ever felt, and in my case, I don’t even know how it got there. I don’t know if that even matters.

For all I know, it’s been lodged deep inside me for decades, manifesting as anxiety, depression, irritability and loneliness. Just to name a few.

I’ve tried a number of ways to distract myself — piercings, tattoos, binge eating, dieting, writing and compulsive shopping. Just a name a few. You would think that I would turn to other methods, as those have clearly not worked. But I don’t.

It’s like my brain shouts, “This is painful! I must feel something else!” Then remembers that one time two years ago that eating a package of candy tasted so good and made me feel better. Then I proceed to binge on that candy, hoping to recreate that happy feeling but I don’t ever find it.

And I will keep eating it until I am literally sick. It’s no different with pills. If I take a pill and feel sedated or loopy, I’ll continue taking the pill. I’ll abuse that medication, taking more to chase that initial feeling to the point where I’m dangerously close to taking too much.

That’s the thing about compulsions — you just can’t stop. My therapist constantly tells me I’d be a fantastic drug addict. And she’s not wrong.

I wonder if I squandered my time at The Menninger Clinic. Shouldn’t I have learned to curtail these bad habits and compulsions? I am much better than I was, so I’m not sure. I bought three books on dealing with emotional pain today. Will they work? Can I afford not to read them?

At my last therapy appointment, my therapist read me her notes from our very first session eight years ago. In it she quoted me saying, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. And have it so good. Why am I so sad?”

Today I asked myself the same question, and it makes me feel worse that I’m no closer to the answer than I was almost a decade earlier.

I’m grateful for what I am. I appreciate both the big and small in my life. I thank God everyday. It’s almost like I’m embarrassed for feeling depression and anxiety because I have so much. But being grateful won’t prevent me from being depressed and anxious. Not much does.

Tears are threatening because I just can’t stand the thought of being stuck with my defective, asshole brain for the rest of my life. I don’t want to binge or abuse medication. I just want to feel good because I feel good, not because I’m chasing a high.

I’m hopeful that I’ll find the answers, eventually. That’s one thing my brain can’t take from me — my hope.

Edit: Please note that this blog was written at an earlier date, while I was feeling blue. Even though I’m feeling better, I think it’s important to document all the moods and feelings that go along with major depression and anxiety — because there are a lot.

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The new year is approaching, and in the past I’ve always attempted to make new year’s resolutions, usually related to weight loss. And while that’s all fine and good for some, I will not be making any resolutions, weight-related or otherwise.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to bidding this year adieu (because of COVID-19), but this year was transforming for me. I no longer feel the need to place restrictions or punish myself because I don’t look certain way. It’s good to have goals and I will always strive to improve and challenge myself, but I just can’t continue my obsession with my weight.

This year was so shitty in so many ways, and I’m surprised I haven’t suffered a mental break, to be honest. Instead I have risen to the occasion and been strong mentally, because damn, I had to. The added stress and uncertainty pushed me to my limits, and I started writing more as a release. I’ve had this blog for two years, and I’ve always tried to be candid, but the pandemic made me show my ass, about everything.

And I have loved every minute, even when I’ve been embarrassed or shamed. Writing about my eating disorder, depression, anxiety and a hospital stay has liberated me.

I’m free now.

I’ve pushed past the shame and have started to love myself. And I’ve also discovered that I’m kind of a bad ass. I’m proud of myself, which includes my mental disorders. I’ve even written articles for the local paper admitting my depression and my stay at a psychiatric hospital. The whole city knows, and that’s OK with me.

I’m free from the bondage of other people’s opinions I’m starting to free myself from obsessing about my weight and my appearance. It’s so damn hard, but I’m trying.

The goals I will make for myself in the coming days will focused on self-care. To be healthy, physically and mentally, you must practice self-care and make yourself a priority. Like everyone says, you can’t fill from an empty cup. And it’s not selfish to put yourself first. It’s actually really hard work to do so, but it’s rewarding — not just for you but those around you.

I wear a bracelet at all times that says, “GRIT,” as a reminder to do the necessary hard work, that I have what it takes and not to give up.

2020 was a terrible year for so many, but I’m so grateful that this different self of mine emerged and helped liberate me from all the bullshit.

I’ve called myself a black sheep all my life because of my differences among family, and even friends, but the black wool suits me now instead of reminds me that I’m an outcast.

Edit: I don’t mean this post to sound like a brag about how much I’ve achieved this year. Surviving this pandemic (no matter what coping mechanisms you used) is achievement alone.

Happy New Year. I wish y’all well

Stay in the light.

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Why Me?

by Heather Loeb

Yesterday was a hard day. I was sad, overwhelmed and irritable. Everything seemed so unbelievably hard, from getting the kids to school, doing chores around the new house, putting the kids to bed and even breathing, it seemed. We moved into our new house last week, and I’m so grateful, but still it’s hard. And it’s hard for others to understand when I have so much going for me — and I do

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I kept thinking, “Is it always going to be so hard?” In terms of my depression, I’m on medications that work, I’m doing therapy and I’m still doing ECTs. I don’t understand why I still have days where I’m so sad and feel so worthless. I’m fatigued to the point where it feels like my bones are tired. I guess everybody has bad days, but when I experience a bad day often have intrusive thoughts, some thoughts telling me I should die. I try to fight them off — I don’t want to die, but I fear that one day I might given into those thoughts. Too many bad days could be dangerous for me.

I’m not trying to harp on my diagnoses, but I’m struggling with Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder. It’s a lot to deal with to say the least. When I feel blue, like I am know, it’s overwhelming to think about. How on Earth do I have so many things wrong with me? Because of all my inflictions, any changes to my routine — or life in general — can cause me to fall into a depressive episode, wherein I’m typically rendered useless. I have to live within rigid constraints so my stupid brain doesn’t go haywire. And adhering to such unforgiving boundaries, even ones that benefit me, is difficult and overwhelming.

It’s a lot of damn work to keep me alive and kicking, and while I am appreciative of being alive and kicking, it doesn’t mean I don’t get discouraged every once in a while. Sometimes I feel like I’m not allowed to have a bad day — that at the mention of being sad or anything related, people jump to the conclusion that I need more meds or ECTs. I understand to an extent — my loved ones don’t want me to be suicidal and in inpatient care again.

Normally, I tend to think that depression is supposed to happen to people like me. I guess what I mean is that I can take it. I can get through it, and I have a platform where I can (hopefully) help others with their mental disorders.

But it’s still very hard not to think, “Why me? Why the fuck me??”

I’ll get over this mood. I’ll get more sleep, practice self care, re-evaluate what’s not working, and I’ll be back in the sunshine. But it’s perfectly normal to have a bad day and wallow a bit. My feelings, even anger and frustration, are valid.

And so are yours.

Stay in the light, friends.

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Sometimes it feels like I eat, sleep and breathe my mental disorders. My depression is all consuming — how do I feel today? How about now? Am I anxious? Will I have a panic attack today? Will I have suicidal thoughts?

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In order to maintain my mental health, I have to adhere to a strict routine, and any interruption — big or small — to that routine can cause me to fall into a depressive episode. It’s like I’m walking on a tight rope, and it’s a lot to deal with, to say the least.

I don’t mean to complain, only to emphasize that it’s a lot just to keep me feeling OK and functioning at the most basic of levels. As hard as it is for me, it’s has to be even harder for David.

I imagine him each day gauging what mood I’m in, how fragile I am at the moment and whether he has to come home early to help me with the kids, because I’m overwhelmed. It happens every week. Some of you will say it’s his job as my husband, that he’s not fighting mental illness, but he is.

He is right alongside me every day, battling depression, anxiety and my binge eating disorder. He takes me to doctors appointments, to get ECTs in San Antonio every four to six weeks and he’s there advocating for me and picking up the slack. And there’s a lot of it.

Even in the midst of being suicidal, abusing my meds and self harming, his love has never wavered. I don’t mean to make him out to be perfect, but he has been there for me and the kids through the worst of my depression.

He is living this disease just as much as I am.

Nobody ever talks about how spouses/significant others struggle with this — the other side of depression. Often, they play the role of caregiver, and even if it’s necessary, it’s not sexy. Nothing about depression is. Spouses should be recognized for their sacrifices and struggle, too.

The truth is David must be weary. I know I am. But everything he does is to support me and literally keep me alive and functioning. How tiring that must be, because I live in a dark place. My brain is not my friend, often telling me I should die. It’s so dark sometimes I feel blind, lost in despair and destined to suffer.

But then there’s David, with enough light for the both of us.

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I have been remiss in updating my blog since I returned from the good ol’ mental hospital, so my apologies. The hospital actually helped me quite a bit. I was there for 6 weeks, which was terrible in terms of being away from my family, but I was able to get help for my depression, anxiety and my tendency to over medicate. I left with a brand new diagnosis, too, so that’s fun. Turns out I have Avoidant Personality Disorder, along with depression, dysthmia and generalized anxiety disorder. I also started up ECT treatments while I was there, which I am continuing now. It’s not as scary as it sounds – I know a lot of people think negatively about “shock therapy” – they seem to be working, for the most part. The only sucky part is that I have to drive two hours away to get the treatments, as Corpus Christi doesn’t have a place here to do it.

Things were going really well but honestly right now I am on the struggle bus. Even though I’ve been compliant with meds and going to therapy, my depression has returned as has my binge eating disorder. I got a lot of problems, right? Feels like it. I’ve gained a lot of weight in a very short amount of time and even as I write this blog, I am miserably overfull from a binge.

I plan on calling a nutritionist and upping my therapy appointments, among other healthy ideas but it’s really hard not to feel bad about myself right now. Bad that I am so depressed and not a lot seems to help it. Bad that I’ve gained weight and feel so horrible. Bad that I’m not the best example for my kids. I’m trying to pull myself out of this funk, but it’s so hard. It’s getting really hard to take care of myself, at least in the healthy way I learned about in the hospital. OK, so now that I’m typing all this it doesn’t seem like the ECT and new meds are helping. Sigh.

Even with all this crap going on, I still feel hopeful that I can get back on track and live a healthy and happy life. At least my hope isn’t gone. I have my friends and family to think for that – they all have provided me with more support than I ever could have imagined. I’m a lucky girl. And of course, my beautiful children keep me going.

So, I can beat this. I will. I’ll feel better soon. It wouldn’t hurt for y’all to pray for me, though. I’ll take whatever I can get.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking around through all my mess. Much love.

 

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