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clinical depression

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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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Retrograde Amnesia

by Heather Loeb
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As many of you know, I have retrograde amnesia, caused by the many ECT treatments I’ve had to do in order to obtain relief from my depression. For the record, I must have these treatments — my depression is treatment resistant, meaning that most medications can’t help alleviate my symptoms. Not much does except the ECTs, which I started in 2019.

During a treatment, I’m anesthetized and electric currents are sent through electrodes that are placed on my forehead, inducing a seizure. It’s not known exactly how the treatments help; I’ve always looked at it as a hard reset of my stubborn brain.

I would be lying if I said I don’t mind the treatments — I actually hate them, because over time I’ve developed a phobia of the anesthesia. And it’s definitely bothersome that I can’t remember some things. My memory loss goes back years, decades even, and it’s very hard to retain information even now. It’s also pretty embarrassing. I’ve forgotten who some people are, their names and how I know them. And when I say I have amnesia, I’m met with blank stares. And then I have to explain ECTs, which sounds unbelievable if you’re not used to it.

When I do try to recall something, I see only a gray wall where the memory once resided. Things aren’t just fuzzy — they’re just not there most of the time.

This must sound awful, but there is one good thing about my memory loss: the memory loss.

That’s not a typo.

I’ve suffered for decades with major depressive disorder, an anxiety disorder and a personality disorder and it’s unbelievably painful. But, just like I can’t remember who I ran into at the grocery store last week, I also can’t remember the most painful, darkest moments of my depression. I only know about it from my husband’s or best friend’s account of it. Or previous blogs.

Even with the ECT treatments, I still suffer with depression, just on a much lighter scale. I’m glad I can’t remember every time I couldn’t get out of bed or every time the pain was so deep that I wanted to end my life. Because if I sit and dwell on just how bad it was or can be, then I might forget that I do want to live — and live happily.

I don’t know if that makes much sense, but I do know that I (likely) will be struggling with depression and anxiety for the rest of my life. That thought alone makes me sad, and I can see how that thought can make me — and others — lose their faith in life and just put their suffering to an end. Mental illness can be so lonely when you’re in such pain all the time. And people still don’t understand it; the stigma of having a mental disorder is still there, too. So, if you do know someone who struggles, please be more understanding and empathetic. It’s just so lonely.

Even if I have to go under anesthesia and have electric currents sent through my brain every eight weeks, it’s not so bad. Not compared to the reality I was living without the treatments.

I just have to remember to take notes anytime I’m awake.

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