Tag:

Depression

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This morning was slow. I took the kids to school, worked on a couple things for NAMI and made #MentalHealthMonday videos. Now that I’m typing that, it doesn’t seem like such a slow morning.

After I did all that I turned on the TV and thought I’d enjoy some chill time before my noon meeting. Except I couldn’t enjoy it. I keep thinking that I was squandering my time, and there were things for me to do that I didn’t realize. A blanket of anxiety came over me, and I started to get that uncomfortable feeling in my chest that tags along with anxiety. I kept checking my phone, then Facebook, then back to my email.

I tried exploring the emotions that popped up. Why do I feel anxious? What would help me right now? That’s about as far as I got because then the word “squander” came to mine. Ouch. I hate that word. I’ve been accused of squandering in the past: money, time, energy, etc., so I was sensitive to it.

But was I really squandering time if I have all my “work” completed. Now, I shouldn’t have put work in quotations, but I’ll deal with that later. What’s wrong with watching a little TV and enjoying the silence that blooms once the kids are at school. Later today I’ll have a noon meeting, I’ll pick up my son at 1:45 p.m., then my daughter at 3 p.m. Then it’s karate class at 4 p.m. Mondays are always big days, so why not take a break now while I can get it?

Why must we keep ourselves busy? Most of the time I don’t like to be busy, although I admit it (sometimes) can help when I’m anxious and depressed.

I guess a lot of us measure our worth, our days, by productivity. It’s hundreds of years in the making, but the belief that you are success based on productivity is crap, especially if you have a mental health condition.

Depression and anxiety often dictate my schedule and how my dad will go. Sometimes I want to stay in bed or don’t have the energy to be around people, no matter who they are. And that’s okay. Successful days to me look like taking a shower, brushing my teeth and not yelling at the kids. Sometimes that’s a lot. Hell, sometimes I can’t even do that. For anyone with a serious mental illness, things that are seen as simple tasks can look daunting, like climbing a mountain. We don’t control it— we can manage it, but there’s no cure, and we’re definitely not doing it on purpose.

When I was a lot sicker, just a few years ago, taking a shower and brushing my teeth seemed like monumental acts of greatness that I just couldn’t manage. I’m doing better now, but I still struggle with it sometimes.

Can’t we measure our days by something else? Presence, self-care, being kind to ourselves and taking breaks? I realize there are a lot of people who don’t agree with that, but that’s old school thinking. Our generation is more gentle, I think. The stigma of mental illness, while presence, isn’t as strong as it was with our parents and their parents.

We can define our days how we want.

If all you did today was roll out of bed, that’s something. You are more than your productivity.” You are worthy and more.

And so am I.

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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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In the past week my son has hit me twice and bitten me, bringing on a dark purple bruise on my arm. All were done during a meltdown. He screams and cries, indignant and out of control. The slightest thing can set him off.

Combined with his hyperactivity and lack of focus, I knew he had ADHD long before a psychologist recently diagnosed him last week.

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The doctor said Eli’s ADHD isn’t severe, just a “mild case.” It doesn’t feel mild, to me or Eli’s teacher, who has been so supportive through this journey. She told my husband and I that we should consider getting him tested late last year. I had already seen him in somewhat of a classroom setting and he couldn’t sit still. He didn’t look anyone in the eye because he was so distracted by the toys, books and desks.

I haven’t observed him in his classroom, so I don’t experience the worst of his hyperactivity. But I have witnessed his impulse control many, many times. I’ve been hit, slapped, screamed at and more. He blows in my face because he knows it will annoy me, but he apologizes for all of this behavior soon after he calms down.

I realize he can’t control it. He doesn’t mean to do it; he just needs to figure out how to control his emotions, which is hard for a 5-year-old, nevertheless one with ADHD.

It would be easy to take all of this personally. When his teacher first brought ADHD up, I felt terribly guilty. I was so sure Eli was experiencing this because of my diagnoses — two types of depression, anxiety and a personality disorder. I went home and googled it, sure enough ADHD kids often have mothers with mood disorders. Obviously I don’t want him to struggle with this. I’ve struggled almost my whole life, and it’s no picnic.

I know it’s not my fault, but it’s hard to shake the guilt and shame that all moms experience.

The only thing to do is learn everything I can, modify our parenting, consult experts and just accept it.

I have to accept it. I have to accept that both my children may have inherited the illnesses I have. It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault. It’s not anybody’s fault.

I’ll do everything in my power to learn more and help him.

But I need to remember: In order to help him I have to work on myself, make sure I’m not pouring from an empty cup. I have to provide structure and routine. I have to set boundaries and actually stick to them.

I’m in recovery when it comes to my mental illnesses. Recovery doesn’t mean I have to be perfect, just that I’m always trying to grow.

I imagine Eli and I will grow together, be stronger because of the paths we’ll walk.

I know in my heart that he’s still the same sweet, loving little boy he was before the diagnosis. He just has his moments.

Lord knows I have mine.

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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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