Tag:

major depression

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Everyone Has Something

by Heather Loeb
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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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Past Versions of Ourselves

by Heather Loeb

As Christmas approaches, a lot of us are spending time with old friends and family, which can be stressful for anyone.

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I checked in with one friend who traveled to Texas for Christmas, and even though she was around her sisters and her parents, she felt left out. They still treated her like a child, she said. It was like they could only see her as a bratty teenager, a role she has long abandoned.

I can understand that. Not about the teenager thing, but I feel with some people who have known me for a long time see only a past version of myself and don’t see or acknowledge that I’ve grown.

It feels like I’ve grown a lot, especially in the past three years. I’m not even the same person I was last Wednesday, and I think that’s fine. But it can be disappointed when someone gets stuck on who you were. An example (I admit it’s not the greatest example) is a comment a family member made about me being a picky eater. I was puzzled when the comment was made and later I asked my husband if I was a picky eater. I remember being one as a child but not so much now. A better example might be when another family member prefaced her statements with, “OK, try not to fly of the handle when I tell you this…”

I thought it was weird. I don’t usually get overly emotional or irritated when people tell me things, contrary to what my husband might say. I took the news just fine — it was nothing to get emotional about.

But that’s what I’m talking about. Maybe years (previous Heathers) before I would’ve gotten upset, but not now. Maybe my growth isn’t apparent to others, but I definitely know it’s there. My therapist would agree with that, for sure. I’ve come a long way, and I work hard to be emotionally healthy. Especially since returning from the psychiatric hospital. Before I didn’t take care of myself. I was about instant gratification, doing things that I thought felt good (binge eating, cutting, abusing meds, etc). I was suicidal, but didn’t take my meds regularly or even attend therapy often. I ended up being a sick, miserable version of myself, and it was hard to swallow who I was.

That person wasn’t bad, necessarily. It was just I was then. I was doing my best to survive, and I think it’s important to appreciate that. Sometimes we have to go through things like that to grow; I’m just glad I came out of it healthier. Now I’m a better wife, mom, friend, daughter, etc.

Maybe I should’ve pointed out my growth to those family members, but then again, I’m not growing for them. This is about me. I’m proud of who I am and the 796 previous versions of me.

So if you’re spending time this week with loved ones who have known you for a long time, give them a little grace. And be sure you’re not judging them for who they used to be, too. It’s easy for me to list my limitations, but when it comes to others, I don’t always acknowledge theirs, or their growth. I (you) should be present and get to know them as who they are now, not who I think they should be or want them to be. Read that again.

I hope y’all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I can’t wait to see who I grow to be this coming year.

As always, stay in the light.

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Recently I went to a fundraiser for a local politician. While my husband and I were there, many people commented how they liked my column, blog and videos I make for Mental Health Monday. I joked with my husband (a former city councilman) that I was now more popular than he was.

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It felt good to be recognized for something I absolutely love doing. But when I went home that night, after we had dinner, I binged on junk food: chips, chocolate and candy.

The next day at therapy I told my therapist how good it felt to be praised, and she replied, “Did you sabotage it in some way?” She already knew. I nodded with tears in my eyes.

We explored it some, but I already knew where it was headed — to the core belief that I’m not good enough.

I don’t know why or how it started, but it has been difficult to fight. It’s lodged way deep down inside me and seems to drive my depression, anxiety, eating disorder and compulsive shopping. My therapist said that turning to things like binge eating or spending money is just me compensating for all I feel I lack.

She said it’s almost like I’m trying to get away with being a good person, a worthy one who is accomplishments — that it’s all a façade. And then I punish myself for feeling good or happy with myself by repeating self-destructive behaviors.

It’s so dangerous to live this way, to be ruled by a negative core belief that dictates how you live yourself, because let’s face it, that’s exactly what they do. You form a core belief by lived experiences, childhood, what others say about you and any assumptions you pick up along the way. They are embedded in our thinking and shape our actions. I would argue that nothing is more important or influential to your development than a core belief. They can be empowering, or they can limit you. If they’re limiting they can keep you from reaching your full potential and affect your relationships with other people.

So, obviously not all of them are positive. I didn’t grow up with mean parents and while I was picked on a bit during childhood so I don’t understand how I ended up like this. I realize it’s not a life sentence — you can refute and change core beliefs — but I’m learning that it’s very hard and even when you think you’ve made progress, you often move backward. Negative thinking can hinder your efforts. That’s hard to change, too.

What I’ve started doing is keep a list of what I believe are my core beliefs:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m lazy and worthless
  • I’m fat and ugly. It’s bad to be fat
  • I’m a bad mom

This is hard for me to write because these are my deepest, darkest secrets — my fears and insecurities and what I try to hide from people who get to know me. But I feel like I must come clean to heal. I know I’m not the only one who believes they’re not good enough and then practices self-sabotage. I can’t be alone. Am I alone?

The only thing I know to do is debunk these statements with evidence. And to replace each negative belief with a positive one.

Instead of “I’m not good enough,” maybe I use “I am a good person, and I am enough.” No evidence exists proving otherwise. Despite any shortcomings I may have, I’m still enough and I believe G-d made me to be exactly who I am.

I’m worthy because I try to be a good person and do good in the world. Not because I’m David Loeb’s wife, Isla and Eli’s mom, etc. I’m worthy because I myself am worthy. I’m deserving of being worthy.

I believe you are, too.

I know that ugly thoughts collect in the dark corners of my brain, and maybe that’s just part of who I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe them. I know enough to know that my brain is a liar. Depression is a liar. And anxiety, too.

It’s kind of scary to admit your brain doesn’t always tell the truth because how are you supposed to know the difference between reality and its lies? It’s terrifying.

But if your brain is telling you negative things about yourself, such as you’re not worthy, it’s time to reassess. Nobody deserves hearing that. Nobody deserves to believe it.

Write it all down. Back it up with evidence. If you can’t find the evidence, it’s likely not true. Talk to your family and friends. Replace all the negative with positive. Start with baby steps. I realize this is easier said than done, but just know that I’m right there with you. Sometimes our brains tell us to do something to survive, but it can be wrong.

Maybe we should stop merely surviving and start living.

We can do this. We can do hard things. We are worthy of love and acceptance, even from ourselves

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Absolute Zero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good Vibes

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

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

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

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

It’s also embarrassing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I love you all.

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My Dead Body

by Heather Loeb

NOTE: This post was originally written last year.
TW: suicide, suicidal ideation, depression, self harm

Last month I was asked to speak at State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Symposium. I talked about the many times I’ve been suicidal, and I realized I’ve never told the story here. While it is painful at times to retell, I think it’s so important to talk about because so many people suffer in silence. The stats on suicide have gone up, and there’s no doubt in my mind that those numbers will double, maybe even triple, because of the pandemic. If you are struggling with suicidal ideation, please seek help whether it’s your doctor, a trusted friend or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.

Here is my story.

I was alone at my parents’ house, and my depression was out of control at the time. My parents had taken my kids to their lake house about 90 minutes away. I remember fighting on the phone with my husband, I don’t know what about. I hung up with him and I felt out of control, like my insides were trying to jump out of my body. I was pacing, sobbing and didn’t know what to do. I started to shake, sweat and suddenly I all I felt was pain. My brain was telling me to die by suicide* and I calculated how to die — I would overdose on pain pills that I knew were in my parents’ bathroom.

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I went over and over my plan, and I started to shake harder. I had to sit. I didn’t want to die, but my brain was telling me everything would be better if I did. And my family would be better off, too. I thought of my kids and the guilt overwhelmed me. Then I thought about my mother coming home from the lake house and finding my dead body. My dead body. Those words gave me the chills, and I cried harder.

I called my mom in hysterics. She tried her best to calm me down. I hung up with her and texted my best friend, who urged me to go to the nearest emergency room. I was really scared I would die, so I went.

When I got there, I whispered, “I’m suicidal.” And the tears kept coming. A nurse took me to a room, and asked me routine questions about my health, then my mental health. I saw a doctor, although I don’t remember our conversation. They left me in the room for almost an hour, waiting on transport to an acute psychiatric facility.

The men in the ambulance didn’t talk to me the entire ride. They joked and laughed from the front of the ambulance and then pushed me on a stretcher into the building. When I got inside, they asked me to change clothes into scrubs they provided, asked me questions about my plan to die and mental health history. I was taken to a room and told to go to sleep, it was late then. I had a roommate who I didn’t meet until the next morning.

I can’t say I received the help I needed while I was there; the doctor, a man, was rude and condescending and told me I couldn’t go home until he talked to my husband (who was in Corpus Christi at the time). Once he talked to David, he said I could go. The whole experience was humiliating, and I hope to never repeat it.

I don’t mean to discourage those who are suffering to go an emergency room — please do so if you are in immediate danger of killing yourself. My bad experience doesn’t mean you’ll have one. My point, and I could go on and on, is that the way we treat the mentally ill MUST change.

But I regress. I’d like to say that was the last time I was suicidal, but it was not. When it does happen, I know to text my best friend, to call the Lifeline and to reach out to my husband. Most of the time, I’m about to tell myself that those feelings are temporary, and that they will pass, as painful as it us at that moment.

Being suicidal is the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through — I feel severe pain, I wrestle with the idea that I’d be leaving my kids and family, then I feel extreme guilt. The guilt just makes me feel more out on control. It’s awful. Let me be clear: I hope to never hurt my children, family and friends because I’ve killed myself. I love them more than anything, but when I become suicidal, I obviously am not thinking clearly. The only thing I truly feel is to end the pain. I don’t even want to die, but I do so long to end the pain.

That’s why I can’t stand when people say that those who die by suicide are selfish. They weren’t being selfish; they just wanted their anguish and pain to go away. And it’s completely understandable, having been in that position myself.

Again, that’s why we need to talk about this and expel the myths and misconceptions. We need to be able to discuss suicide like it’s any other topic, because too many are dying. What’s scary to me is that it’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. The CDC reports that someone dies by suicide ever 12 minutes. Even scarier is that more than half — 54 percent — of people who die by suicide have no known history of a mental disorder. This means that a lot of people are struggling, not disclosing they are struggling and killing themselves without reaching out. It comes from out of the blue. How incredibly tragic and painful.

So, let’s end the cycle. Let’s be open about mental illness and suicide and resist the taboo and social constraints that are clearly killing people. Because it’s only going to get worse, thanks to COVID-19 and the lasting effects of the virus.

It is beyond tragic when we lost someone to suicide; I imagine someone in crisis, feeling overwhelmed and in pain. It hurts me to think that one of their last thoughts may have been, “I’m alone. I am worthless. I’m better off dead.” And that they die not knowing how special and needed they are in this world. It’s painful to think about, but that’s what we must do in order to change things.

And we must change things.

If you are in crisis, please reach out. If someone reaches out to you, please be open and supportive. Offer to drive them to the emergency room, sit with them or give them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Do your part. Show compassion. Give love and support.

That’s all I got.

*Instead of saying, “committed suicide,” please say, “die by suicide.” There’s a lot of judgement when you use words like commit and it implies that they are doing something wrong (like committing a sin) when really they’re sick and need medical attention.

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Last week was a good one. I started eating healthier, I worked (jogged) three days I week, I drank fewer Diet Cokes, replacing them with water and I kept up with personal hygiene. It wasn’t a good week, it was great.

Those kids of weeks don’t happen often, not for me. I caught myself thinking about it as a fluke, some hormonal gift that was sure to fade away because doesn’t it always?

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I haven’t had more than one of those weeks in years. I didn’t want to get attached to the idea of it for good reason. Depression has reigned in my brain for too long. It always comes back, and it’s hard to beat.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a small part of me saying, wait — isn’t this what we’ve been working on? What we’ve trained for? I haven’t modified my behavior, taken all these pills and gone to therapy just so I could tread water for the rest of my life, because damn, isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Getting through the day, weeks, months and even years to only keep from drowning? NO! I have not. I want to live, really live without the ball and chain of depression and its comorbidities.

If I’m happy now, it better not be a fluke. I’ve worked too hard. There’s been literal blood, sweat and tears thrown into my recovery and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please tell me this isn’t an accident.

I want to believe it’s real, that it’s not hormonal or manic phase. I want to believe that sometimes I can catch a break, at the very least an intermission from the pain and heartache my treatment-resistant depression and anxiety have caused me. And not to mention my family and friends.

I want to live and not just count down the minutes until I’m unconscious again. To wake up and literally smell the roses. I want to be happy and enjoy everything I’ve been given. Some may ask, can’t you do that with depression, and the answer is yes. But having depression is like only seeing in black and white when you know others can see color, that you once saw color. It dulls all your senses and sometimes, a lot of the times, you can’t feel anything at all except for loss. Heavy, penetrating , overwhelming loss.

I don’t want to feel that anymore.

Don’t I deserve a break?

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Let me preface this blog by stating these are my experiences only – not all depressed people are the same, nor do they experience depression/anxiety in the same way.

When I first wrote this blog I didn’t have a problem with the title but now I do. Labeling the following as “bad habits” implies to me that these actions can be prevented but these things are uncontrollable side effects of depression and anxiety.

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So let me say, “10 Things That (Almost) Every Depressed/Anxiety Person Does”

1. Cancels plans – I cancel plans a lot, and I feel really bad about it. When I’m feeling good I reach out to my loved ones and make plans but when the time comes my mood and demeanor have changed. It feels physically impossible to hang out, especially if it’s in public. My depression/anxiety is so unpredictable, and because of this, it makes it hard for me to maintain some friendships.

2. Sleeps too much – When I’m in a depressive episode I can’t get enough sleep. Mostly because I feel extreme fatigue, but I also don’t want to be awake much because it’s too much work. I get overwhelmed, and it’s painful to be awake, so I go to sleep early and take naps during the day. This is a problem because it can intensify things like obesity, headaches and backaches. You miss out on things, and it’s just not healthy. It’s definitely not a long-term coping strategy.

3. Isolates – As I mentioned earlier, when you’re depressed it’s so much effort to be awake and functioning. This includes socializing with family and friends. Even texting seems hard, so it’s easy to just withdraw but this too is dangerous. Feeling alone can increase feelings of depression — mainly loneliness and despair — which could lead to suicidal thoughts.

4. Neglects personal hygiene – Sadly, this is a huge problems for me. For a long time, I could only shower once a week. I also have trouble brushing my teeth. It seems silly because these tasks don’t seem hard but if you’re depressed, they’re an impossible task. I would feel gross, slovenly and even worse about myself.

5. Overuses drugs and alcohol – I abused my anxiety meds because I wanted to feel anything but the pain and discomfort depression and anxiety were making me feel. So I took pills to feel loopy and out of it. This obviously doesn’t aid in recovery of depression, and it can kill you. Using anything to numb the pain is dangerous, whether it’s prescription meds, drugs or alcohol. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, please reach out to your doctor.

6. Dissociates – I just wrote a blog abut this, check it out here. Dissociation is common to those who have depression. It’s one way the mind copes with too much stress or trauma. Experiences of dissociation last hours or days. That feeling that I’m detached from my body is why I like to binge eat or take pills — it’s just a feeling of escape. It doesn’t happen often with me, but I totally understand why.

7. Doesn’t eat enough or eats too much – I have Binge Eating Disorder, where I eat until I’m uncomfortably or painfully full but don’t purge. Overeating like that isn’t much different from me abusing medication — I just want to feel “good” for awhile. The problem with bingeing is that I only temporarily feel good. The aftermath and effects are terrible, but I seem to forget this when I’m bingeing.

8. Snaps at loved ones – Sometimes anxiety can manifest as anger or rage. I didn’t know that until recently. When I start snapping at my husband or yelling at the kids, I know it’s my “check engine” light coming on and I need to take a break or practice self-care.

9. Overthinks – This is called rumination, and it’s hard to stop. I’ll get a thought in my head or replay a scenario and think about it for hours, even days. It’s hard to control, and it causes me to feel shame and guilt. Believe me, I don’t need anymore of those.

10. Worries too much about the future – Sometimes I’ll get caught up on the future. I’ll worry excessively about it (and even ruminate), even though I know it’s irrational to do so. Mainly, I’ll think about finances or my husband dying. It’s unpleasant and just causes more anxiety. This is also hard to control.

Any others you can think of? Leave them in the comments.

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Don’t let the title of this blog fool you — depression definitely sucks. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone; however, there are some things that having severe depression (and anxiety) have taught me. If I’m going to deal with these disorder for the rest of my life, I better make hay when the sun shines.

1. I’m empathetic – Depression is a chronic disease, an invisible one, and so many people misunderstand just how bad it can be. A lot of people put on a happy face while they go to work and in front of their friends even when inside they feel like they are slowly dying a painful death. I have learned not to judge others as much, because we truly don’t know what’s going on with someone unless they confide in us. And those who are suffering from a chronic or invisible illness, I have so much more empathy toward. I know what it’s like — the pain, the judgement from others, etc. Having depression has taught me to respect other people’s health journey, no matter what that may be.

2. I’m also resilient – I’ve been through a lot, and even though it’s still painful at times, I fight. I bounce back. I shake it off.

3. I’m able to help others – I’ve had depression and anxiety since I was about 12 years old. I’ve taken tons of different medications, I’ve been hospitalized at a psychiatric facility, I’ve abused my anxiety meds, I’ve self harmed and I have an eating disorder. These experiences help me relate to others and I can share what I’ve gone through, hopefully so they don’t repeat my mistakes.

4. I have lots of patience – During a depressive episode, I can get so frustrated with my brain for not working correctly, but I’ve learned that if I just stick it out, the sun will shine again and my pain will fade. I just have to be patient — with my brain, with my medications, the ECTs (electroconvulsive therapy), etc. With the right combination of therapy, medication and coping skills, life gets better. It will always get better.

5. I appreciate the little things in life – This is hard to do during a depressive episode, because everything feels like hard work. (See my spoons blog). It’s hard to shower, eat, sleep and take care of my family, etc. That’s why I have to force myself to appreciate the little things — a cold Diet Coke, fresh flowers, painting my nails, playing with my kids and binge watching TV shows with David. “Indulging” in these things helps me to remember that life is good, despite what my brain is telling me and that I have to continue to take care of myself to experience the good.

6. I’m confident I can handle anything – I’ve battled severe postpartum depression, I’ve fought off suicidal thoughts more times than I can count, I’ve been hospitalized for six weeks and I continue to fight my major depression on a daily basis. These are not easy feats. It’s especially hard when you’re fighting a disease in which your own brain tells you to kill yourself or you’re not worthy. Yet, here I am despite it all. I’m strong, and I know I can handle anything that comes my way.

7. It’s taught me who I am – I kept quiet about my depression, anxiety and eating disorder because I learned somewhere along the way that these things were character flaws. I thought I was broken and flawed and didn’t get the help I needed. That’s the stigma of mental health talking. Depression is just a disease I fight — it’s not who I am. I’m the strong, resilient, loving woman who kicks depression’s ass everyday. Everything I went through was a major gut check, and even though I hate what depression has done to me, it’s made me a better, stronger version of myself and I can’t hate that. I’m proud of my journey and I’m proud that I can be so open about it. My hope is that others will read my blogs and feel free to share their journey as well.

8. I’m brave – It wasn’t easy being honest about my mental disorders and sharing that I’ve been hospitalized and suicidal. Although it was freeing later in the process, it was really painful when I initially shared everything because so many people don’t understand mental health. But that just means we have to work harder at normalizing it and sharing factual information about it. I’m brave for putting it all out there, I’m brave for doing ECTs every eight weeks and I’m brave for getting up every morning and fighting for my life.

9. It’s shown me who my real friends are – Being depressed is a real drag. I cancel plans with my friends quite a bit, and I know that gets annoying hearing that I’m depressed every. single. day. I get it. When you’re dealing with such a debilitating illness, you find out real quick who will stick by you and support you. It ain’t for sissies. I’m thankful for my girlfriends who continue to stick by me and give me unlimited support, no matter what’s going on with me.

10. It’s forced me to be more mindful – I have to keep very close tabs on my emotions and actions so I don’t slip into a depressive episode. I have to make sure I’m getting enough sleep, water, alone time, vitamins and more so I can be as healthy as possible. Monitoring my emotions is no different — I have to make sure that I’m processing and dealing with my feelings, especially if it’s a negative emotion. For example, if I’m feeling uncertainty or fear, I have to cope with that in a positive way and not a negative way, such as binge eating. It’s very easy to turn the feelings monitor off and try to fill that void with food or other unhealthy coping skills. So, I’m mindful of how I feel and in dealing with how I feel.

Any benefits I missed? Drop ’em in the comments. Thanks for reading. Stay in the light.

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istock-1153386698-1024x878-6593347

I remember when I was much, much younger and was dating an older boy. We were picnicking at the park, and it was a beautiful day. It was one of those moments I thought that I would remember forever; however, now I remember it for the wrong reasons.

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As I was enjoying the day and our time together, my boyfriend asked, “Do you know what would make this better?” Fully expecting him to say, “Nothing!” I asked what. Then he said, “Alcohol!”

Now, I don’t drink and am not against it at all, but I was so annoyed. We didn’t need alcohol to make anything better — it was perfect as it was. He then said, “Or maybe smoking a joint.” I was really pissed after that, even though I’m not against marijuana either.

I didn’t understand my boyfriend. He was always trying to drink or smoke, and I didn’t realize why until I began abusing my anxiety pills several years ago — he was trying to escape pain. He had many problems that he never dealt with and unfortunately never really got a chance to because he died in a suspected drunk driving accident. He was in his 20s, a kid almost.

When I was severely depressed and suicidal, I started abusing benzodiazepines, which are highly addictive. I was still dealing with postpartum depression, although I didn’t realize it until things got dire for me. I remember thinking to myself that the pills made everything better, and I’d take them every chance I got, eventually working my way up on the dosage. Even when I wasn’t anxious, I’d take them. I too was trying to escape. And even though I thought the pills were helping me and making me happier, they weren’t. They were just numbing me to the pain. Whatever relief I got from those tiny little pills was temporary, and I was doing much more harm than good.

I was lucky; I could’ve easily overdosed on those pills and died. So many people do but when I went to the psychiatric hospital for my depression, I was encouraged to take the addiction classes and deal with my demons there, too. Even though I don’t miss the pills, I still get the desire to escape in some form. That has never gone away and because of that it’s wise that I avoid drinking, benzodiazepines and other mood altering substances.

This is such an important topic. I have everything I’ve ever wanted — great family/friends, a wonderful husband, great kids, beautiful home — so why do I need to escape? My therapist asks me that all the time and for the life of me, I just can’t think of an answer.

That’s the thing about depression, even when you’re happy with your life it still drags you down like a ball and chain. I can fight it with positivity all I want, but it will still be there, lurking in the dark corners of my fragile mind. So I embrace it — the good days and the bad. I know that when things get gloomy, it’s only temporary, and it will always get better. I’ll keep fighting the good fight and when someone asks me, “What could make this better?” my answer will be, “Nothing.”

Nothing at all.

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