Tag:

major depressive disorder

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I’m a slob. A big one. I try to fight it, I really do, but I always slip back into my slovenly ways. I don’t want to be a slob; it actually stresses me out to have a messy house and clutter everywhere, but I just can’t muster the strength to do better. And I’m not even in a full-blown depressive episode.

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It’s not that I’m lazy — there’s a little of that, too — it’s that I only have so much energy, and I’d rather not allot that energy to cleaning my home (at this time). Maybe soon I’ll have enough time and energy to clean. It’s what I talked about when I blogged about the Spoon Theory. I have only so many spoons each day, and I have to save them to function. For the most part I save them for getting up in the morning, taking care of the kids, hygiene, making/cooking meals for the kids, my mental health advocacy and relationship with my husband, family and friends. That takes up a lot, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Everything takes a lot when you have depression. And anxiety. And a personality disorder. And, hell, an eating disorder.

It’s a full-time job being mentally ill.

But the thing is…I can’t stand it when the house is messy, which is 99% of the time. I even have a housekeeper who comes four days a week, but as soon as she leaves, my family *exists* and clutter starts forming in every corner. My housekeeper can only do so much. As it is now, she can only tidy up the clutter on the countertops and work around it. Don’t get me wrong — she still cleans the house, but she can’t fix the mess we’ve accumulated. That’s our job, and we suck at it super bad. It makes me anxious and stressed.

And guilty. Even my car is cluttered. If you open the doors, sometimes trash or random items fly out. So embarrassing.

As it turns out, it’s not unusual for people with depression to be messy. An article in PsychCentral.com says when you’re depressed, it’s hard to take care of yourself and get things done. I totally agree, but here’s the thing: I’m not experiencing a depressive episode right now. Or maybe I am. A small one. I’m still capable of a lot and have some energy. But some things are hard. I guess I am experiencing some hallmarks of depression:

  • decreased energy
  • fatigue
  • lack of interest
  • feeling overwhelmed

BUT before I finished this blog, I totally cleaned out my closet and arranged my clothes by type and color coded everything according to the rainbow. It took a long time and a lot of effort. It made me feel better and want to work on other rooms in the house, but it’s so daunting.

Even though it can be stressful to have clutter everywhere, Verywellmind.com says this: “…There is research that supports the idea that messiness also has an upside. Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., and her fellow researchers did a series of experiments on the psychology of messiness. They found that while working in an orderly room encouraged behaviors such as generosity and healthy eating, working in a messy environment actually led to greater creativity.” And that Albert Einstein was known for a messy desk.

Maybe I’m a creative genius. There are times when the mess doesn’t bug me. I just can’t figure out which part of me doesn’t mind the mess or hates it.

The Verywellmind.com article ended with this, “If you function fine in a messy room, then don’t let trends pressure you into pursuing a more organized or minimalistic lifestyle. However, if the messiness is something that causes you stress or if you suspect it might be a symptom of an underlying psychological problem, consider steps you can take to address the issue.”

Maybe I have a depressed personality and a non-depressed personality. I guess I need to find a way to merge the two.

Although if I were less messy, my father would complain a lot less, lol.

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A friend asked me to send her a link of my articles regarding anxiety and what helps. I quickly did a search for my columns at the Caller-Times, but I noticed that 1. there weren’t many and 2. I didn’t give any advice about what to do, I just talked about what it was.

I did write more blogs about it, so I sent those. But it made me think — I still don’t have a handle on my anxiety. It has been three years since leaving the Menninger Clinic yet I have few ideas on how to cope, even for myself.

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As of now, I’ll do some deep breathing or box breathing. I’ll take some anxiety meds (which usually help very little). I’ll talk to my husband or a friend about what I’m feeling. I’ll get under my weighted blanket, which honestly feels the best — when an anxiety attack occurs, I often feel like my insides are trying to get outside of my body. Weird, I know. I digress. A lot of times, I’ll slip and overeat on snacks or candy. That would be an unhealthy coping skill. I used to get weekly massages, but now I don’t. I haven’t seen a difference in anxiety levels.

Even if some combination of these things helps, it doesn’t make it go away completely. And the anxiety always comes back. Most people think it’s just everyday worries, but it’s not like that. It’s often worst-case scenarios that get trapped in my brain and intrusive thoughts that I can’t control. I counter them by praying over and over to the point where it gets obsessive. I’ll try to distract myself. It’s hard. And depression is hard, too. I am in no way saying it’s easy, but at least I get relief from the crushing sadness, fatigue and apathy. I never get a break from anxiety.

And if you Google tips on coping with anxiety, you get some annoying answers. I say annoying, because while these tips do help some, they don’t help someone like me who does them anyway and who has a severe anxiety disorder.

For example:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Try yoga
  • Watch for triggers

I guess we get the same trite answers because nobody knows how to really help — and again, I’m talking about people with severe anxiety, not those with day-to-day worries (not that I’m discounting them either).

So really all I know that helps in the moment in my weighted blanket. But the problem with that is I’m not always home when anxiety strikes. Breathing helps, too. Sometimes singing at the top of my lungs in the car helps. Oh, and bingeing on my favorite shows. I’ve watched them all 100 times. The familiarity is comforting. Nothing new is going to surprise me. It’s just the same old characters doing the same old things. That may seem sad to you, but it’s calming.

I gotta do what I gotta do.

It’s just that sometimes that’s not enough.

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I was curled up on my hot pink couch under a weighted blanket. I needed the extra weight; it felt like my insides were trying to get on the outside. It isn’t a pleasant feeling. It only happens when I’m very anxious. I had just burst into tears on a Zoom call with my NAMI cohorts, and I just wanted to feel safe. I had determined that I needed to take a break from karate, which I felt guilty about. By the way I’ve been feeling these past few weeks (depressed and anxious), it’s clear that I need to go into Low Battery Mode and conserve what energy I have and save it for getting in a better place. My NAMI pals made me feel better and told me I had their support, but I still went to the couch for comfort.

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I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, and that heavy weight on my chest and in my belly weren’t going away. I tossed the weighted blanket off me and looked up.

My gaze stopped at a print on my wall of a woman with her head back and arms up by her sides. You can’t look at it without feeling the happiness and fulfillment she’s obviously experiencing.

That picture is what recovery means to me. That’s how I aspire to feel all the time, and most of the time, it’s how I truly feel — blissful, lucky and grateful.

So then it hit me. Sure, I’m going through a hard time. But my god, I’ve gone through way, way, way darker times than this. I’ve crawled back from the darkest depths of hell, and I’ve far from that place now.

If I could do it then, with so much baggage, self-loathing, negative thinking and hate, I can do it now with love and the support of my family and friends (and even strangers). People are praying for me, rooting for me and sending me good vibes. I’m smarter now, I know better so I can do better. Part of recovery means preparing for relapse, and I’m so prepared.

I know I’ve discussed Low Battery Mode before, but this is what I’m focusing on now:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and attempt to get the kids out of my bed
  • Drink lots of water and lay off the Diet Cokes
  • Avoid junk food and eat healthier
  • Take lots of breaks whenever I need them
  • Ask for help when I’m feeling overwhelmed
  • Give myself some grace when I slip up
  • Go to my support system whenever I need to
  • Cut back on activities that aren’t a “priority”
  • Read and write
  • Be consistent in self-care routines
  • Go to therapy consistently

I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing right now, but this is a good start. This is what I need to do to take care of me and subsequently, my family. I know it’s hard right now, but I’ll be back to that woman with the sunshine in her face in no time.

I’ve got this. And if I don’t, I know y’all will be there to help me.

Thanks for listening.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on how to avoid relapse, I’d love to hear them. Drop them in the comments.

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Happy Sunday, everyone. I’m trying to have a good day, but man, this is been a hard week. I’ve been feeling depressed, sad and fatigued. I was going to scheduled some ketamine treatments, but I started feeling better Thursday and Friday. Then we had to put down my favorite cat, Possum, because she was having severe kidney and liver problems. We’ve had her for 10+ years, and it was very hard to say goodbye, but I’m glad she’s no longer hurting. The kids are okay. Isla went with us to say goodbye; Eli declined, saying it was too hard, which I totally understand. He’s already asked for a new cat. Sigh.

I think I will call Monday to set up some ketamine treatments, I don’t want this crappy mood to continue and get out of hand. This coming week is going to be a busy one — my husband has a fundraiser (he’s running for a board position for the community college here) and NAMI GCC is holding a panel discussion for Minority Mental Health Awareness month. I’m pretty excited about that. I think it’s going to be very eye opening. What I’ve learned from doing research on it for my column and our event has shocked me — read my column here. I’m always thinking about my mental health and problems; I didn’t even think about the hurdles that others have to go through to get just a quarter of the quality care I get. It needs to change, for sure.

Oh, I almost forgot! I made it through the first round of voting for the Caller-Times’ Best of the Best. I’m up for Best Columnist. Please vote for me daily. You can vote here.

That’s it for me. I hope you guys are well. As always, stay in the light.

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I was hanging out at my desk this morning, waiting on a Zoom meeting to start. I pulled out one of my drawers, just looking around when I saw my Wellness & Relapse Prevention Plan from the Menninger Clinic on top of some papers. I wrote this plan before I left the psychiatric hospital, as everybody does. It’s mandatory before leaving. I was at Menninger for six long weeks, and I was ready. I couldn’t remember what was inside, so I took a gander.

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It started off by saying that triggers and warning signs of relapse will occur, but by preparing the best we can could help prevent another relapse or depressive episode. It urged you to be honest in your answers, share it with you loved ones and refer to it often. It was in question and answer form.

It covered areas of wellness such as Emotional Wellness, Relationships, Physical Health, Work/School, Spirituality, Financial, Leisure, Self-Awareness/Insight and Addiction Management. It asked what did I look like or act like when I looked healthy in all the areas I just mentioned. Under Physical Health I put that I would exercise, eat healthy, stop drinking Diet Coke, not use food as a coping mechanism, I’d have good hygiene habits, and that I’d appreciate my body for what it is. Sounds good, right?

Then I skipped to my Core Problems, my deepest, darkest secrets. I listed all my diagnoses: Persistent Depressive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder. I listed the negative thoughts that too often cross my mind: I’m a bad mom and wife; I’m a burden to my family; I’ll never be good enough; and I’m worthless.

Next I wrote about short and long-term goals I had socially, emotionally, spiritually and physically. For example, for the social goal, I wanted to volunteer for my kids’ school book fair in the following September (I left the hospital in August). Long term I wanted to have a girls’ night at Alamo Drafthouse every month.

I did the book fair (and met a really good friend!) — I was actually in charge of it that year — and the girls’ nights were at least every other month if not every month.

But other things like, “take a daily walk around the neighborhood, go on a healthier diet, go to the gym three times a week, make an effort to go to the synagogue more often,” things like that didn’t become a habit. Not because they aren’t important, but because life happened when I stepped off those hospital groups. I had a four- and two-year-old to take care of. I had to figure out how to be a healthy me — a wife me, a mom me, a friend me, a daughter me and a me me — in just a few hours a day I had to myself. I had just begun blogging, and I knew that I wanted to write, but I was still lost and overwhelmed with all the working parts I was supposed to incorporate into my “new” life.

But, as I look as this wellness plan, I see that a lot of the goals on here I’ve hit. I may have done it in a number of years or taken a different approach, but I still made it. I still go to therapy every week (every other week now because my therapist says I don’t have to come weekly anymore). I am healthier. I work out each week. I eat a healthier diet. I volunteer. I have my own column in the Caller-Times. And that did not come easily. I monitor my self-talk. I check in with friends.

And get this: I can ask for help. I can say, “can you take this off my plate, please?” and not feel the slightest guilt about it.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was filling out that Wellness Plan. I didn’t know what challenges would occur or how hard it would be. I just knew it would be hard. Real hard.

But was nothing compared to hitting rock bottom and being sent to a hospital, away from your friends, husband and children (and other family).

I would’ve never dreamed I’d be this happy. I still have bad days; we all do. That just makes the good ones all the more sweet.

Here is a summary of my strengths from my Wellness Plan:

“I’m grateful for my kids. I’m a good writer. I’m grateful for my husband. I’m compassionate and empathetic. I’m a good friend. My cherished moments include both of my children and my wedding. I have more work to do here.”

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Just a few years ago I couldn’t get out of bed. I was consumed with depression and anxiety. I lied to my husband about being sick or having a migraine so he would take the kids to preschool for me. I couldn’t take regular showers or brush my teeth. I spent as much as my energy as I could on the kids, leaving me running on fumes.

I abused my anxiety medication, taking six to seven pills instead of the one or two I was prescribed. I binged on unhealthy foods, seeking comfort where I could. But it wasn’t real, just temporary, and after the binge was over I felt nothing but guilt and shame.

I was suicidal, and at one point, had a plan to die by suicide. The pain was relentless. My own brain betrayed me, telling me I should die, that I wasn’t worthy, and I would never feel better. My psychiatrist told me I had treatment-resistant depression and said most medications wouldn’t work. He didn’t offer any plans, solutions or other therapies. I didn’t think I would live to see my children grow up.

It was bad.

I was hospitalized in 2019 for all the aforementioned symptoms. I was there for only six weeks, but it still felt life-changing. I got on different meds, I did intensive counseling, I took classes on how to cope with my many diagnoses. I also started electroconvulsive therapy, which probably saved my life.

After I left the hospital it felt like I was walking on eggshells…or a minefield. I quickly realized that I would never be “cured.” This would be a lifelong journey for me, and that’s okay. I’ve accepted that.

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Fast forward a few years and here I am with my blog, with a column in the local newspaper, and I’m the Communications Manager for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi. I eat, sleep and breathe mental health, but in a good way. I share my story and hopefully help others who can’t be so open about their struggles.

I’ve become stronger. Just the fact that I’m able to look outside myself and try to do something helpful is a sign that I’m on the road to recovery. A long, hard road but one I’ve started on nonetheless.

What really strikes me as amazing is that I tried out a karate class. Last summer my kids started karate at Life Martial Arts, and I immediately fell in love with it. I toyed around with the idea of taking a class myself, but was too scared. Two days ago I did my first class and fell in love. Tonight’s class was harder but rewarding. I didn’t want to start karate as a way to lose weight or exercise, but I want my body to be stronger. I want to accept it as is right this minute, and I want to honor it. I also want self-discipline. Discipline is a huge part of karate (as I’ve learned through my kids’ classes), and something that has always eluded me.

When I came home from class tonight I was beaming. I know I’ve only had two classes, but that’s not the point. This means that I am physically and mentally healthy enough to do something that was completely healthy and fulfilling. I’m doing something for my self (#selfcare). I can still do hard things even though I’m 38 (still youngish).

I can do hard things.

I can put in the work to be healthy.

I can be in recovery from depression (and all the other disorders).

I can be happy.

There will be bad days, even in recovery, but look what I’ve already been through. I’ve come so far, and I’m so close to accepting myself and treating myself well.

But there will be good days, too. Like today.

Today my legs are jello after karate class, and my abs on fire. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

It’s nothing in comparison to the joy in my heart.

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What Would I Write About?

by Heather Loeb

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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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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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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