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mental health blog

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The Happiest Place on Earth

by Heather Loeb

My family and I took a trip to Disney World last week. It was our first time, except my husband. He had been a couple times as a kid. I did what I always do before a trip: prep, prep, prep. Then get anxious that I’ll hate it because the kids will make me miserable. There was only a little bit of that though. But let me start at the beginning.

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The day we got there, we dropped our bags off and got on a bus to Magic Kingdom. It was still early, so we had plenty of time to explore. As soon as we entered the park, I had chills. There were bubbles everywhere (because all the kids have bubble makers, lol). And there seemed to be a pink sheen everywhere. We turned a corner and there was the castle. Cinderella’s Castle, I would learn later. It was so beautiful and tears crowded my eyes. I shrieked at the kids to make sure they were seeing it, and they were excited too. A photographer asked if he could take our picture. I felt so happy.

We went to some rides: teacups, Dumbo and Pirates of the Caribbean and had to wait a bit but we hadn’t figured out the Lightning Lanes yet.

Long story short, I loved it. I liked Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios best. Oh, and Disney Springs. Gotta love shopping.

One thing I did realize is that I wasn’t that stressed. The kids did stress me out, but I didn’t have to take any anxiety meds. I chalk that up to walking so much. We did at least 10k steps every day, and I enjoyed that a lot. I was exhausted each night and didn’t have any problems sleeping. So I’m going to incorporate more walking into my daily routine. Granted I won’t be in the happiest place on earth, but can’t I make my own home the happiest place on earth? I don’t know why not.

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I may not wear mouse ears every day, but I can still have a good time. I love frivolity in everyday life, like fun socks, jewelry, clothes, shoes, etc. Life can get so boring and depressing without fun details and items surrounding you. I mean, I did just order a 47-inch llama, because why not?? I was depressed for years and saw only black and white. Oh, how much joy that stole from me.

My point is that anywhere you are can be the “happiest place on Earth.” We don’t need Mickey and Minnie. Be your own cartoon or princess!

Live in a colorful world with bubbles and sing like your children aren’t complaining (why do mine do that??) !

And if you can’t do that now, please know that’s okay. One day you will be able to. Until then, do what you can, hour by hour, minute by minute. I’ll still be here.

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I’m Happy, Y’all

by Heather Loeb

If you happened to read my blog last night, you learned that I was feeling sad. Well, when I awoke this morning, I was feeing pretty good. That’s the thing about negative emotions (at least in my case) — they’re fleeting. My baseline, ever since leaving the psychiatric hospital, is good. Then pretty good, great, happy then amazing. But I don’t stay sad for long, and if I do, that means there’s something wrong, i.e. I need an extra therapy appointment, medicine change, Ketamine treatment, ECT, etc. It’s a simple barometer for me.

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But you know what?? It’s ok to be sad. You can sit with your feelings and explore them. Just don’t move in with them. Sit with them, then let them go. Meditation helps. Don’t feel bad when you you feel a negative emotion. You’re feeling them for a reason, and ignoring them is not the way to go, trust me. Although this is my process, and if you have a better one, I honor and respect that.

My favorite part of yesterday’s blog was the positivity at the end. It was faint, but it was there.

 

Right now I countdown the hours until I can take a nap or go to bed. I do my best during the hours I’m awake, but tears crowd my eyes knowing I might wake up tomorrow feeling the same way, even though I pray so hard it doesn’t, and I envision a happy day.

But you know, even on a sad day like today, it’s still a million times better than when I was in my worst depressive episode. That’s what I need to remember.

And all of a sudden, things are lookin better. And they look like they’re coming up Heather Loeb.

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That makes me smile, something I’ve done all day.

Eventually, it all comes up Heather Ann Loeb. It’s good to be me.

 

 

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I’m Sad, Y’all

by Heather Loeb

I don’t know why. My doctor did figure out that I had a big B12 deficiency and told me it would take a while to get back to normal, and that could affect my mental health. So I guess that’s why, but being sad sucks. And it’s scary if you’re prone to depressive episodes that can make you suicidal. I don’t want to go down that road. Who does?

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It makes me extra sad because I’ve been so happy previously this year. Knowing how happy and productive I can be makes me even sadder. And more sensitive. I actually got upset earlier this week because my NAMI team didn’t nominate me for an award. 1. I have enough awards. 2. That’s not what I do any of this for 3. I swear just one week ago I was featured in a magazine article, what more could I want?

But my intrusive thoughts — thoughts that I am not in control of — told me I was useless and that nobody valued me. And I let myself believe it because that’s one of my innermost fears. I’ve been an advocate for mental health since 2018, never expecting anything. Never believing that anything would come from it, so it’s unbelievable that something has, and I’ve grateful for all of it. I swear. It’s just this funk that I’m in.

Next week we’re supposed to go to Disney World. I’ll slip on my Minnie ears and don my Disney shirt that matches my daughter’s. I’m sure I’ll have fun, even.

Right now I countdown the hours until I can take a nap or go to bed. I do my best during the hours I’m awake, but tears crowd my eyes knowing I might wake up tomorrow feeling the same way, even though I pray so hard it doesn’t, and I envision a happy day.

But you know, even on a sad day like today, it’s still a million times better than when I was in my worst depressive episode. That’s what I need to remember. And all of a sudden, things are lookin better.

As always, it’s coming up Heather Loeb.

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Pump My Brakes

by Heather Loeb

NAMI had an event last night, and I’ll admit, I was riled up. I don’t think in a bad way; I just get excited, talk fast and get a little high strung. I think I’m probably always high strung, but I’m ok with that.

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I didn’t feel stressed at all — I was speaking at the event, and I wasn’t in charge of anything except our stuffed llama and his accessories (that’s another story for another time). Well, I had misplaced his accessories and started asking my cohorts if they had seen the llama’s accoutrements. One of my buddies helped me look, and after finding them, he said he could teach me some strategies to decrease my anxiety.

I didn’t even feel anxious, but perhaps I was. I told my cohort that I did have ways to help me calm down and that I appreciated the offer. He told me to visualize my mind as a garden. That you can’t help what grows there, such as weeds, but you can pull the weeds out and keep you garden looking good. He said it a lot more eloquently.

I loved that.

And he’s not the first one to suggest I’m too anxious.

So maybe what I think is baseline for me is really a bit much for others. Granted I had taken my Adderall late in the day yesterday, but still. The point is maybe I should pump my brakes and keep a tighter hold on anxiety. Or loosen my grip?

I’ve never had a “green thumb” but it sounds like my garden could use some weeding.

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Recently I posted on Facebook about this, but I think it merits a blog. I came across some papers from the Menninger Clinic as I was cleaning my sunroom the other day, and they threw me for a loop. The papers were test results I had taken shortly after I arrived at the hospital. We had to take a lot of tests. They tested my quality of life, which was at 25 percent, physical disability caused by my depression/anxiety at 48 percent and cognitive function at 33 percent. My memory was at 3 percent, which was the most shocking. I guess being on all that medication and abusing my anxiety meds really screwed me up. My memory just got worse after the ECTs if you can believe it.

I felt so many emotions as I cradled these papers. I was heartbroken that I let myself get that bad but elated that I’ve come so far. I’m certain my quality of life has improved, somewhere in the 90s, I’d say and my disability is near non-existent. I still get migraines and sometimes I have bad days, but overall I get out of bed every morning and get on that grind. It’s amazing what I can do now.

  • Run my Unruly Neurons blog
  • Write a column for the Caller-Times
  • Make #MentalHealthMonday videos for State Rep. Todd Hunter
  • Work as the Communications Manager at NAMI Greater Corpus Christi
  • Sit on the board at JCC
  • Be a member of State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force
  • Join NAMI Texas’ State Advocacy Networking Team
  • Regular contributor to the national NAMI blog
  • Do public speaking

Plus, I have two kids, lol. That takes up quite a bit of my time. And my husband.

It may seem like I’m bragging, but I’m just amazed. I look at this list and know that I couldn’t do that four years ago. But I’m doing it now, and I’m so proud of myself. Yes, that’s it. I’m just so proud of myself. I’ve done it — I’m in recovery. I’ve made it to the other side, with help from my support system, of course.

All these good things keep happening to me, and it’s unbelievable to me sometimes. I can’t help but think when is the other shoe going to drop. And maybe it won’t. Maybe I deserve these good things. That’s hard to admit. All I know is that I’m grateful, so grateful.

I get to do what I love and love what I do — help others. I didn’t have a lot of help when I was first diagnosed, and I don’t want anyone to feel alone on their mental health journey.

I’m always here. And I mean that.

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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 always hated going back to school and leaving summer vacation behind. I would get anxious about the new year, wondering what friends I’d have in my class and which teacher I’d get. And I would worry about hypothetical tests and projects that I just knew I’d get bad grades on. There was such a heaviness when school rolled around, erasing all the chill I had acquired that summer.
I can’t imagine what it’s like as a kid now. They’re dealing with so much more: the pandemic, trauma of frequent school shootings and increased bullying. It’s scary, and it’s something that none of our generations has seen before.
So here’s what I’m going to do with my soon-to-be second grader and Kindergartener to help with the transition. I hope it helps our collective mental health.

  1. We’re going to get back into our school routine, i.e. waking up earlier, getting dressed first thing and eating breakfast right away
  2. Talk about what’s making them nervous. Both of my kids have new teachers this year, so I know that’s a source of anxiety. We can talk about that and anything else that’s bothering them.
  3. Empathize with my kids. Whatever it is that’s causing anxiety, I need to listen and show empathy. I’ll try not to brush off their feelings, instead I’ll validate their worries and concerns.
  4. I’ll encourage my kids to talk about their fears or how their day went. I’ll also give them tips on self-care (healthy self-care and coping skills) and how it can help their stress levels.
  5. I’ll be present. When my kids get home, I’ll push my work aside, put my phone away and concentrate on them. They may want alone time to decompress, but they will know that I’m available and there.

Signs of Anxiety in Kids (www.verywellfamily.com)

  • Appear more clingy than normal
  • Be restless and fidgety
  • Complain of stomachaches
  • Display changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Express negative thoughts or worries
  • Get upset or angry more quickly
  • Have bouts of unexplained crying
  • Struggle to concentrate

To learn more about kids and mental health, please visit the NAMI.org website.

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First let me start by saying this is not a real thing. I mean it’s real because people are making it real, but high-functioning depression (or anxiety) is not a medical diagnosis.

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As previously mentioned, I’ve been feeling down for the past couple of weeks; I had to go into Low Battery Mode to conserve energy. But even though almost every day has been a struggle, I’ve still been functioning at a high level. It’s odd, because I’m used to extremes — down and out or walking on sunshine. Here I am able to get up early in the morning, take a shower, get the kids to camp, do the work I need to do for NAMI GCC, get school paperwork organized, etc.

Maybe it’s not about being highly functional — maybe it’s about keeping busy so I don’t have time to think about how depressed I am. Epiphany…?

No, I don’t think that’s it, because if it were a bad depressive episode I were going through, I wouldn’t have the energy to do any of those things. This is just a blip; I already feel better and the waves of sadness, loneliness and self-loathing are fewer and farther between. Thank God. It’s terrifying to think all the progress I’ve made could be erased, or that my happiness could be taken away so fast and for no reason. I guess the reason is because my neurons are unruly. That’s hardly fair. But it does makes me grateful for the precious time I have with my friends and family and the time I spend with myself smiling and enjoying the color of the water, a good book, the taste of Chick-fil-a nuggets, laughing with my best friend, a nap under a warm blanket and bingeing on my favorite shows. Totally priceless.

I can’t wait to get back there. I’m so close, I know it.

Until then, I’ll remind myself that these blues hanging around are temporary. My head is still above water. I’m still highly functional.

So, I guess it is a real thing.

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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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