Favorite Products That Help Me Keep My Chill

I’ve really been focusing on self-care lately. My goal is to space out my ECT treatments to eight to 12 weeks, so in between sessions I need to step up my self-care game. That includes exercising more and eating a healthy diet. It also includes taking advantage of the little things at home that add up to a lot when you’re trying to take care of yourself. Remember, self-care is not selfish — it’s necessary.

Below you’ll find my favorite things around the house and products that help me keep my chill and decrease anxiety.

My favorite books — I don’t get to read much these days but when I do, I usually go for a book I’ve already read. There’s no mystery, no twists and turns to upset my anxiety, just my favorite characters and their stories. I’d also add The Red Tent to this list — that’s another of my faves but not an easy read. You’ll also see The Big Activity Book for Anxious People, which always helps me feel better. It’s not a boring workbook, it’s a hilarious take on how to calm down and I love it.

Lauer Under Eye Patches — I found these on Amazon , and I really like them. They’re inexpensive but feel so good under my eyes after a long day. They feel cool to my skin, and I think it helps minimize some of my lines. It definitely helps with puffiness.

Not Your Mother’s Butter Masque (Green Tea and Apple Blossom) — I follow the Curly Girl Method for my hair, so after using my conditioner on my curls, I put this hair mask on and it makes me hair feel so hydrated and helps with the curls. The mask is inexpensive and can be found in a number of places. I use Target and Amazon.

OPI Nail Colors — I went more than a year without going to a nail salon, so I quickly learned to do my own manicures. Every few days, I change the color and it makes me so happy to see all the bright colors. I recommend getting a cheap manicure set and buying your favorite colors. Definitely get a Base Coat and a Top Coat, too.

Sephora’s The Peeling Mask — This a disposable face mask that you do for just a few minutes, but I love how relaxing it is to lie down with this mask on after the kids are asleep. It brings a touch of luxury to my day that’s usually not luxurious at all. The mask is under $10; I usually find it for $4.

Candles — In the past I’ve never been able to tolerate candles, because fragrance can cause migraines, but I’ve been able to use more, sometimes every day. I love waking up in the morning and lighting a candle while I’m getting the kids ready for school. It’s calming and certain smells can definitely reduce the amount of stress you feel and decrease anxiety. My fave candle right now is Cactus Blossom from Bath & Body Works. The three-wick candle usually sells at $24.50, but they have sales quite a bit.

Slippers — When we moved to the new house, my feet started hurting from all the back and forth I was doing while organizing. I put on a pair of Ugg slippers and rarely take them off. They are so comfortable! Sometimes I forget I’m wearing them and accidentally leave the house in them. I love that they have a strap around the back and how cushy they are. They are expensive but in my opinion, they’re worth it. I love putting my comfy clothes on at the end of the day and sliding into my slippers. I feel it helps me relax better.

Soft Touch Foot Peel Mask — This is another Amazon find. I bought it after I saw a video of a woman peeling off dead skin after using the peel mask. It was so satisfying. What you do: put the mask footie on your feet and leave on for an hour. Then you wash your feet off and in a couple of days your feet will start to peel. Not only is it fun to peel them, but it leaves your feet so soft. I used these every few months. It was especially helpful because I couldn’t go to the nail salon for a pedicure. It’s affordable too — about $20 for a two pack.
Udderly Smooth Hand Lotion and Body Cream — The lotion is no joke. I use it on my hands (and sometimes my feet) and it makes them feel so soft, and I hope it’s helping all the wrinkles on my hand. I have old lady hands. But this stuff goes on and makes your hands soft like buttah. It costs $16 for a 12-oz pack of two.

Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Bath Foam, Body Lotion and Salt Scrub – I LOVE the smell of the pink himalayan salt. It smells so good, and I instantly relax in the tub when I use the bath foam. There’s nothing like taking a long hot bath, using the bath foam and the salt scrub. Followed by the lotion. It makes me feel like I’m at a spa. None of the products are expensive. You can find them at HEB, Target and Amazon. I heard the lavender fragrance is good, too but that’s an instant migraine trigger for me.

Last but not lease — Karribi Paint by Number Kit — I thought doing a paint by number piece would be relaxing and help me to focus on something other than my anxiety. I love putting my headphones in and painting these kits. There are several kits that have birds, so I bought all of those. It’s relaxing, it gives me some uninterrupted “me time” and I get a beautiful bird painting afterward. I highly recommend this for anxiety and stress. It looks like Amazon no longer carries this particular kit, but there are tons of paint by number kits for adults.

I am in no way being paid for these endorsements — I just wanted to share what goes into my self-care routine. If you want to add anything, please feel free and drop it in the comments. I’m wishing you all good health and peace. Thanks for reading.

Stay in the light.

The Dark Always Precedes Light

Before the pandemic started, I was experiencing a depressive episode. It wasn’t too bad but enough to struggle day to day with some activities. With Major Depressive Disorder, people like me experience episodes where they’re moderately or severely depressed for more than two weeks. Nobody knows exactly what triggers the episodes, and they recur periodically throughout one’s life. There is no cure, just treatment.

When I’m experiencing an episode, my symptoms can be what I consider mild — loss of interest in hobbies and activities, feelings of sadness, fatigue, headaches and changes in my eating habits (read about my eating disorder and how it plays a role in my depression here). During a severe episode, it’s hard to get out of bed. I feel weighted down all the time and very emotional, weepy even. I can’t take a shower, as gross as that may be. I can hardly brush my teeth. Every little thing feels overwhelming and impossible. In the past, I abused my anxiety medication because I just didn’t want to feel what I was feeling. And I have thoughts of suicide. I don’t want to die, but my brain focuses on it and tells me I should kill myself. It’s awful.

Anyway, I was experiencing a mild to moderate episode before the pandemic hit. When the schools closed and we went in lockdown, instead of crumbling into a more severe episode, something just clicked in my brain. A survival instinct maybe? I don’t know, but all of a sudden I had more energy and even more patience with the kids, even though I had no breaks or backup. I had to dig deep, become more mentally tough. David and I learned to cook, I learned to bake bread, I started sewing again, I took showers more frequently and everything stopped feeling so damn hard. I also started blogging more consistently, once a week, then twice weekly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but blogging helped me so much. I needed to get everything off my chest and be honest about what I was experiencing. Soon, others were telling me how much I helped them, so I kept going, and a year later I haven’t stopped. If I helped even one person, I’m happy. And I’m proud of myself.

Now I easily take showers every day to every other day. I brush my teeth more and sleep a lot less (no naps during the day). It’s easy for me to get out of bed every morning at 5 a.m. (when Eli wakes up) and the sadness I felt before only comes and goes. My anxiety is still pretty bad, but I’m able to manage it with therapy and healthy coping skills — most of the time.

I don’t know what it was about the pandemic that caused this seismic shift, and maybe it has nothing to do with it, but I’m so grateful. I’m still continuing therapy and ECT treatments, but I’m able to go longer in between treatments, which is a huge accomplishment for me. Before, I was going every four to six weeks, and as previously mentioned, I hate them!

Moving to our new house has improved my quality of life as well. For one, I don’t have to share a tiny shower in the kids’ bathroom. Now it’s enjoyable to take one and I have lots of space and hot, hot water. Having my own office is nice, too. And a laptop — now I can blog from anywhere in the house and am able to write more during the day while keeping an eye on the kids.

All in all, I’m happy. I have my moments, we all do, but I’m so, so much better. I didn’t ever think I could be this happy again. And I told David that I’d NEVER shower every day, that it just wasn’t possible. I’d be thrilled if this lasted awhile, even forever. I could do this forever.

I know I’ll still have bad days, be uncomfortable and have spells of great sadness even, and that’s OK. Because now I know that darkness isn’t forever. That it always precedes light — warm, beautiful light where I can shine and grow. But to be honest, I can grow in the dark, too.

That’s the thing about depression — it makes you stronger and beautifully resilient. One of my favorite quotes is “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”

And my friends, I’ve been planted.

I Hate Asking For Help – Guest Blog

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog, written by a dear friend. If you’re interested in being a guest blogger, please email me at heatherannloeb@gmail.com

I hate asking for help.

Which is what makes dealing with stress, anxiety and depression even worse. We all hear help is out there. That all we need to do is ask. I have made these same sentiments countless times.

Yet, I hate asking.

Some might think it’s out of pride, that I don’t want to be seen as weak. Others assume that I’m Wonder Woman and act envious or surprised about how I have it all together.

I wish it was that simple. I wish I had it all together.

No, it’s more about the feeling of betrayal.

By no means am I the best: friend, sister, or even mother out there. I have never claimed to be and never will. Yet, I know in my heart that when I can, I help my loved ones even in the smallest ways.

When they’re sick, or injured I check in. I may not always say the right thing or give the best advice. A lot of the time I probably don’t even say what they want to hear.

But I show up. At least I think I do. I did. Hell, maybe I don’t anymore. Maybe that’s why at the end of the day I don’t ask for help.

I don’t ask because it always feels like anytime I do ask, there isn’t a helping hand.

So instead I usually stay silent. I continue to suffer and drown in my own pain because in my experience.

It’s easier than being ignored or brushed off.

It’s easier than being told, “It will get better.”

It’s easier than being told, “Maybe…”

It’s easier than being let down again and again by my loved ones.

It’s easier to put on the fake smiles and forced laughs.

I recognize to some this sounds like a pity party. But when you’re the one who is always seen as the one who has it together, or the one who can be relied on, it’s hard to ask for help because you’re the one who is supposed to be doing the helping.

I also know full well that others can’t always help. They have their own lives. Their own problems. Which makes me hate asking for help even more.

This is My Fight Song

Last night, Isla had her first sleepover at the new house. We’ve never hosted one, though she went to a sleepover last year at her BFF’s. I’m not going to lie, I was scared. I wanted it to go well for Isla’s sake (and mine). I don’t know the two girls that well (thanks, COVID) but their moms are very nice, and I want to get to know them better. I know it’s silly — and these particular moms aren’t judgmental at all — but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, despite my depression and other mental disorders. That I’m a fun mom, a responsible one. So, it was important for me to put on a good show.

And a good show it was. We swam, ate snow cones, got in the hot tub, did facials, had a charcuterie snack board and a dance party. The last was my favorite. I started playing my music, but one of the girls requested “Fight Song,” which I didn’t have. No problem — I downloaded it and they began to sing, dance and flex their muscles. While they were singing at the top of their lungs and dancing around, tears came to my eyes. They were so happy and carefree. So strong for being only 6 years old.

Then I started listening to the words to the song and wondered why I’d never downloaded it before. It resonated with me, and I was proud that Isla somehow knew the words. I should learn them. I should be more like these 6 year olds, screaming and dancing around without a worry in sight, because my mental illness doesn’t define me. Why was I so wrapped up in the idea that this sleepover had to be perfect just because I have depression? Silly. Despite what I go through, I’m still a responsible, fun, kind, loving person. People respect me, so maybe I should follow suit.

Those kids had a blast, and so did I. I need to remember that all that hardship I endure is worth it to see moments like these in my kids’ lives. This is what it’s all about, and I refuse to worry that I’m not up to snuff anymore. This is my fight song. My anthem is written all over the faces of my kids, husband, in my blog, and this is one song that I have memorized. And it’s a happy one.

It’s OK that I’m a little broken — we’re all a little broken; that’s how the light gets in.


FIGHT SONG by Rachel Platten

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong (I’ll be strong)

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Yesteryear

Last year, I took my kids to Dallas for Spring Break. David couldn’t go because of work, so the three of us drove up to spend the week at my parents’, stopping at every Buc-ees along the way.

While we were there, the news starting to report more and more cases of the virus we kept hearing about. Cases were multiplying and spreading across the U.S. at an astounding rate. Cases were even reported in Corpus Christi, which is a bit more remote than the bigger cities.

I got the email that my kids’ preschool was closing for a week, and I started to panic. I didn’t want to stay in Dallas any longer, so we cut our trip short and again made the seven-hour drive home. This time we didn’t stop at Buc-ees.

The following week with all of us home was not so bad. We played, went to the beach and watched movies. Then the school emailed again saying that school would again be closed the following week. And the one after that. The teachers starting sending out packets for the kids to complete each week, but they didn’t get done, not without yelling and crying on both our parts.

I started to realize that our lives weren’t going to go back to “normal.” And I started to worry about my mental health, always precarious but now even more so because I had virtually no breaks from my kids. Eli’s sleeping pattern changed and he started waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, further compounding my stress and anxiety.

I finally gave up on the packets and starting teaching them what I could. We played more outside and watched more movies. We baked a lot. We survived.

Last Saturday I received my second vaccine and contemplated the past year. Even though my mental health has taken a hit, I survived. Not just survived but thrived in some ways. For one thing, I started blogging once a week, then twice a week. People started commenting on how much my blog has helped them or how I was brave. I was even asked to join State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and spoke at a symposium about my experience with suicide. I also had a mental health series published in the local paper. I became more confident and have evolved into a version of myself that I’m pretty proud of. A more authentic, more fearless version.

I’m also able to go longer between ECT treatments, which has been my ultimate goal. I did gain 26 pounds in the past year, and sometimes that really bothers me, but I coped the best I could. If I come away from this only having gained weight, then I am considerably lucky, and I’m grateful.

I often joke that the pandemic is an introvert’s dream — socializing has never been my thing. But there’s really nothing funny about what we’ve been through. The past year has been gut-wrenching, difficult to say the least and heartbreaking for those who have struggled with COVID or lost a loved one. I’d like to believe that now more people are getting vaccinated, we’re closer to the end, but I just don’t know. I’m afraid to hope, but at the same time, I just can’t help but hope. Being optimistic is newly acquired, too.

So many of us will not come out of this nightmare unscathed. Millions will continue to struggle with their mental health, not to mention grief or financial ruin. I don’t mean to sound tone-deaf in writing about the positives I’ve gained this past year. I acknowledge and deeply sympathize for those who are struggling, whose lives are indelibly changed.

It’s only been a year, but there has been enough heartbreak for a lifetime. If you are experiencing any fraction of that I’m so sorry, I pray that this year will be a vast improvement.

One can only hope.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This past week we spent the kids’ Spring Break in Mabank, where my parents have a lake house. The weather wasn’t that great, so we couldn’t fish, swim or go on the boat but we still had a good time. My mom found all my old Beanie Babies from when I was a kid and Eli played with those quite a bit.

I’m going to cut this short, because I got the second covid vaccine yesterday and it has knocked me on my ass. If you’re not vaccinated, please find out how you can be.

Gifted and Talented, Part III

As previously mentioned, I have been stressed and anxious about the results of my daughter’s gifted and talented scores. The scores determine which school she’ll attend next year, and the G/T school is amazing. My husband actually attended when he was little.

Because of the winter storm that passed through here a couple weeks ago, the results were delayed, which I understood. But my brain did not — I wanted the results and my anxiety made a mountain out of a molehill. After being told the second deadline would not be met, I was so upset. I’m so impatient, and then my anxiety made everything worse. You’re probably saying that worrying doesn’t make the results come sooner, and I know that, logically. But the logical side of my brain gets overpowered all too often.

I digress. Yesterday while I was nursing a migraine, I checked my email and there it was — an official school district email with the results. My heart started pounding (dramatic, right?) and I opened the attachment — she got in! I’m so happy that she’ll get to benefit from such an amazing school. I think it’s important for me to say that I don’t care about the “title” of being gifted and talented. I already knew she was gifted and smart, but it’s important to me that she learn critical skills needed to succeed in this world and the school can help prepare her. Not only that, but the program will challenge her and nurture her intelligence and creativity. That’s what I’m happy about. It’s just such a great opportunity.

So, I was relieved, to say the least. I feel so stupid saying this, but her getting in validated some insecurities about myself. I thought to myself, “Yes! She got David’s DNA and mine’s not going to screw her up!” And I know it sounds silly, but I’ve always been scared that she’s going to have all my bad traits — that my genetics had overpowered David’s and she was destined to be depressed and unhappy (more drama, I know). But David is just so amazing and it makes me happy knowing that she’ll follow David’s footsteps at the G/T school. Not that I’m putting any pressure on her.

I need to stop worrying about what my kids inherited or didn’t. They’re a mixture of an intelligent, generous, logical dad and a creative, kind, sensitive mom. I don’t need to concern myself with their potential flaws. We all have them, that’s what makes us us. And even if they are riddled with my flaws, it doesn’t matter — I’d love and support them anyway.

That’s what makes me me.

Success in Mediocrity

All the writing I did about Isla’s gifted and talented scores got me thinking about the idea of success and what that means for me.

When I was younger (high school-ish), I would’ve told you being successful was having a good job, being well-off and married. I thought my parents were successful, which they are, so I intended on emulating their lifestyle. But when I did go out into the “real world” after college, I couldn’t hang. I got a job hundreds of miles away, working as a reporter to a mid-size daily newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. I missed my family, and even though I made friends, it was still so hard. My depression worsened for one, probably from being away from home and stress of my first job. I got in trouble a lot for calling in sick (either depression or migraines), and I ended up quitting just short of a year. I quit journalism too, even though I thought being a journalist was my calling. I felt like a loser, and I was really anxious and embarrassed about the whole thing.

I eventually got a new job where I could use my writing skills, but I still mourned the idea of not being a journalist.

I never found another job that made me feel as good as writing for a newspaper did. After a few years of working various jobs, I stopped working all together so I could get healthy enough to have a baby. People judged me for not working, but to be completely honest, it felt amazing to get that pressure off me. I did become healthier and had two beautiful babies within two years. I still haven’t gone back to work, and I like it that way.

When people ask me what I do for a living, and I say stay-at-home mom, it sometimes stings but I think that’s because society has conditioned us to believe that success only lies in one’s occupation. And for a lot of people, that’s true. But not I. It never occurred to me back then that that a job is just a job — it’s not who you are. And just because I don’t have one (that pays) doesn’t make me less of a person.

But it’s not about a job, house, how much money you have, etc. For me, it’s about happiness and being fulfilled. I was never the brightest, thinnest, most athletic, most ambitious person. I’m not even sure I’ve been the best at anything, and I say that not fishing for compliments but to proclaim that I might be mediocre in many ways but I’m also exceptional in others. I celebrate the fact that my life doesn’t have to parallel my parents’ or anyone else’s. I celebrate my strengths, even though they may not match others’. God made me the way I am for a reason. And you, too.

Success should look different for everyone, because we’re not all the same. We don’t have to be. We don’t have to join the rat race, either. All those “flaws” I thought I had before aren’t flaws at all, and I should celebrate them because they make me, me. I don’t get paid, but I write everyday and blog about a topic that I’m very passionate about. It makes me happy, and hopefully, I’m helping others in the process.

I will remember this about my kids as they grow up and try to figure out life as they know it. And I’ll support them, no matter what success means to them. Just like my parents did with me.

What Makes Night Within Us May Leave Stars

Earlier today, I was writing a piece for my kids’ preschool, and I wrote something that I’ve never really discussed before, at least here on my blog.

I talked about how my depression and anxiety weren’t that bad until I had children. That it wasn’t lost on me that after I had kids my brain changed drastically and my depression worsened. But at the same time, my heart opened and I felt love that I’ve never felt. Sure, I experienced pain that I’ve never felt before too, but oh my god, the happiness and love that I feel when I’m with my kids is so amazing and just indescribable. It was some weird trade-off, I guess. And I’m here for it.

I also talked about how Isla sometimes is anxious. It isn’t surprising given my history with anxiety but it sure is painful to see her struggling or in a panicked state. She could just be an anxious child or she could just have common, every day 6-year-old worries. She’s too young to diagnose, and I hope she doesn’t have an anxiety disorder at all. Eli, either. Of course, I don’t want my kids to go through what I’ve been through. But just in case, I’m ready for it. I know how to navigate mental illness, believe me, and I so wish that I had the knowledge and resources when I was 12 that I do now. Early intervention is so important.

Now that I’m in a better place, I can say that every terrible thing I’ve felt and gone through has been worth it. It’s so worth it if I can be with and enjoy my kids. The meds, the psychiatric hospital, the panic attacks, ECTs, suicidal thoughts — it’s all worth it. Maybe it’s easy to say this while I’m not experiencing a depressive episode. But it needs to be said, I feel. I need to express just how grateful I am for my family, especially my kids and how they’ve shaped my life. Yes, my life would be dramatically different had I not had kids, but screw that idea of “what could have been.” My life, despite my illnesses, is so good. And again, I’m so thankful. And if I have to endure hell sometimes, so be it. Every depressive episode or panic attack only makes me stronger. My kids will see that, and it’s OK that they see me suffer and cope. They’ll see my resilience and perseverance.

And maybe that’s why I had to go through all that I did — to help one of my children go through the same. If that’s the case, it’s been more than worth it, and I’d do it all again. As a parent, I’ll always want to help my kids (read more here) and even remove all the roadblocks in their life, but I know it doesn’t work like that. But I can help. I’ll always be there.

Maybe my kids are just fine and I’m making too much out of nothing. Maybe I’m supposed to be blogging about my experiences to help others. If that’s the case, if I’ve helped even one person, it’s all been worth it.

It’s all been worth it, no matter what the case. I’m a better person for what I’ve been through, and all I want to do is make someone, anyone, feel that they are not alone. That their feelings are valid. That they are worthy and important.

And even though my brain tells me the opposite, I’d like to believe all that, too.

Maybe if I say, “It’s all been worth it” enough I’ll believe it. Maybe I can believe that I’m worth it.

It’s all been worth it.

And I’m worth it, too.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I don’t have much to say about this past week, other than it was OK. It went by quickly, which is good because I’m been anxious about receiving the scores of my daughter’s gifted and talented test. I thought they’d send them out, and I got so worked up about it that I called to office only for them to tell me they’re not sending out the letters until this upcoming Friday. That sucks, because we’re supposed to be leaving for Dallas that weekend for Spring Break. Oh well, I can’t do anything about it, and I know that worrying will only hurt me. So, I’ll try to let that go, lol. But I did talk to two other mothers who both told me they were constantly checking their email for the results, so I’m not alone.

I’m looking forward to our trip to Dallas to see my parents. We haven’t traveled in a long time, and it’ll be nice to get a change in scenery. I’m hoping to see my best friend, too but I don’t know if it’s in the cards.

Anyway, that’s it for me. This week I’m going to focus on decluttering, so I’m not so anxious and writing some more. I hope y’all have a great week. If you’re so inclined, please say a prayer about Isla’s scores. It’s important to me and my husband.

Stay in the light, my friends.