Tag:

mental illness

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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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The outfit I wore but not the day of the photoshoot. My hair looked a lot better, lol

Some pretty cool things happened to me last week, but I can’t talk about the coolest one. I guess I can, I just can’t tell you what it was for. Anyway, I did a photo shoot for something coming up, and it was so awesome. I wore my hot pink blazer and a pink shirt with blue birds all over it and my hair looked fantastic for once. The photographer was so nice, and I warmed up to her immediately. Come back in October and find out what I’m talking about. Actually, come back every day, but definitely in October, lol.

My husband got some good news — he’s been running for the Board of Regents for Del Mar College and we found out Friday that he has no opponent, that’s amazing news. Because of that, we’re going to take the kids to Disney in October or November before the election. I’ve never been and now we’ll have a little more money not being used for the campaign.

Even though there is good news flying around, I have been struggling a bit. This weekend I couldn’t stop sleeping. I did remember that I’ve missed one or two B12 shots, so I need to take care of that Monday. But I’ve just felt off and zapped of energy. Today I’m feeling better, but I do have a case of the Sunday blues. We just came home from the movies, and that did help a bit — it was hilarious…I think it was called the League of Super Pets. The kids loved it. But hopefully after my shot of B12 tomorrow and a ketamine treat later this week, I’ll be feeling lots better because next week I have a lot of NAMI stuff going on, and I need to be 100 percent. Or somewhat close to that.

That about does it for me.

I hope y’all have a great week coming up. And as always, stay in the light

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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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super-mom

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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Often when I describe recovery to someone, I say it’s like walking a tight rope. One false move and your ass is back on the ground. And sometime you can get back up there, no harm, no foul. But there are times when you can’t. To switch metaphors, you’ve already let depression’s foot in the door and that bitch got in just a bit. That’s all it takes.

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For weeks I’ve been letting her in, it just took until now to notice. My hygiene is slipping. I’m sleeping more, even past my alarm, which I never do. I’m so tired; my limbs feel 50 pounds each. I’m sad and worn out. I feel insecure and not excited about writing or work events. I’m even having trouble getting my thoughts out in this blog.

I have no energy. Gone is my pep. Maybe it’s time to try ketamine again, I don’t know. But I need to do something. I don’t like this version of Heather. Definitely not. I know I can achieve more than this, and I know I don’t need to compare this Heather to my most motivated and winningest one. It’s okay to have bad days. It’s when the days become months that I need to worry.

I won’t lie, I’m pretty worried now. It’s not completely dark now, but conditions are right for it to get darker – and fast. But it’s hard to say that this isn’t just a brief mood swing or if it’s going to last 6 to 8 months. My brain can’t tell the difference.

So here’s my plan: I go into Low Battery Mode which includes asking for help when I need it, taking more breaks than usual, try to eat healthy diet, see my therapist more often, do self-care as much as I can and celebrate the little things. That’s not much but it is when you’re floundering. I’ll really try hard on personal hygiene and getting enough sleep.

I’ll try.

That’s the least and most I can do.

Try.

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In the past few months I’ve seen moderate weight loss, thanks to starting karate and my migraine medication that has loss of appetite as a side effect. Plus, I was eating healthier and working out on my own.

I felt good about myself, but as always, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop — it always does. My eating disorder (Binge Eating Disorder) always comes back to find me. This time was no different. I let it overtake me. I stopped feeling full, I started drinking more Diet Coke, which meant less water, and my taste buds craved more sugar.

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I ate cookies, candy, bread, chips and any carb I had denied myself previously. I didn’t even want it, but I did. How many people can relate to that? Was I punishing myself? Trying to escape? Or did I just want to feel good, however temporary it was?

I’ve been avoiding the scale, which I advocate for anyway, but I check my weight occasionally for accountability. I can’t check it now. I’m too ashamed. I was doing so well. I was taking care of myself, and I was so proud of myself for being healthy — not thin or skinny or any of that. Healthy was my goal and being strong.

I was chatting with a girlfriend about it who has the same problem. We check in with ourselves because not a whole lot of people understand BED. I think it’s hard for my friends and family, especially when sometimes I’m at a lower weight. How can I have Binge Eating Disorder at 166 pounds? But just the other day one of my girlfriends said (with tears in her eyes) that she had no idea she had an eating disorder (Binge Eating Disorder) until she read some of my blogs. BED is not talked a lot about, even though it negatively affects your health and decreases your quality of life – BIG TIME.

My previously mentioned friend told me she has had trouble going to the grocery store. That’s why I don’t go — I get my groceries delivered so I can’t pick up junk and suffer from impulse buys. My friend is like me: she uses food for comfort, and even though she has received help and counseling for it, it’s still very difficult to her. ME TOO. Matter of fact, she mentioned how deadly eating disorders can be. According to a 2020 article, Anorexia is named as the mental illness with the highest mortality rate. Five to 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease and 18 to 20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years. That’s shocking.

Other stats you should know:

  • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental illnesses.)
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males (source: South Carolina State Dept of Mental Health)

I didn’t look much for stats on Binge Eating Disorder but you can look at disability from BED here. How do I say this delicately? It’s not outright deadly, but I can see how long-term it could contribute negatively to your health and subsequently your death.

I work so hard to keep my depression, anxiety and eating disorder from my kids, but let’s face it, I’m not doing a great job. The jig will be up sooner or later. They’re 5 and 7. I can’t just not eat in front of them for the rest of my life.

I’m 38 years old. It’s never going to get easier.

But I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep checking in with my friend. I’ll aim to be healthier every single day of my life. Because that’s what I do.

I can live with my kids seeing that.

If you have an eating disorder and need help, please go here. There’s a hotline and chat line you can call.

You are not alone.

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Diet Coke, My Old Foe

by Heather Loeb
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I recently talked about starting back on Topamax, a migraine prevention medication that has a slew of side effects — one being that it makes carbonated beverages taste awful (flat and gross). When I first started the medication, it tasted awful. I didn’t even buy any Diet Coke for weeks, only drinking one (or less) a day, from a previous trip to the store.

Then one morning I drank one with my (healthy) homemade breakfast taco, and it tasted good again. I thought, oh my god, maybe the medicine isn’t working, but I still haven’t had a migraine in a month. And as glad as I was to welcome my old friend back onto my tastebuds and in my stomach, I was also disappointed. Here I go again, I thought, as my daily intake went up and up. Will I never be rid of this dark elixir?

OK, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I was really hoping to get rid of this habit while on Topamax, while it taste badly and needed to drink a ton of water. I’m still drinking lots of water, but every day I seem to sneak in a little more Diet Coke. I know it’s bad for me — friends and family never let me forget — but it’s been the one of the few bad habits I haven’t seemed to have kicked.

I’ve tried quitting at least 10 times, maybe more. I tried switching to coffee (many different kinds) but to no avail. I tried tea, because I felt I needed some caffeine, but that didn’t last either. I tried going cold turkey while on Topamax multiple times before and cold turkey without. Nope and nope. I’ve tried telling myself that it will eventually kill me, but it’s to care when you *think* you’re young. Even though I’m pushing 40, it’s still hard to care. Sigh.

Medical News Today, which I read a lot, says a growing body of evidence suggests that diet soda consumption correlates with an increased risk of a wide range of medical conditions, including:

  • heart conditions, such as heart attack and high blood pressure
  • metabolic issues, including diabetes and obesity
  • brain conditions, such as dementia and stroke
  • liver problems, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Now, I don’t need an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, stroke or dementia. Really, anything they mention. I have enough health problems as it is.

MNT also says that while the precise relationship between diet soda and medical conditions is uncertain and requires more research, it is clear that people should not see diet soda as a healthful alternative to sugary drinks.

Well, OK. That doesn’t exactly help me now. I guess it’s like anything else hard in life — I just have to get through it. I really have to be committed to it and do my best, like I do with my mental illness. I don’t let myself slide on that anymore, so maybe I can’t let myself slide on this anymore.

Have you quit diet soda before? Have any tips or tricks? Leave them in the comments.

Thanks for listening. Stay in the light.

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