Freedom

When I started this blog, I was not free. I hid my depression, anxiety and binge eating disorder from the world, mostly because I was embarrassed. I also have a personality disorder, but I didn’t know it when I started writing.

I felt weak because of the depression. That’s not uncommon, mostly because society still buys into the stigma surrounding depression and other mental disorders.

It took going to a mental hospital for me to finally “come clean” about my disorders. Before I left for The Menninger Clinic, I was abusing my anxiety medication, suicidal and it was hard to get out of bed. I was at my lowest.

Then, surrounded by people just like me, I realized that I wasn’t weak — it takes a strong person to fight their own brain in order to stay alive. And that’s what I was doing. My brain was telling me I needed to kill myself and that nobody wanted me around. That I was a burden. But I resisted.

Depression not only made it hard to get out bed but also it was difficult to brush my teeth and shower. I also started isolating, not answering texts from my friends and wanting to spent more time by myself. That’s depression’s game — to isolate you and make you think you’re not worthy. And what helped me while hospitalized was discovering that it wasn’t my fault. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s situational and genetics. Anyone can become depressed — just think about what the pandemic has done: people have lost loved ones, they’ve gotten sick themselves, they’ve lost jobs and people are isolated from family and friends. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to depression right now, for anyone.

And it’s so lonely. So, so lonely.

My goal starting this blog was to help others not feel so lonely. So ostracized. To fight the weariness that you feel in your bones when struggling with depression. I want those suffering to know that you are worthy and not alone in this fight. There is light at the end of the tunnel, at least I think so. I’m still trying to get there.

What I’ve come to know is this: It’s OK to have depression. It’s OK to admit it and talk about it freely. There’s nothing wrong with having a mental disorder. People who suffer with mental illness are survivors, warriors. I am a warrior.

Every single day I wake up and fight depression and anxiety. I fight body image issues and experience terrible, hateful intrusive thoughts telling me I’m ugly, fat and a loser. Or that I’m going to die. Sometimes, it’s no picnic. But again, I’m a warrior.

I’ve learned that I can run on hate, so I’m learning to love myself. On a good day, I see a beautiful, wild-haired woman who loves her friends and family fiercely. Who has awesome tattoos and is not afraid of speaking her mind about anything. An advocate who desperately wants to help others.

I’ve come a long way, and this blog has helped me navigate my journey, which is just beginning.

What I am now is free — free from the shackles of other people’s opinions and the stigma surrounding mental disorders. I have major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, avoidance personality disorder, binge eating disorder and I have problems abusing prescription medication. I’m still amazing. I’m brave. I’m a fighter.

I’m unapologetically me and so fucking free. Join me.

What Will Your Kids Think?

Ever since I started blogging and writing columns for the local newspaper, friends and even strangers have asked me if I’m going to let my kids read my articles when they’re older and what will my kids think about what I’m writing. When first asked, I thought it was strange, but it’s been asked many times. It’s odd to. me because I’m very open in my struggles and don’t mind sharing them. To me, and maybe I’m wrong, there’s the implication that I’m writing something that my kids shouldn’t see, which is bullshit.

In my house, we talk openly of me depression. My kids know I struggle at times and understand to the best of their ability. We don’t talk about my suicidal thoughts, but they realize when I’m not doing well. It’s kind of hard not to notice.

Maybe people don’t mean it that way but aren’t I doing this all for my kids? And their generation? When I first started this blog (spurred by Kate Spade’s suicide), it was to stop hiding, to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness. I want it to be second nature for someone to talk about their struggles and illness in general. I don’t want them or anyone to feel the shame and guilt that seem to come with every depression diagnosis.

Lying and keeping my illness to myself only worsened by condition. Not being educated about mental disorders only hurt me; had I had early intervention when I first started showing signs of anxiety and depression, I might not have ended up at a psychiatric facility. I certainly would’ve been better off learning about coping skills at that age. I’m not trying to blame anyone in particular but society as a whole. When you know what to look for, it’s a lot easier to get help.

And now we know what to look for, but we’re still thwarted by the stigma, thwarted in our recovery and maintenance.

So, yes, I do want my kids to read my articles and blogs. I want them to be aware that it could happen to them. I want them to know that even if they don’t struggle with mental illness, they still need to be empathetic and not cast judgement on others. I need them to know that it can happen to anyone and that you can’t just wish it away. I surely would have done so a million times by now.

I also need them to know that it’s not their fault that I’m the way that I am. It’s not theirs, and it’s not mine. It’s a disease like any other, and that’s something people choose to ignore.

I’ve had many people send me messages and emails saying they love my blog but can’t talk to their family and friends about their mental illness because they were afraid of the consequences — I know them too well. The ridicule and ignorant statements that it’s something that we choose. Just the other day, a good friend came over and was admiring how new house. He then looked at me and said, “I wouldn’t have any mental health issues in this house.”

I scoffed. I thought he was kidding, and maybe he was, but it’s not funny. I am blessed and fortunate to say the least, but even my good blessings can’t keep the dark, lonely, violent throes of depression. That’s the kind of thinking that keeps people quiet. And when people keep quiet about their struggles, they’re more prone to kill themselves. We must stop that dangerous rhetoric now.

Honestly, it will probably be a little painful when my kids read what I write, but at least they’ll know that I’m honest and authentic in my struggles and I worked very hard to lend my voice to those who couldn’t quite find theirs, by no fault of their own. That I stood up for people like me, that I demanded change. That I fought for their generation to be different. That ever since I gave birth to Isla, I’ve been fighting every single day for my life, and it’s because of them that I will never stop fighting.

Never.

I Hate My Brain

Ever have a long day and think to yourself you deserve a treat? So you get ice cream and start to feel better? That sounds normal to me. My problem is that I think I deserve a treat multiple times a day. I constantly want to feel good. To feel happy. I compulsively eat to get that high and, enjoy that “treat.” Then I feel sick. After I’ve recovered, I look for another treat, forgetting how sick I felt earlier. It’s a vicious cycle.

I do this a lot but especially when the kids are away at my mother-in-law’s. I tell myself that I need to relax, enjoy the quiet and that I need to feel good. Last night, even after I had a big dinner, I sat there thinking of what I could eat that would make me feel good. And I even tried many things, despite being uncomfortably full already. M&Ms didn’t work. Neither did peanut butter crackers, ice cream or SweeTARTS.

But there is nothing I can eat that will make me truly happy.

Now, I’m trying to give myself a break because I am in need of an ECT treatment, which is scheduled for Friday. Usually the week before treatment I run out of gas, and I try to cope however I can. BUT this doesn’t just happen in the weeks leading up to treatment. This happens all the time, even when I’ve just had an ECT.

So I pose this question, “Why do I feel the need to be happy all the time?” Honestly, that question was asked by my therapist last week. She following up with, “Can’t we sit with other emotions? Nobody is happy every minute of the day.”

And she’s right. We don’t need to be happy every minute. I think my problem is that I HATE being uncomfortable, so I’ll do anything to push those negative emotions aside. Emotions like anxiety, stress, anger or sadness. It’s clearly not working for me to ignore these problems, and even if overeating has helped in the past, it sure as hell is not working now.

This may sound strange, but I think I need to acknowledge and honor whatever feelings I’m having. Maybe I need to grab my journal whenever I’m feeling negative emotion, talk about what’s going on and then release that feeling. I don’t know.

All I know if that I need to stop coping by bingeing. It’s made me gain a bunch of weight and really, aren’t I just eating my emotions?

Sometimes I really hate my brain, which I hold responsible for my debilitating-at-times depression and anxiety. I hate that it doesn’t respond to other treatments. I hate that my mental health is so precarious, and I resent that I have to be so careful as to not disturb it. I hate that happiness seems so fleeting at times. I’m not a big fan of my eating disorder either.

I don’t like to say hate; It forces a dichotomy with the idea that I should love and respect myself. I’m trying really hard to love myself, even almost 30 pounds heavier and a handful of mental disorders. But I feel betrayed by my brain. I know I need to reconcile those ideas. I know there is more benefit in loving all of me. I’ll get there. Despite everything that my brain has thrown at me, I’ve only become stronger. Take that, asshole.

And there are times that I think God made me this way because He thought I could handle it. I can, and I will. I remember this quote: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” I don’t mean to sound haughty, but maybe He knew I would use my voice and (hopefully) help others through my writing. That’s why I can’t stop blogging so much about mental health; there are so many who feel alone and haven’t found their voice yet. I certainly don’t mind lending mine in the meantime.

I guess my brain is just as much a blessing as a curse.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I hope y’all are doing well. It’s been awhile since I posted an update, so here goes. First of all, I want to wish everyone who celebrates a Happy Easter. We’re Jewish but we still do an Easter egg hunt and the Easter Bunny drops off goodies in their baskets.

This past week was a little trying for me. I’ve had an ECT appointment scheduled for next week, which is the eight-week mark. I really thought I could push past eight weeks but I’ve noticed I’m more irritable and my temper is shorter than normal, so I should probably just do it. It’s hard for me to admit that I need one because I hate them so much. I really dislike going under anesthesia; it makes me anxious and scared. My pulse quickens and my blood pressure goes higher than normal, and I have to use all the strength I have not to start bawling and begging to get me out of there. I know it doesn’t make sense — I’ve had almost 30 treatments, and I’ve never had a bad experience. But that’s just how it is. Anyway, I’ll try not to focus on that this week; I’ll just think how much better I’m going to feel and what a difference it’ll make.

In other news, tomorrow (Monday), one of my latest columns will be printed in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. They’re letting me write some more mental health columns, and I’m hoping it turns into a regular columnist job — it would be a dream of mine. So if you’re not too busy, go to Caller.com tomorrow and check it out.

That’s it for now. I hope you guys have a happy, healthy week.

Stay in the light.

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.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

As previously mentioned, I’ve been stressed this week. Yesterday, Isla had her stage 2 gifted/talented test, the final test she’ll have to take. We don’t get the results for another two weeks, because the district has to rank the tests, and then they’ll take the top six-percent of kids. She was way more confident this go-round, so I’m sure she did great and will get in. But if she doesn’t, that’s OK, too.

I made Eli an eye appointment with a pediatric eye specialist because of his wayward eye, but he can’t get into until April. So, I may not have immediately answers for either of my big worries right now, but I guess I’ll live.

Last week, I also got sick and have been feeling like hell. I went to get tested for COVID-19 but was negative, thank God. Still doesn’t change the fact that I feel terrible. I could use the rest this week anyway.

I’m looking forward to Valentine’s Weekend, even though we don’t have anything planned, then the following weekend is my birthday. We don’t have plans for that either, but that’s just fine by me.

I hope this week is a better one. I hope you guys are doing well and staying in the light. Take care this week.

Gifted and Talented, Part II

I’ve been thinking so much about Isla’s gifted/talented test this Saturday. It makes me think of my own education. When I was younger, I was in the G/T program in the third grade at Carrollton Elementary, but when I switched schools to Good Elementary, I was taken out of the G/T classes. I didn’t think much of it until middle school, when the powers that be placed me in remedial English for the seventh grade. I felt insulted, and it was my first inkling that I didn’t test well.

In high school, I made As and Bs, and even some Cs. I absent-failed every year. I bombed the PSATs so badly, that I was too scared to take the real test, instead opting for the ACT, which I did OK on.

As far as Isla goes, I think she’ll probably do well tomorrow. She’ll go into the G/T program and she’ll do great, because she’s bright, caring and unique. But if she doesn’t get in, I’ll remind myself that as far as test scores go, I am neither gifted nor talented. But I am exceptional, regardless. I’d like to avoid the “…but I did OK” cliche, because that’s not what I’m trying to say. I guess I did do “OK,” but only because of a handful of teachers that made me feel gifted and encouraged me. These teachers and mentors are the real heroes in my story, along with my mother, who always encouraged me to read. One cannot write well and not read.

Mr. Dycus, Chris and me

These teachers/mentors did not have to take time to give me encouragement, but I’d like to believe that they saw something special in me, something not detectable by those stupid tests. One such teacher was Ms. Jackie Morgan, who taught ninth grade English. I remember at a parent/teacher conference, she told my mother I had a real writer’s voice, and she’d be surprised if I didn’t become one. When she said that to my mother, my ears perked up, and a light turned on inside of me. At that time, I had wanted to be a copy editor at a publishing house, never thinking I could actually write myself. Ms. Morgan planted that seed and help nurture it. Writing is what helped me get through the rest of high school.

When I started college at the University of Texas at Arlington, I was accepted as a writer for the college’s magazine, Renegade. There was a small team of writers and editors, as well as a staff member. I didn’t get a lot of guidance on the pieces I wrote there, and when I made a huge mistake (rather, mistakes) in one issue, I was degraded and humiliated by the staff advisor. I wasn’t asked to come back to write for the magazine, and I was so hurt. I thought my dream of writing was over, until I applied to be a reporter with the college newspaper. When I turned my application in, I was in fear that I would run into that staff member who had been so mean to me, but I didn’t. I was told later by the wonderful person who hired me (hi, Melissa!) that the staff member tried to dissuade her from hiring me, but she went with her gut. Thank God.

As a learned the ropes of being a journalist, it was like I had found what I was meant to do with my life — and I was good at it! But this didn’t just happen overnight. I was encouraged by the staff advisor, Chris, and another advisor, Mr. John Dycus. Both men told me that journalism is where I needed to be. They believed in me, and I will forever be grateful for their kindness and praise.

And years later, when journalism didn’t pan out, Mr. Dycus told me to keep writing. He told me to keep believing in myself. He has continued to be supportive — no matter what I’ve done — to this day. He is without a doubt one of my favorite human beings, the nicest man that ever lived, and when he gives you praise, you feel like you are the only one on Earth who can do what you do. I love him, and I’ll admit, he still edits my writing. And I’m better because of it.

But I digress. No, Heather Ann White Loeb doesn’t look great on paper. My grades and test scores were meh. My journalism career never took off. Who cares? I still do great things. Things, I’m proud of every day.

And if Isla doesn’t make it into the G/T program, I pray that she’ll find her a Ms. Morgan and Mr. Dycus — mentors who help you believe you can fly and that you look real damn good doing it.

I know my Isla will be fine. If you are so inclined, please pray for her tomorrow as she takes the test — not necessarily that she gets in, but is calm and does her best. I’ll be praying for all those sweet Kindergarteners.

Thanks for reading.

I Don’t Care About “Bumming” You Out

Recently, I was told I posted too much about depression — that I was “bumming” people out. This comment not only infuriated me, but it hurt my feelings. How often do people like me — the chronically ill, depressed and others suffering with a mental disorder — deal with some inane comment like that. A comment that’s meant to shame and only discourage people’s truths.

I’m sorry, not sorry that I’m “bumming” people out. People need to know what it’s like to have a mental disorder. I’m done being told to “chin up,” “get some fresh air,” and “exercise” to cure my depression. That’s not helpful.

When you’re depressed and anxious, you can’t “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” In my case, when I’m going through a depressive episode, all I feel is pain. I get bone tired that no amount of sleep can alleviate. In my head, all I hear are criticisms of myself, how I’m a loser and unworthy. That nobody loves me. That I should kill myself. And the guilt — it’s overpowering. I feel guilty that I’m a depressed mom and that I have limitations that other moms don’t have. I feel guilty because I can’t control how I feel. I feel flawed, defective because growing up I came to understand that depression was something you could wish away with fresh air and sunshine. That strong people didn’t get depressed.

So, that makes me weak, right? That’s the stigma of depression talking.

I know better now. There’s nothing weak about me, or anyone who suffers with a mental disorder.

As I write this — and I’m not even experiencing a depressive episode — I’m purposely overeating, doing anything that will make the pain I feel go away. Overall, I’m doing great right now, but the thing about depression is that it lurks, always waiting for an opportunity to blanket my brain in doubt, fear and pain. And it’s so lonely. Not everyone understands and there are so many misconceptions about depression. My brain, my own brain, tells me to isolate from friends and family, making me even lonelier and in despair.

Luckily, I was able to go to a very good psychiatric hospital where specialists properly diagnosed me, prescribed the right medication and started me on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I’m so sick that doctors have to pass electric currents through my brain to trigger a seizure, resetting my brain. I have to do treatments every six to eight weeks, along with weekly therapy, just to feel almost normal.

My diagnoses are as follows:
Persistant depressive disorder (dysthymia)
Major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, severe
Generalized anxiety disorder
Binge eating disorder
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Opioid use disorder, moderate
Sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder, moderate

I’m one of the lucky ones because I can afford a high-dollar hospital and therapy. There are people who can’t. There are people who are suffering in silence, all because some people feel uncomfortable and “get bummed out” talking about mental illness. It’s bullshit. No one — and I do mean no one — should ever suffer in silence. There’s nothing embarrassing about struggling with depression. It’s not a weakness. It’s the same as having any other disease or disorder. So many people put on a happy face in order to hide their illness, and that too is bullshit. And that can be so dangerous if that person has suicidal ideation. People literally die because they don’t feel free to share how they’re feeling. The CDC reports that more than 48,000 people die each year by suicide. That number is surely to rise because of the pandemic.

It has to stop. I’m done being embarrassed by the fact that my brain is wired differently. I’m tired of feeling weak, when in reality I fight for my life every day. I’m strong as hell. I’m scrappy and I have grit. I’m proud of who I’ve become. And I will certainly NOT stop talking about depression or other mental disorders. I don’t give a fuck who I’m bumming out, because I’m also giving a voice to those who can’t quite find theirs yet.

I’m free from the embarrassment and guilt. I’m done with caring what other people think — the weight of their opinions is far too heavy. I will continue to lend my voice because I want others to be free too.

Please let us be free.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m not going to lie, this past week was a struggle. For some reason a past trauma popped back into my head, and it was so hard to get it out. Thinking I needed to resolve it, I started thinking and reflecting on it more and more. It proved dangerous though, triggering my binge eating disorder. That’s the thing about trauma — you think you’re over it and then it comes back, making you relive your painful emotions surrounding the it. I’ll get through it, though. I always do.

I had some more blogs published on The Mighty this past week. If you haven’t already, please check that website out. They have such good articles from people who are struggling with mental disorders. Here’s a list of mine that were published:

https://themighty.com/2021/01/mental-health-emotional-pain-food-medication-abuse/ https://themighty.com/2021/01/binge-eating-disorder-body-binge-eating-disorder/
https://themighty.com/2021/01/depression-electroconvulsive-therapy-memory-loss-positives/

I did get some really good news that I can’t quite share yet, relating to my blog, but you’ll just have to stay tuned. I hope your week was great last week, and I hope you have an even better one this coming week.

That’s all for now. Stay in the light, my friends.

At My Worst

The thing I hate the most about depression is that I can be feeling so good about myself and then — bam — something triggers me or I get into an argument with my husband or best friend. It could be something small, but it can throw me into a downward spiral of despair and pain.

That’s what happened tonight. I was reflecting on my day and how good it was. I made progress with my intuitive eating program (I didn’t overeat at all). I started to put more work into my blog, which excites and drives me.

Then it hit — self doubt, self loathing and despair after an argument with a loved one. All of these things were lurking in the shadows of my obstinate brain, and it didn’t take much to pull them out of hiding. It scared me. I began having intrusive thoughts that I should kill myself* and that my family didn’t need me. I tried to sort through my thoughts, desperately trying to determine which were true and which were lies. Normally, I don’t entertain my intrusive thoughts; as soon as they enter my head I stop the thought and release it, thinking of something happier. But I didn’t have the strength to stop them this time. It was a barrage of darkness and sadness. And I’ll just stop there, because this is making me sad.

All the progress that I had made during the day was gone, so it seemed. I got ice cream and binged on a couple servings, even though I didn’t really want it.

I didn’t have much time to wallow after that because both of my kids came into the room claiming they couldn’t sleep. It was several more hours of coaxing them and threatening before they finally went down. I felt depleted and frustrated.

The argument I had was inconsequential, forgotten by morning. But what stayed with me was the idea that this — me and my mental health — is probably as good as it’s going to get. I don’t mean that like I’m giving up and in to depression — I mean that I don’t know if I’ll ever feel better than I do right now. Every day, I hustle to stay on top of my depression. I take my meds, I got to weekly therapy appointments, I do ECT treatments, I avoid sleeping during the day, I stay busy with the kids, writing, hobbies, etc. And there is always room for improvement, but I think I need to be OK with the fact that this may be as good as it gets.

It’s not so bad. I’ll probably always live with these demons, but what I need more than to accept that this is my fate and life is that everybody else accepts it, too. That they love and support me at my worst, which is kind of scary sometimes. But in the same breath, it’s taught me to be grateful for all the good in my life and happy moments. And there are many.

It’s hard for me to talk about the dark or bad side of my depression (is there a good side, lol), because it’s hard for people who don’t suffer with a mental disorder to understand. It’s unknown and scary to them. But if you have a loved one who does suffer, love and accept them at their worst. And let them know that you do.

It makes this “journey” a lot easier.

*Please note that I am not in crisis or suicidal. Intrusive thoughts are just thoughts — not desire. I am safe.