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.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m coming off a very happy weekend. My parents drove down on Thursday to visit and it was so good to see them. I usually see them a lot more often but the pandemic has halted our travel. The kids were so excited and my parents were very happy with the new house.

It was also a good week. One of my blogs was published on The Mighty website! I have submitted two other blogs that they’ve decided to publish, so maybe it can be a regular thing. And because of that, my friend who’s a TV news producer said she’d like to do a story on my blog getting published and how important body positivity is to children, especially girls.

That’s really all for now. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. Stay in the light!

The Art of Being Uncomfortable

After MANY therapy appointments, my therapist and I have discovered that I don’t like to be uncomfortable. Of course, I’ll write about it and I’ll be the first one to tell you that real growth starts by being uncomfortable. But holy hell, I will go to great lengths in order not to feel discomfort in almost all aspects of my life.

This “ah-ha” moment came yesterday after telling my therapist that if I eat something and it gives me pleasure, I will continue to eat that thing over and over in order to feel the pleasure. I’m always chasing that high you get when your pleasure center is activated. We then jokingly decided that I would make a fantastic drug addict. Maybe not that funny but it’s true. I wasn’t far off when I started abusing my anxiety meds in 2019. I would take six or seven a night — six or seven benzodiazepines. It’s a wonder I didn’t do serious damage to myself. But I’d take all those pills so I wouldn’t feel what I was feeling. And guess what that was? Discomfort.

When I went to The Menninger Clinic, a psychiatric facility in Houston, I didn’t have any choice but to be uncomfortable. I was hundreds of miles away from family, I couldn’t abuse my meds and I was forced to come face-to-face with all my demons: depression, anxiety, a personality disorder, Binge Eating Disorder and my medication abuse problem. And when I became uncomfortable, I had no excuse but to cope with what I was feeling in a healthy way. But out of that feeling of discomfort came growth.

And as previously mentioned, personal growth can be so annoying. But necessary. I’m by no means cured of all that ails me, but coming face-to-face with my demons has forced my hand — I have to grow. I have to survive. I guess I don’t have to, but that’s what I choose. It’ll take time and practice but I’ll do the work. I’ll be freed from the bondage of mental illness that’s had such a tight hold on me for the past two decades. My liberation — I already feel it. I see it.

Here’s what I want to work on: breaking the self-destructive cycle of binge eating, being compassionate and appreciative of my body (and even my weight), being mindful all times when it comes to eating as well as identifying and experiencing my emotions. I don’t want to bury or ignore my emotions. That’s just part of being free, in my opinion.

I want to feel unencumbered, empowered, in control of all my mental disorders. And I’m hopeful that I will. I’m looking froward to the journey and I’m glad you’re along for the ride.

Stay in the light, my friends.

Fragile…Like a Bomb

Last Friday, I had an ECT, so I was a little, rather a lot, out of it Friday and Saturday morning. I did something I haven’t done in well over a year —  forgot to take my meds. I got out of routine and just plum forgot. ECT can do that to you. 

Yesterday morning, as I struggled to get up and get going, I noticed my mistake and took my pills as I should, but a cloud of guilt and uncertainty followed me. 

I noticed a change in my demeanor almost immediately. I started my period (I missed my birth control as well as my psych meds).  I felt exhausted, scared and sad. I couldn’t believe a simple mistake could shake me this hard. I wanted to crawl in a hole and avoid my responsibilities and not think that this past ECT was a waste of time and energy. 

It hurts to admit this but my mental health is so fragile — not weak — but fragile like a bomb. I’ll do whatever it takes not to explode. Nobody wants a repeat of 2019, least not me. 

It’s just so frustrating that I do everything I can to maintain my mental health and just three days of missed meds can sink me down so low. It’s baffling to me. And it was an ECT that made me forget!! That’s what drives me crazy. I was doing shock therapy so that I’m the best version of myself, yet it made me forget my meds. For those of you who don’t know, retrograde amnesia is common after a treatment as well as confusion and disorientation.

In therapy this morning I told my therapist what had happened and that I felt overwhelmed because I’ve been trying so hard, but it feels like it doesn’t matter. She said something that struck a chord — that I can’t stand to feel uncomfortable. Not for one minute. And that I always tend to look at the bad in the situation while forgetting the good.

She’s right. Whenever I do feel uncomfortable, I try to stave that feeling off by letting my compulsions take over — overeating, shopping and other self destructive behavior. And I do it all just so I can feel good. But why do I feel the need to feel good and happy all the time? Nobody feels that way all the time, even someone with a “normal” brain.

She also said I needed to delay my gratification, that I’m all about a quick, easy fix, “instant gratification,” but that’s how a child thinks. She’s right about that, too.

Yes, I forgot my meds on accident. Yes, I feel uncomfortable and uncertain, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. I should continue to take my meds and take care of myself in other ways because taking care of myself only benefits me and my family/friends. The end result will be worth it. Logically, I know it will.

I don’t know if this blog makes any sense or if it has a point, but that’s OK for me today. I’m blogging and reflecting on/dealing with my experiences and feelings in a healthy way.

There is a lot of maintenance and self care I have to keep up with because of my brain’s stupid and ineffective wiring, but instead of getting overwhelmed with it all I have to appreciate everything good in my life and just take everything in baby steps. Maybe that’s what everyone does? I don’t know.

My therapist did say it was important for me to go back next week, lol. So, maybe I’ll learn more then.

Thanks for reading. Stay in the light, my friends.

My Body, Myself

I love the bird tattoo just below my shoulder on my chest.

The tattoo I have on my left arm, a bird on a typewriter, makes me feel so sexy. And strong.

I love the Phoenix on my back that reminds me that I will always rise.

The Hebrew on my side tells the story of Ruth, the first convert, and reminds me why I’m Jewish.

I love the color of my eyes, green with a bit of brown circling my pupils. Green eyes are rare, and I enjoy being rare.

I love my curly, wild hair, because it never looks the same from one day to another.

I love my boobs, which I had surgically reduced and that’s OK. I acknowledge and appreciate that they fed and nourished both my babies.

I love my legs, which are shapely and sexy.

Sadly, I don’t love all of me. I look at my stomach in the mirror and frown. It’s swollen and puffy from weight gain and eating poorly since the pandemic started. I tell myself that I’ve carried two babies and try to appreciate my womb as much as I appreciate other parts of my body.

I ignore the guilty feeling that’s spurred when my thighs uncomfortably touch when I walk.

I also try to ignore my chins when I take a selfie and the fact that I probably “need” Botox.

I avoid jeans and opt for leggings or sweats. I pick sweatshirts and baggy shirts to hide my insecurities, but I’m pretty sure my uncertain gait gives me away.

I try to give myself some grace. Be kind and do my best but I’ve been in autopilot for months, attempting to fill whatever void I feel at the moment. It never works. It’s always there and unless I do some real, hard work it will continue to be there.

My progress is not linear; some days are better than others. But I want to love all of me.

I think I’m pretty amazing (most of the time). I fight depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder every single day. I’ve suffered a mental break, having to go to a psychiatric hospital for six weeks. I do ECT treatments, shock therapy, every six to eight weeks just so I can feel OK and get by. And I do it all for my family. And me, of course. I am a fighter, a survivor and advocate.

My heart, my strong yet tender heart, swells with pride when I think about it all. And how I’m setting an example to my kids by taking care of my mental health and making myself a priority. They’ll see my perseverance and resilience. They’ll also see my flaws and I’m OK with that. They need to see them, see me.

I want them to see how much I love and appreciate my body and self and I’ll continue to work on that. Even though I’m almost 40. It’s never too late to try. To love yourself.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

8 Reasons I Have Anxiety On Any Given Day

Everybody has anxiety, but there are those who experience anxiety for prolonged periods of time and every day. Unfortunately, I fall into that category.

For the most part, my anxiety is controlled through medication and relaxation techniques. Mostly medication, though. Therapy also helps.

Some days I’m completely fine, but others are marred by anxiety and panic. When I start to experience anxiety, it starts small, like with a feeling that I forgot something or that something bad is going to happen. Then comes the obsessive thoughts, “What am I forgetting? What if a loved one is mad at me? Why did I say that stupid thing yesterday?” I might start to catastrophize or have intrusive thoughts that I’m going to die or my loved ones are going to die. My heart races and pounds. There are butterflies in my chest. If I can’t quell these thoughts, I have a panic attack where it’s hard to breathe. Thankfully, I haven’t had a panic attack in awhile, but the obsessive and intrusive thoughts are still there and can be difficult to manage. The thoughts are constant and almost every day.

I know anxiety affects people differently; this is only my experience, but I wanted to share a list of what gives me anxiety on a daily basis. Also, I wanted to point out that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the U.S., affecting up to 40 million people. That’s huge.

OK, here’s my list:

  1. Loud noises — It doesn’t matter what it is — my kids being loud, a pan being dropped, the TV volume — loud noises always put me on edge. So do repetitive noises. My anxiety not only manifests with obsessive thinking and physical symptoms, but also it makes me very irritable. I start to raise my voice when I shouldn’t or I snap at my husband or the kids. Sometimes I feel the urge to chunk something against the wall.
  2. I’m out of routine — I thrive in routine. Nothing makes me happier than doing the same thing everyday and doing it the same way. It helps prevent my anxiety, because I know exactly what’s coming up and what I need to do. Of course, it’s not very realistic to do the same thing the same way every single day. There are always kinks, and I deal with those but they usually put me on edge.
  3. Stress — This is kind of a no-brainer, but if something stressful is going on (like moving to a new house or the holidays ), I start to get irritable and panic.
  4. Interrupted or not enough sleep — I’m one of those people who just needs nine to 10 hours of sleep a night. Of course, I don’t get that, but it feels like I’m running on empty if I’m operating on fewer than seven hours. When I’m interrupted (which I often am), my anxiety flares up because then I start to think about not getting back to sleep or not getting enough sleep.
  5. Too much caffeine — I’m really bad about drinking too many Diet Cokes, as I often do when I don’t get enough sleep (Eli is on a 5 a.m. wake up call these days). I chug and chug until I feel some energy, but then my anxiety goes into overdrive.
  6. Conflict — I do not like conflict. I guess most people don’t, but I stress out so badly if I have to confront someone or if there’s any discord. The obsessive thoughts start to cycle and my thoughts race. Thoughts like, “Maybe I should say this? I wonder if they don’t like me now. Am I being mean?” I’ll play conversations over and over in my head, and the stress just mounts up.
  7. Not enough alone time — I need alone time. When I have quality alone time, I feel recharged. During this sacred time, I don’t want anyone touching me, because I’m touched out usually by the kids. I don’t even let the cats on me during alone time. I do things that I enjoy, whether it’s take a hot shower or bath, watch TV, read, etc. When I don’t get alone time, I get so short-fused. See a theme?
  8. Uncertainty — I’m sure this is a trigger for many, many people. Because I thrive on routine and structure, I’m not good with uncertainty. Take the pandemic, for example. When we were doing the quarantine at home, I was so stressed. I worried about the kids falling behind in school, our financial situation, whether we were going to get sick, when I was ever going to be alone again, among many other things. I know I’m not alone in this. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our collective mental health, but thankfully, there’s light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines becoming available.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the most common triggers I have. I hope that if you have a loved one who suffers with an anxiety disorder, you have a little more insight with this blog. Please treat anyone who has an anxiety disorder with respect and never downplay their symptoms and feelings.

If you have anxiety, I recommend getting a weighted blanket. When I’m starting to panic, I get my blanket and put most of the weight on my chest. It instantly makes me feel a bit better and I feel safe. I prefer this to meditating or breathing exercises.

Any questions? Drop them in the comments.

Stay in the light, my friends.