Tag:

mental illness

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In therapy this week I talked about how I’ve been bingeing and overeating and how it felt like there was no end in sight. I felt there was an elephant in the room, that maybe it was time for another ECT (It has been awhile). But my therapist said she didn’t think that was a sign I needed one or a symptom of depression.

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She said it was a message, then went on to say that a lot of people think having an eating disorder is about control, but it’s not. She asked me what I thought and immediately I said comfort. She nodded her head.

I don’t remember the first time I binged, but I know I did it because I wanted to be comforted. That a heavy problem was looming, and I didn’t know how to sit with my feelings, instead eating until I couldn’t breathe so I could feel something other than scared or uncomfortable. It helped me then. I didn’t know it would turn into the beast that it is now, but a beast it is.

So now I wonder…why do I need comfort? Why am I seeking it in the wrong way?

I was hoping my therapist would give me the answers, but she didn’t. She told me it was up to me to figure that out. But really I have no clue. My best guess is that I wanted comfort after spending time with my parents for Christmas and having to leave earlier than I wanted. I’ve lived away from them for more than a decade, and it never gets easier leaving them.

But it has been three weeks since I was there. Do I really need that much comforting — three weeks’ worth?

What else is going on? As I’m writing this I remember the fact that my mother-in-law is still out of town. She usually takes the kids on the weekend so I can get a break, and I just haven’t had one in about five weeks. That could be a contributing factor. I’m used to taking breaks, but it just hasn’t happened. Thankfully, she’s coming home this weekend.

Is that it? Sigh. I just don’t know.

I’m going to meditate on it while the kids are at school and see if I can come up with any other answers. Until then the only thing I can do is do what I feel I need to do to survive. If that means overeating, I understand it. I don’t condone it, but I do understand survival. That’s what my life has been about for the past few years.

But I know it’s time to live, not just survive.

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Dear Binge Eating Disorder,

I have to let you go. It has served me in the past to have you near, but I can no longer run to you to hide from my emotions. You and I lived together for many years, and I know you started out with good intentions, but I’m becoming another person, and those intentions are now holding me back from who I want and need to be.

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The person I want to become no longer needs a crutch, no longer needs a distraction and to hide from uncomfortable emotions. I have to sit with those feelings and grow into them.

Oddly enough, I appreciate you and everything you’ve done to protect me and help me. I know you tried hard to protect me, to give me comfort when I was in pain. You saw me through depression and anxiety. And so much more.

But things are so different now. You’re hurting me; I’m hurting me. Lately I’ve been turning to you everyday because things have been hard, and I’ve been struggling. It’s easy to turn my higher brain off and plan a binge. And so easy to enjoy the first few bites of food and forget what made me sad or mad in the first place. I love shoving food in my mouth — but wait, it’s not food I’m shoveling in, it’s my emotions. I can’t keep doing that.

I’ll miss the feeling I get when I binge, that high that makes me forget. I’ll miss the anticipation of a binge; the feeling that I’m about to feel happy and full.

But I won’t miss the pain that bingeing brings. The indigestion and guilt. Oh the guilt, is so strong and partnered with shame. I won’t miss the scale going up, up and up even though I’ve had weight loss surgery. I won’t miss hiding food from my family. I definitely won’t miss eating so much that I throw up (because my stomach is surgically smaller, or was).

As I write this, tears are streaming down my cheeks. There’s a huge part of me that doesn’t want to let go. You’ve been a security blanket to me. I always used you to feel safe and comforted and now it feels like I’m losing it all. Like we’re breaking up.

I’m scared. There’s so much fear inside me that I’ll never feel safe and comforted again — that you’re irreplaceable. But my higher brain tells me you’re not.

This is will be hard, and I will likely stumble along the way, but that’s OK. The need to be a new person propels me forward, whether I’m ready or not.

Again, I’m grateful to you because you helped me survive. I’m just not that person anymore. I’ve been surviving; now it’s time to thrive.

Goodbye, old friend. I wish you no ill will.

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This past week went by so fast. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is coming up. but I’m excited. I’m even more excited to go get a Hanukkah bush (Christmas tree) with the kids and decorate the house. This is my favorite time of the year, and I’m really enjoying the cooler weather and holiday vibes.

In other news, I’ve been working on a new website for the past year or so and it’s finally going live this coming week. It looks good; a lot better than my plain blog now. I’ll announce when it goes live so you guys can take a look.

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I’ve been struggling lately, but I’m confident that I can push through without getting an ECT. We’ll see. I’m really trying hard to heal right now. I’m examining my core beliefs and trying to shed that person I became to survive to become a stronger person. A new, better version of myself.

I hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving. Stay safe and healthy, and as always, stay in the light.

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Truth Hurts.

by Heather Loeb

Last week I received an award from NAMI Texas for portraying and advocating for mental illness. It was a huge honor of me, and I felt very validated. I think it was probably the best award I’ve ever received in all my life. But just days after winning, I was sobbing in my therapist’s office.

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I feel like I have overcome something — being suicidal and getting help for my terrible depression and anxiety. I feel like I give good advice in my columns and blogs. I feel like my hard work has been noticed and that people are listening. But I’m a far cry from the “badass” in my columns or the rockstar everyone in NAMI thinks I am. I don’t mean to sound conceited or like I’m bragging; I only mean to highlight the dichotomy between healthy me and not-so-healthy me.

I’ve never claimed that I’m totally fixed or anything. As a matter of fact, I talk about how another depressive episode is likely and that I’ll never be “cured.” But surely I can take my own advice as I’m penning my innermost thoughts. No, I definitely don’t practice what I preach.

You see, today, as I was sobbing in my therapist’s office, we determined it was because I wasn’t being honest with myself. It was like I’d never met the Heather in the paper and on my blog. Red flags warning of relapse were flying by me, but I couldn’t have told you one healthy thing to do to fix it. Except go to my therapist’s, so I guess that counts.

Giving into my eating disorder is me lying to myself. Taking too much anxiety medication is me lying to myself. Cutting, sleeping too much, isolating — it’s all a big fat lie I tell myself to get by. And it never works.

It’s just so goddamn painful being me sometimes that I will find any way I can to escape. So I do. But in the end it only hurts me and subsequently my friends and family.

My therapist says I have to sit with my feelings, in addition to being honest. I can’t just get uncomfortable and run (or overeat or get high). I have to sit there and explore what those feelings mean and find out who I really am. As I’m writing this, I’ve daydreaming of my next meal, or rather, what I can binge eat. That’ll make me feel good…for about five minutes.

I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’ve portrayed myself as a well-adjusted, healthy woman, but that’s just not the case. My journey with mental illness is far from over. Right now it’s very turbulent, and I might puke. It feels like I’ll never stop battling my demons.

I don’t know why it’s so painful being me, but I suspect it’s because I have a core belief that I’m not good enough, that I’m a bad person, and that fuels my compulsions and bad habits. I don’t know how to fix that though. I tell myself that I’m a good, worthy person, but it never seems to stick.

I’ve really got to dig deep right now and give myself some grace. I’m going to try meditating about my core beliefs. I’m going to try to dispel all the negative core beliefs and come up with new ones.

I can do this. I feel so close to a breakthrough, and it’ll be a long time coming. Before when I struggled with my anxiety and depression, I just accepted it and didn’t try to get better, not really. I would ignore all the demons in my head and pay the price of binge eating, abusing meds, etc. I’d cut myself, get new tattoos and compulsively shop. One months the credit card bill was over $10,000. Ludicrous.

It’s time I grow up, experience negative emotions and not ignore them. I have to get this right.

Because now it’s all wrong.

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Lately I’ve noticed that I’m starting to struggle mentally. It’s frustrating because I’ve been doing well and been very productive, but that all seems to be slipping away.

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I haven’t been eating a healthy diet, I haven’t kept up with my blog, I haven’t showered as much, and everything seems a more daunting and harder than usual. It’s frustrating for me because I feel like I’ve made so much progress. Sometimes I’m able to get so much done and now not so much.

It’s probably because I’ve been putting too much on my plate. I’ve been highly functional this past year, and I’ve tried to say yes to every new opportunity I have, but I’m starting to think it’s more important to say no. At least right now when I’m struggling.

Room mom at my son’s preschool? Yes.
Volunteer with NAMI Greater Corpus Christi? Yes.
Make mental health videos for my favorite state representative? Sure.
Become Communications Manager for NAMI GCC? Absolutely.

There’s a lot more, at least it’s a lot to me. I have to remember that while saying yes is good, I have to recognize my limitations. I can’t just do it all. My anxiety and depression are hard to manage, and I never know when it’s going to get worse, like now. I try to make hay while the sun shines, but it’s so much harder to do right now.

The only thing I can do is set boundaries — this is especially important now that the holidays are coming up, and it’s going to get more stressful. I need to be honest with myself, take breaks and focus on what I can do (in a healthy way).

I know these feelings I have are overwhelming now, but it’s just temporary. All the bad moods, anxiety and depressive episodes are all temporary. My true state is happy and productive even though it doesn’t feel like it at times. It’s OK to not be OK.

“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always there, though.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

And right now, I’m just not OK.

Now’s the time to fall back on healthy habits I put in place while I did feel better: going to weekly therapy, taking all my medications, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, practicing self-care and asking for help when I need it. And taking breaks!

I have to put the work in, especially now. That’s hard to do when I just feel like giving up on everything, but I’ll never get better if I don’t do the work.

I can do this. I can do hard things. I’ve done them before, and this time is no different.

Stay in the light, my friends.

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Snake in the Grass

by Heather Loeb
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There are many things I’ve come to hate about depression in my 37 years. I hate how it steals joy out of your life, how bone tired you can be from doing the bare minimum and how long it takes for medications to help. But what I hate most is the sneaking. You feel like you’ve been making progress. You feel pretty good, actually. You sing and dance. You eat and enjoy your food. You enjoy your family and work. But depression is always lurking, a deft snake in the grass. I get too confident in my life and abilities then it happens. It’s a seemingly subtle shift, but you notice right away. You feel it. You loathe its presence in your body, the poison in your blood.

You break plans with your friends because you can’t get out of bed. You have to conserve your energy so you can do things like shower (if that’s even possible), brush your teeth and do your hair. You’re forced to take more breaks because your body can’t keep up. The guilt comes; you feel bad for being a different person than when you made plans with your friends or promised a deadline to your boss. You’re starting to realize that it’s only a matter of time before people see you for the fraud you are. You are only capable of naps now and languishing in a familiar pit of despair.

It’s hard to see that things will go back to normal. What, even, is normal at this point? Which part of you is the real you or the depressed you? It feels like it doesn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t.

Your body starts to hurt, producing aches and pains all over. Your jaw and shoulders stay tense. You grind your teeth. It’s irritability that sometimes accompanies anxiety, depression’s very best friend. And it ain’t pretty. You snap at loved ones, roll your eyes, beep the horn. But you don’t know what you’re mad, not really anyway. You don’t know anything.

Except that you don’t think that you can’t handle another episode, that you’re just not strong enough.

I realize that it will get better. I know that depressive episodes are temporary. But it just makes me a bit sad that happy times are just as temporary as the bad ones, and it always seems like there are double the bad times.

I feel like I know true joy because I’ve experienced real pain. But must it be pain almost all the time?

Can I not catch a fucking break?

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Well, I’m a day later again, but I’ve just been so busy. It’s a good busy though.

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As I mentioned last week, I’ve joined the leadership team at NAMI Greater Corpus Christi as the Communications Manager. I’m in charge of newsletters, social media, and I’m trying to update the website a bit, but a web developer I am not.

This weekend is the NAMI Texas awards ceremony where I’ll virtually accept a media award (For accurately covering stories on mental health, reporting the injustices those with mental illnesses face, and sharing the successes in the mental health field). I’m pretty psyched about that and so grateful.

Otherwise I’m just counting down until Thanksgiving. We’ll be able to travel to Dallas to see my family this year because the kids are now vaccinated. I’m really psyched about that.

One other thing…I wanted to ask your help. If you’d like to see a certain mental health topic covered on my blog, please leave your idea in the comments. I want to make sure I’m providing helpful material that everyone is interested in — not just stuff about my life.

That does it for me. Have a great week, and stay in the light.

In case you missed it, here are the past week’s blogs:
Roll With It
Which Voice is Right?

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Roll With It

by Heather Loeb

Today my husband and I had a teacher conference about my 5-year-old son. It was no shock when the teacher said he’s fine academically, that she’s not worried about that department, but she did mention some behaviors that need to be corrected. For instance, Eli will walk around and get in the kids’ faces and annoy them. I mean, he does the same to me. He gets up a lot, doesn’t always finish his work and he rushes through everything.

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As soon as the teacher (who is amazing) started detailing these behaviors I knew where it was headed. A couple months ago I took Eli to be evaluated for his stutter. I got to stay in the room during the assessment and was stunned. Here he was in a classroom setting (minus the other kids) and he was squirming, not listening, playing with things he wasn’t supposed to, etc. The speech therapist made a note of it in her paperwork, and I remember thinking, “Wow, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an ADHD diagnosis in his future.”

But I put it out of my mind until this morning.

I’m trying (as always) to not put the horse before the cart. We don’t know if he has ADHD. He’s 5 and lots of 5 year olds are like that. We have to do this one step at a time.

Having said that, it’s really hard for me not to catastrophize and assume he has it. Of course I Googled it and couldn’t help search for a correlation between kids with ADHD and parents with a mood disorder. There’s a link. For a moment tears gathered in my eyes. I felt like it was my fault, that genetics have wronged my kids. That I have wronged my kids with not only bad genes but also my behavior and parenting style which is dictated by my depression and anxiety.

I stopped Googling and then thought, “So the fuck what?”

ADHD — and any other mood/behavioral disorder — is not the end of the world. If my son does have it he might need behavioral therapy or medication. Also not a huge deal. We’ll do what we need to do, and it will be fine.

And aren’t I the queen of adapting? There was a time when I thought my life was over because of depression and anxiety., but here I am highly functional, volunteering my time, writing for the paper, and managing the kids and their activities. I’m a different person. I’m not cured; I’ll be living with depression, anxiety, a personality disorder and an eating disorder likely forever. But I roll with it. Any diagnosis he may receive doesn’t define him or ruin his life, just like mine don’t.

He’ll adapt (if he does have it), and I’ll adapt.

He’s still an amazing, loving and sweet boy, and I wouldn’t change anything about him. Not one thing. Through my mom glasses, he’s perfect. Perfectly imperfect.

So we’ll just roll with it and do the best we can do. That’s all anyone can do.

Note: I want to be clear that I don’t have any experience with ADHD and don’t mean to discount anyone’s feelings or experiences. I don’t mean to trivialize the diagnosis. These are merely my musings and do not reflect what it’s really like to live with a child with ADHD.

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“You don’t fit the mold,” my therapist told me.

I tried to ignore her statement, but I knew she was right.

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“You’re different now,” she continued. “It can be scary for people who live inside their own world and don’t stray far. It just scares them.”

I had spent half an hour complaining that I don’t get any acknowledgement for my work — my columns in the paper, working with NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, and the most difficult: the positive changes in my life since coming out of a depressive episode in 2019. It’s night and day, at least to me. I’m so grateful, and I want to make sure nobody else feels alone in their struggle, so now I talk non-stop about every aspect of my recovery. I’m sure my family and friends have felt weary listening at times. But scared? I don’t know about that.

Regardless, I have to keep talking.

I don’t do what I do for acknowledgement, but it feels like a slight with family or friends when they don’t bring it up or ask about it. A big slight. I take it personally, and I know I shouldn’t, but at times I obsess about it. Honestly, it makes me feel like I’m not good enough, even though I’ve worked very hard to get where I am.

I’ve never felt good enough. But some part of me must think I am because I marvel at the depressed, anxious person I was just three years ago. I’m highly functional now — I can volunteer at my kids’ schools, go to lunches with friends, work, write, practice self-care on top of everything else. I’ve proven I can do hard things. Yet…there’s that deep-seated nagging feeling that makes me feel rejection, hurt, confused and angry. And poof! The visual of myself stronger and happier vanishes from my thoughts.

My anxiety and Avoidance Personality Disorder no doubt stokes this fire, but where did it come from? I guess that doesn’t really matter, does it?

It’s there, and likely always will be unless I do an exorcism of these thoughts, and for that, you have to put in the work with honesty, therapy and introspection. Who has time for that?

What I need to remember is that my worth isn’t tied to anyone’s opinion, no matter what. I need to tell myself every day I can do hard things — that I’ve done hard things. That I crawled my way back from the darkest pits of despair. At one point, I thought that I was just biding time until I killed myself. I slept all day. I engaged in self-mutilation and abused my medication. I lied to get narcotics from the doctor. I wanted to feel anything but the awful pain I was in.

That’s not me anymore.

I am more than my worst mistakes and moments. I wake up at 5 a.m. I take care of my kids and husband. I work to spread awareness about mental illness. I take my medications, I see my therapist weekly, and I do the work, even when it’s hard. I can see my transformation reflecting in my family’s eyes.

I made it. I lived. I survived.

So it makes me wonder if the reason I get so upset at my loved ones’ apathy is not because it’s painful but because I deep down I “know” I’m not good enough — that I’ve put up a farce. That I’m not worthy of their love.

Once again my brain is telling me conflicting things. And it’s scary when there’s such dichotomy in those thoughts. I mean, who do I listen to?

More importantly, which one is right?

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This week was a good one! On Tuesday I went to city council with my NAMI Greater Corpus Christi cohorts to accept a proclamation about suicide prevention. It went well and immediately after the program director told me she had nominated me for an award given by NAMI Texas, and I won!

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I was surprised but so happy. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the blog and my columns, but something like this makes me realize that it’s worth it and that I’m helping people. At least I hope I am.

The Caller-Times last week told me I could continue my column into the new year, so I’m about to get busy writing columns again. I like to have a nice, fat stockpile, lol.

Everything else is going well. My family is doing well, and I feel so blessed.

I hope y’all have a great week!

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