negative coping skills


by Heather Loeb

The past few days have been great – I’ve had more energy, been in a better mood, going to the gym and I can see hope on the horizon. I’m so busy during the daytime but it’s after the kids go to bed, when night falls, that I start to struggle again. How can you have such a good day and then crumble? I don’t know but as soon as I’ve tip-toed out of my little girl’s room in the evening and head downstairs the anxiety attacks at full force.

Is it because I know I only have a few hours until I have to sleep and wake up and do it all over again? My daughter’s having some potty training issues. It’s very frustrating.

I don’t know.

Is it because I know there’s an internal battle coming up?


I have a few options: I can take an anti-anxiety pill. I could color in my adult coloring book. I could read a book. I could meditate. I could employ any positive coping skill I’ve ever learned but I usually don’t. See, I have certain compulsions when I’m depressed and anxious, which is pretty common for a lot of people. My fallbacks are compulsive shopping and eating. Not binge eating per se but overeating foods that I know are not good for me. When I’m in turmoil, I cannot stop these behaviors. I wish I could and sometimes there is inner dialogue with a lot of cussing and arguing but usually the compulsions win out.

The shopping is easier to control because you have to have money for that but it’s the eating that I have real trouble with. It’s especially hard to talk myself out of it at night after I’ve had a long day and the anxiety has already hit me. I need something good to eat after all I’ve been through that day. I need a pick me up. I need that high. I need to forget about the anxiety.

And of course it’s worse on Sundays. Tonight I ate an entire pizza. I’d say I have no regrets but my pajama pants disagree. I didn’t get much of a high, I’m still anxious and my pants are too tight.

When I’ve asked my therapist about this, she agreed that these are compulsions and sometimes I will not be in a good place to stop them. She continued saying I can’t stop these compulsions anymore than I can stop a migraine with my thoughts. She also said I need to be an adult and learn to say no to myself. She’s right on both counts, especially me saying no to myself, but that part sucks so let’s get to that later.

I know it’s my brain that makes me depressed and anxious. I know these aren’t character flaws or personality issues. After all, medicine doesn’t go to your heart and change your feelings, it goes to your brain to fix misfiring neurotransmitters and such. But I can’t help feeing a little despaired that I’m not able to control these compulsions 100% of the time. I also know it could be worse.

I don’t know what it is about the nighttime that does this to me but it always has. I think about having alone time all day and then when I get it and have the opportunity to relax I’m the furthest thing from it. The only time I’m at peace at night is when I’m sleeping and I need a pill for that.

But as weird as this all sounds, I’m still improving from where I was. I’ll take being happy/content during the day and anxious at night. But at least there’s sleep.

Anyone care to share your compulsions? Your negative or positive coping skills?

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by Heather Loeb

I can tell you now that I’ve always had anxiety, even as a child, and I can pinpoint signs of depression as early as middle school. Either that or I was facing some wild ass hormones, compliments of puberty, although my cohorts didn’t seem to have it that bad.

When I was in college my Mema passed away after a battle with colon cancer. It was very hard on me and I started seeing a therapist.  It was during therapy that I knew I’d always been sad but I didn’t realize – or maybe I was in denial – about having depression. I didn’t continue therapy, I just dealt with my problems with what I now know to be negative coping skills: binge eating, compulsive shopping or skipping class and trying to sleep my anxiety and stress away.

Unfortunately those “skills” are still employed when I’m stressed or going through a depressive episode, which is a lot. Don’t worry, I’m in therapy weekly.


Graduation night in 2006. I had no idea what I would come to face in the next couple years. Er, decade.

There I was in my mid 20s. I was so sad most of the time. I was constantly anxious. I thought it was normal because nobody else ever told me it wasn’t. I knew I was more emotional than my friends, but I had always been emotional since childhood.

Finally, after I had graduated college, got a job and health insurance I saw a doctor who told me – you have depression and anxiety.

Where am I going with this? Depression and anxiety plagued me almost my entire life yet I knew nothing about it except that people who look antidepressants were crazy (so said family members and friends). I told nobody except a friend in pharmacy school that I was started on medication. I definitely didn’t tell my parents. When I quit my first job and was back on their health insurance I said I had PMDD, premenstrual disphoric disorder, (which I do have but didn’t know then) but it was easier to explain that I had severe mood swings during my period than depression.

Now my parents know. I think being hospitalized for suicidal thoughts tipped them off. And while they’ve never experienced depression and may not understand how it feels, they are very supportive. I’m just sad it took me so long to admit that I needed help.

Again, that’s why this blog exists. The stigma of mental illness keeps people from seeking help when they need it the most. It prevents people from being educated about one of the most prevalent diseases in the U.S. and I simply want to shed light on it.

So, let’s talk.

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