Just Say No

I don’t like saying no to my kids, big surprise, right? In the past, I haven’t wanted to hear them scream, whine or cry because I didn’t say yes. It makes me uncomfortable when they do that, and as you know, I hate being uncomfortable. So, if the kids wanted junk food, I’d say yes and if they wanted some kind of new toy, yes again.

Then it dawned on me — I got everything I ever wanted growing up (which I’m grateful for) but I never learned how to work hard for anything, and I don’t want that for my kids. I had no work ethic, and I never learned struggle or how to cope with it. Already, my kids are privileged and spoiled. They are accustomed to the finer things in life, and the last thing I want them to be are entitled assholes when they grow up. You see — I don’t need to be in the business of saying, “yes.” I NEED to say, “no,” because I want to raise them to be healthy adults. It’s not going to hurt them to hear, “no,” and it’s not going to hurt me, despite what I’m feeling at the time.

The consequences of not saying, “no,” are dire. I’ll admit that I’m not a healthy adult, but let me be clear — it’s not because of anything my parents did or didn’t do. My shortcomings are due to crappy genetics, crappy coping skills, among other things. But they’re there. I don’t want my children to suffer the way I do now. For example, I have an eating disorder — I don’t take care of myself the way I should by eating healthy; instead I binge eat when I’m stressed — alas, a crappy coping skill. I’ve also never had a job for more than three years. I’m dependent on my husband, which isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but I’d like both of my kids to be financially independent and have a good worth ethic.

I’ll confess that sometimes I feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick by having a severely depressed mother. Buying them toys, clothes and other crap is probably me trying to compensate for being ill. But logically, I know that material things don’t matter — experiences matter. Teaching them how to be healthy matters. Showing them how to overcome adversity matters, and I can do that. I’m resilient and scrappy, two traits I want them to have, too. I may not be the healthiest, but being sick all the time has made me stronger. I hope that’s what my children will see — that even though I suffer with a chronic, invisible disease, I still show up to fight….for myself and my family.

Ann Landers said, “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” She’s not wrong.

And that’s what I have to remember every time I say no. I’m not depriving them of anything — I’m shaping them into good people (I hope). I also need to remember this when I don’t feel like taking care of myself, because they’re watching and learning. It’s up to me to model healthy behavior, as hard as it is.

Parenting is hard. We all mess up and think we’re not good enough, me especially. Then I remember how Isla collected more than 1,000 toothbrushes for the homeless because she was worried they didn’t have money to brush their teeth. I recall how Eli puts his hand on my face and tells me he appreciates and loves me. They’re loving, kind and a product of their environment, which I’m extremely proud of. Learning to say no will be hard but it will definitely help in shaping them into healthy adults. I truly believe that.

And while I’m at it, maybe I can be shaped into a healthy adult, too.

I’ve Gained 26 Pounds

Last Friday I had an ECT treatment. I hadn’t been there in four weeks, so they asked to weight me (to calculate how much anesthesia I get). Usually, I avoid the scale. The number shouldn’t matter to me, but it does. Big time. I looked down after I stepped on the scale, and I was shocked. I’ve gained 26 pounds since the pandemic — 26 POUNDS! I’m almost 200 pounds, which I swore to myself I’d never be again. I mean, who has weight loss surgery and doesn’t lose the weight? Me, apparently.

I have all the reasons in the world to lose weight and be healthy, mainly my kids. I want them to see me be healthy so that they can be healthy. I want to lose the weight because I want to live a long time. It would benefit my mental health greatly if I maintained a healthy lifestyle. But I don’t.

Even after my ECT, while feeling happy and more stable, I had the intense urge to overeat and binge. And I did. The ECT is supposed to reset my brain. Last week, I was so depressed and even had suicidal ideation, so I needed the ECT. But the ECT can only take me so far. I’m responsible for making health decisions for myself. And I need to hold myself accountable. At some point, I have to make the effort to be healthy without expecting something or someone else to help me.

I don’t know what drives me to overeat or binge. It sort of makes sense when there’s conflict in my life, and I feel the need to be comforted by food. But right now, there’s no conflict in my life. There’s no logical reason for me to shove food in my face. It bothers me so much that I don’t know why I binge, and I’m not sure it would even help if I did know. It’s just frustrating. And I know it’s a hard time because of the pandemic, but we’re not getting back to any kind of “normal” I know any time soon. So, it has to be now. I have to make changes now. But honestly, I don’t know if I will. I don’t know what it will take.

I bought a treadmill that will be delivered this week. I bought a food journal to help me track my water and meals. I have a brand new pair of running shoes to use for exercise. Conditions are favorable for change. My brain, my stubborn brain, is the only thing holding me back. Even now, as I’m typing this, I want to eat, to be comforted. To lose myself in the taste and texture of something delicious. I fear my urge to escape the real world will be permanent, as it manifests in other ways, too like abusing my anxiety meds. And again, I don’t know why or what I’m trying to escape. I have a great life — better than most — and I’m so grateful for everyone in my life and everything I have. So, I really can’t tell you why I want to escape.

At one time, I thought it was emotional pain that was holding back — trauma from my past. But I feel like I’ve dealt with that. I’ve talked to my therapist about it extensively. I wrote a blog about it that I will never share. I got if off my chest, but still the pain resides. At least, I think so. Why else would I be trying to fill this unrelenting void?

I so want to be able to wake up in the morning and not immediately think about what I’m going to eat. To plan my next meal, as I’m licking off my current meal’s crumbs from my lips. I live meal to meal, snack to snack, and I hate it.

I hope this week I can make changes to my daily life and incorporate healthy habits. I pray for strength and guidance. I pray for what feels like a miracle.

Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are 30 million Americans who suffer with an eating disorder. There are so many people suffering right now, who are suffering more because of the pandemic. Only 1/3 of people receive help for their eating disorder. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with nearly one person dying every hour as a direct result of their eating disorder.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone. It’s a challenging time for us, but it’ll be OK.

We will be OK.

Imaginary Brakes

Sometimes my anxiety runs rampant. I catch myself moving my foot as if I’m slamming the brakes in a car. I guess I want time to come to a screeching halt, as if I’m in the driver’s seat. But I’m not. It’s the out of control feeling I can’t stand. And though I have anxiety every day, Sundays are the worst, as documented here.

I’ve always hated Sundays from the time I was little, I guess because I NEVER wanted to go to school, especially on Mondays. I used to get a feeling of dread when I got older, too when I had a full-time job. The Sunday Night Blues or Case of the Sundays was always present, no matter what age or circumstance I faced.

And today, even though I don’t work outside the home, I feel it. The threat of responsibility looming is just too much to take and I feel the tightness in my chest and butterflies in my belly. It makes no sense to me — I don’t have anything unusual happening this week, nothing to be all doom and gloom about. But it’s there. At least, it’s consistent.

I try really hard to have a “countdown” methodology about anything — like countdown to Christmas, to the weekend, to my birthday, etc. So, as much as I’d like to look ahead to Valentine’s or my birthday, I need to be here, now. I look ahead at this week’s events, but that’s as much as I’ll let myself look.

It may sound silly, but as depressed as I am and how often, I get wrapped up in looking ahead and squander the perfectly good time I already have. I don’t want that. I don’t know how much time I have where I’m lucid and not depressed. I need to make hay when the sun shines, as my daddy says.

I still feel a nagging feeling in my belly, and I realize that I have an ECT treatment Friday. I wasn’t supposed to have it until March 5, but last week I felt the all-too-familiar signs of a depressive episode, so I moved my appointment up to stop it in its tracks. And even though I know it will make me better, I still get anxious and scared. Even though the past couple treatments have been pleasant. Even though…

Just thinking about it, I have a white-hot feeling pass from my head to my toes. It’s adrenaline, I think. And fear. I feel my foot try and stomp on the imaginary brakes and start to sweat.

Ugh, I’m not a stupid person. I should be able to address my fear and anxiety with the logic that I mentioned. Tears are threatening. I’m scared.

But come Friday, I will joke with the nurses. I will ask my favorite nurse to hold my hand while they put me under anesthesia. I will wake up 15 to 20 minutes later, not even knowing whether I’ve had the treatment. I’ll irritate David by (unknowingly) asking him the same questions over and over on the way home. I’ll get Chick Fil A on the two-hour drive and fall asleep until we reach home. I will be a better version of myself, a more patient and loving one. I’ll be free (for now) of self hatred and self judgement. And if that’s not the case, I’ll go back weeks later and repeat the same thing, always hoping to get the best version of Heather I can get, born out of fear and an induced seizure.

Whatever version, I know it will be a pretty perfect version of myself….just with amnesia and neurons that are unruly af. And hey, maybe the Sunday Night Blues will disappear for awhile. But I won’t countdown until they do. That, I refuse.

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.

My Eye’s on Eli’s Eye

When I was little, around 3 years old, my parents noticed that one of my eyes drifted outwardly — like a “lazy eye.” I had to wear patches on my eye to try and strengthen the muscle, I think. And when that didn’t work, I had two surgeries to correct it. They’re still not straight and my scars are minor. Not a huge deal to me.

Until I noticed that Eli’s eye drifted. It’s so slight, but I’ve been noticing it more and more. My mom commented on it as well, so I know I’m not “crazy.” Well, I am but not for this.

After my mom confirmed that she had noticed it too, I started to panic. Even though it’s barely noticeable and probably could be corrected by wearing patches, I was scared. I don’t want him to go through what I went through, especially the surgery. I started to think that Eli might have inherited more than the likelihood of a lazy eye, for instance my fucked up brain.

Wearing patches is one thing, but I desperately want him to avoid the migraines, major depression, anxiety, personality disorder and more. Logically, I know that him having a slight lazy eye doesn’t mean he’ll suffer my fate. But still, I worry.

He is, without question, my mini me. If you look at my school photos from when I was kid, it looks like Eli in a dress. There’s no denying our genetic connection. And I love that, but now it terrifies me, too.

It’s every parent’s wish that no harm befall their child, and adversity is supposed to make people stronger. It certainly has made me stronger, braver too. But oh my God…I’ve been through so much. I still go through so much just to try and live a somewhat “normal” life. Taking meds, going to weekly therapy appointments, doing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments — it takes a toll. Especially the ECT, where I literally have electric currents passing to my brain to induce a seizure. I talk about this a lot, I know, but it’s unbelievable to me at times that I have to go through extreme measures like that — just to be moderately depressed, not severely depressed. Just typing all that bums me out.

But — epiphany! — I still live a good life. It’s been hard as hell, I won’t lie. I’ve been so depressed that I couldn’t take care of myself and I’ve been suicidal. I’ve contemplated ending my life so many times that the thought is not alarming as it should be. But still, I’m happy with my life, despite what my brain tells me at times. I have it so good — good friends, amazing husband, wonderful children and beautiful home. I’m proud of myself for fighting everyday, and I’m proud of the mental health advocate I’ve become.

So, here’s my point: I suppose even if Eli (or Isla) has to face some sort of adversity, he will likely emerge stronger, wiser. Like me. Just like me. Because I’ve been through hell and back, I can guide and support him.

It’s so hard to let go of the worry, but he’ll be OK. Isla will be OK — more than OK. I believe they are destined to do great things. But if they don’t I have to be OK with that, too. God it’s hard being a parent, lol.

All this rambling over a slight lazy eye, but this is where my brain goes. I just have to remember that IF there’s a chance Eli can inherit my disorders, then there’s also a chance he will inherit my resilience and grit, too.

After all, he is my mini me.

Gifted and Talented

I’d like to preface this post but saying that logically I know that things will work out the way they’re supposed to. I’m just stressed and venting.

Last month, my daughter, who is in Kindergarten, took a test to determine if she qualified for the school district’s gifted and talented program. All Kindergarteners can take the two-part test. The G/T school here is amazing and is always being recognized district and state wide. My husband went to that school when he was younger, as he is very gifted and a legit genius. It’s a great opportunity for my daughter.

I have not been stressing about the test, because I just assumed she’d get in. She’s very bright, and her teachers agree that she is gifted and would benefit from the G/T program. It’s my husband who has no chill when it comes to the test. But now, I too have no chill.

Last week, we got the scores back from the first part of the test. Her scores qualify her to take the second part of the test, but they were lower than we and her teachers expected. She received 7 out of 15 points, which is in the 91st percentile.

My husband and I are definitely proud of her, but there was a nagging feeling inside of me — anxiety. Her friends scored much higher, and I know I’m not supposed to compare, but I started to freak out. The elementary school she would go to if she doesn’t get into the G/T program is not great. I started worrying that David and I didn’t do enough in preparing her for the test, even though her preschool is famous for preparing them. All this doubt clouded my mind.

I felt like a failure as a parent and that I was also letting my husband down for not helping our daughter more. I have to remember that my success as a parent isn’t contingent on whether she passed some test.

The thing is — I know my daughter is gifted. She’s gifted with the kindest heart — last year she collected toothbrushes and toothpaste for the local homeless shelter because she was worried that the homeless couldn’t afford to brush their teeth. She collected more than 1,000 toothbrushes. She also donated all her piggy bank money to her preschool after she heard my husband and I talk about raising money for a new building. She’s 6 years old. Her compassion and empathy for others is a true gift and is something that can never be quantified on a test. And I’m so proud of her for that.

There are so many other qualities that I’m proud of and none of that is diminished by her test scores. But I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed if she didn’t get into the G/T program.

I have made a concerted effort to not talk about the test in front of her or put any pressure on her whatsoever. Because it is a lot of pressure! For parents, too. I remember years ago when one of my mom friends heard that her daughter didn’t make it into the G/T program. Her mom was crying she was so upset and in front of her daughter, no less. While I understand the sadness, I will not cry or show disappointment in front of Isla. My job is to prepare her as much as possible and support her as much as possible — whatever that may look like.

I obviously want what’s best for her, and even if I think this program is the best, it just might not be. And that’s OK. I celebrate her for her heart, compassion, kindness, intelligence, unconditional love for the Olive Garden, and so much more. It is a joy, and privilege, to watch her grow up.

And I will remember that even after we get the test scores.

Parenting with Depression

I don’t talk about this much because I don’t want to come across as a bad mom but parenting with depression is hard. It can be real hard. Depression depletes your energy, at least it does mine, and what little I have left goes to the kids, I know – you can’t pour with an empty cup and all that. But what little energy I have, I have to spend it on feeding, bathing, dressing, and reading to the kids. And of course, getting them to school and back.

Luckily for me, the kids go to preschool for most of the day and I can go to therapy, take time for myself or take a nap before they come home. When they do get home, I get anxious what do with them and just want to lie down. YouTube is watched a lot around here when I’m going through a really bad depressive episode. That’s not something I’m proud of. My mother-in-law helps A LOT, which makes me feel guilty, and I feel like I rely on her too much. And I’m just talking about the depression, I haven’t even touched on my migraines and their frequency.

Because the kids take up so much energy, my showers get missed, I don’t cook dinner for my husband and me, and my house is a disaster. It’s so overwhelming and I feel like a failure on both the mom and the wife front. Then comes more guilt, followed by more anxiety.

Have you ever seen Bad Moms? I can related to one of the characters – Kristen Bell’s character. She happily describes a scene where she’s in the car alone and she gets hit by a car or a truck and has to go to the hospital a long time and basically everyone has to wait on her. Now, I’m not wishing to die here, people. But that scene is funny because a lot of moms can relate to that, whether they admit to it.

Parenting is so hard and it’s even harder with depression. I guess that’s why I love going to my mom’s house because she helps me with the kids and sometimes I don’t have to lift a finger. She cooks all the meals, helps with bath time or even just does it herself. As a grandma, she likes it. I hope.

I know intellectually I’m a good mom. I’m the first person they see in the morning and I’m the last person they see at night. I make them breakfast, pack their lunches and sort of put dinner together. I read to both every night. And I tell them I love them every single day. They are loved and they are taken care of. I know they can see I love them through my actions.

It sounds like I’m trying to convince you but I guess it’s me I’m trying to convince. There will always be this feeling that I’m not enough.

But depression is a liar.

Anxiety is a liar.

My brain just has to come to terms with that.