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.

New Year, Same Me, Old (Bad) Habits Dead

The new year is approaching, and in the past I’ve always attempted to make new year’s resolutions, usually related to weight loss. And while that’s all fine and good for some, I will not be making any resolutions, weight-related or otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to bidding this year adieu (because of COVID-19), but this year was transforming for me. I no longer feel the need to place restrictions or punish myself because I don’t look certain way. It’s good to have goals and I will always strive to improve and challenge myself, but I just can’t continue my obsession with my weight.

This year was so shitty in so many ways, and I’m surprised I haven’t suffered a mental break, to be honest. Instead I have risen to the occasion and been strong mentally, because damn, I had to. The added stress and uncertainty pushed me to my limits, and I started writing more as a release. I’ve had this blog for two years, and I’ve always tried to be candid, but the pandemic made me show my ass, about everything.

And I have loved every minute, even when I’ve been embarrassed or shamed. Writing about my eating disorder, depression, anxiety and a hospital stay has liberated me.

I’m free now.

I’ve pushed past the shame and have started to love myself. And I’ve also discovered that I’m kind of a bad ass. I’m proud of myself, which includes my mental disorders. I’ve even written articles for the local paper admitting my depression and my stay at a psychiatric hospital. The whole city knows, and that’s OK with me.

I’m free from the bondage of other people’s opinions I’m starting to free myself from obsessing about my weight and my appearance. It’s so damn hard, but I’m trying.

The goals I will make for myself in the coming days will focused on self-care. To be healthy, physically and mentally, you must practice self-care and make yourself a priority. Like everyone says, you can’t fill from an empty cup. And it’s not selfish to put yourself first. It’s actually really hard work to do so, but it’s rewarding — not just for you but those around you.

I wear a bracelet at all times that says, “GRIT,” as a reminder to do the necessary hard work, that I have what it takes and not to give up.

2020 was a terrible year for so many, but I’m so grateful that this different self of mine emerged and helped liberate me from all the bullshit.

I’ve called myself a black sheep all my life because of my differences among family, and even friends, but the black wool suits me now instead of reminds me that I’m an outcast.

Edit: I don’t mean this post to sound like a brag about how much I’ve achieved this year. Surviving this pandemic (no matter what coping mechanisms you used) is achievement alone.

Happy New Year. I wish y’all well

Stay in the light.

Personal Growth is So Annoying

I’ve found myself saying “personal growth is so annoying” all week — to my husband, therapist, best friend. It’s been a week of intense introspection where I’ve realized I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should. I’ve fallen off the wagon of self care, careening right into binge eating and negative self talk. All these negative thoughts have been ruminating in my head.

I’m beautiful, and my body is beautiful.
I need to appreciate and nurture it

But the thing bothering me the most is my binge eating. Last year I had weight loss surgery — the gastric sleeve — and I really can’t eat a whole lot. But I find myself pushing my limits, eating until I’m uncomfortably full and can hardly breathe. I’ve gained about 15 pounds since the start of COVID-19, and I’m so ashamed. I should be thinner almost a year after my surgery. I shouldn’t be drinking Diet Coke. I shouldn’t be eating junk all day long — so long that sometimes my jaw hurts from chewing all the crap I put in my mouth.

I feel like a failure, but today I hit a breaking point. I’d been eating all day. It felt like my skin didn’t fit anymore and suddenly I was aware of every inch of my skin. I took a bath and tried to wash away my overeating sins and shame.

Then it hit me. I have to stop doing this. There was a reason I got the weight loss surgery, and it shouldn’t be a quick fix, it should be a tool, and I need to start using it as such. I’m not a lost cause. Sure, I’ve gained 15 pounds, but who hasn’t in the midst of the pandemic? Not that it’s an excuse. But I have to start eating more healthily or I truly believe I’ll put myself in an early grave.

For the first time in a long time I feel hope. I told David what I was thinking, and he was very understanding as always. I know sometimes I put him in a hard spot because I ask him to help me be accountable but then get mad when he tries to help.

He told me he believed in me and had a suggestion: I need to quit Diet Coke. This hit me hard. I’ve struggled for a decade trying to quit Diet Coke. When I got the surgery, I did for a bit, but then started taking sips here and there, which turned into a 12-pack every week, then two 12-packs.

I love Diet Coke. I love that when I come downstairs in the morning with the kids, who are usually arguing and not telling me what they want for breakfast, that the first thing I do is grab a Diet Coke. The first few sips are the best — it burns all the way down and is so crisp. I usually down the first one fast, then maybe one or two more before I take the kids. Then a couple throughout the day. It feels like a treat. Why I feel I need a treat that often, I do not know. It almost feels like a security blanket.

But diet soda just isn’t good for you (especially if you’ve had the sleeve), and although I love it, I must say good-bye. I need to bid farewell to disorderly eating. Logically, I know it’s not good for me, but in the moment I think it will be great. And it might taste amazing, but any pleasure I get is temporary.

Any pleasure I get is temporary. What’s not is the shame I feel. The discomfort and pain, too. That seems so permanent.

After my discussion with David, I threw out all the Diet Coke I had in the house, even the ones that I just bought today. It’s silly, but it made me so sad. I threw out the Butterfinger I had hidden in the fridge, the bag of white cheddar popcorn and a box of Fruit Roll-ups. The food I don’t care about. Eating healthy seems so much easier than forgoing my diet soda habit.

But I have to do what I have to do, because isn’t that all a form of self-harm — bingeing on junk food and chugging Diet Coke? I’m only eating my feelings, trying to bury them down deep and hoping for the best. I think it’s safe to say that this is not a healthy or productive way to deal with life. And someone like me, whose brain doesn’t function properly, can’t live that way. Nobody can, actually.

I have to learn to sit with my feelings. I have to retrain my brain on what constitutes as a “treat.” I have to rein in the negative ruminations. I have to get uncomfortable, be more vulnerable and let go of these actions that once served me but now do not.

Personal growth is so annoying.

But necessary.

Stay in the light.

One False Move

Recently I was speaking to my mentor and dear friend of many years, and he made the comment that I seemed to be doing a lot better than I was a year ago. He then said, “I bet you have to work hard to keep your depression at bay.” As always, he was spot on.

Many people think that because I went to a psychiatric facility for six weeks, I’m “cured” or “fixed.” But for me, and so many others, major depression is a life-long struggle. I have to be diligent in following my treatment plan and there’s just not much room for error. One false move can cause me to slip into a depressive episode, and there I am — Alice, fallen down the rabbit hole. But it’s no dream, it’s a living nightmare.

Accidentally skipping my pills, going to bed later than normal, skipping therapy, not exercising — that all costs me. Even if it seems so inconsequential, like not brushing my teeth before bed, it’s not. It takes only one thread to pull a tapestry apart.

I try to follow a strict schedule, where I wake up and go to bed at the same time everyday. I adhere to a self-care checklist, which holds me accountable to all the small chores I must do to maintain my mental health (brushing teeth, taking a shower, exercising). It doesn’t sound so bad, and I’m not seeking pity, but sometimes I’d like to stay up late every once in awhile or sleep in (with the kids, I guess this is moot). I crave flexibility and spontaneity. It doesn’t help that I’ve developed a very rebellious side that tells me, “You can’t tell me what to do!” And sometimes I’ll indulge her, which is never a good idea, but one I can’t seem to avoid.

Looking deeper, what I really want is to not have to look over my shoulder so much, in fear of a depressive episode. I don’t want to worry what that would mean for my family. I want security — safety from depression —and the thought of never having that is so overwhelming, it’s hard to breathe. The thought of having an ECT treatment every four to six weeks for the rest of my life, makes me want to sob. The idea that I will be suicidal again, is heartbreaking and scary as hell. It all feels so damn heavy, especially when I think about how my depression is present in my daily life, even when I’m not going through a depressive episode. It’s always there, lurking, making every little thing I do harder.

I would love not to have to question every emotion and investigate every bad mood. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even admit to a bad day without someone questioning if I “fell off the wagon” of good mental hygiene. I wish I could have some normalcy and not be at the mercy of my disease. I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about it, I sure as hell am. But again, one false move could crush my fragile psyche.

Odds are that I will enter into another depressive episode. I’m just being realistic. I’m grateful that I’m better equipped now if that happens, but it’s still scary. I’d like to think I’ll never get as lost as I was before going to The Menninger Clinic, but if I do, I know my family and friends are there to support me. And that’s more than a lot of people have.

I’ve always been careful to thank God for all my blessings, and I’m so blessed. I know not everybody can go inpatient at a top psychiatric hospital. Not everybody has such supportive family and friends. And as messed up as it sounds, I’m grateful for my depression because it has taught me empathy, strength, resilience and patience. I wouldn’t be the person I am without it (and I’m pretty proud of who I’ve become).

Still, it’s scary knowing that I could return to that lonely, dark place.

Here’s to staying in the light.

I’m Not for Everyone

In the not-so-distant past I’ve had trouble with is that I want everybody to love me, and because of this, I don’t think I’ve been my most authentic self around people. I was a people pleaser. I sought the approval of people who really shouldn’t shape my behavior (family, friends, acquaintances I met at the kids’ school). Usually people pleasers have low self-esteem and self-worth. It’s just not realistic for everyone to like me.

The only person I should care about liking me is me. And maybe my husband.

I’m tired of thinking, “Oh, is this person mad at me? Did I do something wrong? Do I need to apologize?”

I would actually go through my texts or social media posts to see if I posted something offensive or controversial. That’s nuts, and it’s no way to live. I don’t want the responsibility for how others feel anymore. Rejection, if that’s what it is, is OK.

I’m a good person — a nice person. I’m kind, generous and I love hard. If someone doesn’t like me, fine. I think I’m great. It just took me a really long time to get here.

I look back and think of some of my therapy appointments. It was really hard admitting that I’m a good person, and it was unbelievably hard saying something nice about myself or even discussing the good things happening in my life.

I’m tired of that, though. I’m tired of overanalyzing my behaviors and social media posts. I’m also tired of freaking out when I think someone is mad. Just because they’re mad doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. It makes me avoid conflict, and that’s not healthy either.

I’m not for everybody. And that’s OK. I just want to be me — an advocate for mental health, lover of the F word, a “bleeding heart” liberal, an anxious (and sometimes very depressed) person, a kind hearted person who sings no matter where she goes, someone who will admit when she’s wrong, someone I cherish for all these reasons and more.

It’s a long road to love yourself, and I’m no means close to the finish line on that, but I feel it starts with letting go of the idea that you have to please everybody.

I’m an amazing person for so many reasons, but one think I’m not that I need to remind myself of is — I’m not for everyone. I’m for me.

My tips on how to stop people pleasing:

  1. Be OK with saying “No”
  2. Accept who you are, with no exceptions
  3. Know that it’s OK if not everybody likes you
  4. Practice self-care
  5. Don’t place more importance others’ opinions than yours
  6. Set priorities and only do things that will advance those priorities
  7. Ditch toxic personalities

Download my Self-Care Checklist below:

Self Destruct Mode: OFF

I’ve been feeling pretty great lately, which is a bit unusual, but hey, I’ll certainly take it. When I feel this good I tend to treat myself better, I’m more productive and generally in a good mood.

But I’ve noticed, even with these good moods, there’s still a part, albeit a small part, of me that looks for ways to be unhealthy. For example, I’ll get the urge to overeat, even when I’m not hungry. I’ll think, “What pills can I take to feel good?” even though I have no such pills. Images of cutting myself will appear, even though I surely don’t want to do that.

I’m aware that it’s happening and I know it’s 100-percent my lying ass brain spreading more lies. It’s just a malfunction. It’s not really real, but emotions are energy in motion, and I can’t let these awful thoughts fester in my head.

If I do, unhealthy behaviors take control and with them come intrusive, unhealthy thoughts. My control over these thoughts and behaviors loosens, and just like that, I’m in a dark, ugly place that I can’t find my way out of. It’s like being in a deep hole and my depression is just too heavy, weighing me down and preventing me from climbing out.

It’s a slippery slope, a dangerous one for me, given that I can become suicidal very quickly.

I have to take inventory of my emotions constantly to prevent this. I have to be fully aware of how I feel and avoid switching to autopilot where I might miss something. I have to be so diligent so I can avoid that hole. And honestly, it’s exhausting and feels like sometimes it’s too much or not worth doing. Before I’d try to figure out why I was having these thoughts and ask what it meant, but like I said, it’s just a malfunction. I need to stop wasting time wondering why and just dismiss the thoughts. They’re not worth thinking.

I must release the energy that fuels these damaging thoughts and refocus if in a productive way, channeling it into exercise and writing, etc.

A self care check list is helpful to have so I can stay on top of the things I need to do to prevent self destruction. Just thinking about all the work I have to do to stay healthy is daunting and tiring. But I have to do it if I want to be happy. This past week has made me realize how much I’ve missed being happy — singing at the top of my lungs in the car and shower, truly enjoying spending time with my kids, reading for pleasure, writing my ass off and exercising. Medicine, ECT and therapy just aren’t enough to maintain my good mood and healthy behaviors. I have to put in the work at it, just like anything else. Sometimes it bothers me that other people don’t have to work as hard at life.

But I don’t do happy-go-lucky — I physically can’t. Happiness, for me, is hard work. It’s sticking to a strict schedule, taking an assortment of pills daily, going to therapy, keeping a close eye on my emotions and lots of prayerThere’s nothing lucky about it. 

I do have to work hard, but the payout is so, so good and that’s what I need to remember. What is the point in having an amazing life if you can’t enjoy it? Why do I spend so much time self-sabotaging? Again, with the “why?”

I’m going to work at my life like it’s my damn job and like it pays, because it is and it does.

It pays so much.

This is the Self Care Checklist that I created. It’s super simple; feel free to download:

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This week was amazing for me. It started off with an ECT, so that took up my whole Monday, but then on Tuesday I was told that one of the news channels here wanted to feature my blog and have me talk about suicide prevention. You can watch that here.

Usually, being on the news would really freak me out and I might’ve turned it down in the past. But I was completely comfortable doing it and so excited for what it might bring.

My blog got a lot of traffic and people have been reaching out to me, saying they love the blog and were glad I was writing about depression and mental illness. That makes everything totally worth it.

I’ve been toying with turning my blog into a book, so I think I’m going to explore that further. I’d have to beef up my blog before I do anything but lately my writing has just been pouring out of me.

I want to thank everyone who visited my blog this week or reached out. I appreciate your support and kindness.

As for this week, it’s likely to be a wild one again, as my oldest child is turning 6 on Friday and we have a drive-by party for her Saturday.

I’m going to focus on my self care checklist this week and making sure I’m being as healthy as possible. This past week, I stopped filling out my checklist and I’m suffering because of it. You can download my checklist here:

I hope everybody has a great week!

Love,
Heather

Fragile Psyche

Edit: This post was originally slated to run Sunday, April 19.

I am desperately missing my life of mediocrity. I realize that everybody’s lives have been turned upside down but I’m wading through some uncomfortable feelings that are starting to challenge my mental wellness.

I want to preface this post by saying it’s Sunday, and I always get the “Sunday Night Blues,” but it’s even worse knowing my kids will be spending all their waking hours with me and I’ll have little to no break.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or whiny; I know there are lots of families who can’t stay safely at home, away from the virus, but it’s just so trying right now. I needed a lot of mental breaks before all this chaos and that was with the kids being at school from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I was able to cope (for the most part) because I had time to decompress. But now looking at the week ahead the every day mundane tasks I have to complete in order for all of us to function seems insurmountable.

These uncomfortable emotions also are challenging my treatment plan — the plan I have outlined that helps me stay on track mentally. Instead of using my healthy coping skills, I want to turn to my bad habits, which caused my breakdown (last summer) in the first place. This includes: overeating, over spending, not sticking to a sleep schedule and wanting to abuse my meds (which is hard because I don’t have anything to abuse anymore).

I don’t know why I would want to fall back on these negative behaviors, especially when I’ve worked so hard to get where I am. I guess sometimes it feels good to be “bad” but the thing is, I’ve seen the endgame to that. I know where it leads you.

I know it’s ok not to feel ok right now, so that’s what I’m repeating to myself. Tomorrow’s a new day and I plan on reviewing my Self Care 101 list, which is abbreviated here:

  • Get good sleep
  • Know and accept limits
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Decompress throughout the day
  • Feed spiritual sel
  • Remember to love myself

If I just go back to the basics I know my fragile psyche will recover. And getting all this out has actually helped, too.

Ultimately, I need to make good decisions and take each day hour by hour. That’s what I need to do to survive right now.

If you have some self-care tips you’d like to share, drop them in the comments. Thanks for reading. Stay in the light.

The Struggle is Real

“Do I stay up, relax and watch trash TV or do I go to bed at a decent hour?” For weeks I’ve been having this internal debate and I know I can’t be the only one. I used to go to bed at 9 pm (in the good old days) because I need A LOT of sleep but now I blow past that 9 pm mark knowing that I’ll likely regret it but I also know I need “me time.”

Surely I’m not alone in this. Especially now because the coronavirus is holding us all hostage. Don’t get me wrong, I do like being around my children but after 8-12 hours of their incessant arguing, watching freaking Peppa Pig and wanting to climb on me and whatever else, I’ve just had it. I’m touched out. I want to be on the couch, watching my shows and not asked to do one single thing, even by my husband. I don’t even like the cats on me until after I’ve chilled for an hour. It’s too much. And I know y’all feel me. At least I hope you do otherwise I need to up my meds, lol.

My usual self-care routine includes massages, getting my nails done, reading and napping. I would also go to therapy. But none of that is plausible now and I think it’s ok to mourn that. It’s ok not to enjoy every second with your kids, because this shit is hard even when you do have outlets and self-care rituals.

Staying home with the kids right now is one of the hardest things I’ve done. My 3-year-old wakes up at 5 am every morning, which means I’m up. He’s clingier than usual, most likely from the uncertainty of life, which he can probably sense from us adults. But despite his 5 am wake calls, I’ll still probably go to bed late because that’s the only alone time I’ll have all day. The only time I can eat the kids’ cupcakes. The only time nobody is shouting, “Mommy!”

This precious time to myself has become a ritual and until the schools open back up, I’ll just be exhausted and crazy looking because frankly, I’d rather have bad TV and cupcakes.

If you’d like to share your self-care rituals, please do so in the comments.