I had the opportunity to travel and be with my family over Thanksgiving and I was lucky enough to spend more time with them over Christmas. I love my family, but I once considered myself a black sheep, and this drew attention to our differences. I became even more distant from myself. Now I celebrate who I am by letting my family love the real me. If you don’t show them who you are, they won’t be able to love you for who you are.
But I know that not everyone is so happy to see the family. Some family members are toxic, manipulative, and gaslight, making it impossible to be healthy and stick to boundaries. You can quickly lose yourself, but feel obligated to spend time with them.
I know it hurts and it’s hard to get away from it, but there is the family you were born into and the family you choose for yourself.
I have a family in Dallas and a family I started in Corpus Christi. Of course, I have a husband and kids, and I have best friends who are always just a message away. I was also called to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Greater Corpus Christi family (NAM FAM).
Everyone there either has a mental disorder, or someone close to them suffers from a disorder. The organization found me while blogging and writing columns about mental health and then invited me to join the team. I had no idea that I would make friends for life. They understand me. They understand my mental illness and that sometimes I can’t do what needs to be done. They offer hugs, support, encouragement, food, whatever the family does.
I have been on the leadership team for over a year and her support has never wavered. I know without a doubt these people have my back. It’s beautiful and I’m so grateful. But above all, we help others, we inform about mental health and much more.
I chose my cohorts in US as my family in Corpus Christi. My best friends who supported me when I ended up in a mental hospital? Eternal family. Those who read my columns, who look into my world and try to understand mental illness – they are also my family.
Just a few years ago, I was supported by only a handful of people. When I left the psychiatric hospital, I spoke very little about my time there. But one day I let her rip, oh my god, the support I got. The more I spoke, the freer I became and the more support fell on me. My readers, family, and friends are directly responsible for the positive changes and growth in my recovery. I think I deserve some credit too.
With every column or blog I write, I feel like my family is getting bigger and I couldn’t be more grateful.
My heart (and hard drive) is full.
For over 20 years, Heather Loeb has suffered from major depression, anxiety and personality disorders, and has also struggled with mental health stigma. She is the creator of Unruly Neurons (www.unrulyneurons.com), a blog dedicated to normalizing depression, and a member of State Representative Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Working Group.
MIND IS IMPORTANT
Now more than ever, we need to take care of our mental health. Guest columnist Heather Loeb discusses the causes and explores other important mental health topics in this special series.