Wednesday, August 18, 2010

unbearable weight

There was a time when I seriously believed that if I ever became overweight, I would commit suicide. That's how anorexia thinks. But now, having been overweight for about 3 1/2 years, I guess I should be used to the situation. I'm not. I have not ever, really, been comfortable in my body in the past four years - not that I was all that comfortable in it when I was skinny to begin with. But really, however shallow this may sound, I challenge anyone who has lived through a decade of anorexia, to go through having to take a life-saving medication in order to get through her days while this same medication makes her clinically obese and not get exasperated by this situation. I'm talking about doubling my body size, in a span of three years. I gained 100 pounds, in two - three years. That is a lot of weight.

I can't take this anymore. I started going to the gym again a couple weeks ago, and lost four pounds. I guess that is a success, but it hardly feels like one since, this year, I gained back the fifty pounds I lost last year. FIFTY pounds. That weight loss was a tremendous accomplishment, and I exercised like hell, through Fibromyalgia, arthritis and all, to get there. I also ate much less than normal, and the reason - the only reason - I was able to do that was a drug called Phentermine.

I have never been stupid enough to think any kind of diet pill was a good solution to obesity, but since my obesity - after a life of being thin all the time - was really caused by antipsychotic medications which make me hungry ALL THE TIME, I thought that an appetite suppressant was in order. The endocrinologist who diagnosed me as pre-diabetic agreed. Sadly, after many months of taking Phentermine, it stopped working, so the dose was doubled. The dose being doubled led to chest pains and scary, weird health issues, that I kept attributing to other causes. I went through a big battery of cardiology tests, only to be told my heart is normal, and I shouldn't be on Phentermine. By that point, I had already figured it was the problem and had stopped taking it. Within months after going off the drug, I gained back almost every pound I'd lost.

And that feels like a total tragedy. I know it's not a real tragedy like losing a loved one or getting cancer, and I am not so vain as to think my weight issues really matter much in the grand scheme of things. But I had anorexia for over a decade. Weight does still matter to me, since, no matter how far away you get from an eating disorder, if it still has a place in your mind, part of you is still held hostage by it. So here I am, tied to this medication which saves me from a life of insanity and utter chaos, not to mention total suicidality. Clinging to this medication, I despise it all the while. I would be loathe to stop taking Seroquel or Risperdal, having already experienced what happens when I try life without these medications. But these medications are making me diabetic, and these medications have put me into a physical situation where it is basically impossible to lose weight and have a healthy body. These medications have made me FAT and being fat makes me despise myself and feel totally disgusting all the time. I hate my body. I hate this situation. I hate these medications, and I need them to live.

So, I started back at the gym, which is something I stopped doing when I started gaining the weight back earlier this year, and realized that I could no longer control my appetite without the pills. I should never have stopped going to the gym, of course, but I was busy, and I didn't feel well, and I didn't go. My mistake, and totally my own fault. But exercise alone isn't going to do the trick when Seroquel and Risperdal are in the game.

So today I went back to the drug pusher, my endocrinologist, who prescribed the third weight loss medication he's put me on to date. This one you have to inject every day, and it's not approved by the FDA. It's not even really meant for people who don't have diabetes, but since I'm close to getting diabetes, he thought it was okay. Someone mentioned to me recently that I should not go back to this doctor after the Phentermine situation, and she was probably right. But I'm desperate here. I'm willing to do something risky if I can lose the weight again. Of course, like all drugs, this one carries side effects, but one of them is not heart problems. Nausea, however, is one of them, and I vomited at the gym, but luckily made it to the restroom in time to avoid a humiliating scene. Not so sure I want to keep injecting this drug on a daily basis now.

And the thing is, even if the drug WORKS WONDERS, I'll be at a place a month or two or three from now where I have to go off of it, and then how do I keep the weight off??? I'll have nothing, then, to combat the effects of the antipsychotics, and I'll have nothing to stop the constant hunger that controls my life most of the time and has led me into this incredibly miserable state.

Please don't tell me to eat fruits and vegetables. I do that. I'm not really uneducated about how to lose weight. It's just incredibly hard with these medications in my body. If someone with a history of maintaining a below normal weight for half her life can't control her weight and the only logical reason why is the medication, then I don't think it is entirely her fault if she ends up obese.

I hate being obese, and yet, in recent months, I've eaten to much and my metabolism has been slowed by the medications, and I've gotten right back to where I was before the weight loss of last year. It's like I'm allergic to myself. I can't handle living in this body anymore.

I have no words of wisdom on this issue. I don't think there is much of a solution available. I'd love to have one, but I've tried losing weight without the weight loss drugs, and it doesn't really happen. I can't stand the thought of being a size 18 for the rest of my life - or even larger - when for the huge majority of my life, I was a size 4 or 6. The emotional toll that this has taken on me is something I don't write about much here, but it has had a big effect on my life.

So, what to do? Take a drug that might work in the short-term with no idea what it's long term side effects will be on my body, in addition to the entire pharmacy I already ingest on a daily basis? Not take the drug and remain this huge and this miserable and unable to even think about ever having a romantic relationship of any kind at any time in the future, for the rest of my life, since I hate my body so much and am quite sure other people do too? Snap my fingers, and bring my healthy, "normal" old body back? Anybody have some pixie dust available? Please sprinkle it here.


  1. Dear Jen,

    A women in my mental illness peer support group who has a bipolar illness recently talked to us about Topomax. (Sorry, I'm not certain about the spelling). It is a mood stabilizer that can cause people to lose weight, as it suppresses appetite. She said that it is being prescribed to people who do not have a bi-polar disorder just in order to lose weight.

    Another bi-polar woman told her psychiatrist about the drug and she started taking it. Now in one month she has lost 10 pounds.

    I don't know how medicated this drug might make you feel, or if you would hate being on a mood stabilizer. But as I said, it is effective as an appetite suppressant and it is being prescribed to non-bi-polar people.

    Perhaps you can look into it. I don't know its side effects, but it is commonly used as a mood stabilizer, so it probably doesn't have major side effects.

    I too have been a size 4 and a size 18 because of medication. When I was a size 4 of course I was not on medication. Being beautiful can be about a pretty scarf or lovely hair. I believe in making the most of what you have. I have managed to find pretty clothing in larger sizes. I always wear jewelry and perfume too, this helps me to feel feminine.

    Also, I've had two husbands, both not complaining when I was a large size. I think my first husband, when I moved up to a size 24, gently asked me if I was going to gain any more weight, because he hoped that I would stop where I was at. That was his only quiet wish.

    Some men do want thin, and I've been dumped by a boyfriend when I gained weight on zyprexa and I was "no longer attractive" to him. But I also know that both my husbands met me when I was about a size 18, and while my size has gone up and down, they don't make a fuss. They really did love me for me. They really did love my personality first and foremost. There are good men out there that don't mind falling in love with a large woman, even, a large woman with a mental illness. I was sick too with a schizoaffective disorder when I met both my husbands. Happily, I was stable on medication, as I think it is important to be stable on medication to navigate the passions and challenged of a marriage.

    So I don't think you are doomed to be lonely. I think you are a lady with a bright future. Going to the gym and working out will help you enormously. My current husband and I exercise together every day. We either walk for an hour or swim for 50 minutes. Tonight we are doing water aerobics. I am certain that this is what is keeping my weight at a level size 14. Of course I would like to be thinner, but I'll take what I can get, at least I can shop in the regular stores, as size 14 is sometimes the largest that they carry.

    Good luck, I follow your blog and enjoy your writing. This is just the first time I've popped up and written you anything.

    Take care,
    Karen Sorensen

  2. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate people taking the time to leave comments here. I have actually been on Topomax before, a few years ago, and didn't lose weight on it, so I was taken off of it. I don't mind being on a mood stabilizer and have been on a few. I have thought about asking to be put back on Topomax at a higher dosage than before. Maybe then it would work for weight loss. Thanks for telling me about your marriages. I'm glad you were able to find people who didn't look down on you for your weight. My ex-boyfriend did that whole "you're not attractive anymore" thing a great deal before we broke up. I'm better off without him and his self-esteem cutting insults, and am glad he's no longer any part of my life. I think I am still convinced I can't be attractive while overweight, partly because of his comments. I'm glad you pointed out that not all men or people are this way. Thanks again for coming by here.

  3. My name's Rachael, and I was deeply moved by your post.

    I have obsessive-compulsive disorder and have also gained large amounts of weight on medication. I'm sort of tottering between a size 18 and a size 20 right now.

    I know how it is to lose weight and gain it all back--and then some. It's a horrible, hopeless feeling. And I've felt like I can't take it anymore, that I'm going to break from despair. That I hate my body so much, I can't live in it any longer.

    I know I don't have the same disability as you, nor the same life experience. But your article really touched me. I was glad to read such an honest post.

    I believe in fat acceptance, but I can't pretend that I don't mind being fat. I do mind. I mind, and I know most people who are obese do. We aren't machines. We feel the stigma and the physical hindrances that come with being overweight.

    And I think it's cool that you said that. I just wanted to say that.

  4. With all your autoimmune diseases, I would strongly encourage you to check out:'d also advise you to check out the work of Matt Stone: or Ray Peat.

  5. Thank you for such an interesting, thought provoking post Jen. Weight is something that is constantly on my mind, having had weight loss surgery and lost 100 pounds before my most recent breakdown. I still have 100 pounds to lose and BPD, depression and associated meds do NOT help. But I would rather feel well and be in recovery and be obese than be thin and miserable (which I've been in the past). Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jen xx

  6. @Rachael - thank you for your thoughtful comments. I'm sorry you have had these same experiences, but at least we know we're not alone in it.

    @Lil- Thanks! You always make my posts feel worthwhile when you leave your kind comments.

    @Lynn, I do have hypothyroidism, actually! I take two medications for it. Thanks for the info, and I'll check out the authors you mentioned.

  7. Zyprexa also caused me to put on a lot of weight. The hunger is just awful, isn't it?! I've recently been able to lose 13 kg and so far maintain my weight. I started having a Rapid Loss shake twice a day instead of meals. It's one of those shakes that has something in it that swells up and makes you feel full. It doesn't actually make me feel full, but it takes away the worst of the gnawing hunger. It was still hard, but I cut down what I ate and persevered with the shake. Now I still substitute 2 meals per day with it except for Saturdays, where I have an evening off and have a couple of glasses of wine and a beer and a normal dinner. So far so good, and I'm much happier at this weight. To be honest, I don't really care if the shake is really physically healthy for me or not, as long as I feel better mentally.As long as it works, I'll keep it up.


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