Earlier, I read a post by But She’s Crazy called 170 Pounds of Compassionate Acceptance. As someone who has struggled with my weight my entire life, I connected with her experience of weight gain. The fact that But She’s Crazy had the courage to write a post on her weight has inspired me to finally write a post on the topic that I have been putting off for some time now. I’ve mentioned my weight issues only briefly in posts like Expectations. However, my goal was to eventually write a dedicated post on the issue, which always seemed to be thwarted by my fear of the sensitive issue. So, I guess that I best be getting to writing before I chicken out again.
I was four-years-old when my pediatrician first told my mom that I needed to lose weight. I still remember being at the doctor’s office that day and being weighed. It’s a quick snippet of memory, but it’s there. Maybe that’s due to the fact that it was my first taste of weight loss talk that I would have for the rest of my life.
By the time I was six years old, I had been on a couple of diets. That never worked, though. I would lose weight, but then I’d gain it back. I was never a severely overweight child, just more “chunky” as one of my uncles nicknamed me back then. No, I did not like the nickname. But, it did accurately describe my build as a child. I often wonder if I would have been left alone and not put on diets by my doctors, then maybe I would have eventually slimmed down permanently. I was so close to “slimness” at that age, but just a little thicker than that. But, my doctors made a big to-do about it.
This weight loss roller coaster began around that age. As a young child, I did the Slim-Fast diet one summer (which I would do again at least four more childhood summers). I had asked my mom if I could please do it ‘cause I had heard my dad talking about wanting to try it (he’s since slimmed down to a healthy weight for his height and age), and I had seen commercials for it on television. I wanted to be skinny like all the other girls in my class and thought it could make that happen. No matter if I wasn’t even out of grade school yet, I wanted to be skinny like the girls on the commercials and in my family. The hatred for my body had begun and it would never leave.
The Woes of Losing Weight
I remember in 2007, I had put on a lot of weight from college. That in combination with the bipolar issues, including depression, that had been hovering over me throughout my final year in college sent me soaring into the weight numbers. However, when I went to the doctor that year for something else, a blood test revealed that I was pre-diabetic. I needed to lose weight or I was going to become a full-blown diabetic in not too many years.
So, I went on yet another diet. My doctor sent me to an endocrinologist who specialized in diabetes. She turned out to be a nightmare of a doctor. I’ll never forget my first meeting with her while she discussed my BMI. She held a chart in her hand and with her finger she pointed at the healthy BMI and weight range for my height and age. “This is where you should be, but you’re waaaaaaaaaaay over here.” To add to the enjoyment of that revelation, she also slid her index finger across the chart as she extended her “way” to show just how far I was from my target BMI and weight. Talk about wanting to melt into a puddle of humiliated goo and evaporate. Staring at a pile of poo would have been more pleasant than sitting in that office. I stood with her, though, because I was terrified that I’d become diabetic. Diabetes runs in my family and it has hit people who are not even very overweight. So, I knew it was serious business. I continued to see her for a few months, and in that time she put me on the strictest diet I had ever been on in my life. I was restricted to 800 calories and only 20 carbs per day.
When the Weight Loss Hurt Me
I kept up with that diet for three months, however around a month and a half into it, I started getting very sick. When you’re on such a strict diet, you must keep up with your doctor appointments due to the danger it can cause, and I kept up with each and every one. However, what ended up happening was my gallbladder could not take it. This is a common side effect of losing weight too quickly. The gallbladder will develop stones, and in my case cease to function like it should anymore due to the size of those stones. And, although my so-called doctor should have known that was the cause of my agonizing attacks that would last for hours on end, she did not. She told me first it was probably an ulcer and prescribed an OTC anti-acid. Then, when I insisted a month later that it was not an ulcer, she claimed I was overreacting. I then told her that my cousin (a registered nurse) suggested that it could be my gallbladder and an ultrasound would find the problem. She did not want to send me for an “unnecessary” test, but she wrote the referral anyway, with such a look of like she was just humoring me.
Well, needless to say, the ultrasound proved that my cousin’s concerns were correct. It was indeed my gallbladder. My doctor still didn’t want to do anything about it, though. She said we would just wait and see if it gets worse. Well, considering that at that point every single thing that I ate was causing an attack, that was not an option. She called me after 5pm on a Friday to give me my results. And, it wasn’t until after I asked her if there was something else I could do other than wait that she then said, “Well, do you want me to give you the number for a surgeon?” I was stunned. I mean seriously? She was asking me as if I was supposed to know what the heck to do. I remember just saying, “Um, ok.” She then gives me the number and says, “Good luck” and hung up. Paging Dr. Female Dog!
Thankfully, I ended up going to another doctor for a second opinion, who helped me way more than that other “doctor” ever could. A few weeks later I had surgery to remove my gallbladder, and I have not had any pain like I did from those attacks ever since. In addition, since then I have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I was diagnosed in 2010, but it was a diagnosis that I should have received back in 2007, when I was seeing the endocrinologist. She should have found it considering her specialty in endocrinology, yet she did not. My new excellent doctor says that is part of the reason why I have struggled with my weight and blood sugar so much, and more recently my blood pressure too. PCOS messes with many areas of the body. That doesn’t mean my poor eating habits have not had anything to do with it. They’ve had everything to do with it. It’s just that PCOS has had a hand in it as well.
So, Back to the Enjoyable Topic of Weight Loss
By the time that my gallbladder had been removed, I had lost close to 70 pounds. We’re talking about a 5-month time frame. Part of that was due to the diet, but the rest was due to being unable to eat anything for two months due to the agonizing gallbladder attacks. But that doctor thought we should wait to see if it got worse.
Anger rising… rising… two deep breaths… ok, calm.
I still had more to lose, but I was feeling great and was getting in good shape, as I exercised regularly as well. I was proud of myself, and I thought that maybe this was it. I was going to finally lose weight and keep it off. I was no longer dieting on that 800-calorie restriction, and had went to a higher allotment. I kept losing while doing that, though. Unfortunately though, in March of the next year, my mom got sick.
She’s much better now, but at the time she had serious issues with circulation in her legs, and that March she had to be taken to the Emergency for the problem. This would be the first of four visits to the Emergency that year. From that point forward, my mom progressively got weaker and weaker as the year moved on. And, by the time the fall came around, I saw a completely different woman in front of me.
As my mom got weaker, I began to change too. My depression, which had subsided prior to this, was returning, and with it my poor eating habits did too. I was turning to food for comfort and I did not care what was happening to my body. And, by the time 2009 came and I sunk into the darkest and deepest depression that I had ever experienced at that point, I was no longer thinking about weight loss. I stopped caring about everything. So, I couldn’t care less if I gained weight because it just didn’t matter. There was a part of me that had hoped that if I kept eating, then maybe I’d gain enough weight to cause a heart attack, and then I wouldn’t have to do the job of ridding myself from this world. Nature would just take its course.
When the Concern Returned
After my diagnosis and the bipolar medications started to work, I was becoming stable again and my desire to get healthy started to return as well. I did not have the motivation or drive to be able to do it, though. I was fortunate though, I had someone in my life who had a way to “fix” all of my problems… bipolar and all.
“Have weight loss surgery, you’ll lose weight, you’ll be beautiful, and your bipolar will go away.”
I’ve mentioned that above quote before in the Expectations post I mentioned earlier. This was a statement that was made to me last year, by a woman who thought she was helping. Yeah, I don’t understand what she was thinking, either.
I was a mess after hearing this. I felt as if I was being crushed in multiple ways. First of all, she was obviously lacking in knowledge about bipolar, which made me feel horribly misunderstood. And then secondly, I felt completely insulted. So, let me get this straight. I have bipolar because I’m overweight, and in order to get rid of that bipolar I need to lose weight. Then, by doing so, not only will I be “cured”, but I will also become beautiful, since obviously she thought I was the walking definition of hideousness itself. Well, geeze! Why worry about weight loss at all? Just plant me on the hood of an Air Force fighter jet and I can scare away the enemy with a single glance.
Upon my retelling of this to my therapist, she summed up my feelings and emotions about what was said to me best. “Oh, Bullsh*t!” She immediately turned red and covered her mouth, but it was just an honest and real reaction that flew out of her mouth before she could censor it. And, I’m so thankful it was not censored. I needed to hear that. I needed it because at that point I felt like a worthless and disgusting human being. What added to this great feeling was when upon telling my psychiatrist the woman’s comment at my next appointment with her, she asked me what my therapist said. And when I told her, she said that she agreed with my therapist’s sentiment. I’m so thankful that I now have doctors who treat me like a real person, even when they’re talking about mental illness and my weight.
Hypomania – My Weight Loss Drug
As I’ve said, my weight loss problems started in childhood, but it was when I was twelve years old that they became harder to handle. Since then, I’ve gone from overweight, to thin, to overweight, to thin, to overweight… ok, ok, you get the picture. But, I had started to get a control over it (or so I thought). Since, my diagnosis, and talking with my therapist, I’ve noticed a pattern. In a depressed state the fridge becomes my friend, as I’ve mentioned. However, I tend to lose much more easily when hypomanic. During a hypomanic episode, I can lose a lot of weight, but that’s due to not really eating. The reason for this is that when I’m hypomanic, I don’t want to stop to eat. Just as stopping to sleep becomes a hindrance and obstacle in my life, so does eating. I lose my appetite and continue to focus all of my energy and attention on tasks and duties, many of which are pretty pointless to be honest. And, then when I’m in that hypomanic state, I also spend much more time in my fantasy world. When I’m locked away in that world, then food is the last thing going through my mind. My basic needs are pushed aside to make room for my imagination and overflowing ocean of ideas and thoughts that flood my mind.
It would be nice if hypomania was safe to be in all of the time. I would love that. However, the fact that I have noticed these patterns has helped me to better understand why I eat in the first place when depressed. I have finally realized one of the most powerful reasons for me. Control. Go figure, eh? I’ve heard so many people say that on those specials where people who lose weight talk about their reasons for eating in the first place. And, now here I am saying the same thing. I guess I can’t roll my eyes anymore. If you wish, feel free to roll your eyes, though. Believe me, I’ll understand. But, I guess the reason for my control was one that never really registered in my mind until therapy helped me to start realizing it.
I started to notice my moods and charting them after my diagnosis. And, as I did so, I began to notice that every time I hit a low point, I headed for the fridge. One day, I realized that I was standing with the refrigerator door open, and just staring inside. I was not hungry, and yet I found myself looking for comfort food. I talked about that with my therapist and thus opened the floodgates that were holding in years of eating. I discovered that I viewed eating as a form of power. Eating is something that I had control over and no one could stop. No one could say, “Hey, put that down.” Well, yeah, I guess they could, but I didn’t have to listen. I wasn’t a little kid anymore, and no one was going to tell me what to do. Eating was something that I could manage myself, and I was the one making the decision on what, when, and how much to eat. I have no control over the pain that depression inflicts, but food gives me that control. It places a hammer in my hand that smashes the pain away, albeit temporary. And, when that relief wears off, I’m back to the fridge for more.
So, with this newfound knowledge in my arsenal, I now am working to change my lifestyle and no longer working to diet. I have not been on a diet for some time now, and I have lost 21 pounds over the last several months. Unfortunately, I gained 8 of those pounds back, but I’m now in the process of losing them – and hopefully more – again. My psychiatrist, therapist, and primary all say that diets will not work, and that instead I have to focus on changing how I view food and that will make the difference. I’ve heard that so many times on shows like Oprah, but I did not believe it. I mean how do you not diet and lose weight? That’s not what I’ve learned since toddlerhood. But, apparently it does work, and that is what I am aiming to do with my life from now on.
But She’s Crazy said it best in her post that I mentioned earlier, stating that “I may not end up with a bikini body (honestly, I’ve never been built that way), but I’ll have a healthy body.” This is myself in perfect illustration. I’m not built to have a “bikini body” either, but that is not what I’m going for anymore. I am finished with that mentality. It was that mentality that has lead to countless views in front of the mirror and just hating what I see. Years back, it was that same mentality of thinking that – although I was already a very thin size at the time – made me feel that I had to be even skinnier, and it lead me to almost collapsing in the bathroom after starving myself for a week. I suffered a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) attack, all over trying to be skinny. I am not thinking like that anymore. I want to think like what But She’s Crazy so beautifully describes. Maybe it’s all that I’ve been through in recent years. From dealing with my mom getting sick and helping her recover, to dealing with my own medical issues that have left me numb to life during depression, and barely alive at times even when not depressed. No matter what the reason, I just know that I’m not that person anymore. I’m just someone who wants to be healthy. There is not anything I can do about my screwed up brain, but there is something that I can do about my body. And, that is what I want to do… make my body healthy.
I’m still learning to change my thinking. I will say this, though. That feeling of control that food used to give me, is now the reward I get for telling myself I’ve had enough. So, I guess something is working. I’ll see what happens. Either way, thin or not, I will always be Summer Moon. Maybe I’m meant to be an overweight Moon, and not a thin one, but I can at least try my hardest to stay healthy. Depressions will continue to come and with each one, I’ll turn to food, as it’s been my friend for so long. However, my goal is that I’ll someday be able to look at that food and then turn back away.