M is for Mad

I’m mad. For those of you who know me personally, or read my blog, you know that I have struggled with depression and eating disorders since my youth.

The two go well together at times, but can also be the bitterest of enemies. When they’re friends, all is good. Well, relatively–being sad and starving yourself doesn’t really make sense to those not suffering from these ailments, but to me it’s a balance. They work together, hand in hand to keep me on some sort of a routine, and a period of stasis. The problem with this partnership is that inevitably one wants more than the other, and then everything falls apart. And the cycle begins.

After falling into a well so deep I am paralyzed, I manage to attempt to get help, with the support of friends and family. Emergency rooms are often (but not always) involved, and psychiatrists are always involved.  Inevitably, after being assessed, treatment begins. It almost always starts with anti-depressant drugs. And this is what I’m mad about.

I have never yet met an anti-depressant drug that hasn’t made me gain weight. Like, immediately. The first time I ever went on anti-depressants I was unable to do up my pants after a month. There was a 3-inch gap where my waistline used to be. I have never really recovered from this, mentally or physically. During the last round of anti-depressants, I gained almost 7 pounds in 6 weeks. When I mentioned this to people who have never experienced an eating disorder, the first response is always: That’s okay. It’s more important to be happy than to be a few pounds lighter. And why not throw away your scale while you’re at it? It’s just not that simple. Believe me, I wish it were.

February  22nd

February 22nd (Photo credit: Carsten Schertzer)

If only it were that simple. After being on the new pill for a few weeks, I noticed that my outlook was slowly improving but that my eating habits were rapidly changing. The battle between the two former allies was beginning again. I started binge eating. I would go through the candy and chip aisle, (which I’ve successfully avoided for quite some time now) and eat as much of it as I could on the five minute drive home from the store. I would hide in the pantry, scarfing down anything I could find that was full of fat and sugar. I was constantly hungry. For crap food. I hadn’t purged . . . yet, but I found myself constantly thinking about it, and about ways to cut my food intake during the day. I was no longer quite so sad but I was fixated on losing the weight as fast as I could. My only excuse for my behaviour is that the pill made me do it.

I was really battling my ED demons and the only solution that seemed to make any sense at all was to stop taking the pills. So I did. After a few weeks it seemed as though I weren’t constantly craving terrible foods and I was beginning to feel somewhat satiated again. The weight is still there, but so is the unhappiness.

I am mad that I have to choose between healthiness and happiness. It just doesn’t seem fair. My current psychiatrist believes that I am a good candidate for taking anti-depressants long term, and that a few pounds (her words) are a small price to pay for happiness. But it doesn’t work like that. At least not for me, and my guess is that I am not alone in this struggle. I’m mad that I’m heavier right now. I’m mad that I’m still unhappy. I’m mad that I have these issues in the first place. I’m mad that I have to sacrifice my body for my brain. Or vice versa.

And I’m really mad that there doesn’t seem to be an anti-depressant on the market that won’t cause weight gain. In the long, long, long list of possible side effects, weight gain is always listed. I am sure that there are many dedicated scientists and researchers working to make a non-weight gaining anti-depressant a reality, and when they do, they will be multimillionaires. Multimillionaires. And I will celebrate them and campaign for them to win a Nobel Prize. In the meantime, there are always new pills to try with the promise of improved mental health and the hope of physical well being.  But I’m a bit gun shy. And rightly so, I think.

So, what will I do? I’m really not sure. All I know is that I’m mad. And fat and sad.

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