This is going to be a hard post for me to write. And it’s probably going to be long.
On this blog, I’ve documented my journey to try and become healthy – both physically and mentally. I haven’t succeeded at either – it’s really been a documentation of my failures. Oh sure, last year I lost 20 lbs and nearly 30 inches… but then I gained it all back. As far as my mental health goes, I’ve tried so hard to keep my head above water and fake it til I make it. I’ve been so hellbent on doing it by myself. Sure, I had a friend to confide in – but that’s nothing more than venting and support. It isn’t going to help me fix my broken brain. It just helps me know I’m not alone.
A few weeks ago, I started going to a pain management doctor. My pain became so bad last fall that I wasn’t able to go to the gym (even if I’d wanted to – but let’s face it, I didn’t want to). It got to the point where simply baking a batch of Christmas cookies was enough to incapacitate me for hours afterwards. I can’t tell you how many times I cried over Christmas break because I was constantly in pain from doing the same things I do every year. And it turns out that I have the bones of a 50 year old. Well, sort of. My doctor’s exact words were, “If these were the x-rays of a 50 year old, I wouldn’t think twice. But you’re only 32. You’re too young.” My spine is riddled with arthritis. And I have some chronic pain.
The best fix? Lose the weight. Relieve the extra pressure that my fat – especially in the midsection – is putting on my spine. She even suggested I go on prescription weight loss medication.
My mental state has seriously gone downhill since last fall. It started when the pain got worse. And then a death in the family just sent me on a downward spiral that seemed never-ending. It still seems never-ending. Are you familiar with Allie Brosh? She wrote two amazing posts in comic form to explain how depression feels.
It’s disappointing to feel sad for no reason.
I tried to force myself to not be sad. But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn’t going to work.
The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief.
But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there’s a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck.
I tried to get out more, but most fun activities just left me existentially confused or frustrated with my inability to enjoy them.
Well hell. I just want to quote ALL THE WORDS. Really – just go read them. Especially Part 2. Part 2 gets into the nitty gritty. And explains pretty well how I’ve been feeling for the last few months. I am not suicidal. I don’t want to hurt myself. But sometimes, I just don’t want to be here. I don’t want to die, but sometimes I think I don’t want to exist anymore. Sometimes it hurts so badly that I just wish I weren’t here anymore. And sometimes I feel so much nothing that I can’t figure out what the point of anything is anymore.
So when my doctor suggested medication, I started researching what was available. I quickly learned about a new drug called Contrave that combines an anti-depressant with an anti-addiction medication. And for some reason, this combination causes appetite suppression. What better way to kill two birds with one stone? An anti-depressant AND appetite suppressant? It’s bloody brilliant! But finding someone to prescribe it to me wasn’t easy. My pain management doctor couldn’t, because it’s not about pain relief.
Then I emailed my regular doctor to find out if it was worth my time to make an appointment and come in to talk to him about this medication. His exact response was “I don’t prescribe these. It’s outside the scope of my practice.” Not even a hint of a referral.
Finally, I called my ob/gyn. She doesn’t prescribe them either, but she found someone in her building who is familiar with them and referred me. HALLELUJAH!
It turns out that second medication in Contrave blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. Which means my pain medication would be rendered useless. Whoops.
So we compromised. She prescribed phentermine for the appetite suppression and Wellbutrin for the depression. And then she asked me to find a therapist to talk about my issues with food and body image.
Food is supposed to be something we eat because our bodies need fuel to survive. Sure, we want to enjoy it since we have to eat it. But it’s a biological necessity. Well, for most people. For me, food is a comfort. Food is a companion. Food is what I use to measure the time of day. It’s 10am – that means 2 hours until lunch. Food is my self-medication. It makes me feel better.
Until I look in the mirror.
But looking in the mirror makes me feel bad, so I turn to food. It’s a vicious cycle that I can’t break. I try to – diet after diet. I’ve tried to will myself to be anorexic. But I can’t give up food. It’s too important to me. I thought about becoming bulimic, but I can’t make myself throw up. I did that exactly one time and it was so painful and horrible that I vowed I’d never do it again. So I restrict myself to “rabbit food” – and after a week I’m so deprived of the food I’m certain I need that I end up eating something “bad” – which starts me down the path of justification for the rest of the day, the weekend, the month.
I have issues with food.
I read an article on Buzzfeed, of all places, that struck home:
What had begun as a way of burying my insecurities morphed into a way of self-medicating full-blown depression and anxiety. Food was my salve and my secret. By the time I was a high schooler in Arkansas, where we had moved when I was 14, I was regularly driving through the local Chinese restaurant, eating crab rangoon alone in my car in the parking lot of an abandoned strip mall. Overwhelmed by a laundry list of extracurriculars that I hoped would get me into the “right college” — student council, cheerleading, theatre, National Honor Society, Key Club, jazz, tap, ballet — I ate until I was too full to worry. When I was cast in my senior musical, I ran to my car after last bell and sped up the highway to Sonic to buy Cinnasnacks (think mini-cinnamon rolls, but more gross) and a cherry limeade in the half hour before first rehearsal. I realized what was happening wasn’t normal when I thought more about what I’d eat when I got to my friends’ houses than the time I’d spend with them.
There’s a name for what I’m going through – disordered eating.
So I finally realized that I do need to ask for help. It’s time to see a therapist. And it’s okay that I can’t do this by myself. My first appointment is Monday afternoon. And I’m absolutely terrified. But I am doing what I need to do to get help and be healthy.
Which brings me to the 21 Day Fix.
I started this program – well parts of it – 8 days ago. A woman from my alma mater is a Beachbody coach and has an online fitness group for support and encouragement. So I joined her. It’s helping me make better food choices and be more aware of portion size. I’ve incorporated Shakeology into my daily diet. I’m not doing any of the workouts yet because of the pain issues, but they do say that it’s 80% diet and only 20% exercise. Getting my food issues in order and actually learning to be healthy while not depriving myself is my first priority. And so far, it’s working. I weighed in this morning and have lost 4.9 pounds since starting.
But I’ll be honest. I’m afraid of what will happen when the 21 days are over. Will I binge while on my break and undo everything? It’s a very real possibility. I already miss my companion.