Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Part I. So here’s the thing: I know I’m not technically *that* overweight, but I am a bit heavier than I should be for my height and build. I’m 5 feet tall (at least that’s what I’m going to continue telling everyone, and myself) and as of right now, I weigh about 135 pounds. The recommended healthy weight for someone my height is between 105 and 115 pounds. As of right now, my body mass index (BMI) is just high enough to put me in the “overweight” category, at about 26.36. Recommended healthy BMI for females is between 18.5 and 24.99. You can check your BMI and read more helpful information here.

Ideally, for my height, I would like to get down to the 105-110 pound range. That should put my BMI at about 20, which is well within the healthy range for my body. I imagine that my reasons for wanting to get down to a healthy weight are much the same as most people’s. I want to feel better about myself, and look better overall, as well as feel better about the way I’m taking care of my body. I haven’t always been very kind to it, and I know that I need to pay more attention to what I put into it. I’ve been putting this off for a long time, because making changes can seem so overwhelming.

Also, I really like food. I love cooking and baking, and I also love eating out. Growing up, healthy eating was never really emphasized, and we were pretty much allowed to have whatever we wanted when there was money for it. There wasn’t always, of course, and so there was a lot of cheap, unhealthy food thrown into the mix as well…SPAM and lots of Macaroni and Cheese come to mind (sometimes together). My dad and grandfather were pretty dramatically overweight, and my mom gained a lot of weight after her pregnancies, so I was exposed to that early on. On the other hand, I also knew a lot of other girls with eating disorders who went the extreme other direction, so especially as a teenager I often felt conflicted between wanting to eat whatever I wanted, and on the other hand wanting to starve to be skinny because my friends were doing it. I don’t advocate either.

I packed on a lot of weight after I finished college because I became less active. One thing about living in Seattle was that I walked everywhere, and that kept my weight at a pretty stable 115 – 120 pounds for most of college. When I moved to Eastern Washington, I hit the double whammy of being depressed, driving everywhere, and on top of that working in a little diner with delicious but greasy food. By the time I got serious about doing something about my weight two years ago, I was up to the heaviest I had ever been, almost 150 pounds. I started Weight Watchers in January of 2009 and lost a decent amount of weight. At one point, the combination of being very strict about what I was eating and working out up to 4 hours a day doing yoga, pilates, kick boxing, ballet and spinning helped me get down to 120 pounds.

Then life intervened. School got more difficult, I didn’t have very much time for exercise, and after more than a year of depriving myself of the foods I loved, I was headed for a meltdown. Things got more intense with my family, my grandmother died, and I hit a low point where food was a big source of comfort. I packed 15 pounds back on, and that’s where I’m at right now. The only thing more frustrating than trying to lose weight is having to lose weight you’ve already lost once.

But I have added motivation now. The band is a major source of that. I want to look good on stage, and of course that will be a major source of confidence. I also want to feel better for me, after spending so many years being anxious and depressed and down on myself. Instead of major dramatic extremes, I’m trying to make better, more balanced decisions about what I eat and work in short bouts of exercise. A couple of months ago I bought a Bowflex Treadclimber TC3000, and I love the workout I get from using it. It’s low impact on my joints, but very effective.

I’m trying to make it easier on myself to eat healthy by preparing on the weekends for the week ahead. Today I prepped salad fixings for the week: lettuce, peas, kidney beans, baby corn, mushrooms, beets, hard boiled eggs, and imitation crab. I have no problem eating the same thing several days in a row, so this system works out pretty well for me. This is what roughly 4 lunches or dinners will look like this week:

Salad with lettuce, beets, peas, tomato, baby corn, hard boiled egg, mushrooms, kidney beans, and imitation crab, topped with low-fat ranch dressing.

In other news, I figured it would be good to have a starting point for my weight loss this time. I wish I had taken before and after pictures as I made progress two years ago when I was losing weight regularly, because I think it can be great motivation for keeping up with the healthy decision making. So here you have it – me at this starting point:

Day 1 of the Quest to Not be Fat Anymore...

5’0, 135 pounds, and ready to make some healthy changes…

I have a professor who qualifies as one of those rare people who is both impossible to please, but generally right, making it impossible to be legitimately angry with him. I feel like every time I turn around I’m doing something to make him mad, whether it’s failing to include the correct introductory sentence in my emails or needing to leave class thirty minutes early to make it to a funeral. There are many days when I feel like I can’t do anything right, and I’m not the kind of person who can manage to not let things like this get to me.

The disconnect comes from the fact that he has impossibly high standards, but they’re also legitimate ones, and the higher he raises them, the harder I keep trying to earn his approval. In some says it’s a throwback to my childhood of always seeking approval. On the other hand, there’s really nothing unhealthy about it, and as long as I remain aware of my tendencies of constantly seeking approval, I can keep them in check without too much trouble. This is a solid indication that my therapy is working and paying off, so in that sense it’s a good thing.

At the same time, it’s hard to reconcile in my head sometimes. The fact that I’m getting to a place now where I can start to manage these things without needing medication is a good sign.

When it comes to medication, I’ve tried a lot of them. The first anxiety-related medication I started taking wasn’t directly related to my anxiety at all…I started taking Detrol LA the summer I graduated from high school. I was teased for years about my tiny bladder, and by the time I made it to high school, I had a hard time making it for more than an hour without using the bathroom. It seriously impacted my ability to function – I couldn’t even sit through a movie most of the time without having to leave half way through. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it through my college classes, so I asked the doctor for a prescription. I took it for a few years, and then finally gave up because I still felt like I was having to use the bathroom all the time. I also started taking Prozac in college, before a trip to Europe that I was terrified of going on. A few months after I got home, I stopped taking it because I didn’t notice much of a difference. I had rabid panic attacks the entire time I was away, and I still had to use the bathroom all the time, so I gave up on the medication all together.

When I went to Alaska, my therapist thought Cymbalta might yield better results, so I started taking that. It was then that I learned why the Detrol LA wasn’t working on my frequent bathroom trips – I had to pee all the time because I was anxious, and that affects nerves. The Detrol works by calming muscles, so essentially not only did I have to pee all the time, I couldn’t actually fully empty my bladder, compounding the problem. Before this takes a header off the diving board into the “too much information” category, I’ll just sum up by saying that when I stopped taking the Detrol and started working on organically managing my anxiety, my tiny bladder problem improved dramatically on its own. I still have issues when I get really anxious, but most of the time, I’m just fine.

I stopped taking the Cymbalta cold turkey [side note: bad idea. Never EVER stop taking medication cold turkey. In addition to mood swings and other side effects, abruptly quitting the medication causes severe dizziness in some people, as it did with me]. when I got back from Alaska. Though my panic attacks were better while I was in Alaska, I was tired of medication that wasn’t helping me control my skin picking and wasn’t eliminating my panic and depression entirely. After about a year off of medication, I decided to give it another try, because I thought it might help me while I worked through some underlying issues (which, as it turned out, went much deeper than I had imagined). After consulting with my doctor and my therapist, we decided to give Effexor XR a try.

The first few days I instantly noticed a difference in comparison to the Prozac or Cymbalta. I felt totally numb…a bomb could have gone off next to me and I probably wouldn’t have cared. I decided to trust the therapist, who thought we should give it two weeks – if I still felt out of it and disoriented, I’d come off of it. My mood balanced out after a few more days, and I began to notice that I felt more calm and was better able to think about what was happening in a situation before reacting out of anxiety or panic. I felt more in control and level-headed. It didn’t eliminate my skin picking or my anxiety, but it did give me some breathing room to work on deeper issues.

I’m now approaching a place where I’m ready to be off of all my medication and getting back into the real world on my own. I’ve stepped down to half the dose of Effexor I was originally taking, and I’m ready to phase off of it by the summer. Scary? Yes. But also exciting. I truly believe that medication is a great thing when used properly and under the supervision of a professional, like a therapist. On it’s own, it’s not a cure-all – I’ve learned that one pill a day won’t fix everything. When that was my hope, I was, of course, disappointed. But there is a place for medication, and in the right situation it does work. I’m living (and still imperfect) proof.

…and again…

Disappointment sucks. Everyone has to deal with it; it’s a fact of life. I sometimes feel like I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to manage the aftereffects of crushing disappointment. It’s one of those things…as I’ve gotten healthier, I’ve learned better responses to deal with my disappointment. I recognize that disappointment is normal and it’s healthy to learn how to work through the negative emotions that it brings up.

But here’s the thing: it still sucks.

No matter how healthy I get, it will always suck. It’s one of the things that will always be a factor in life. That in and of itself is a little disappointing. Lame.

When I was seventeen, a teacher told me to always remember that “attitude is the only thing 100% in your control.” It’s advice that has floated around in the back of my mind ever since. And it is excellent advice. Putting it into practice, however, is the hard part.  I have a chance to do it right now, and so far, I’m admittedly not doing a very good job.

I had an audition on Saturday for a band that I really (really) wanted to get into. It was made up of experienced musicians that I could have learned a lot from. At the same time, since they were all in or approaching their 50’s, it wouldn’t have been a band that would have ever left the local area. I put up a good front. I sang my heart out. I was myself, and I was honest. I hit my high notes and had fun. Most importantly, maybe, I actually followed through at did this, and wasn’t a bundle of nerves. That in and of itself is a big accomplishment for me, and I’m proud of it.

I knew when I left, though, that something wasn’t working in my favor. It was just a sinking feeling. The band all expressed positive feedback, gave me half a dozen new songs to learn, and claimed to be excited to work with me in the future…but somehow, I just knew, something wasn’t right. I spent all day Sunday and Monday tied up in knots waiting to hear from them.

They finally emailed me today to say that they’ve decided to continue their search for a singer. No explanation, just rejection. Strangely, I feel better. It’s better to know than to wonder in some cases…at least, it’s easier on the nerves.  Unfortunately, I had very few nerves left by the time I got the email to day. So…in the past 12 hours, I’ve snapped at my boyfriend half a dozen times, cried because little things triggered my emotions, and yelled over a particularly recalcitrant sweet potato. But I’m okay. And it’s going to be hard, but I’m going to be able to use this experience to push forward and come out better than before.

But yes, it still sucks.