One of the many side effects you will find listed for some antidepressant medication (or any type of medication prescribed for bipolar disorder) is increased appetite/weight gain. With every new prescription, while unpacking the stapled bag of prescriptions from the pharmacy, I would pull out the information sheet for the new medication and look for those dreaded words. Increased appetite. May cause weight gain.
Let me tell you, in my case, there is no “may”. That “may” is just a gentle heads up, your clothes are about to get a whole lot tighter. Increased appetite is hard to control. And when you have symptoms of depression, you may want to eat and eat to comfort yourself and emotional eating may also occur. But would you rather feel depressed and everything else that comes with bipolar disorder? Would you rather gain weight and be able to “function” better because of medication or would you rather experience the symptoms and never gain weight?
The weight issue has been one of my worst ongoing fights over the past 12 years. My first significant medication issue related to weight gain happened when I had my first anxiety attack and was put on Zoloft. Of course, it didn’t help that I had already put on the freshman 15 from first year university, thanks to fast food and iced capps.
Weight gain is more than just your clothes not fitting well. It affects your mood, self-esteem and confidence. This is my main issue with weight gain. It’s hard to look at pictures from certain periods of my life. It’s hard to feel like you are “bigger” than some of your friends, or noticeably “bigger” than you used to be. I hate thinking that perhaps people who last saw me when I was “thinner” may be thinking “She really let herself go”. I am sure that as usual, I am being too critical of myself.
After my first bout of medication-induced weight gain, I was able to lose weight once I was taken off Zoloft. I was happy with how I looked for a period of time, but once I had been prescribed Celexa the weight gain started again and the struggle has continued ever since. It is very hard to lose weight while taking my cocktail of medications. I dread being weighed at the doctor’s office.
The topic of weight gain brings me to another hated topic: exercise. I hate when someone, be it a doctor, relative or friend tells me I should exercise. “You should exercise. It’s not just good for your body, it’s good for your mind! You’ll sleep better! You’ll feel better!” Okay, thanks, but it’s my body, so let me make my own decisions.
I do want to be healthy and find another outlet but I need to do it on my own terms and do it when I am ready otherwise I won’t stick to it.
I also have this fear of “running out of time”. I have a fear that there is not enough time in a day to finish everything I want to accomplish. By the time the work day is over, the evening just flies by and before I know it, it’s 11:30pm! I worry that adding going to the gym to my after work routine will leave me with less time to do things. I have enough trouble after work focusing on doing work for my blogging/content writing business and making dinner/lunches (when I feel like cooking). I know this fear can change if I learn to reframe my thoughts, if I teach myself to work on a schedule or make to do lists so I can visualize what has to be done, and check it off. I need to find ways to quiet my mind. But of course, it’s so much easier said than done!
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!