This post is going to be a bit more on the serious side than I tend to be, but it is a topic that I reasoned might be an issue for others if it is an issue for me.
I will start with a little bit of background information, and hopefully that will paint a clearer picture of my situation (it is a long ride to the point, I apologize).
For those of you that follow my blog, you probably have gathered that I am an active person. I am training for my second marathon, I love to lift and strength train, I sometimes hit the gym twice a day, ride my bike, anything to be active, I am into. I am also extremely conscious of what I am eating.
I have a long history with my relationship with food, which unfortunately is littered with disordered eating, poor body image, years of negative self talk, and not appreciating how food is meant to fuel my body. Part of my love for running came from the realization that if I wanted to run and run well, I had to fuel my body. It was almost my therapy to the understanding of my body needing food not only to perform, but to survive. As I have gotten older, (you can read more about my thoughts on this from my birthday post birthday post), I have learned to love myself, and recognize that every day I am a work in progress. The important thing is that I am healthy and strong. I will admit that I have had periods of sliding back into unhealthy habits and not treating myself so well, but each of these episodes only reassured what I know is healthy and what I know my body needs.
This all leads to what brings me to this post. I made a reference in my post, The Beautifully Flawed Project, https://mostofeveryday.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/the-beautifully-flawed-project/, that a friend and I were going to make an effort to accept and embrace our flaws.
I was referring to my anxiety issue. I have had anxiety since I was a kid, but not to anything really specific. I had separation anxiety when leaving my mom and hated going to school, sleep overs, you name it. Which was weird, because I did well in school, had great friends, and got along with my teachers.
After my mom died, I didn’t have anxiety until after my senior year of high school, and then just random, small attacks on and off through college. They were generally set off by moving, but it was never anything that affected me day-to-day. But two years ago, they started coming back. I was prepping for a move, and would suddenly be hit with an attack. I finally decided to talk to my doctor about it.
I have always been the type of person who believes that most stress, depression and anxiety could be cured with a healthy and active lifestyle, but that just wasn’t working for me. I had to swallow all of my pride to tell my doctor that I needed something to help me. So, he wrote me a prescription for Sertraline, the generic form of Zoloft. Zoloft is generally known as an anti-depressant, but goes hand-in-hand as an anti-anxiety medication. I have never been depressed and have always been a very upbeat person, so it was hard for me at first to admit that I was taking something like that. I felt like it was my dirty secret and I didn’t want people thinking that if I stopped taking my medication, my personality would change and I would lose it!
This was two years ago, and around that time it started to become really hard for me to lose weight. It seemed that no matter what I did, my weight would not budge. But, I figured I just wasn’t working hard enough and my eating wasn’t clean enough.
But life continued on, things were going so well with love, friends, job, etc., I stopped taking my medication for a while. Since I had been on it, I had never been really great about taking it, but I hit a period where I pretty much stopped all together.
One day last February, I was getting ready to leave on a business trip for three days. I was excited to head up to the upper peninsula of Michigan, and spend time with a co-worker who is a lot of fun. But about 15 minutes before I was due to get picked up, I suddenly started having an anxiety attack. That same old feeling. I felt ill, my stomach hurt, I didn’t want to go, I was sweating, my heart was racing. This being the first attack Paul had ever seen, I had to explain what was going on.
I told him that it is completely irrational. I know that I have nothing to be afraid of. I am not afraid of traveling, or working, or meeting new people, or going new places. In fact, I love all of those things! But I was just losing it.
When I got home from that trip, I became extremely diligent about taking my medication. I decided to seek help from a therapist to hopefully work through why I was having this issue still as an adult. Not to mention I had to gear up for another work trip, for six days in Washington D.C.. I was so excited! We had an awesome hotel, I would have a ton of free time to explore, meet new people, hang out with my co-workers who I think the world of, and it was D.C.!!!
The day before I was set to leave (on this trip that I was so excited about, mind you), I had a massive melt down. I could not get it together all day. Paul did his best to distract me, we went out to lunch, went antiquing, went to the dog park, but I just could not focus. I took xanax, but it didn’t help, I did breathing exercises, they didn’t help. That night, we were watching a movie, which generally will help me escape my own head, but I just couldn’t focus. So I told him I would be right back, went up stairs and just cried. I guess cry is the wrong word… it was more like choking sobs.
Paul came upstairs to check on me and I just kept crying, telling him about how frustrating it was because I couldn’t control it. I had nothing to be afraid of but the anxiety itself, but at this point it was crippling me. We decided that I should contact my bosses and explain the situation.
I am so blessed to work for the people that I work for. They were so understanding and told me it wasn’t an issue at all. They were cancelling my trip for me, and I wasn’t to worry a thing about it. I was immediately relieved, and also had to take a step back and pride myself on coming clean about my issue. This was the first time I had ever told someone outside of my inner-most circle what I was going through. It was a big step.
But here we are, four months later… and this all comes back to my unhealthy body image. Not only has it been impossible for me to lose weight, I have gained weight in the last four months… 20+ pounds! And for the life of me, it wont budge, and it won’t be stopped. I visited a new general practitioner to express my frustration and get some blood work done to see what is going on. One look at my medication list, he felt that he had found the culprit.
“I would bet the farm that it is your anxiety medication”… I won’t know for sure until Monday when my test results get back in, but my guess is that he is right. It just makes sense with the timeline of things.
But in the mean time, my clothes don’t fit, I am embarrassed to see people and be social and go out. I am getting hateful of myself again. It is getting hard to convince myself that I am still healthy and strong, and eating well! I need to keep up with my healthy lifestyle, and not get down on myself. I feel like I need to explain to people that, “there is a reason for this! I’m working out, I promise!”.
I never knew this was a side effect of sertraline, but the more I look into it, I am learning that it is. But, the good news is, there are other things to try, and other drugs that wont have this effect.
It is so sad that our culture is so obsessed with appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should look their best and take good care of themselves, but people don’t seem to understand that looking your best and taking care of yourself doesn’t look the same on everyone. Unfortunately, I have also had people in my life who focus heavily on that and judge heavily on that, which hasn’t helped my mindset at all.
My weight does not define my worth. I have to keep telling myself that.
My weight does not dictate whether my boyfriend loves me or not.
My weight does not define whether or not my friends want to be associated with me.
I will just have to take all of this as a lesson. Things happen in life for a reason, and maybe this is just a hard lesson in self-love. At the end of the day, whether I weigh 120 lbs or 200 lbs, I am still a beautiful person, and I need to love myself.
It is a damn hard lesson, but a damn important one.