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Weight, Weight...Don’t Tell Me

September 27, 2019

Ten years ago today, I tipped the scales at 105 lbs. I was eating the exact same amount, and exercising the exact same amount, as I have ever since. But this morning, I was 50 lbs. heavier. Now, mind you, that low number was a good 25 lbs. less than my “normal” adult weight, so I guess the net gain isn’t quite so horrific. But it is a metaphor (in addition to being a nuisance). I have taken on a lot in the past decade, and not just poundage. And I am reminded, yet again, that mental illness totally stinks.

I chalk my relatively recent “expansion” up to the havoc my psych meds wreak with my metabolism. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, I was put on Lithium, then Seroquel, both of which caused some weight gain—and neither of which helped my disease in the slightest. But then I was switched to a combo of Abilify and Wellbutrin. And that’s where the roller coaster took off. It was with glee that I dropped pound after pound, bought smaller and smaller sizes, right down to the comical “00”. I was buoyed by all the “You look amazing!” comments, and (foolishly) thought the good times would last forever. And for several years, it seemed that was true.

But, alas, it wasn’t. I noticed the numbers on the scale creeping up, but didn’t worry at first…after all, I really HAD been too skinny. But wait a doggone minute! I am suddenly buying bigger sizes of pants! And it isn’t because I’m hitting the pizza parlor! So I don’t even get the benefit of enjoying extra mozzarella cheese! The medication that is saving my life, is now qualifying things: “You don’t feel suicidal any more! But now you hate being photographed!” And I guess, when I think of it that way, my yearning to be svelte does seem pretty silly.

But this is just one element of the sad situation confronting those of us with chemical imbalances in our brains. There’s the cost of treatment: most psychiatrists do not take insurance, so for many of us it becomes a matter of “see the shrink? or pay the light bill?” Then there’s the ever-present stigma, the nervous smile and slight step backwards when someone hears our story. I am lucky indeed to be in a workplace where my honesty is not punished, but I know many people who fret about being fired, on top of the other huge issues they are dealing with.

What now? I seesaw between embracing a strict diet regimen (which may or may not yield results) and acceptance of my slightly chubby state. At age 62, I recognize that I am no longer whistled at, or carded. So why should I care?

Because my gain, really is a loss. A loss of pride in my appearance, a last link to youth. And that is bittersweet.

Oh, well. Off to the grocery store. Kale? Cupcakes? Maybe…some of both?

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    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: www.eliseseyfried.com or email me at eliseseyf@gmail.com.