Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Wrong Impression?

Most of this year has been a roller coaster for me for where weight maintenance is concerned. At the end of last year, I was finally diagnosed with a couple of rare bacterial infections that had eluded the doctor's queries for months and months. I had mostly given up exercise due to the illness, but was very careful about what I ate. Over six months time, eating mostly frozen meals (I was too weak to cook), I was only up a couple of pounds.

I came back to Slimmons early this year, very concerned about my appearance and what it said about me. In fact, I saw a larger me in the mirror, despite my peer's insistence that I hadn't gained any weight. The couple of pounds up were located directly in my waist - nowhere else - and I could see it and feel it in my clothing. But I diligently went about increasing my exercise and watching my food, and a little bit came off.

Then the Ambien Troubles came on. Something changed in me, and I was apparently sleep walking and sleep eating on Ambien. I kept this issue a secret for quite a number of months. I was unaware that this was not unusual on that particular medication and was afraid of being judged for being nuts. I was finally forced to admit what was going on when I apparently went out driving - unconscious - in the pursuit of food, and in the same night, did quite a bit of internet shopping. Oy. I was willing to hide sleep eating, but sleep driving was where I drew the line. I admitted what was happening in a number of forums, saw my Internist, and my medication was immediately changed. By this time, I was up around 5 pounds. I really felt it.

When we changed my nighttime medication, I thought my troubles were going to be over. But that was far from what happened. My eating frenzies switched to the daytime, and I couldn't believe what I was consuming! Loaves of bread. Bags of sugar products. Sometimes straight sugar. There was no rhyme or reason to what I was craving and couldn't resist, and the weight came on me in a big way. I ended up, over a few short weeks, a full 20 pounds over my desired goal weight.

I was panicked about the situation, amazingly not so much for the judgment that others might make (although I'm sure they're saying things behind my back), but for what it might do to my attitude and outlook. I have not forgotten the kind of lifestyle that I lived when I was fully obese and what kinds of interactions I had with the world, and the misconceptions I had about people and life and the misconceptions that people and life had about me. The fact remains that my weight, although not optimum, is still currently well within a normal range for a woman in her 50's, and there is still time to do something about it. But that seemed to be outside of my ability for the first time in years.

I started reporting to doctors and my Therapist that there was something wrong with my brain. I was losing focus, not just with eating which was getting crazier and crazier, but in general. I was losing the ability to organize. I was getting stuck on things like e-mail... I'd read and re-read the same messages over and over again rather than get on with other tasks. My condo was a squalor, my food supplies were running low. I was barely able to cope with medicating (IV'ing) Cosmos, and would cry at the drop of a hat. And my doctors started doing their typical shuffle, nobody wanting to take responsibility for finding out what was wrong.

And I gained weight. And I failed to get important things done like balancing my checkbook or doing the laundry even when I was running out of clothing and underwear and day-to-day cash. And I started thinking about death. My death.

Then the week where Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson all died came on and Richard, in his Project Me class, had us do an exercise on our Bucket List. Something snapped in me. My list was simple.

1. Outlive my dogs. (They're old and sick and certainly at this point will be put down if I die before them.)
2.) Complete my will. I really need to get it done and it only needs to be a boilerplate form from Office Depot. With no children and limited assets, my directions are simple and easy and very unlikely to be challenged.
3. Write letters to my friends.

As I listened to others Bucket List items in that class, I realized how they didn't really "get" the assignment. That they should be thinking big, and chasing grand schemes and dreams while they can. My list would include some really amazing items if I thought that they were at all achievable, but in my ongoing state of health, my expectations are low. With my brain misfiring more than ever, I left Richards class before it was even over, and went home and acted on my list. I wrote and sent my good-bye letter to my closest friends. I was done. With out a fully functioning brain, and something clearly going wrong, it was time to disassociate myself. And wait for things to get to the point where it was time to say goodbye to family and loved ones too.

My Therapist started to get really concerned at this point. We both determined that this was not depression; that there really was something wrong with me. And unlike former appointments, he actually sat there with a pad taking notes (like the stereotype except I wasn't laying down on the couch). I was in a personal hell. My speech was becoming affected by this point, and I was (and am) on-and-off having a hard time communicating verbally without stuttering. Surprisingly, I am still coherent with the written word. I insisted that I was losing my mind and that the family insanity had finally caught up with me. He insisted that there had to be a physical cause for this - it came on really fast and I could pinpoint the day and hours for him. I officially declared him the newest member of my doctor "It's not my department" team. But i was fortunate in that although he was clearly upset at that statement, he did not give up on me.

I ended up starting a stimulant. There was reason to believe that my Central Nervous System was being suppressed per both my Therapist and several of my doctors. At Dr. M's insistence, I followed up in making appointments with other doctors such as my Infectious Disease Specialist and my Neurologist. (I had decided to stop seeing everyone and it was only because of a long-term trust that has been built up between me and Dr. M- that I went along with it.) I knew that I was going to be incapable of asking for what I needed in these forums, so he even made phone calls to them for me before the appointments so that they not only had an idea of what was coming on, but took me seriously.

The first stimulant I took - Concerta - was done on my own and not under a physician's supervision. I have my connections. But I was quite forthright with Dr. M- about it, letting him know the next day that I had gotten it and had started it. And that there was a difference. It certainly wasn't perfect, but my energy and focus came up, and the eating binges stopped dead in their track. The reputation of stimulants is that you lose your appetite all together. That was not my Concerta experience. My eating stabilized. I got hungry, but went back to eating how I did before all these other troubles came on. And I regained some level of focus - although it didn't come back to normal - and lost a few pounds immediately.

I saw my Neurologist this last Friday, and he believes that something significant really is happening in my brain. He also did not think that Concerta was necessarily the best medicine for me, and changed it to Adderall, a more powerful stimulant with a stronger appetite suppressant. And I ate much less than normal yesterday (the first day on it) and was down another two pounds today. A total of 4 pounds down in a week.

This still leaves my weight significantly up, but now I'm back at closer to fighting weight. And I expect that I will be on this stimulant until they figure out what is wrong with me. I got to the point that I could not function in my life at all without it, and with it, although it's harder than normal to do things, I am more directed and am accomplishing tasks. To whit, I am going to straighten out my condo this morning. It's horrible, but I couldn't cope with dealing with it before. I think I have the energy and drive now to make a significant dent.

I'm also going to calculate out the true costs of the jewelry that I've produced in the last couple of weeks (I really need to take pictures and post them) so that I can respond when people ask what I want for it. That's been another ironic part of this roller coaster ride. I was making higher-quality jewelry than ever, but was unable to do the bookwork behind it to be able to sell it when people were expressing interest. I was even suspected of faking the rest of my symptoms because my jewelry output was still significant and becoming very high quality. But my accusers are not in my brain and don't know.

But now there is the quandary that I am really worried about, and the point of this whole missive. I can cope with the judgments made about my weight gain. In my world, and indeed in the world in general, weight gain is common. It's not so far gone yet that I am ostracized over it, and the only part that I feel at all bad about (other than personal worries about my state of health and mind) is that Richard has been using my pictures in his QVC promotions, and I adore him and don't want to let him down by not being what he is portraying. On the other hand, if this brain thing is fixed, I have no doubt that I can lose what I gained again in the same manner that I did before - naturally, and in the end, all will be well.

No, that's not what the worry is. In fact, I'm terrified at the judgments that might be made about me and the example that I am setting if I end up taking these stimulants for any length of time. That is a completely possible scenario. I have to admit that on the Adderall which I took yesterday for the first time, I felt so much more like myself except that I really didn't want to eat at all. My body told me when it could not go on any more without food, and I reacted appropriately when it did, and when the Adderall wore off (around 4 pm), then I was back to eating more than I should although I should note that I made pretty healthy choices. But the dosage did not hold me (my brain function) for the day, and the plan is for me to increase the Adderall to twice a day starting Tuesday. That should be enough to kill off my appetite completely.

That's the heart of the issue. I consider the appetite suppressant nature of this drug a very happy coincidental side effect, and certainly, I am no different than anyone else. I want the weight I gained off as quickly as possible. But it's the "how" that has me disturbed.

I am quite willing, given a normal brain function, to take my time and lose it slowly as I did when I was working on large numbers of pounds. I am very proud of the fact that I lost my weight naturally a la Richard's Food Program, and that I did not use diet pills or surgery or any unnatural means to spur me on. But my brain function is not normal right now, and the pills that they are giving me to hold me over until they figure out what is really wrong with me are going to make me lose weight quickly. And I like that too.

But a lot of people watch me. A LOT of people. People that I don't even know. And I worry about what kind of judgment they are making now. Whether they believe that I am taking these pills because of other issues, or just because of the weight. And whether they are going to go out and try to get some for themselves because of my example.

I like being a good example. I also like being at optimum weight. It took a long time for me to get used to the way that the world responded to me with a reasonable figure and make-up and hair (Richard pushed me in to doing all of these things and I bless him for opening my eyes up about it)and I like what the image that I project gets me. Call me conceited, but the better I look, the better service and treatment I get, and the more seriously I am taken. And I get a lot of free stuff too (or discounts). I can't resist a discount.

But back to the example. One of my best and also worst personality traits is that I am very forthright and honest. I just can't lie as a rule, and I'm not good at coloring stories either. When I am on these pills for a few weeks (for I'm sure it's going to be that long before they figure out and correct what my root issue is), and people comment on my weight loss, how am I going to respond? What kind of impression are they going to get? And am I going to inspire anyone into pursuing unsafe behavior?

I'm scared. I'm scared because I like feeling more normal. I'm scared because I like being at normal weight. I'm scared because I cannot and will not keep what is happening to me a secret, and am afraid that somebody else will be hurt because of my health struggles and the example that the stimulants are going to set.

And I'm scared that they will not figure out what is wrong with me and that the stimulants may, as the other mind-altering drugs that I am forced to take because of other health issues, become a permanent feature of my life.

My dream is to be normal. Not normal as society dictates because I have grown to accept and even enjoy my eccentricities. But normal in that I live a healthy lifestyle, that I am actually healthy, and that I am somebody that others want to emulate because what I do is good and fine.

I'm scared that taking the stimulants are going to give an incorrect impression of what the right thing to do is, even as they are currently the right thing for me. I only hope that if anybody is considering diet pills and is also watching what I am doing, they read this post and understand that I am NOT endorsing this mode of weight loss. I may even end up enjoying the rapid decrease that my doctors are looking for and expect, but I am not and never will be in favor of taking stimulants for this reason alone. All I really want to do is be able to function as I should. When I am able to do that, I will drop the Amphetamines like a hot potato and continue my second weight loss journey the right way. And I will happily accept the fact that it will take time and understand that the time that it takes is an opportunity for self exploration and personal growth.

That is both a promise and a guarantee.


jo said...

I would like to think that people are smart enough to do what works for them and know that you are taking this medication for medical reasons. One can hope.

No judgment from me at all! You are taking charge of your health, doing what works for you.

My son has ADHD-non hyperactive. He started med this past year. Made a world of difference to him. I hope they do so for you until they can figure things out further.

Anonymous said...

There is no judgment from me. I was horribly sick for almost a year and a half, before they discovered the real cause. I don't have your depth of experience with chronic and horrible illness, but I do know how it effects every facet of one's life (mentally, physically, spiritually). You have to simply do what is best for you to do. Like Jo said, people who know your story will not pass judgment on you. Please know that we are thinking of you and praying for you. Blessings--Bonnie

Adele said...

The only one who has the right to make a judgment of you is also the one we find so funny. "M-M-M" Just because the stimulant makes you not hungry doesn't mean you shouldn't eat. If you don't get your proper nutrients and calories you are going to end up not feeling well -- in fact you will get sick. So I suggest that rather than take the easy way out, pull out your food charts or mover or whatever, and start balancing things out NOW! If you want to have only 1000 calories per day to lose quickly, fine, but make sure you keep a balanced diet.

LI Laura said...

A very wise man once told me, "What other people think of me is none of my business." Don't worry about other people's reactions!!! You need to do what is right for YOU! Just because someone asks you a personal question does not mean you need to answer it. Even if you do decide to tell people about the weight loss, all you have to say is that you had some issues with your medication that made you gain weight and now they are straightened out. I do agree with Adele, however, that you should eat sensibly in order to preserve your health.

Summer said...

You are doing what you can do. Don't ever let anyone make you feel bad about that (not even you). I think it is wonderful that you found something that helps you get better. We live in a world where sickness of all kinds is all over the place. We are all probably sick in one way or another. Many of us probably don't even know it. Stay strong. (((Hugs)))

janet said...

I have always said that when the magic weight loss pill is discovered that has no side effects, I will be first in line to take it. I mean, who doesn't want to lose weight without effort? I have the feeling that the new drug you are taking has side effects, however. It is making your brain speed up or slow down so that you are feeling more like yourself. I can't imagine what that drug would do to somebody more (marginally) normal. There is no guilt in getting better.

hot tamale said...

You've gotten very good advice here. I agree with, your friends will know and understand whats going for the rest? Who ever "they" are will have to take responsibility for their own lives.
Have a conversation with RS about how he deals with being in the spot light and being judged by JoePublic. You both are not responsible for what the world thinks or does or how they react to you. Thats to much responsibility. You are the most important one in YOUR life. You must live for your good and do what ever it takes to have a good life. Thats what we all are responsible for in this world. I admire your drive and push and strength to keep living Laura. I doubt I'd have the guts you do if I were in your shoes. Give yourself a hug and a pat on the back for at least "trying" to figure out whats next and not giving rock girl!!
love to you


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