So, this is a hard topic for me to discuss (much less share with the entire Interwebs – what possessed me?!), and normally I keep these things to myself, so bear with me here…
I suffer from depression. I have since I was a kid, although it wasn’t diagnosed or treated until I was in my early twenties. Even though at various points throughout my life it seems to have gone away, it often rears its ugly head at the most unexpected times.
Like today. I went to the doctor (a new doctor) for a routine physical and blood work. I’d asked them to check my thyroid antibodies, because three of my five siblings have them and are on medication for it. Five minutes into my conversation with this new doc, I’m in tears describing my history of giant weight fluctuation and yo-yo dieting, and my struggle to lose and maintain weight loss. Thus, wanting to have my thyroid checked out. Having been honest when filling out my medical history sheet, I had circled my past depression. So, after witnessing my apparent emotional distress, he asked if I’d ever been treated for depression. Yes, I told him, years ago I was on Lexipro, but because of all the other issues going on at the time, I couldn’t remember if it helped with my weight issues or not. Long story short: he prescribed an antidepressant.
So when I got home, I started looking through photos on my Facebook account (isn’t it nice how it serves as archival research?) to see if I could try to remember whether my weight gains/losses have coincided with any of these major depression swings I’ve had throughout the years.
Now, let me preface this next part… I’m not a photogenic person. Never have been. If you don’t believe me, I can get my mom to show you some very embarrassing Christmas photos that involve a perm and horrible sweatpants. But for the sake of documentation and self-reflection (or over-analysis), I’m going to share some images of myself over the years. While I’ve always, ALWAYS, been on the plump side of “normal,” you will see that there is a big difference between normal-Me and heavy-Me, but never once has there been a skinny-Me. I’m also including my weights. Like, the real ones. Sigh… this is going to hurt.
Chronic Depression Timeline
First up, Senior year of high school (2001). I’m seated with a white shirt on. Approx 170-180 lbs. I was moderately athletic, having played softball most of my life, but always struggled with my weight.
This one is around 2002 or 2003. I was in college, and I’d lost some weight for my first wedding. Approx 160 lbs. This is the smallest I can ever remember being as an adult.
Now, we’re coming on the first major gain (2005-7)… I had been married for about 2-3 years and was very unhappy with many aspects of my life. Approx. 230-240 lbs. Obviously, there aren’t many pictures from that time frame. –
The summer I decided to get divorced (2007), I went into a spiraling depression. I rarely ate and I slept about 18 hours of the day. I’m a teacher, and it was summer, and I had very few friends who weren’t associated with my ex. I spent the entire summer in pajamas and ate primarily cereal, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and Gatorade. I probably consumed less than 700 calories a day. By the end of that summer, I was approx 170-180 lbs. That’s a 40-50 pound loss in one summer. NOT healthy. But I can’t say I hated the results…
This one is around summer 2008, I’d made friends who were single and was able to maintain my weightloss from the 2007 summer-from-Hell. Can you believe I felt like I was grossly obese in this picture? Still approx 170-180 lbs.
This is my 26th birthday (January, 2009). Relatively had maintained my weight for two years. Still hanging around 180 lbs.
Aaaaand…. this one hurts. A lot. By this point (summer 2010), I had moved in with my boyfriend, a fantastic, supportive man who loves me no matter what, and who later became my husband. So what happened? I had just moved from Florida to Texas – basically friendless again (Morgan, in the photo, is one of the first friends I met when I moved to Texas). Also, I was between jobs, having left the charter school I was teaching at because it was literally the worst teaching job EVER (but that’s another post). So: stress from previous work environment, then lack of work altogether, job hunting, etc…. and here I am back up to about 240 lbs… in just a few months, I gained over 50 lbs through binge “comfort” eating and being mostly sedentary.
And it hasn’t gotten much better. This is my 29th birthday (January, 2012). Still hovering at 240 lbs. Life in general evened out. I found a job (which I’m still at, and still love), and hubs and I got married. I was making friends and living again. Life was/is pretty good.
And, most recently, with my husband in March, 2013 – still 240 lbs. give or take a few.
My Depression is Not Like Your Depression
I suppose it’s says something that I’ve hovered around the same weight for the past 2-3 years… No crushing depression swings that have caused me to stop eating and sleep more hours than I’m awake… But the depression that is still there makes it hard for me to lose weight. I’m often fatigued and lethargic, finding it hard to get motivated to put the work into losing weight. When I do get motivated, I do really well for a few months, then something will come up (an illness, or some other factor that impedes my routine) and after that, I find it hard to get back into it.
Many people who know me well are shocked when they find out I’m suffering from depression and have been for years. Outwardly, I have it pretty much “together.” I’m optimistic and outgoing. I joke around a lot and am fun to be around. I come across as pretty self-confident, even at my heavier weight. Not typically what people think of when they hear “depression.” But what most people aren’t aware of are my triggers. Certain topics arise (weight, primarily) that will almost bring me to my knees with feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Sometimes these triggers come from my subconscious, and sometimes from conversations – very much like the one I had with my doctor this morning. I think I’ve adapted by being able to project my “up” side even when, in my mind, the “down” side is winning.
Tomorrow, I’ll start on my prescribed Wellbutrin. I’m also going to commit to some eating changes, and I’m going to put a motivational poster on the refrigerator. And I’m going to get back to the gym. The meds can take up to three weeks to level out my mood, so I’m not going to do anything drastic until I know how I’ll react and what side effects I’ll have.
In the past, I’ve gone to counseling, which I recommend that anyone suffering from depression try. What I’ve found, however, is that because I’m a very insightful and analytical person in general, counseling doesn’t do for me what it does for others. I find that meditation and writing/journaling are a better fit for me, so I’m also going to work on doing more of that.
Another symptom that I’ve noticed, now that I’m really digging into the root of the problem here, is that I’ve been spending an awful lot of time reading over the past year. I’ve always loved to read, and there’s never been a time when I didn’t read, but I think it’s almost become an escape for me. Now, hindsight is always 20/20 and all that, so I do (now) think I’m using it as a way to avoid the problems, even though I’ve always been able to justify it because it’s not, like, crack or anything. We could possibly call it my “drug” of choice. I’m not saying that I’m going to give it up, but I am going to try to spend more time doing other things.
What I’m getting at here, folks, is that sometimes prescription drugs alone just aren’t enough of a treatment. At least, they aren’t for me. They take care of the chemical imbalance while you’re on them, but they don’t cure the underlying causes. Not everybody has an extensively on-going depression like mine has been. I don’t know if I could’ve done anything to “cure” it in the past, or if I can even “cure” it now… nor do I know if I’ll always struggle with it. Based on my history, and my parents’ history, I’m guessing that I probably will. But there’s always hope, right?
Ok, enough rambling… This post, while scathingly personal, is something of a starting point that I can look back at later to self-reflect. While putting it out there for the public is, for me, the equivalent of posting nekkid pics, I want anyone who’s made it this far in the post that I’m not looking for your sympathy, pity, etc. Encouragement would be nice and I’d love to hear your struggles, but commentary on what I should/should not do/eat/try or whatever is unwanted. Thank you all, dear Lovelies, for your support.
Here’s the Manifesto I’m putting up on my fridge for encouragement.