Friday, November 30, 2007

How I got so big

I wrote this last night in a thread on ObesityHelp. I think it pretty well sums up how I got here.

I am overweight because I suffered from undiagnosed depression since my late teens. I was only diagnosed a couple of years ago.

Depression went undiagnosed so long because I wasn't so crippled by it that I couldn't go school or work. Amazingly, I earned 3 degrees and several academic honors. It just screwed up a lot of the rest of my life. I was never suicidal or horribly sad during this time, except when I lost my dad last year. I was just ... listless when I didn't absolutely have to do something, like get my job done at work or study for law school exams. My condo (I was single until I was 40) was messy and I couldn't care less about how I looked. I was a loner a lot of the time.

And, of course, I self-medicated with food. Food, I think, was my drug of choice because I was raised as an evangelical Christian, and gluttony is probably the one vice or addiction that's not completely unacceptable to a lot of Christians. I mean, alcohol, sex or drugs weren't real possibilities! (Much of this time, I needed a security clearance for work, so I also stayed on the straight and narrow for that reason.) I had a serious addiction to premium ice cream up until my mid-30's, when my gallbladder went haywire. And I loved real sodas, especially regular Pepsi. I also ate a lot of fast food because I was too "busy" being depressed to cook.

Although I was an athletic (and slim!) youngster -- I was a competitive swimmer -- I was too depressed to exercise regularly after college. Of course, exercise would have helped the depression, but I was sort of stuck in idle and watched the tube a lot instead.

Every now and again, I'd start to feel like life was passing me by and go on a starvation diet and lose a significant amount of weight You can imagine how this affected my metabolic function.

When I was 39, I met a really nice guy who wasn't a fat fetishist but also didn't mind that I was hefty. I married him in a size 24 bridal gown. Of course, living with someone made it hard to binge, so I went and got myself some help in the GWU Obesity Management Program. I really cleaned up my eating habits, except for the soda pop. I also became a proficient cook and lost 55 lbs. in a year. Mr. Husband is Mr. Gourmet and it looked like a fun hobby, so I wasn't entirely strict that year. Thus, during the year at GW, I did happen to learn controlling your weight didn't necessarily mean asceticism.

Unfortunately, after the year was up, I started into private practice and the grueling hours meant lots of convenience food for me. I gained the weight back, all but 10 lbs. For the next 5 years I yoyo'd over a 30 lb range and my health started to be affected by the weight. Finally in late 2005, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Then, in the spring of 2006, my dad fell and hit his head and had a bleed on the brain. Two brain surgeries and four months later, he died of a massive hospital infection. He never quite came back after surgery #2 and was so weakened by being bedridden that he succumbed to infection.

I've never known pain like that in my life, but it made me realize that I had mental health issues, and had probably suffered from them for many years. Losing Daddy forced me to confront those issues once and for all. As part of talk therapy, my shrink and I brainstormed what I could do about my weight, since my metabolism was so obviously screwed up. The first thing was to start exercising, which I did. The second thing was to look at weight loss surgery. It came as a bolt from the blue, and I had never seriously considered it before. (Makes me wonder if Daddy was up there pulling strings in Heaven.) My shrink encouraged me towards the lap band because it was the safest, most conservative form of surgery one could have.

Depression and extra weight can be a pretty wicked vortex. One leads to the other, which leads to more of the other, and on and on. Like therapy and medications, weight loss surgery can contribute to breaking the cycle. And that's what I intend to do.


Anonymous said...

I promise - last comment today :) I just came across a story about a woman who decided to go with the lapband after becoming fearful of the more invasive bariatric surgery. Just one more affirmation that your procedure is safest. Here is the url:
Take care and be joyful!!

Anne Hendrix said...

Although I haven't had as many weight issues as you, Daddy's death also got me in gear. I joined a great fitness center this summer (as Curves was no longer really working for me), and thanks to Tim, I have been working with a personal trainer for about 15 weeks. I haven't loss a lot of weight (around 8 lbs.), but I loss 9.5 inches in the first 10 weeks. I feel better, have more energy for my energy demanding job and family, and I look better. Tim says that I look different, and he can see it better than me, after all it is hard to look at your own butt! You look amazing in the latest picture. It really shows in your face and midsection. I am so proud of you!
Love, Anne