The other day I was talking to a friend about my medication induced weight gain. Yes, I have gained weight. And yes, I am talking about it. Weight is a topic frequently kept “hush hush”. Mostly only spoken of in regards to weight loss, as dieting and the quest to be skinny are common topics of conversation, especially among women. But the issue of gaining weight or being overweight is seldom discussed, except when it comes to extremes like the stories on My 600lb Life.
I am not ashamed to say that I have gained some weight. Maybe a little embarrassed, I have to admit. Gaining weight or being overweight is often associated with a lack of self-control and self-discipline, a stigma I don’t want to be associated with or find to be part of my truth. However, I think it is very important to discuss the issue of medication induced weight gain as most medications come with side effects. Especially the ones that work.
Side effects are just another card dealt to us dealing with mental illness, or any illness requiring medication for that fact. In the past, I have tolerated medication pretty well. But also, in the past, I have taken medications that had little to no effect on my symptoms. Hence the term treatment resistant depression. Two medications have had the greatest impact on my symptoms, and with both side effects were included. A medication I used to take made me extremely tired, restless, and stiff. Yet my suicidal thoughts had mostly went away. After a few months on the drug, I realized that I rather manage the thoughts than manage the side effects, which took weeks to wear off.
With the new medication I am on, I’ve experienced an increase in mood and a decrease in obsessions and compulsions. I’ve been feeling great! Writing again, laughing and smiling just to laugh and smile, feeling like the self without depression. I’ve been feeling like me. But feeling like me comes with a price, a sacrifice. Weight gain. For some others, feeling like themselves may come with other sacrifices like insomnia, sexual disfunction, loss of appetite, nausea, drowsiness, and the list goes on and on. One of the hardest parts of mental illness and seeking treatment is deciding which sacrifices are worth it, which aren’t, and often times choosing between the lesser of two evils.
In the end, I started talking to my friend about how life is all about sacrifice. In life, you can’t have it all. There are gains and losses, ups and downs. Sacrifice. An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. That’s what life is, and in this holiday season, I’ve discovered that’s what being thankful is too. Sacrifice. Realizing all the sacrifices in your life- the ones you have made, the ones made for you, the ones you will never have to make.
So here are 7 (my second favorite number) things that I am grateful for:
1. God, Jesus, and My Faith
As a Christian, I believe that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. For His life, the forgiveness of all my sins and imperfections was exchanged. And now I have a duty to present myself as a living sacrifice unto God. (Romans 12:1) For me, this means embodying my favorite scripture, John 11:4. Despite the challenges of my mental illness, I will endure and not die. This part of my life will strengthen my testimony and glorify God. Just the act of having faith is a sacrifice as you give up doubt and despair in acceptance of God’s love. In some places and times, there was and is the added sacrifice of persecution. So, I am very grateful for the right to practice my faith.
2. Family and Friends
For this one, I almost have no words. I can never repay these people for their love and support, especially during this trying year. From visiting me in the hospital, just hanging, writing me encouraging cards and emails, calling, bringing food, praying, texting, sharing their own stories of struggles. So many things. So many sacrifices made to give me love. So, shout-out to my people: Tara, Cody, Thalia, Zia, Mikayla, Laura, Eileen, Alana, Chelsea, Feliciano, Ms. Cecille, Ms. Mary, Ms. Lucy, Ms. Cynthia, Bianca, Aunt Lorita, Auntie, Gram, Dad, Bryce, Mom, and anyone that my mind but not my heart has forgotten to mention.
3. Food, Water, Clothing
One often taken for granted. Something I’ve never wanted for. But for some, all they want for. For some, these are their sacrifices. Not buying groceries to keep the lights on. The people in Flint, Michigan. A parent wearing a worn-out pair of shoes to save money for their child’s field trip. And that’s here in the U.S, not even to mention third world countries. Be grateful. I sure am.
A gift that can never be lost or given away. A gift given to me by my parents. Despite not being rich, they afforded to give my brother and I a private education. I am grateful for the schools that I went to and how they have shaped who I am today. Just the experience of going to schools with much richer classmates made evident how much of a sacrifice my parents were making. Very humbling. I also am thankful that I have received an easily accessible education despite my race and gender. And that I experienced some caring teachers that sometimes made sacrifices such as buying supplies and necessities for students.
5. My Treatment Team
Past and present. These individuals have sacrificed much to preserve my life and my spirit during difficult times. Financial responsibility for their education and training. Their time. Their feelings, opinions, and judgements to be unbiased listeners and evaluators. Without these people, I don’t think I would still be here. I am so grateful for the sacrifices they make to do their jobs, and do them well.
My parents made many sacrifices in order to move to the house that is the only place I have ever called home. It has never been easy for them as they were products of low-income projects apartments and the urban lifestyle. But because of their sacrifices, I have a place to call home. I do not take that for granted. Some have not a home or even a shelter. It truly is the little things in life that matter most.
I am also grateful for being home for the holidays with my family. For half of this year, I was in the hospital, yearning for home. Some days I just wanted to give up treatments so I could sleep in my own bed. Or be in my own room that was filled with books, music, and pens! Pens are such a luxury to those who have been in a psychiatric unit. Especially for me, as I have a bit of an obsession with office supplies. I hope you don’t take for granted being home for the holidays.
7. My Life/ Being Me
Today, I shouldn’t be alive. I should have died at age 18. But thank God for giving me the strength to live another 3 years despite battling mental illness. I will keep fighting as hard as I can to not let my life be sacrificed to mental illness. Because we all deserve to live. We all deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be ourselves. Including me. And it’s pretty cool being me. The way my brain works with all of its quirks. The things that make me laugh, smile, and, on rare occasions, flap with excitement. The great support system of family and friends that I’ve been blessed with. My love for books and writing. All the things I have to be grateful for. Life is good.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you remember during this holiday season all the things, big and small, that you have to be grateful for. And with all the good holiday food, I hope you don’t gain too much weight. But if you do, that’s okay too. It’s always a perfect time to practice self-compassion.