Six years ago, I lost 75 pounds.
This is often a subject of curiosity to people. How did I do it? How do I keep off the weight? I tell people the partial truth: "diet and exercise." But I leave out one important piece: "and a lot of medication."
I don't take medication for weight loss, I take medication for a severe mental illness that has left me unable to work. One of the side-effects to this medication cocktail left me with a fast metabolism and a brain that rarely registers hunger.
I don't recommend this particular form of weight-loss. I have weathered quite a few storms due to these pills' side-effects, beyond just the Why I Need Them. One pill, long ago, caused me to gain a pound a month, no matter how much I exercised or how little I ate. The weight gain caused me to fall into a deep depression - so we changed pills. Those 60 pounds fell off like a winter coat in April.
Another pill left me consuming the contents of the kitchen cabinets every night, and then I'd fall asleep, fully dressed. I would eat entire bags of potato chips, popcorn, and tortilla chips. And I don't even like tortilla chips. For two Halloweens, we couldn't buy candy as I would devour the entire bag of mini-treats in less than an hour. I never gained any weight from these binges, but I hated myself every night for two years.
That medication never seemed to work, so I went off that one, and onto another, which I still take. This medication will, randomly, without discernible provocation, cause me to be queasy for up to three hours. If I try to go to sleep while my stomach is upset, the bed feels like a ship lost in a fierce storm.
Other medications dropped my blood pressure so low that my arms and legs were useless, and I fell out of bed every morning. Two that I take now block about 30% of my vocabulary from use. To counter this, I drink a lot of espresso, which seems to work. Either that or I'm on such a caffeine high, I forget I wanted any words at all. I've been on a pill for a decade that can cause heart arrhythmia, and every year I have to schedule an EKG.
Due to taking these medications, I cannot get an MRI with contrast, or I can die in the machine. I cannot take steroids or I get "roid rage" from a minute dose, like, say, from a week of FloNase. Two classes of antibiotics are banned for me as they could cause cardiac arrest when matched up with just one of my pills.
I am a doctor's wet dream, or their worst nightmare. My last family doctor said, "You are the reason I went to medical school." And then she moved to Atlanta. I still don't know if that was a compliment or a complaint.
I can't drink alcohol, or I could have a seizure. I can't take birth control, for a hundred and one reasons. In fact, the entire reproductive female gamut from being a parent to sterilization is not allowed. I tried smoking marijuana once, and that is up there with Worst Experiences Of My Life - so I decided all drugs were out. I have to eat 300 calories of food with my nighttime medication or one of my very important pills is only 20% effective.
I can't, I can't, I can't ... but I keep going on anyway.
I have an alarm clock in my house that goes off at 10:00pm to remind me to take my seven nighttime pills. These are so sedating, that I am stumbling around the house by 11:30 in a way I assume being drunk works, while I lock up and turn out the lights. The same two pills that make me queasy, must be taken with food, and knock me out for 8-10 hours. If I don't eat immediately before taking them, not only do I have symptoms the next day, but I sleep 14-16 hours straight.
As I don't drink alcohol, don't do drugs, and walk everywhere, I sound like a health nut. Add in how I don't eat red meat or refined sugars, and prefer vegetarian food over pretty much everything except bacon - some people could think I'm faking it. Probably because I am. I smoke cigarettes and drink copious amounts of espresso and Coke Zero. The nicotine and caffeine in those boost my dopamine levels and give my medication little pick-me-ups.
I'm not alone in my cigarette habit. A lot of people with my mental illness smoke. And they almost never, ever quit. My espresso habit is a baristan affectation. And one of my medications makes all water taste like I'm sucking on an iron pipe.
I am still thin, and still eat healthfully. I walk four to ten miles a day, every day, even in Ohio's cold winters and humid summers. I use the time to practice walking meditation to center myself. It's something I read about when I was a working as a therapist, and I've been doing it every day since.
But my size is due, in part, to all the pills I take every day. Over 20. With all their little do's and don'ts like the back page of some bizarre fashion magazine. Without them, though, I wouldn't be me. I would have never been a radio DJ, a barista, a social worker. I would have never graduated Kenyon. I wouldn't be married. I wouldn't have written anything at all, ever. I wouldn't be eating healthfully and walking four to ten miles a day, every day, for anything.
I need those pills to live my life as normally as I possibly can. Because that's what I want to do. Live life within my means, work toward happiness, and be surrounded by people I love. Just like everybody else.