Thursday, April 22, 2010

Weighty Issues

I finally got around to this post...

I was about 14 years old when I was put on the medication Depakote for various reasons. At that time, I was a stick. I weighed about 125 pounds and was about 5'4. The time that I got put on the Depakote was not a good one: I was going through a very hard time, had just been hospitalized and basically felt like my world was falling apart. The reasons I went on the Depakote (and various other medicines) are over with. It's part of a time in my life I do not want to revisit.

Anyway, I didn't know what they were giving me, but I took it anyway. I got out of the hospital about a week later, picked up my prescription, and read the side effects. "May cause weight gain" was a prominent one. I scoffed at that. I was always a tiny little thing and I could not imagine a medicine changing that. I was completely wrong. Six months later, I had gained 55 pounds, and I was not done.

The weight did some crazy things to my body. I tested positive for Type 2 diabetes twice, but luckily the sugar always came down. I did get the diagnosis of insulin resistance however and I was really scared because I did not want diabetes, but I also did not know how to lose weight on the medication.

In addition to diabetes, my heart and blood pressure started to have a hard time with the weight. I wound up in the emergency room more than a few times because my blood pressure would get so high that I would become dizzy or I would be having heart palpitations. The doctors found "changes" on my EKG, and they even once had to do a full workup for a heart attack. I was probably about 16 years old.

I'm not quite sure what the highest weight I reached was. Somewhere between 200-210 pounds would be my best guess. My skin was covered in stretch marks and my self-esteem had plummeted. I had considered myself a good looking girl but I could no longer stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore. My body had changed so quickly and I was miserable. I could no longer walk very far or wear my clothes.

In my second year of college I decided enough was enough. This weight needed to come off and the only way I knew how to begin this was by stopping the Depakote. So I did - cold turkey (which is definitely not advisable, but I did anyway). Things went well until the migraine hit. I was in migraine hell and ended up spending about five days in the hospital with a steroid drip to break it (one of the first clues to my lupus). The theory is that, as Depakote can be a migraine preventative, it was keeping the migraines at bay without me knowing it.

Even with these migraines, I wanted to continue to be off the Depakote. I felt...lighter. I had been on doses on Depakote before that were far too high when they measured my levels and I just felt so much better being off of it.

The weight did not come off over night, and I am still about 20 pounds heavier than when I started. Most of the weight was concentrated on my stomach, and that's where I still carry most of my weight now. From my heaviest to this day, I have lost somewhere between 55-65 pounds. It has taken me about 2 years to do this by changing my eating habits and by getting as much exercise I can tolerate. I am finally within a normal BMI, but I still want to lose about 10 more pounds.

My weight is one of the reasons I have struggled with going on prednisone. I have worked so hard to lose this weight that the thought of gaining it back is so scary for me. I know that there are a lot of people out there with lupus, or any other autoimmune disease, who are struggling with their weight. These drugs are not kind to the body - but one day THERE WILL BE A CURE and you can come off it. No matter what you look like on the outside, nothing can change who you are on the inside. I have learned the hard way that you need to accept your body.

There is a quote on the wall of my dorm that says "If you talk to your friends the way you talk to your body, you wouldn't have any friends" (I think that's right...). It is so true. I am still learning this even though I have lost a good portion of my weight. I do not, and may never, look the way I used to. I still have stretch marks covering almost every part of my body. I can still look at myself and hate what I see. But it's time to accept it. That's all there is to do.

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