Tell us about something you’ve tried to quit. Did you go cold turkey, or for gradual change? Did it stick?——
Have you ever been at a point in your life where you know your body isn’t healthy and in shape; more often then not you are snacking and eating food not good for you; and you are not even remotely trying to be physically active?
For those of you that dont know I suffer from a depression (mood) illness that has made be chronically fatigued. I don’t have chronic fatigue the syndrome, but I have it due to my mood disorder and many of my symptoms are the same. I also have a sleep disorder probably more of you can relate to, insomnia.
I have been on many psychiatric drugs since I first became ill about eight-years-ago now. Most of the time I can feel if a drug is helping me within the first couple weeks. Most drugs I cannot tolerate or I am allergic to. I was on a large cocktail of drugs especially because of my insomnia. Drugs that made me sleepy would effect the amount of energy I had in the day which isn’t much. So, my Doctor had me come into the hospital voluntarily for three weeks to start on a new drug called Clozapine.
I was scared about this as I tried it once before and felt horrible for a day or two. But my doctor told me that because Clozapine can cause your heart rate to increase, cause dizziness at first, and create problems with blood pressure, I needed to be in hospital to give it a proper try. I went off my sleeping pills Gabepentine which were interfering with my ability to think and concentrate. I split the amount of my antidepressant in half and came off some other pills. I started Clozapine and it wasn’t an easy drug to work my way up to the right dose. I am pretty sensitive with medication so it only took about 37.5 mg. But I felt awful the second day after we would increase the drug each time. And it took months, even when I was out of hospital to get used to Clozapine. It acts as an anti-psychotic medication, an antidepressant, and as sleeping pill.
The problen is I became used to the dose I was on and require another medication to make me fall asleep right now. Despite the fact that 50 mg of Clozapine was too much for me when I first went on the drug; I am going to up the dose at the end of January so I can sleep without another medication aiding me. It will take some time getting used to the new dose. It’s particularly difficult getting up in the mornings. I mostly sleep to 11:00 am or noon some days. But I do find I don’t sleep until 11:00 pm to 12:00 am.
Something that is great about Clozapine is that I’m actually feeling better a bit more every month I take it. It helped with my concentration and ability to read and memorize notes for my last class in Reseidential Interiors. I have more energy in a normal day at home. For the first time in two and a half years I have the energy to exercise for anywhere from ten to thirty minutes depending on the exercise. I have been doing 7 minute circuit-training with an application on my phone. It’s hard to do each exercise with only ten seconds rest inbetween but I’m doing it. Before, I never could have dreamed about doing a high intensity workout. I can do longer yoga workouts now, from twenty to thirty minutes and I don’t feel tired afterward; I feel relaxed. I did 10 minutes of intense cardio on the elliptical today and it was good. Maybe, not much for someone else but for me it’s great.
So, I guess you can say I was granted more energy and the ability to concentrate this year, so I could take better care of my body. I have stopped over-eating and am slowly working the portion sizes of my meals down through weight watchers as I would like to lose some weight.
The bad thing about psychiatric drugs is that you often gain about 10 lbs from starting a new drug. I had hoped it wouldn’t happen this time but it did. I’m trying to loose about 25 lbs to start. Weight watchers is great because they have an application you can manage everything from and plan your eating day. There are even extra points for treats and points for working out.I drank too much pop such as Pepsi before. When you only have thirty some points to work with in a day, rarely, do you waste ten points on a can of Pepsi that is worth ten points of other things you could be eating more of to fill you up. Veggies and fruit are encouraged as you can eat as many as you want.
So, I’m trying to stop not being healthy and to make my body the best it can be both physically and mentally. I’m taking some courses in creative writing online at U of Toronto starting in February. So, I am excited for those too. Things are working out as time goes by and I’m able to stop being a person who can’t help herself take better care of her body.
How would you describe yourself to the people around you? Would you give a physical description, talk about the things you are good at, and describe your internal qualities? What if suddenly, the idea of who you thought yourself was, disappeared and what you were left with was some broken version of yourself, a shadow that you didn’t know and you weren’t sure how you had become the way you were.
That’s how it felt for me when I became very ill at the age of 23 years. It began with some very bad days in the office, days I could barely get through because I just didn’t have the energy. I would leave the gym at the end of the day dragging my feet and barely able to make it home on the bus. Then I began to cry, little things would bother me and I couldn’t concentrate on work just as I used to be able to do. Then something even stranger happened people began to say extremely rude comments to me almost as an after thought. They would tell me whatever they had to tel tell me ‘ Photocopy this for me…” then something very mean. This was particularly the case with certain people. Then I had trouble sleeping, I would lie awake all night, I began to lose weight, and I didn’t feel much like eating.
What I didn’t understand then, was that this was the beginning of a psychotic episode. To this day my doctors and I don’t know why I had it but I have never quite healed from it. Everything became so bad that I couldn’t work, I had a break down. Then I would sit at home and the thoughts in my head would go round and round and I began to hear more voices not just after comments people made to me but from the Television or Radio, from my dog. When these thoughts became nearly suicidal, I went into hospital at the Royal Alex and it was awful being there and hearing things. But one day my doctor started giving me this anti-psychotic drug called Invega and the voices stopped. What remained after my psychosis had passed was the shell of a person. A person it took me at least 3 years to get back and still even today I realize I will never be the same person I was before my unexplained psychosis.
After the psychosis followed a mini-depression. I could barely read after that and I had so much trouble filling out the application for long-term disability because my writing was very shaky and looked more like a grade 4 student’s writing then someone who had recently gotten their BA in English with a 3.7 average.
I was slow to heal. At first I could only go out for 1/2 hour before returning home exhausted. I still needed to sleep a great deal of the day and I had the sharpest burning pain in my shoulders and neck. I felt entirely lost. The conversation of my friends was too fast for me. I couldn’t go to 3/4 of the events we had planned because I didn’t have the energy. I had gone from 160lbs, a healthy weight for me, to 143 lbs, I weight I hadn’t weighed since I was 15 years old and as skinny as you could get. Soon the effects of the medication set in and my weight sky rocketed to 175 lbs. I was uncomfortable in my new fatter body and I didn’t like it. I did not have the energy to do exercise or barely more than a walk or a Pilates 20 minute DVD.
And to tell you the truth, somethings I have just never recovered from. It is 6 years later and I still have trouble concentrating and paying
attention. I have days where I can get much done and days where I can’t get anything done. My doctor’s and I are pretty sure I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after the Psychosis and I have dealt with that constantly. The other possibility is since we have most likely determined my psychosis occurred because I was so depressed, is that I have chronic fatigue from depression. But most signs point to the syndrome.
In these past years I have seem my friends develop careers, make many new friends, and start families. In many ways I feel left behind, that my path changed course and I don’t know why. And I don’t why what I have won’t heal. For me this is the biggest personal sense of loss I have felt in a long time because it as if somewhere in these past 6 years, I have lost myself, my dreams, my goals, and I’m not sure what the future holds. I just take things days by day because that’s how I can get through it.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up on a diet of fitness. Maybe you did too? Maybe you played soccer, hockey, rode horses, biked, or just walked a lot with your family. For me, fitness began with dad. Being a pudgy child of a former pudgy child, I knew I never wanted to be this way as an adult. Dad was always taking us biking or walking; he ran or walked to work on his own a 2 mile distance there and back. Dad biked and golfed, encouraged us to be fit people too.
More than that fitness was a decision I made in junior high. Tired of being a little over weight, a little slower than all the other kids, I started to push myself in gym class. I played basketball, and even when there was no girls volleyball team in Jr. High I went to every boy’s practice and played with them. Playing volleyball and basketball continued into highschool aided by 45 minute Pilates videos 3 times a week and walking the dog. In university I was crushed that the University I attended did not and would not even try to have a girls volleyball team, despite avid interest from many of the girls I knew. I had started weight lifting in highschool but opted for a leaner look of cardio on the elliptical or treadmill combined with Pilates and other core centered exercises. When university finished I seriously got into weight lifting. Three times a week I worked out on some cardio machine 30-40 minutes and weight lifted one day on my upper body and one day on my lower body alternating. It was a fitness lifestyle I really enjoyed. Not to mention I took the bus walked about 12 blocks every day to and from the bus and walked up every set of staircase I could find while taking the bus. But this was the old me; like with what happened with many things when I had my depressive episode, my fitness changed a lot after I was sick. I did not and do not have the energy to maintain such a fit life style and inside this kills me. But it is something I have come to accept for now – at this point in time I do not have the energy to exercise as much I need to as much I would like.
The most unfortunate effect of this drop in physical activity is the weight gain. While in university I was able to control my weight despite my drinking, now I hardly drink and must carefully watch my calorie intake. I see I dietitian and am most aware of the pounds I have put on due to certain medications that I have to take; weight gain that may increase as I try different medications to see which will work best, to give me more physical energy. Not only do medications cause weight gain with lack of physical energy, but so does lack of energy itself. I cannot go for 2 hour walks or even handle a full work out at the gym even twice a week and this really upsets me. The best I have been able to manage is 10-12 minutes on the elliptical 4-5 days a week, 2 days walk my dog for 30 minutes, and yoga for 20 minutes 2-3 times a week – on a good week. These are all good exercise but not nearly intense enough to decrease my body weight to its former glory. But I should also mention, some people in my extended family tend to be heavier.
My purpose, in telling you this, If I can do this having little physical energy, you who are just stuck on the couch can do something – do anything. At least maintain your body weight. I am very aware of the fact that medications, and increased weight around my middle puts me at risk for heart disease, diabeties, and an increase in cortisol which generally leads to less energy ironically – and you should be aware of this too. Yes, exercise can be really hard – but its really necessary to maintain your body. You may not be like me and crave more intense exercise (despite my inability) but a little thing like sitting up on the couch, going for a walk around the block, doing a 20 minute exercise video, even that can make a difference and decrease your risk for things such as heart disease and even some cancers. Paying attention to you diet and especially portion sizes in your diet is really important. For instance, one cereal bowl full of chips may be a treat, but the whole bag is pushing it, even if you are working out so much that you can burn those calories off. Eat good food – vegetables and fruit, protein, and everything in the right proportions. And even if you cannot be the same weight you were in fourth year university, you will be on your way to a healthier more energetic life. Take care of your body for you and your family.