Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

May Definitely Cause Weight Gain

One of the many side effects you will find listed for some antidepressant medication (or any type of medication prescribed for bipolar disorder) is increased appetite/weight gain. With every new prescription, while unpacking the stapled bag of prescriptions from the pharmacy, I would pull out the information sheet for the new medication and look for those dreaded words. Increased appetite. May cause weight gain.

Let me tell you, in my case, there is no “may”. That “may” is just a gentle heads up, your clothes are about to get a whole lot tighter. Increased appetite is hard to control. And when you have symptoms of depression, you may want to eat and eat to comfort yourself and emotional eating may also occur. But would you rather feel depressed and everything else that comes with bipolar disorder? Would you rather gain weight and be able to “function” better because of medication or would you rather experience the symptoms and never gain weight?

The weight issue has been one of my worst ongoing fights over the past 12 years. My first significant medication issue related to weight gain happened when I had my first anxiety attack and was put on Zoloft. Of course, it didn’t help that I had already put on the freshman 15 from first year university, thanks to fast food and iced capps.

Weight gain is more than just your clothes not fitting well. It affects your mood, self-esteem and confidence. This is my main issue with weight gain. It’s hard to look at pictures from certain periods of my life. It’s hard to feel like you are “bigger” than some of your friends, or noticeably “bigger” than you used to be. I hate thinking that perhaps people who last saw me when I was “thinner” may be thinking “She really let herself go”. I am sure that as usual, I am being too critical of myself.

After my first bout of medication-induced weight gain, I was able to lose weight once I was taken off Zoloft. I was happy with how I looked for a period of time, but once I had been prescribed Celexa the weight gain started again and the struggle has continued ever since. It is very hard to lose weight while taking my cocktail of medications. I dread being weighed at the doctor’s office.

The topic of weight gain brings me to another hated topic: exercise. I hate when someone, be it a doctor, relative or friend tells me I should exercise. “You should exercise. It’s not just good for your body, it’s good for your mind! You’ll sleep better! You’ll feel better!” Okay, thanks, but it’s my body, so let me make my own decisions.

I do want to be healthy and find another outlet but I need to do it on my own terms and do it when I am ready otherwise I won’t stick to it.

I also have this fear of “running out of time”. I have a fear that there is not enough time in a day to finish everything I want to accomplish. By the time the work day is over, the evening just flies by and before I know it, it’s 11:30pm! I worry that adding going to the gym to my after work routine will leave me with less time to do things. I have enough trouble after work focusing on doing work for my blogging/content writing business and making dinner/lunches (when I feel like cooking). I know this fear can change if I learn to reframe my thoughts, if I teach myself to work on a schedule or make to do lists so I can visualize what has to be done, and check it off. I need to find ways to quiet my mind. But of course, it’s so much easier said than done!


Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Acceptance Is A Journey, Not A Destination

There is a saying that goes, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Well, same thing with acceptance. You will find that thanks to stigma, there will be moments of self- doubt and worry even when you feel comfortable with your diagnosis.

The other week, a friend called me and said that he was talking to another friend of ours, and “had to tell me something, but don’t freak out”. I experienced a moment of worry, thinking, “Okay. He just told me not to freak out. It’s bad. This friend found out I have bipolar disorder from the Internet.” The story my friend told me ended up having nothing to do with that, but it’s interesting that was the immediate thought that ran through my head. Not all of my friends/my husband’s friends know about my diagnosis. It’s not that I don’t want them to know, it’s more that I don’t see a point to telling them this information because they may not know what to do with it (I have mentioned this in previous posts), or there is no benefit to either party in sharing this information.

At the time, I didn’t say to my friend that I was relieved when what he had to tell me had nothing to do with me/my mental health. Yesterday, I decided to bring it up. He said, “Why would you care? It’s not a secret. You post about mental illness on your Facebook and Twitter. People probably know something,” and of course, being the comedian he is and trying to lighten the mood, he added, “It’s not like it’s some secret porn film.”

Yes….a secret pornographic film would be embarrassing and definitely something most people would want to stay buried.  But there’s no need to bury my diagnosis or to care who finds out.  We had a conversation about how it seems that people may be more understanding now about mental illness and that everyone we know knows someone with a mental illness.


Along the same vein of “burying” something, I found a great article, “Why My Mental Illnesses Aren’t Dirty Laundry“, where the author discusses why she is not ashamed of her multiple diagnoses and explains what each of her diagnoses has taught her. Here is an excerpt:

For a long time, I believed these illnesses were bad and something to be ashamed of. Because my brain didn’t work like other people’s brains, I thought there was something wrong with me. Like someone forgot one of the screws or read the directions backwards. But I am not a mistake. My brain was designed specifically and perfectly just for me. I don’t suffer from an illness. I have been gifted a fuller, richer, more meaningful life because of the experiences I have had. Each one of these special journeys has provided me with a critical piece to this puzzle called life.

I couldn’t agree more. I know I have touched on this in previous posts, but I am a better person because of my experiences with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders. I have learned so many lessons and have a different perspective on life. Yes, I changed but it was for the best and I grew on an emotional and spiritual level. I am not entirely at peace with myself, but it’s a work in progress and I won’t give up on it.

Being able to be more open has helped me to gain back some of the confidence I lost. However, I can’t say that my automatic thought that I discussed at the beginning of this post doesn’t bother me. Why should I have a “fear” of being “found out”, and fear being embarrassed? What’s the worst thing that could happen? More people know “the truth” and…what? Nothing earth shattering is going to happen and I doubt my life will change. I am not doing anything wrong by having and living with mental illnesses. I will not apologize for leaving my “dirty laundry” out of the basket, on purpose. I will never apologize for being me.

be yourself - original

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Communication Is Key

ommunication is one of the most important aspects of a relationship, and is even more important when the relationship involves a person who lives with a mental illness. How do you describe what you are feeling when you don’t know how or why you feel that way or you just don’t feel like talking?

As I described in my last couple of posts, I have been experiencing episodes of anxiety and feeling low lately. I find it really difficult to express myself to other people and to explain that despite it being summer and a time where one would usually want to socialize, I just want to hibernate. I don’t feel like talking. I feel irritated. I’m tired and emotional. I am restless and indecisive.  I am just not up to seeing people, even close friends, and having to explain to people why I’m acting the way I am.  It’s one of those JUST LET ME BE states.

Do not disturb

In the best of circumstances, I am not a decisive person and I am even less of a decisive person when I am in this mixed state. This means the answer to any question you ask me is, “I don’t know.” This of course is very frustrating for others as they may think I am just being difficult, when I literally don’t know what I want/where I want to go, or whatever it is they expect me to answer. One of the biggest fights that happens is regarding where and what we are going to eat. Because I have food allergies, I am already restricted, and because I don’t feel like cooking I am sick of certain places/takeout options, so if you ask me that question, the first response you are going to get is, “I don’t know, what do you want?” The conversation then becomes a game of what I can and can’t eat and where I will and won’t go to, and then the line I hate is said – “Oh, here we go again,” meaning, “Melanie is being difficult and indecisive,” and I take it personally, and all parties are frustrated!

I am not doing it on purpose! It just is easily misinterpreted as bad behaviour. This is why communication is so important – you don’t want your loved ones misinterpreting your behaviours as “bad behaviours”.

And of course, communication is important because you don’t want your family and friends to think you are rude or being mean when you are in the “leave me alone” mood. I can’t expect everyone to know exactly what it feels like, but I can hope that they understand enough about me to know that the moody, cranky person on the outside is still a nice person on the inside. I can also hope that they know I am not doing this or being this way deliberately. I’m only human.

Own who you are