A Year With Medication

Woman on elliptical trainer

Some time this month is a year since I started taking an anti-depressant. I didn’t want to do it. I’d resisted doing it for a very long time, always believing that it wasn’t what I needed and wary of the potential side effects. 

I decided a little more than a year ago, however, that the bout of depression that I was in was quite bad and only seemed to be getting worse and I needed to try something different. I first told my doctor about my depression in the fall. She mentioned medication from that first conversation, but agreed with my desire to try other types of therapy before starting me on medication. She understood my concerns. I’d had close friends start on anti-depressants only to respond quite badly to them (depression and anxiety becoming quite a bit worse) and put on a lot of weight.

The first issue of course scared me more, but the second was hard for me to possibly face as well. I’d worked really hard to get fit in the couple of years prior to that and thought a significant weight gain  would make me feel physically unwell (my knees hurt a lot less when I ran after losing the weight) and would knock the snot out of my self-esteem, which give my mental state would have been bad unless the medication worked wonders.

The first medication didn’t work. In the beginning it made me feel anxious and gave me a headache, plus I wasn’t getting any relief from the depression. The side effects from the second medication were much easier and my body adapted to the increases in dosage better. A few weeks after starting the second drug, my depression began to improve (note: I continued therapy, meditation, and exercise throughout all of this).

I didn’t experience dry mouth with either of them (a common side effect of many anti-depressants)  and neither seemed to make the depression worse. I know that I’m very fortunate for that and that it only took two tries to find the right drug for me.

I have, however, put a bit more than half the weight back on.  I could say, “oh that’s from the medication” and that I can’t do anything about it, but that’s not true. The medication may play a role. My weight did start to climb in the months following starting the second medication, but that’s not the only factor. I also started getting lax about tracking what I was eating. 

I’d lost the weight because I’d started tracking what I ate to make sure I wasn’t having loads of carbs early in the day because that just lead to me being even hungrier. Not tracking makes it harder for me to keep tabs on that, and it makes it easier for me to kid myself about how unhealthy I’m eating. 

It’s been about 17 months since I’ve had any alcohol because I stopped drinking when I realized I was depressed again (I was never a heavy drinker, but even one glass of wine is a bad idea if you’re depressed).  I still work out almost every day. I hit my fluid goal most days. 

None of that matters if my eating is off the rails. The reality is that I’m 48 years old and my metabolism is likely slowing down. I’m on an anti-depressant. I’m not tracking what or how much I’m eating. Frankly, the fact that I’ve only put on 10 pounds in the past year is amazing, but not consoling. I feel sluggish and not nearly as physically healthy as I did prior to the depression. 

What I’m not doing, and I get the importance of this, is beating myself up for it (well, not too much) because that would be horrible for my mental health.  The medication is a long-term thing, as is my slowing metabolism. I want the exercise to be a long-term thing, I want the shooting hoops with my daughter to be a long-term thing. I want feeling healthy in every way to be a long-term thing so I need to get back to doing what worked for me. 

Am I going to trip along the way? You bet. Am I going to kick myself a few times? Probably. Am I going to be stronger and healthier than I am now? Yes, I think I will be.

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