February 24, 2012

Scary Things in a Pill.


Last fall I wrote about my experiences in going off of Effexor XR after being on the medication for over 10-years. I never spoke much to the other, but more concerning drug, that I have been taking since March of last year. Adderall.

When I entered eating disorder treatment in 2009 it was suspected that I had ADD, which was being covered up by an active eating disorder. There was always a hesitation to put me on any medication for it since most of the effective medications are stimulants and habit-forming, causing loss of appetite and weight loss, something not good for someone with an eating disorder. However, last spring my psychiatrist decided it would be ok to try me on Adderall as long as we were careful about the risk of side effects.

I began taking a low dosage of 10mg, which is what I stayed on for my duration on this medication, and immediately felt the positive effects from it. Ability to focus and lots of energy. Nevermind the occasional manic feelings, odd sensations in my chest or after too many days in a row on it, difficulty breathing.

     My eating disorder immediately latched onto the feeling of “speed,” especially loss of appetite. That being said, I never experienced weight loss, but perhaps stayed at a lower weight for longer than I should have.

In May, I began to get worried about the respiratory and perceived heart related side effects and made an attempt to get off of the drug. After several days of fatigue and some minor weight gain I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped back on the Adderall bandwagon more out of worry for my weight than anything else. I didn’t reveal this to anyone until now. Sad but true.

Initially I found I could deal with the side effects by taking one or two days off a week, however by the Fall that gave way to seven days a week on the drug. Some nights I would vow to not take it again the next day after experiencing worrying sensations, but in the morning the bottle beckoned again and I heeded to its call.  An eating disorder in a pill.

In my return from yoga therapy training, and the many changes I have been implementing in my life, I decided it was time once and for all to be done with this pill. I’m not one to like taking prescription medication—and alongside the other worries I have about stress on my body I knew that taking a stimulant wasn’t helping anything. The fact that this $200 a month medication was no longer covered by my new insurance wasn’t helping either! I hadn’t been on the drug for too long of a time and now was as good a time as any to go off of it.  I jumped in.

     Two weeks ago I gave my bottle of pills to a friend. I didn’t want them in the house because I knew if they were there in that moment of weakness I would take them.

So it began. After maybe one day of being tired I haven’t noticed any of the fatigue-like side effects. In fact I have had more energy than normal! Wonderful.

What isn’t so wonderful? That other side effect. Weight gain. Since discontinuing the medication I have seen a pretty rapid increase in body weight, at times a pound a day. I’ve had my thyroid and blood work checked and it all actually looks as good as it ever has in my 17  years of having an eating disorder.

However, adding this gain to the couple of pounds that came on after the stress of returning home in January, I am about ready to jump out of my skin…and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. I’m convinced at this point it hast mostly to do with the medication’s effect, and current lack thereof on my metabolism. In seeking an answer or remedy to this I go online and only get more frightened. Massive weight gains of 20-50 pounds seem to be abundant despite reported healthy diet and exercise behavior.

      I’m scared. I can’t look in the mirror, I can’t stand the feeling of clothing on my body.

Most would say I could afford to gain a bit of weight and while that in itself doesn’t scare me the way this is happening does. It feels like a total loss of control. This also comes at a time where I have made a conscious choice to get back to better eating habits and stepping back a bit from working out so much. It would be so easy to fall back into that right now, but I’m not going to. I’m not. So I try to breathe. I try to sit with it. I try to practice what I preach.

Acceptance of what is. And this is what is. I can make a choice to embrace or continue to run.

I’m working on that embrace.


Editor: Brianna Bemel

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