Do anti-depressants make you fat?

Editor's Note

Originally posted 26 February, 2015 in Apa's Tinyletter. Reposted with permission from the author.

Dear you,

Hi, I just wanted to tell you that I haven’t felt like myself recently. I haven’t been eating. I haven’t been running. I’ve been sleeping but not feeling rested. Long car rides leave me nauseous and exhausted. E-mail notifications make my stomach tense.

It took a good friend telling me, “Take the pills again,” to get me to consider that, maybe, I needed to be more proactive about this.

Clinical depression has been a big part of my life for the past two years. After a massive breakdown in the summer of 2013, I started seeing a psychiatrist. I learned that I was genetically predisposed to depression—that the way my brain reacted to prolonged stress was to aggravate my tension, make me increasingly irritable and emotional, and turn up my feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.

I started medicating that June. It’s something I was very open about, just because it wasn’t something people were talking about. I needed to say that there were fully functional people in the world who needed to take pills to remain functional, and that that was okay. It wasn’t, and isn’t, a burgis problem, etc., etc.

I even wrote a column in the school paper about it, which was met with some sympathy and some dismissive comments about psychological conditions. Whatevs. Ultimately, things got better. I medicated for about a year, and some off days aside, I was doing pretty well.

I found a blog entry, two days shy of a year ago, where I talked about my fear of having to medicate forever. My psychiatrist wasn’t telling me about my future in explicit terms, but she said that once you stop medicating, there’s a 50% chance it’ll return in the next three months, then another 50% chance it’ll return in the three months after that. Where does that leave someone who doesn’t intend on needing maintenance medication for the rest of his life?

A few months after that, I got into an amazing relationship (it’s  a m a a a a z i n g g g g) and I started at a promising new job. Very gradually, the pills felt like less and less of a necessity. I was happy. The pills were costing money. So, I stopped.

And I was happy. I was happy when I quit my job. I was happily getting my own little projects. I was happily writing on the side. I was functional. What happened, then, just as I was ready to pass the six-month mark?

It’s hard to explain. Every time I try to put it into words, it feels so small. Like it shouldn’t even be a problem, like I’m making a big deal out of nothing. As a writer, I should know how to let people into my head, and it’s frustrating when I can’t make people feel the enormity of a problem. What follows is the best I could put together.

Have you ever felt so inadequate and unsatisfied that it affected you on a physical level? Have you found yourself blaming yourself for everything—and not being able to get it out of your head for days and days? Has something ever gotten at you so forcefully that food and sleep don’t do anything for you? That’s how I feel.

Admittedly, on an intellectual level, it’s nothing. If I went to myself for advice, the first thing I’d say would be, “Yeh, don’t worry about it too much. Just do your job. If you let it get to your head, you won’t be able to function.” But no matter how much you put yourself to be a logical person, sometimes you can’t help feeling what you feel.

So for now, I’ve made peace with the pills. Last night, I had my first dose in roughly six months and I actually woke up feeling a little better. Hey, things work.

Final question: Do anti-depressants make you fat? No, not really. But happy people have appetites, so maybe the two are related somehow.

So how about you? Are you medicating for anything serious? Are there any side effects the bother you? How do you feel about medication? Do you wish we were all just born okay? Write me back and let’s talk about it.

Cheers,
Apa

About Apa Agbayani

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