By Jessie Close
62 seems so much older than 61. I wonder why? Perhaps it’s because I’ve been in my 60’s now for 3 years? It still sounds strange, to say my age, and I’m not getting used to it. I do have three grown children, a daughter-in-law as well as a son-in-law, and I’m a grandma too; that at least should let me know where I stand in this life! But sometimes I can’t remember how old I am and have to think about it for a second. Does that happen to everyone who makes it across the threshold of 60? I hate these sayings: 60 is the new 50 or 70 is the new 60. How ridiculous! I didn’t feel this way when I was 52. I am beginning to have the aches and pains that come with age. My feet hurt, my back hurts, my neck hurts. Of course they do! I’m 62 for goodness sakes!
But there’s something I’m not telling you. Something that relates directly to having a mental illness. It’s the weight I’ve gained from taking medication that is causing these aches and pains. It’s the hunger that comes with some medications and the lack of direction on how to avoid that weight gain.
Now I’m on the warpath about weight gain and how unnecessary it is for those of us who take medication and who are experiencing these bad side-effects.
There is a young man, Jason DeShaw, who lives with bipolar disorder. He is passionate about fighting the stigma of mental illness and, as a musician, has traveled throughout his home state of Montana (the state with the highest rate of suicide) with a compelling show. He is skinny and it’s because he runs four miles a day. How did he know? Perhaps his doctor warned him about weight gain? I don’t know; next time I see him I’ll ask. The point is, our doctors need to step up to the plate. If, when we first went on medication, we didn’t begin a rigorous exercise program, we are now struggling with the effects of gaining weight.
Over the last eleven years, from when I was first diagnosed until now, I have slowly gained so much weight that I’m now having to use drastic measures, akin to torture, to lose the weight I gained. My risk for diabetes is huge; I am only one point away from it. I am on an 800 calorie per day diet to try to stay ahead of diabetes. My feet hurt, my joints hurt.
But more than anything, I feel ugly. It’s been a joy to lose 20 pounds so far and begin to see my face the way I know it! I will stick with not eating much until this weight is gone. I don’t need to hide behind my weight anymore. Perhaps this is the best part of turned 62; I feel secure enough in myself now to begin this radical change for myself.
I just wish I had known that if I didn’t take care of myself I would be grossly overweight. I wish my doctor had not only warned me but gave me a way to eat and exercise to keep this from happening. My friends who take psychiatric medication have also decided to try to get off their weight. Wouldn’t this be easier if we began warding off weight gain in the beginning?
I think so!