My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Clothing then and now (reposted)

As a note before this repost, I have successfully maneuvered getting 10 to 13 pounds off (and stayed off) in the last several months. This has largely been due to introducing daily exercise into my day – walking and/or yoga. This is the first time I have been able to stick to such a routine in 17 years. Oddly, my evening snacking has not made the weight gain disappear but it does tell me that I could get another 7 to 10 pounds off if I could just stop the snacking / stress eating in the evening after dinner. The repost is below:

I have continued to have some sort of fixation with clothes and clothing – not only the color in which they appear but also the “privacy” of the label.  Sometimes this label is not private and is emblazoned on the back pocket of the jeans as in Calvin Klein jeans from the 1970’s or even the Levi’s name tag on that ever so timeless brand of clothing.  I am unsure what this fixation on clothing entails exactly.  I do know that it is tied with some body image issues that get complicated because of my need to take regular meds for my bipolar condition. 

Throughout high school and college I remained a size 6 to 8 when I perhaps should have been a size ten.  After meds were introduced in my life I was almost always a size 8 to 10.  After bearing a child and substantially increasing my meds, I have been more a size 12 to 14.  My goal at this juncture in life is to be back at that size 12.  Perhaps my obsession with clothing is in parallel to my own body image issues, perhaps not. 

In any case, the preoccupation with clothing seems to have something also to so with pattern recognition.  If four people out of ten wear red to the office that day, I notice it.   If black was worn by person A on day one and by persons B, C, D, and E, I notice it. Not that I really ever did anything with the information, it was just a layer of the type of perceptions I would have – extraneous and meaningless maybe or maybe not.  Definitely with a focus on color patterns and patterning.

In my teens, I spent hours shopping for the right clothing.  Today, I abhor shopping for clothes largely because I am two sizes bigger than I would like to be.  The preoccupation with clothes at an early age is probably all wrapped up in image.  I have very little to say in that regard today as Ego is largely drained from my daily events.  I tend today to wear the same make of clothes all the time and often repeat the same outfit once a week.  In fact, I do not care about clothing at all.  It is a chore to buy clothes and it is a chore to pick out clothes for any given day.

While being diagnosed with an eating disorder is something I have considered as relevant to my mental health, I feel that my weight gain issues center more on body image issues and medication use.  For years, I bought into the fashion magazine mindset that you were not beautiful unless you were a size 6 or size 8.  For years throughout high school and college and into my twenties, I ate and exercised in order to maintain a size 6 or a size 8 figure.  Often this meant running three to five miles several times a week and counting caloric intake to be about 1000 calories a day.  When I became pregnant at age 38 I was about a size ten. After giving birth to my daughter, I have stayed at a size twelve if not a size fourteen.  I currently have very little discipline in the food and exercise realm largely in my own view because I feel I am reacting to years of over-exercising and over-dieting. 

So it is that my size in clothes has moved from a size 6 in high school to a size 14 in married life and after child-birth.  This continues to be a goal of mine to return again to size 12 through a combination of exercise and food monitoring.  However, it is something admittedly that until quite recently has fallen off the radar screen.  Some of this frustration and back-pedaling about eating and exercise may include the fact that meds are often associated with weight gain.  In my mind, I tell myself it is better to have an extra twenty pounds on while taking medicine than it is to be a at a model’s weight with little or no mental stability.  This is particularly true when I start to be honest with myself that fasting from breakfast time through lunchtime is associated with mood issues since blood sugar levels are not being addressed.

What is beauty anyway? Gray hair and all?

Please do not read this post if you feel it will trigger any issues or concerns you may have with eating disorders or body image or body weight. This is a blogpost dedicated to thinking about body image. It brings up questions about eating disorders. This is not a professional opinion but one person’s exploration into body image.

I am wondering if anybody would like to comment on the relationship between body image issues and eating disorders. Over the years, as I have gained a good bit of weight largely due to specific meds and comfort/stress eating, particularly after the birth of my daughter. I am now overweight but have lost about ten pounds since the fall.

I feel at the crux of my comfort/stress eating is a real grappling with media coverage for people (mostly women but maybe not more recently men?) with model figures including actresses/actors in Hollywood. I grew up in my twenties in the 1980s when eating disorders were just becoming much of “a thing.” I feel that I suffer from unrealistic expectations of what beauty is for women especially beauty for women post-menopause with graying hair and changing hormones.

Over the last six months of COVID, I have begun growing out my hair and leaving it to return to gray rather than dyeing and highlighting it. I feel good about embracing my natural beauty and not fretting about my roots showing up every 6 to 8 weeks or so. It is liberating!

Also as a note, it does seem now in my daughter’s generation, that body image issues are being addressed more fairly than in my day. The idea of body shaming and the need to refrain from that is front and center in my daughter’s vocabulary. This is echoed by an openness about gender identity which did not occur in my youth or within my generation growing up.

Although I have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, I do think I have body image issues. I need to be satisfied with a weight and an image of myself that befits a 57 year-old woman who takes life-sustaining meds associated with weight gain. I need to be OK with the fact that my meds cause weight gain. I need to be OK with the understanding that a model’s weight and a model’s figure is representative of .5 percent (I am guessing) of the population. It is an unrealistic goal to attain. Beauty is found from within rather than on the outside or in tandem to images that have been enhanced to make make-up models have flawless skin and no wrinkles. And so on and so on.

Another component to this puzzle is the role of exercise. I used to “work out” on a much more rigorous schedule than I do now. I find it difficult to motivate myself on a daily basis because for years I took working out as a measure of my success, trying to keep up with that model’s figure. Now I seek to exercise more for health than for vanity but it is still something that alludes me on a regular basis or over an extended period of time.

How do you feel about body image issues? Do you see that as synonymous with eating disorders? Or occurring sometimes simultaneously and sometimes not? What is the role of the media and the role of health leaders and every day people in providing healthy body image thoughts and pictures in the mind?

What about weight gain? Anybody experiencing that?

Asking about memory issues is popular on my blog, so I thought I would start a similar discussion on weight gain.

Back in 1985 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was prescribed a combination of lithium and tegretol. There was a five to ten pound weight gain associated with those meds. With a diligence for exercise I managed the weight implications associated with lithium without a problem. As long as I stayed on lithium off and on until about 2004 my weight seemed largely manageable.

Fast forward to 2004 after the birth of my daughter. I never got off my baby weight. Also due to the postpartum depression, I suffered additional weight gain in that I ceased to be motivated to run 4 to 5 times a week. In fact, I am doing well now to get a short walk in.

In 2008, I was prescribed clozapine / clozaril which largely became therapuetic for me but also was associated with a good bit of weight gain. To this day I am 20 to 30 pounds heavier than I want to be. I also want to be walking regularly. In addition to the meds’ impact on weight, I began to eat as a nervous eater and a stress eater. This did not help with the weight issues.

I am hopeful if I can jumpstart myself back into an exercise regime, I can begin to address the weight-gain and the stress eating. Because my daughter is pescatarian we largely eat healthily as a family but portions are too large and snacking is too much.

If you had a wish list for your mental health, what would it look like?

Here goes nothing….

  1. I wish for psyche meds to be 100% therapeutic 100% of the time.
  2. I wish for no side effects to meds like drowsiness or weight gain or Type II Diabetes.
  3. I wish to recover all those times when I was emotionally inaccessible to those closest to me due to my bipolar illness condition – this is mostly having to do with family and definitely has to do with my daughter.
  4. I wish for my bipolar condition not to be genetically an issue for my daughter.
  5. I wish to undo any harm / make amends for any harm I have brought to people because of or during my bipolar condition.
  6. I wish for the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction in society to magically disappear.
  7. I wish for the United States to have a healthcare plan that covers everybody at a reasonable cost including pre-existing conditions and including mental health and addiction benefits.
  8. I wish for the covid-19 virus to become a thing of the past as quickly as possible since it has so many emotional components that impact my mental health and the mental health of others.
  9. I wish for a covid-19 vaccine in the next 4 to 6 weeks or better yet now.
  10. I wish for a support team for anyone experiencing any sort of mental health or addiction diagnosis / symptoms and that that support team is always there for you.
  11. I wish for everyone with mental illness or addiction issues to never feel alone or never feel separate from the rest of the world.
  12. I wish the world to embrace and include all people no matter what their diagnosis, skin color, religion, etc.
  13. I wish I could return to the weight I was when I married or close to it…..

What would your wish list look like?