Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Impossible Choice

What if you had the choice to be either fat and happy, or thin and witchy? Which would you choose?

I'm starting to wonder if these are my options. Yes, I'm sure there are shades of grey in there, but hear me out: my brain seems to have issues with its neurotransmitters. Namely, I don't think my serotonin/dopamine/beta-endorphin connections work properly. I say this from years of struggling with low-level anxiety (with some high-level flare ups), occasional depression, and pretty much daily irritability. I don't think my brain works properly.

It's possible my brain doesn't work properly because of the foods I choose to eat. I admit that. But I think it's more likely that the foods I choose to eat are impacted heavily by what my brain is screaming for, as there are certainly times in my life in which I've been avoiding lots of processed foods and still struggled with these feelings.

In the past I've gone on SSRI's for help - both times after my kids were born and I sank rapidly (hook, line, and sinker) into terrible, terrible post-partum anxiety and depression. Which is again a good reminder to me a lot of this battle is chemical, and nothing emotional reasoning seems to be able to change.

When I go on SSRI's, they do help with the irritability, and they definitely help when the anxiety gets out of control. They also have side effects. If I'm on a higher dose, I seem to be happier in some ways, but much less interested in my husband (sorry, honey). And, I've learned, I feel compelled to eat. Carbs. Chocolate. And lots of it.

The unintentional experiment which made me catch on to this happened in the last two years - I was still struggling with some irritability and asked to go up on the SSRI. Next thing I knew, I was eating all the time. I felt DRIVEN to eat. I gained 15+ pounds. When I realized this, I told the doctor I wanted to go back down. The compulsion lessened. I'm still a compulsive eater, I would still binge, but it was nothing like it had been when I was on the higher SSRI dose (plus, l got interested in my husband again! *waggly eyebrows*). So I stuck with the lower dose, even though my moods and my foods weren't perfect. The higher dose wasn't worth it to me.

Well, a few months ago I decided I wanted to see if I could get off the SSRI. Yes, I know, it seems silly - if it's working to ease the worst of the crappy moods, why change? I don't know. I wanted to see what I would feel like without chemical aid. AND we had decided to give our son 5HTP (a supposedly natural serotonin maker) to see if it helped HIS moods. I thought I'd try it on me, too - first, so that I could know if it did anything really wonky, and second, because the idea of having my body make MORE serotonin, rather than just keeping it from reabsorbing what little was there (a la the SSRI), seemed to make sense. So I've been taking 5HTP for about a month and a half.

I've been a bitch. No doubt about it. Yes, being sick for so long impacted that. But when your basic underlying feeling is witchiness, um, it doesn't feel good. So I decided about a week ago to up my 5HTP intake from 100 mg to 200 mg - I figured it was still half the dose I'd read might be appropriate (it's been hard to find dosage charts, but the one I did find recommends 2mg per pound of body weight, so at 200 mg I'm still well below what this chart recommends).

Have I felt better? Yes, actually, I have. Again, perhaps it's from coming out of the sickness. Perhaps it's even from trying to change my parenting style from Total Bitch to Gentle Counselor. Or maybe I could make that parenting switch *because* the 5HTP is making more feel-good serotonin? I don't know.

What I DO know is for the past week ALL I've wanted to do is EAT. EAT EAT EAT. And I have. I've been struggling with bingeing about every day. On bready sweet carbs. Today I even broke down and bought a chocolate bar - my binge food of choice. Yes, it was just one. But once I ate it, I went on to eat 2 croissants and some Doritos. Hello, Binge Monster. I hate you.

Battling the guilt in my head as I realized I'd just inhaled an entire day's calories in the space of about 10 minutes, I once again wondered what the heck was going on? I've been doing so well on SparkPeople, limiting calories and foods, dropping about 10 pounds. I wasn't even craving chocolate on Halloween and didn't eat any! But this week? Watch out!

And it finally occurred to me that the one change I had made was the 5HTP. I've doubled it. I've been nicer, but voraciously hungry for carbs. And I know some people say, "Well, just don't eat them! Don't keep them in the house! Eat veggies instead!" All great ideas, but it's like saying "Don't think about monkeys!" and trying to keep the image of a monkey out of your head, or turning on the faucet and telling someone not to think about peeing. It's not impossible, but it's darn hard.

I'm not saying it's 100% the 5HTP. Bingeing is a complex issue, compulsive overeating is complex struggle that tends to build on itself. However, it's going to be kind of easy to find out: I'm going to cut the 5HTP back in half and see what happens. *If* this insatiable drive to eat eases up, I'll know.

And then comes the choice: do I stay on a higher dose of 5HTP or Zoloft if it eases the Almighty Bitch, but drives me to eat? Because a side effect of all that eating is, um, more of me. And there's PLENTY of me as there is. Or do I decide to stay on a lower dose and want to bite people's heads off, but at least that's better than biting into chocolate? Is it true, as my husband jokes, that it really IS better to look good than to feel good? Because that's what it feels like it's coming down to right now: Medicate and gain the weight, or go au naturel and tell everyone to go to hell.

I'm sure in some ways it's not as Black and White as that. And perhaps forewarned is forearmed and I'll be able to summon the strength to resist the food now that I know (or have guessed) what's triggering the desire for it. But oh my GOD, I'm tired of this constant battle. It's exhausting. It's depressing. I may win a skirmish here or there, but overall I'm losing the war. And it's an impossible battle. I don't want to be this overweight. I CERTAINLY don't want to gain MORE weight. But I'm also really tired of feeling like such a grouchy, cranky, witchy, not-fun-to-be-around person/wife/parent. *I* don't even like me lately; I can't imagine what my family thinks.

So what would you choose? Fat and Sassy, or Bitchy but Thin(ner)?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Anne. This is Teri in Iowa. I think you should go off the medicine for a longer period of time and see if the moods even out. Maybe you were having sort of a "rebound effect" from dropping them, and if you were off them for longer, you would get less "witchy."