NOTE: Someone recently wrote that she  was moved by my openness and honesty and my ability to acknowledge that being human is not always showing the most flattering sides of ourselves. I was hesitant to post this but it’s a perfect example of this statement. Enjoy!

 

“I’ve hit a new low,” the email started. “For breakfast this morning I had Jiffy blueberry muffin batter and a Pepsi.”

I ran my fingers slowly across my laptop’s keyboard, giving serious consideration to whether or not I should send the message. Did I really want to admit to this type of behavior? Was email the appropriate way to “out” my issues? Was I really ready to deal with the consequences of doing this?

I took a deep breath and sent it. I sent this confession and plea to all the women in my family with a note asking them to tell me how they thought my weight had negatively affected my life. I asked them to tell me how they would support me in my journey to a healthier lifestyle.

And then I sat back in my chair, relieved to have finally, albeit electronically, made my cry for help.

The responses from my sisters and sisters-in-law came almost immediately, like they had been waiting for this opportunity. Their responses were motivational. They offered recipes and workout suggestions. They explained about sugar addiction and the importance of routine and discipline. My older sister told me I wear too many elastic-waisted pants.

But it was the email from my mom that stuck with me the most. She wrote:

“Prinna, when I look at you now, I have many mixed emotions. I see a strong determined talented woman. Made stronger by awful tragedies in your life over the past few years. You are a survivor. You are my hero. I am so unbelievably proud of you. But there is one thing that makes me sad – your weight. Your weight gain represents Sophia’s death to me– a physical sign that your life has been so horrific that you are out of control. You are Prinna on the inside. But you are not Prinna on the outside.  If you could lose weight, I could find peace in knowing that you are starting to heal–that perhaps you are not in constant pain. That although you will never forget Sophia, you can move ahead with the rest of your family. Your “need for input” email is a positive sign…it means you care and want to change. I think losing weight will have huge impact on your self-esteem and will spread into other areas of your life. I will do whatever I can, but I don’t know what that is. I think it has to come from inside you. Sorry, but you asked…. :)

********

Four Months Later

I sit patiently in the waiting room, even though the doctor is more than an hour late. I flip through an old People magazine.

“Prince Harry Excited to be an Uncle.” “Kyra Sedgwick Gushes About Her Husband, Kevin Bacon.” “Johnny Depp Lands a New Role.”

Finally, the doctor emerges from his office and calls my name. I set the People magazine down, take one last slug of my coffee and walk down the long hallway towards the doctor. He stretches out one arm to invite me in.

As I sit down, I suddenly feel uncomfortable wearing my winter coat.

“It’s ok,” I reassure myself, “this will only take a few minutes.”

The doctor sits across the desk from me and immediately starts typing on his computer. “So,” he says, “How are things going?”

My instinct is to say “fine” but then I will myself to answer the question truthfully. He is, after all, a psychiatrist. He’ll probably know I’m lying anyway.

“Noooot too well,” I say slowly.

He looks up from his computer; peers at me over his reading glasses.

“Oh?”

“Well, I am feeling kind of…low energy.” I say.

“Tell me more,” he says.

“Well, all of these wonderful things are happening all around me and I can’t seem to get out of bed to enjoy them.”

“And,” I hesitate. “I can’t seem to stop gaining weight.”

“How much weight have you gained since you were in the ward?” he asks, turning to type some more on his computer.

“60 pounds,” I reply.

There. I said it. For the first time in three years, I’ve acknowledged just how much weight I’ve gained. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, covering my body with my coat to avoid possible scrutiny.

“Well,” he says, looking back at his computer. “That’s Abilify weight.”

I narrow my eyes.

“Abilify weight,” he repeats matter-of-factly.

The phrase is foreign to me.

“And what, exactly, is that?” I ask.

He goes on to say that a side effect of my Abilify medication (anti-depressant) can be significant weight gain.

“5-10 pounds is no big deal,” he says. “But 60…well, that’s metabolic syndrome. You should have come in sooner…there’s actually something better on the market; something without that side effect.” He reaches for a prescription pad and starts scribbling.

And I feel the tears well up in my eyes. I’m not sure if they are for relief or anger.

Maybe a little of each.