Monthly Archives: November 2014

Side Effect Hell, part 14: FEED ME!

Over the last few weeks, the hunger that hovered in the background of my existence has broken its cage and become a raging demon. I just want, no, need, to eat EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW DAMN IT! I eat a good meal, and I have the oddest feeling – I’m full, and desperately hungry. This is doing my head in.

Since going on olanzapine, I’ve gained somewhere between 15 and 20 kilograms. I don’t know exactly, because I don’t know what I weighed beforehand, but I was a size 12-14 and now I’m a solid 18. I used to weigh more than I do now, and I was comfortable in my skin, but this time around I feel awful. I feel like I’m not me any more, I’m buried in a ball of lard. The numbers on the scale and on the tag of my jeans are becoming an obsession. I need to lose some of this weight, because it’s bad not just for my body but for my mental state as well.

The drug makes it hard. It’s nothing to do with willpower  – when I decide that I’m going to do something, I do it, and I don’t really cheat. The problem is that the weight will not shift. Even a week on less than 1200 calories per day resulted in a loss of just over half a kilo. When trying even extreme restrictions doesn’t show results, it gets all very sad.

My psychiatrist has recommended a low carbohydrate diet, both to lose weight and to help smooth out mood swings caused by blood sugar spikes. Since I started a couple of months ago, my bad days have increased quite a bit. I don’t know if it’s related, and the couple of weeks on a high-carb diet were in a high-stress environment, caring for people, and I thrive on that. (I ate whatever was put in front of me for the couple of weeks I lived in ‘grief camp’ with some friends after someone I knew well committed suicide). So having pretty good days coping-wise during that time could be related to the carbs I ate, or could be because of the environment I lived in during that time.

All this mess in my head of needing to lose some of this weight is butting up against the fact that I’m starving. All the time. No matter what or how much I eat. I’m eating smallish but sensible portions, regularly, with occasional snacks. Just generally sensible eating habits for someone who wants to maintain or lose a little bit of weight. It doesn’t matter. I’m ravenous, even when I couldn’t eat another bite without exploding. I could eat myself sick. It’s awful.

My psychiatrist was wary of giving me any type of appetite suppressant last time we talked about the hunger problem, because apparently they can be very addictive. I think we need to revisit that decision, because my relationship with food is getting very messy. Being hungry all the time means that food is an obsession, and that’s not good for me. It becomes about what is ok to eat, what I’m allowed to eat, whether I’m allowed to eat, and it needs to change before it becomes a real problem.

This is not very interesting, and all about me. I need to vent, though. I will try and be more interesting in the near future

Ah, silly assumptions

A friend of mine mentioned lactose intolerance, and it didn’t take too long for someone to call milk ‘poison’, and another to say that we’re not ‘supposed’ to drink milk. Well, I’m pretty sure milk is not poison, given the number of cultures that consume it around the world and the sheer quantity of people that do that consuming. We’re not all dropping dead, so I would dispute anyone saying it is a poison. Sure, some people have bad reactions to it, but that’s not enough to label it a poison to everyone. If it were, then we would have to label water a poison because there are people out there who are allergic to it. Sunshine, too. Calling it a poison is just nonsense.

The claim that we are not ‘supposed’ to drink milk is an interesting one. There are a few arguments that come under this umbrella. There is the ‘it’s for babies not for adults’ argument, the ‘it’s for baby animals not humans’ argument, and the ‘prevalence of lactose intolerance’ argument. The vegan argument (it’s for baby animals not humans) is one that I’m not keen on having. It’s an ideological argument, and I just don’t buy in to the vegan ideology. It’s just not my thing, and not something I’m interested in enough to argue about.

The ‘it’s for babies not adults’ argument generally says two things. First, that milk is a concentrated form of nutrition that is suitable for fast-growing babies but not for adults, and second, that lactose intolerance inevitably develops after infancy. Milk is a very rich food, and full of good things like calcium and B vitamins, but it’s also pretty calorie-heavy. So drinking litres of it every day may not be the best way to stay trim, but it’s still a good source of nutrients. As for the development of lactose intolerance, I do not know enough about the biochemistry behind it to know about its patterns of development.

The argument that really gets me though, is the one that says that there are so many lactose intolerant people out there, so it’s obvious that humanity did not evolve to drink milk. This is one of my favourite fallacies – that humanity (or any species, for that matter) reached a point of perfect adaptation to their environment and just stopped evolving. It’s rubbish – evolution is always happening, as evidenced by the sheer numbers of people who have evolved lactose tolerance since the domestication of farm animals in the last ten thousand years or so. If we stop changing, if we stagnate, then eventually the human race would die out as its environment changed around it. But we can’t stagnate – biological processes continue to move us onward.

So. Milk drinking. Do it if your body can handle it and you like it. There’s no good reason not to.

Back to school

I’m back for my very last paper for my degree. It’s a high workload paper, especially for a first-year one! A couple of hours at the computer at least, every day except Christmas day, I think.

I feel like I should have something interesting to day about the new Waitangi Tribunal press release, or the dude with the pin-up girls on his shirt, or something. But I don’t. I’m just tired and run down and generally uninventive. this shall improve (I hope). Either that or Christmas is really going to suck.

So, About That ‘Going Back to Blogging’ Business

I wrote a few weeks ago that I was going to go back to blogging, without the imperative to write every day or every second day, as I had been pushing myself to do. I then promptly disappeared off the face of the earth. This was not my intention, but life intervened in a painful way.

A close friend of mine committed suicide on October 24th. It hit me pretty hard. I spoke to him only hours before he died, and he was not doing well, but I didn’t realise how unhealthy his thinking had become. He was going through a breakup, and it wasn’t going easy on him. but I thought he had more resilience than he evidently had. I was so wrong.

I feel like I missed the signal that it was going to all go wrong. He said “I can’t live without her”; I told him that he needed to learn to. talking it over with friends before the event, we figured that it meant that he wasn’t going to let go, wasn’t going to give up on getting her back, and was being a bit melodramatic. He was a bit prone to melodrama, and I dismissed it as just more of the same old Scott way of talking. I was so wrong.

I do not feel responsible for his death, nor do I blame myself in any way, but I will always wonder if anything would have been different if I had recognised what he was saying as a credible suicide risk. I don’t think I could have saved him though. Scott Miller was a stubborn man, and when he got it into his head to do something, he would damn well do it and damn the consequences. Alongside that stubbornness is the fact that there would likely have been no professional support for an intervention. He would have needed sectioning and inpatient work in order to bring him back into a safe state of mind, and he was too with it, too together, to sane-looking to get real help (at least in my opinion, and from my experience).

It would likely have come down to emergency mental health services wanting me to stay with him and keep him safe for an unknown amount of time, through nights and possibly weekends, until a day team could slot him into a psychiatrist visit. From there, it is likely that he would have become my responsibility again between sporadic visits, until he became stable again or until I, and anyone else I had managed to recruit, broke under the pressure. Maybe it could have saved him, but I could not have paid the cost. I’ve done this before. Being responsible for the wellbeing of another person the way mental health emergency teams require of you is exhausting. Breaking my own mental health to save another sounds noble, but the consequences are extreme. And if he’d managed to die while I was caring for him or after I’d stopped? That would have crushed me.

So, even if I had read the warning signs correctly, I don’t think I could have made a difference. Scott Miller did what Scott Miller wanted to do, and nothing I realistically could have done would have changed that. His death still hits me very hard.

After the death, I stayed with his girlfriend and her flatmate and helped look after them and the myriad people that flowed through the house in the week between the death and the funeral. I did whatever I could to make it easier, and I stayed for part of the week after so that they were not suddenly alone. My husband looked after my home and the kids while I was gone, and I am forever grateful for that.

So that’s where I went for those few weeks. The reality of all this is still hitting me, and there are really bad days. Some days I forget he’s gone and go to link him to something and realise that no, he’s never going to see that link. He read this blog and it hurts that he’ll never read it again. He’ll never get in touch after I write something difficult and check that I’m ok. He’ll never disagree with something I wrote and get into an argument over it. He’ll never turn something I said into a dirty joke again. It hurts.

So I’m not going to commit to writing with any regularity, but I’ll try to not go three weeks with nothing. I’m planning on no-one I know shuffling off the mortal coil again any time soon, because I don’t know if I could handle it. I’m only doing one paper over the summer, so I should still have time to write occasionally, and hopefully mostly about things that aren’t my dear friend dying. Can’t guarantee that won’t come up a bit though.