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Which Came First

Rebecca Lombardo

We often hear people speak of the “chicken or the egg” theory.  Which came first?  The same can be asked of which comes first in people that are both overweight and depressed.  Which came first?  I know that I was overweight as a child.  Was I depressed as I child?  I don’t necessarily think so, but I am both depressed and overweight as an adult. 

I have spent most of my life battling my weight issues.  Scratch that.  I have spent my entire life battling my weight issues.  Did I ever think that seeking treatment for my depression would contribute to that?  Not in a million years.  I don’t completely blame the medications, but I know that the worst of the weight gain started after I began certain medications, and if you research side effects, weight gain is one of the first on the list. 

Yet, I look back on all of these years dealing with this horrific disease, and I see where I went down the wrong path, and self-medicated with food.  I often used food as a comfort for me in dark times. 

The year between my sophomore and junior years in high school was tough for me.  I had decided that I was fat, even though at that time I was just a bit overweight.  That summer my parents allowed me to go away for a few weeks to a nearby college to join a program that offered journalism and other courses for teenagers.  I decided that this was my first time away from the watchful eye of my parents, and I was going to take advantage of it.  I was not going to eat.  At all, ever. 

About 4-5 days in, I was too weak to attend all of the classes and the counselors started to notice.  I finally went to the vending machine and bought a granola bar, and left it on my dresser.  I was pondering whether I was going to eat it.  I fell asleep, and ironically when I woke up, my roommate had eaten it.  My first and only attempt at correcting my behavior, and it was gone. 

After about 8-9 days there, I was going up the stairs on movie night and got to the top of the stairs and my shorts fell to my knees.  I caught them just before I got to where about 30 people could see me.  This should have been embarrassing for me, but I was on Cloud 9.  I had made a lot of friends at that camp, and they realized what was happening and went to a counselor.  She forced me to get into a phone booth and call my mom and tell her I wasn’t eating. 

A couple weeks later, I had been skating by with showing up for lunch and eating part of a salad, and that was it.  The day camp was over, and our parents were coming to get us, mine almost walked right past me because they didn’t recognize me.  I thought this was all great.  I was obviously developing a very bad eating disorder, but I didn’t care.  I finally felt like I was worth something being much thinner. 

Of course, when I got home I abused laxatives consistently because I couldn’t keep up with not eating while my parents were around. 

Eventually, I gained the weight back and spent the next several years going back and forth eating and not eating.  Laxatives and no laxatives.  Trying to throw up, exercising constantly.  What eventually came of all of it? A very screwed up body.  I messed myself up so badly that I could spend a month not eating now and I wouldn’t lose a pound.  I would probably gain weight. 

Now factor in anti-depressants that cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and cook yourself a meal.  There were some mornings I would wake up with food in the bed with me.  The medications had me so out of it that I was basically sleep eating.  The next thing I know, I have gained too much for me to even document, and I am almost 40 years old. 

So, looking back…..I guess in my case, the depression came first.  The low self-esteem and the negative body image caused the depression, which caused the eating disorders, which caused the need for medications.  Now, it’s all become a vicious cycle, because my self-esteem is basically in the garbage from all of this weight gain.  People will say, get off your butt and get in the gym.  Yeah, I’ve done that.  I’ve tried thousand dollar diet programs.  Who knows how much I have spent on diet pills, and yes I have even gone back to old faithful, the laxatives.  None of it sticks for very long because it doesn’t work.  Or the depression creeps back in, worse than ever before and weighs me down so that I can’t even get out of the bed. 

Every year, I swear this will be the year.  I’m going to lose it.  I have to lose it…..one of these days I am going to find out that my health is in jeopardy. 

I know I have to get this done.  Medical professionals can talk to me until their blue in the face about how exercise is so good for depression, and endorphins, and blah blah blah.  That doesn’t even cross your mind when it’s a chore just to take a shower that day. 

I know what I have to do.  I have to stop believing that I will fail.  I am never going to be super skinny, I know that.  It’s just not who I am.  I just want to be healthy, and no longer in pain.  Can I do it?  Of course I can.  Will I?  I sure hope so. 

Wish me luck.  

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