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Fear of being underweight again


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I'm fighting off tears at work and just took my first lorazepam ever, so I kind of need to talk, if that's okay. I'm really scared right now because I'm losing weight. For me, that's a bad thing. I spent most of my life being SEVERLY underweight. Like, regular visits to see specialists, group therapy at a children's hospital in case it was mental, guilt over eating salad levels of underweight.

Looks like it was caused by genetics and a really bad case of acid reflux. It was nothing serious, but it still created so many issues that I was really worried I was going to die.

Then I was put on olanzapine and put on 50 pounds in a couple of months. Finally, people stopped looking at me like I was sick. But then, they changed my diagnosis and took me off of the olanzapine.

Now my clothes and engagement ring don't fit. My appetite is shrinking back to the way it was. It's just started, but I know what's coming. I'm going back to my old size. And I'm terrified.

It's all I can think about. The weight loss isn't even noticeable yet! But I'm so scared. I have to keep reminding myself to breathe. I have so many more important things to be scared about, but all I can focus on is my beautiful engagement ring slipping down my finger until it almost falls off.

I need to breathe. I wish I could text someone irl but they're all asleep. I'm working a night shift. I just want to go home and cry.

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I just want to make sure I understand what you mean ... I think I can relate, but not sure, so I'll give an example:

Over the years ... I was anorexic for a very long time.  Put weight on, came off, multiple hip surgeries over 3 years added more weight, and then (in 2010) I had such a huge cyst inside of my ovary it required major surgery to get it out.  (I had a lot of weight on me at the time).  After the surgery, I went for a follow-up about 2 weeks later, I was weighed again, and I'd lost 10 pounds. I hadn't even tried, it melted off somehow ... but it didn't worry me ... (Before I'd been weighed, I was glad to have lost the 10 pounds!)  Ok, so the nurse goes, "WOAH ..."  (literally in all caps) ... you just lost 10 pounds! (as if it was too much to lose) ... I said I know.  I meant to.  But I was not starving myself or anything, so I didn't see a problem with it, until the nurse reacted how she did.

And for years after, I was so afraid to lose weight (even though I was far from my ideal body weight).  I don't even know why ... maybe because when the nurse said that, it triggered something subconsciously which to this day I don't know what. So I was afraid to lose weight, despite my current weight still being high.

Finally, maybe a year ago (?) my mindset changed and I didn't care about losing too much weight.  Not that I would, but if I lost 20 pounds or something, it wouldn't bother me if a nurse said "WOAH" to me again.  So right now I am not afraid of it anymore, but when I did it sucked having those thoughts all the time.

Is this the kind of thing you are experiencing?

 

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Firstly, of course it's okay to talk -- that's what this place is here for. :) I'm glad that you reached out about it. 

From reading your story I think it's more than understandable that you are scared about this. Particularly as it created issues which made you fear for your life. The effects of being severely underweight sometimes get minimised, but they really can be disabling & sometimes even fatal in the worst cases. It must have put a lot of stress on you experiencing those issues, feeling guilty over eating even small amounts (if I understood correctly?), and having to go through all those medical visits.

My case was not as severe as yours but I have also been somewhat underweight for most of my life, dropping to severely underweight when I haven't been eating well. One of these times I started experiencing effects such as dizziness, heart rate slowing, trouble standing up, and trouble waking up (I would become aware of being asleep but not be able to fully drag myself into wakefulness)-- I started to force myself to eat and eventually made it through that time without medical intervention, but even that was terrifying, so I can relate at least in part to the fear of being dangerously underweight & its effects.

It must be really rough struggling to maintain the weight due to a med change. Do you feel able to bring up the issue with your doctor? It sounds like you could definitely use some help to allow you to maintain weight so that it does not drop back to dangerously low, either by helping you to improve your appetite or finding ways to consume larger amounts of calories even when you are not hungry (for example, supplement drinks, & small amounts of calorie-dense foods rather than larger volumes of foods lower in calories.) Would you feel okay with working to maintain or gain weight, or is there a component of being afraid to do this also?

I wonder also if seeing a dietitian may be a possibility for you? They might be able to give you a meal plan to maintain/gain weight, and help you find ways to eat enough for your body when your appetite is low, or ways to help improve your appetite.

I hope it helps talking about it with us here, and that you can reach out for as much help as you need to get this under control without becoming underweight again. It sounds like you've become very aware of it early on, which means that there are lots of steps you can take to look after your body and seek help with nutrition and weight before it gets really bad again.

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Thank you both for sharing your experiences. Hearing that people understand helps.

For me, it wasn't anorexia. It was pretty much the opposite. All I ever wanted was to gain weight. I'm just naturally underweight, but to an extreme degree. I had a doctor until I was 18 who was obsessed with making me gain weight. She tried everything. One idea was to drink meal replacements between meals. Another was to let me eat anything fatty that I wanted, whenever I wanted: including ice cream for breakfast (which I did for years, because, when you tell a 10 year old that they can eat whatever they want, they're obviously going to). But nothing worked. I just wasn't gaining weight. It didn't help that my acid reflux made me vomit almost every day. And eating once I was already full made me throw up, too. So I couldn't push myself.

All I was told for years was "gain weight". Eat more, keep eating, you need to gain weight. Literally, the only words I know in my family's language translate to "eat little one!" It warped my body image. I saw my body as something that caused worry for my loved ones. Every time I saw a doctor, the first question they would ask would be "have you lost a lot of weight, recently?" in a worried tone. I would have to say no, I just look like this. They never believed me. If I felt sick at school, every teacher's questions would be about whether I'd been eating.

My therapist recommended I see a nutritionist, too. It feels pointless, though, after so many years of doing everything right and still gaining nothing. But if I do start to drop as much weight as it seems like I will, I'll try to see one.

Okay, one last complaint. I talked to my mom about it, and she said "you're just returning to your natural weight!" as if she didn't spend the first 20+ years of my life telling me that my "natural weight" was wrong and I had to change it. Now that I'm a bit over average, thanks to the meds, she wants me to lose weight again. She wants me to be like. IDK 120 pounds? Probably on the dot. Right now I'm 150. That's too much, to her. If I do lose all the weight, she'll probably be back to wanting me to gain it, til I hit that mark. I love my family, I do, but they really don't understand how things effect me. She herself said that my underweight years were "really scary" and that I don't know how worried they were, but in the same breath, tells me that it was more natural for me. I don't... *Sigh*

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Have you ever gotten your thyroid checked? 

6 hours ago, huntforbravery said:

Okay, one last complaint. I talked to my mom about it, and she said "you're just returning to your natural weight!" as if she didn't spend the first 20+ years of my life telling me that my "natural weight" was wrong and I had to change it. Now that I'm a bit over average, thanks to the meds, she wants me to lose weight again. She wants me to be like. IDK 120 pounds? Probably on the dot. Right now I'm 150. That's too much, to her. If I do lose all the weight, she'll probably be back to wanting me to gain it, til I hit that mark. I love my family, I do, but they really don't understand how things effect me. She herself said that my underweight years were "really scary" and that I don't know how worried they were, but in the same breath, tells me that it was more natural for me. I don't... *Sigh*

I am so sorry for this, and not having support from your mother!   A big *SIGH* is exactly right ... I'd feel similar.  Like how in the world can she not remember all those years with the struggle to gain weight ... and now that you've gained weight, she wants you to lose the weight again.  What a crappy situation to be in.  Have told your tdoc about this?

Personally a nutritionist wouldn't work for me because I am so set in my own ways that s/he could say whatever they wanted to, and I would nod my head 'yes,' then leave.  That is just me though.  I know I need to cut the amount of sugar I eat now, down to lower than I do now.  I don't need someone to tell me that ... that type of thing. 

No need to worry about complaining ... it happens all over CB ... you aren't alone.

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8 hours ago, huntforbravery said:

Thank you both for sharing your experiences. Hearing that people understand helps.

For me, it wasn't anorexia. It was pretty much the opposite. All I ever wanted was to gain weight. I'm just naturally underweight, but to an extreme degree. I had a doctor until I was 18 who was obsessed with making me gain weight. She tried everything. One idea was to drink meal replacements between meals. Another was to let me eat anything fatty that I wanted, whenever I wanted: including ice cream for breakfast (which I did for years, because, when you tell a 10 year old that they can eat whatever they want, they're obviously going to). But nothing worked. I just wasn't gaining weight. It didn't help that my acid reflux made me vomit almost every day. And eating once I was already full made me throw up, too. So I couldn't push myself.

All I was told for years was "gain weight". Eat more, keep eating, you need to gain weight. Literally, the only words I know in my family's language translate to "eat little one!" It warped my body image. I saw my body as something that caused worry for my loved ones. Every time I saw a doctor, the first question they would ask would be "have you lost a lot of weight, recently?" in a worried tone. I would have to say no, I just look like this. They never believed me. If I felt sick at school, every teacher's questions would be about whether I'd been eating.

My therapist recommended I see a nutritionist, too. It feels pointless, though, after so many years of doing everything right and still gaining nothing. But if I do start to drop as much weight as it seems like I will, I'll try to see one.

Okay, one last complaint. I talked to my mom about it, and she said "you're just returning to your natural weight!" as if she didn't spend the first 20+ years of my life telling me that my "natural weight" was wrong and I had to change it. Now that I'm a bit over average, thanks to the meds, she wants me to lose weight again. She wants me to be like. IDK 120 pounds? Probably on the dot. Right now I'm 150. That's too much, to her. If I do lose all the weight, she'll probably be back to wanting me to gain it, til I hit that mark. I love my family, I do, but they really don't understand how things effect me. She herself said that my underweight years were "really scary" and that I don't know how worried they were, but in the same breath, tells me that it was more natural for me. I don't... *Sigh*

That is super confusing & frustrating from your mom. It does sound, like you said, like she doesn't really understand how these things affect you. Do you think she would be possibly receptive if you asked to talk to her about it, or wrote her a note explaining why it would be difficult and not healthy for you to be at that weight, and that such expectations place extra stress on you, and are generally unhelpful?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you felt and were a lot healthier at your higher weight.

It sounds so stressful to have had so many people focused on and worried about your weight for years. I can understand being scared of going back to that.

It makes sense that you struggled to gain weight when you were throwing up almost every day due to acid reflux. Is your acid reflux any better now, or do you still have the same problems?

I hear you on seeing a nutritionist feeling pointless, if you have already received lots of nutritional advice in the past and it's not made a difference. If it does get to the point where you decide to see one, I hope that they can perhaps offer some new suggestions.

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I weighed myself today. I'm down over 10 pounds.

13 hours ago, melissaw72 said:

Have you ever gotten your thyroid checked? 

I am so sorry for this, and not having support from your mother!   A big *SIGH* is exactly right ... I'd feel similar.  Like how in the world can she not remember all those years with the struggle to gain weight ... and now that you've gained weight, she wants you to lose the weight again.  What a crappy situation to be in.  Have told your tdoc about this?

I'm not sure about my thyroid. I had a ton of tests done when I was younger, but I'm not certain that was one.

I talked to my therapist about this yesterday. It was a pretty emotional session. She told me that if someone brings it up, to tell them that I'm not comfortable talking about it. That way, I at least don't have to deal with what they think about my weight. Let's see if I'm actually able to do that.

11 hours ago, amianthus said:

That is super confusing & frustrating from your mom. It does sound, like you said, like she doesn't really understand how these things affect you. Do you think she would be possibly receptive if you asked to talk to her about it, or wrote her a note explaining why it would be difficult and not healthy for you to be at that weight, and that such expectations place extra stress on you, and are generally unhelpful?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you felt and were a lot healthier at your higher weight.

It sounds so stressful to have had so many people focused on and worried about your weight for years. I can understand being scared of going back to that.

It makes sense that you struggled to gain weight when you were throwing up almost every day due to acid reflux. Is your acid reflux any better now, or do you still have the same problems?

I should talk to her, but I'm scared. I don't handle confrontation well, even if it's through a letter. It really sets off my anxiety. Especially with my family :(

I definitely feel healthier at a higher weight. My acid reflux is better now, but it still happens sometimes. Now it's a couple of times a month, not every couple of days. Although, I've been gagging a lot lately, especially in the mornings. It's probably either anxiety or a side effect of the Effexor. Not sure yet.

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I don't have an eating disorder, either. I was skinny growing up, underweight as a teenager, didn't break 100 pounds until I was in my early 20's, and nothing but weird med side effects has ever put any "overweight" on me. I hated being overweight. It was very confusing to me; my mental image of myself is irreconcilable with being unable to see and feel muscles and bones.

But then my meds changed, and I had a wild manic episode this summer, and now I'm underweight again. It's hard for me to tell what really constitutes underweight, but you're right, I only have one pair of jeans I can't put on without needing to unzip and unbutton, and my wedding ring doesn't fit, and it looks like I'm sucking in my cheeks a bit when I'm not.

I think it's important that you see your GP now, and get a full blood panel done. Check liver function, check for vitamin deficiencies, anemia. get a bone density scan if you can. It is possible to be very skinny and still be healthy. If you have any baseline difficulties, treat them now, and then you'll know what healthy looks like and you can stay that way.

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