I have been suffering from major depressive disorder since I was 14. It seems to run in the family on my mother's side since several of us have suffered with it for years. I never had issues with anxiety until I joined the Army. Very early on even in my training I started having anxiety attacks and excessive persistent worrying. At one point, while I was stationed in Germany, it got so bad I didn't eat or sleep for three days. At that point I sought help for it. The doctor put me on Paxil and Wellbutrin. I was pretty young and thought to myself, "I'm not that messed up. How can it possibly take two pills every day just for me to lead a normal life?" At that point I stopped taking them cold turkey just before deploying to Iraq. Not a smart idea. I never knew that you were supposed to taper down your dosage or risk withdrawal symptoms which I began to suffer from. I had brought the pills with me, but refused to take them. I had only just married my husband three weeks before I deployed and we started to have financial problems. The constant stress, loneliness and isolation wore on me hard. There are days I look back and don't know how I made it through those times.
When I returned to Germany and left the Army things seemed to improve until a couple of years later I fell into a deep depression I couldn't pull myself out of. I again sought help and was put on Celexa which I stayed on for three years. In 2009, my husband was transferred to Virginia. I had noticed I has slowly put on weight over the years and it was really starting to bother me. Once we got settled, I began working out with a personal trainer every week and changed how I ate. Despite my efforts, I didn't get any smaller and the scale didn't budge. I slowly started to give up. I finally went to my new doctor a year later and asked what could be causing the weight gain. I didn't have any internal issues like thyroid problems, etc. I was working out and eating better. What else was I supposed to do? Could it be my birth control or my anti-depressants? He looked at me for a moment and said, "You need to start doing cardio in the morning and get more protein in your diet." He didn't seem to listen to me or care at all. At that point I gave up and thought, "Maybe this is just how I am going to be now and I need to accept that." So I did.
A few months later my husband and I went to visit my family in Ohio for Christmas. I got to talking with a younger cousin of mine and he told me about how he had been suffering with anxiety and depression. The exact same symptoms that I always dealt with. I had no idea! He told me that he had been put on Celexa at one point and gained something like 40 lbs in a year and couldn't get it off either until he went on a different medication. He has always been a long distance runner, played hockey on a regular basis and been really active in general. That was when it hit me that it wasn't me, it was the medication. I finally had a glimmer of hope for the first time in years!
A couple weeks later I decided to slowly wean myself off the medication (I did not consult my doctor on this and by no means do I recommend others do this without consulting a physician) to see if that would help me lose the weight. A couple of women I worked with took me out to dinner for my birthday around this same time and I talked to them about my plan. I also asked that they kind of keep an eye on me at work and if I started acting differently to let me know. This way they could make me aware of any withdrawal symptoms I may not realize I was having.
One of the women said that she had done WeightWatchers a few years back and had great success with it so I looked into it, attended a free meeting and signed up there on the spot. I joined just two days after my birthday and told myself that this time I was doing this for me so that I could feel and look better. I wasn't doing it for my husband or because society felt I should look a certain way. This one thing was for me. The first week or so I felt a little lingering hunger, but it went away once my body adjusted to how I was eating.
It has been 18 months now and I have lost 40 lbs. I went from 164 lbs to 124 lbs from a size 12 to a size 2. Some people worry that being a size 2 is too small, but that is the size I naturally am and is what is comfortable for me. I never said when I started that I had to be a size 2 again.
Nearly a year ago I left my job working 40 hours in an office to working for a commercial nursery and greenhouse. When I left the office I had lost 25 lbs and had plateaued. That quickly changed when I started working 40+ hours helping to hand plant tens of thousands of potted plants in hot greenhouses in the dead of summer. I hadn't sweat like that since Iraq! I then transitioned to handling all of the receiving for the live plant material we ordered (crates of bulbs, boxes of cuttings, plug trays of tiny plants, etc.). Believe me when I say that when it comes to losing weight you only get so far with good eating. You have to be active in some capacity to help with the weight loss and maintain overall good health.
Going through all of this made me realize that I wanted to do this for a living. I want to reach out and help others who are going through similar struggles. I've been there, I know what it feels like. You feel awful mentally and emotionally, but I felt awful physically, too. I was constantly tired, getting headaches, knee pain, insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue... I never wanted to go out and do anything because I hated how I looked and most of the time I never physically felt like doing anything anyway. My husband's popular refrain nearly every day was, "I'm sorry you don't feel good."
I was afraid to take the first step career-wise until fate gave me a drastic push two and a half months ago when I got fired from my job at the greenhouse. I had been pulled into harvesting and for some reason my body couldn't handle it and I nearly passed out from heat stroke twice. Even despite getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, eating healthy and being in the best shape I have been in in years. Even though I wasn't hired for harvesting and the job I was hired for I did and I did very well they still decided to let me go. I was pretty devastated. I had never been fired from a job in my life. But it freed me up to pursue working for companies I wanted to work for in an industry I want to build a career in. I have now been hired on with the Vitamin Shoppe to train up to be the Assistant Manager of a new store they will be opening in the fall. I also reconnected with a friend and started running on a regular basis and will be starting training next week for my first half-marathon in October.
If I could offer the women out there advice it would be:
1.) The only true failure is when you stop trying. Not when you have a bad day on the scale, not when you fall off your healthy eating plan one day or don't go to the gym. I still do stuff like that, we all do. It makes you human, never a failure.
2.) Be your own best advocate and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I have since changed doctors because I didn't feel like the doctor I had cared one iota about me or my health.
3.) Find what works for you. Everyone's body is different and everyone has different preferences, lifestyles, etc. My closest friend swears by eating Paleo and doing Crossfit to be healthy and there is nothing wrong with that. There are thousands out there who do it. Is it right for me? No. I love my bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and cereal way too much to give all of it up. I was able to lose weight and get healthy while still having those things in my diet. There's nothing wrong with her approach nor is there anything wrong with mine. You have to do what works for you nutrition and fitness-wise. This is your journey not theirs and you need to follow your own path.