Ah yes, the eternal battle for me and my kind. I should exercise. Everyday. Even if it’s just a walk around the block. It would do wonders for my mental health as well as my physical well-being.
And I could stand to lose some weight. You see, the anti-depressant I take, Cipralex is notorious for weight gain. And gained weight I have. About 25 lbs since starting Cipralex. Oh, and another 25lbs that led to a diagnosis of under-active thyroid (it runs in the family). So that’s 50lbs I’ve put on in the last year and I hate it.
I hate that I had to buy new clothes 4 sizes bigger than I’ve ever worn before (not including when I was pregnant). I hate that I went up 2 cup sizes (yes, 2) in less than 6 months (do you know how expensive bras are???). I hate the way I look. I hate the way I feel. There’s a lot of negativity swimming around my brain about my body and it’s profoundly affecting my fragile mental state.
So, what’s a girl to do? Well, diet obviously. Here’s the catch – when a person goes through an anxiety attack or a bout of depression guess what their body craves? Salt, sugar and fat – pop, chips, chocolate, cookies, cakes, fast food. All of the things that are dieting no-nos.
Trying to cut these foods out of my diet has proved extremely challenging. You see, once I’m experiencing an anxiety attack or bout with depression I start to crave. I’m not talking about the kind of piddling craving you get after seeing an ad on TV – “Gosh, I could really go for a Coffee Crisp right now.” No, this is an all-out, pregnancy-style “If-I-don’t-have-a-Coffee-Crisp-in-the-next-2-minutes-someone-will-pay-the-price-with-their-life” kind of craving. And I cave. Every time. So much for watching what I eat.
My therapist recommended the 5/2 diet – for 2 non-consecutive days a week you only consume 500 calories. I did this for about 2 months. For breakfast I ate fruit. At lunch I had salad with minimal dressing and supper was salad with protein, usually shrimp. And it worked. I’m pretty sure I lost about 10lbs (I don’t own a bathroom scale, I think they’re evil contraptions, so I don’t know for sure). However, my family was paying the price.
I wasn’t making them follow the diet. That would be just silly. No, what was happening was my anxiety was heightened on the days I was only eating 500 calories. I was even more antsy and short-tempered. I would rock in my chair (it wasn’t a rocking chair) and shake my hands in a vain effort to rid my body of the anxiety. I began to experience vertigo with greater frequency. Once I realized what was happening I stopped the diet immediately and gained back the 10lbs. I’m pretty sure he brought some friends to the party too.
So, what to try next? Well exercise of course. I’ll let you in on a little secret – I hate exercise. As a kid gym and recess were my least favourite times of the school day. I don’t enjoy organized sports. I’m uncoordinated and I hate the pressure of having a team full of people counting on me “for the win”.
So last year, at Christmas time, I had the brilliant idea of getting me and the kids a family membership to the local YMCA. It has a lovely weight room, cardio facilities and a pool. One activity I actually enjoy is swimming. I really believed that paying the monthly membership fee would be all the encouragement I needed to go regularly. After all, I’m not in a position to waste money on unused amenities.
In the new year I made an appointment with a personal trainer. She helped me create a work-out plan and for a couple of months I went quite regularly; 2 to 4 times a week. Then it happened. I had an anxiety attack while on the elliptical machine.
I hadn’t been feeling that great mentally that week, but I decided to push through the bad feelings and follow my work-out schedule. I did my cardio warm-up then went and did the weight machines. I was not having fun and just wanted to go home, but it was time for my 20-minute cardio round so I dragged myself to the cardio room. I decided to try the elliptical machine for something different. I usually stuck with the bike or the rowing machine but thought a change of pace might help with my funky mood. Within minutes I was feeling nauseous. A few more minutes and my head was spinning. In less than 5 minutes I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. I didn’t want to be anywhere where there were people.
The need to escape was all-consuming. I had to get out. I shut the machine off, grabbed my water bottle and walked to the change room as quickly as possible (without drawing attention to myself). I didn’t bother changing my clothes, just grabbed my bag and bolted for the door.
I struggled to maintain the work-out routine I had created. People (those crazy souls who enjoy the gym) kept telling me that once I got into a routine I would love going to the gym and wouldn’t want to miss a day. They were wrong. Although I did try to go back a few times I experienced the same panicked feeling every time I walked through the doors. I decided to hold onto the membership for the summer thinking the kids might make of use it (they didn’t) but I never went back to work-out again.
I went in in July and told the lady behind the counter I needed to cancel my membership. When she asked why I chose to be honest, “I have anxiety attacks every time I walk through the door.” I told her. She was very understanding and asked if I knew what triggered it, but since I didn’t there was little she could do to help. She cancelled the membership immediately. I felt a great deal of relief.
So, what have I been doing to get some exercise? Well, I’ve tried a couple of home workouts and, well, I hate them. I’ve tried getting together with a friend for walks in the bush but it hasn’t worked out. Walking in the bush is one of the few forms of exercise I really enjoy.
I have stopped eating after 7pm on most nights, which helps with my food consumption (this wasn’t really a choice, I’ve been suffering with acid reflux and if I eat after 7pm I’m up all night with severe heart burn). But an exercise regime eludes me.
Until I figure something out, this is about as active as I’ve been…