The World's Worst Doctor Is Giving Me Thin Pills and I Don't Know How To Stop

If I wanted to go to a professional regarding the amount of jiggle I'm packin', I would have chosen a trainer or nutritionist, not a psychiatrist.
Publish date:
December 13, 2012
body image, medication, psychiatry, thinness

Like any New Yorker with parents who cared enough to spend money, rather than time, on their child's problems, I've been in therapy for a really, really long time.

For the past few years, after my father died following a long battle with cancer and I stopped juggling a full-time job and grad school, I finally found my chronic anxiety at a manageable level for one of the first times in as long as I could remember. Finding myself suffering from some less-than-pleasant side effects from my anti-depressant regimen and with my anxiety well-managed by talk therapy alone, my therapist and I decided that it was as good a time as any for me to see what life without pills was like.

Things went well at first, but after a little over a year off my medication, the stress of a move, wedding planning and an in increase in freelance hustling to pay the bills threw my brain into unprecedented levels of turmoil and I found myself pulling over to the side of the road to hyperventilate every time someone passed too close to my car or "Flagpole Sitta" came on the radio.

So I asked for a referral from my new therapist and made an appointment with a new psychiatrist to see if we could work on quieting the thoughts telling me that my work would never end and the associated need for release that kept telling me to stock up on Prada raincoats and try to jump on stage at Chris Brown concerts.

When I arrived at my new doctor's office, I instantly felt something was amiss. Upon entering, I was greeted by the jarring sound of a cowbell clanging against the entryway door. Gone were the comfortable couches, stacks of magazines and white noise machines I had come to expect from waiting rooms.

She had instead opted for a park bench, dim fluorescent lighting, and a collection of signs bearing expressions like, "The key to a closed door is an open mind," and, "The best ships are friendships."

However, I was I was there to get better, not to choose an interior decorator, so I could let her design quirks slide. When we began the consultation, I explained to her that managing my near-crippling anxiety was my only concern, and that I was willing to take any approach necessary, whether it come through medication or therapy alone.

As she thumbed through my chart, she asked me about the medications I had taken previously and what I had liked or disliked about each of them. In the long list of pills I've tried to get my crazy sorted, I casually mentioned one that had caused me to gain weight.

"I'd prefer not to try that one again," I added.

As soon as I said this, her eyes lit up.

"Has anyone ever diagnosed you as super-rapid cycling bipolar?" she asked me, seeming suddenly energized. In the nearly 15 years I've been in therapy, nobody has ever diagnosed me as bipolar before. In fact, nobody has ever so much as suggested it.

"To me, your behavior isn't textbook bipolar, but there's a great medicine, Topamax, which will regulate some of your anxiety and best of all, will help get some of that weight off."

I sat there shocked, trying hard to collect my lower jaw from my lap, as I pondered whether or not to storm out of her office. Sure, I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I could also stand to do pretty much anything else I please with my time, and if I wanted to go to a professional regarding the amount of jiggle I'm packin', I would have chosen a trainer or nutritionist, not a psychiatrist.

But then, somewhere in the back of my mind, a voice whispered to me, "Sarah, you've hit the jackpot."

So I took the prescription. Some dark little part of me that I thought was dead and buried stuck its shriveled little hand out of the grave that day and said, "You're not hating yourself enough these days."

I spent years and years of my life believing that, regardless of whatever else I would accomplish in my life, my thinness and other standards of conventional attractiveness would still be the measures I would be judged for by the rest of the world, and my little visit to the doctor reminded me that maybe I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

Even when my mother was wasting away from chemotherapy, half of our conversations still centered around how excited she was to be buying smaller sizes.

For whatever reason, when I think back to the period of time in my life when I was at my thinnest, I see the world through rose-colored glasses. In fact, my life at the time was a mess –- I was doing poorly in school, my mother was dying, I slept with guys who smelled like Goodwill and called me "brah" during sex, I lied about having food sensitivities so I wouldn't have to eat with other people, and eventually, I found myself hospitalized and losing 3 feet of intestine, which, as it turns out, I would come to miss. The only thing I was better at was being thin.

Yet somehow, despite my regular therapist's suggestion that I get a second opinion and despite knowing that this new doctor, who has subsequently, without prompting, offered me a prescription for an anti-convulsive with weight-loss properties, is most certainly a quack, I can't imagine myself giving up an express ticket back to Tinyville, now that I'm already seeing it work.

So, xoJaners, any tips on getting un-thinspired?

Follow Sarah on Twitter at @SarahGCrow.