This is a poem I first heard in 2003. I cannot copy and paste it here due to copyright laws, so you’ll have to see the linked page yourself, which will open separately:
The poem is so sensitively written that I am awed. I read this poem during the time between undergrad graduation and the beginning of grad school, not long after Joe’s death.
Right before Joe died, I asked him his opinion about my weight. I told him I had no clue why I continued to gain weight no matter what I did.
I asked him, “Do you think it could be the meds?”
He said, “I don’t know. Maybe.” He knew I was deeply disturbed about what was happening.
January 2004 was an unusually cold winter in northern Vermont, where I attended my first residency. My weight was increasing rapidly at that time. As a result of rapid weight gain, I was always overheated. It had something to do with estrogen fluctuation. I didn’t even bring a winter jacket with me and didn’t need one. It got down to -25F one night. Still, I wasn’t cold.
At my third residency, in January 2005, my weight had reached its peak at close to 200 pounds. I am only five foot one inch tall.
Soon after, one knee gave out and I spent three months using a wheelchair, barely able to stand up.
My psychiatrist, Dr. Kimberly Pearson, returned from maternity leave. She had no apparent “baby fat” and in fact, appeared to have been working out daily at the gym. I was then a “cripple.”
I recall exactly what occurred when I saw her. She came out to tell me she was ready for our appointment. She said, nonchalantly, words I’ll never forget:
“Julie, I didn’t know you use a walker now.”
So she saw my condition as permanent. Inevitable. Consequence of much-needed drugging. It didn’t matter, so long as I was compliant. I’m sure she figured I’d die young anyway. Statistics supported that those of us on psych meds die 25 years before the rest of the population. Just another mental patient.
I was livid. I tried to retain my composure. She didn’t even help me carry my stuff into her office. I dropped a paper and struggled to pick it off the floor. I nearly fell. I grabbed onto my walker, and steadied myself.
I’m not sure at which point I finally figured out that the drug Seroquel had caused the weight gain. I was scared, but finally I demanded that Dr. Pearson take me off that drug. She balked at the idea. She said I’d be “unstable.”
Over the next few years, she said that every time I begged to get off a drug that was harming me. Even Trileptal, which caused me to be unsteady on my feet, and Lamictal, which caused double vision, and finally, complete physical collapse.
“But you’ll be unstable.” Yeah, of course, one is stable six feet under, am I not? I won’t move again. Stable as can be.
Once off Seroquel, my weight dropped. I know now that I am not the only one whose return of anorexia nervosa was an act of revenge against weight-gaining antipsychotics. I was around 50 years old and this was the worst the anorexia had ever been.
I’m now 56 and have narrowly escaped death a number of times since. No, not due to lack of Seroquel, nor withdrawal, but simply because the drug had wrecked my body. Anorexia was the great Fuck You.
Over the last few years of our “work” together, Dr. Pearson harped on how “happy” I’d been on Seroquel. Had she and my ignorant “therapist” that I had at the time, Dr. Louise Ryder, even been listening? I hated being overweight. Despised it. I wanted to cut the fat off my body every waking moment. Is that happy?
Maybe I was too drugged to speak out. At the worst of it all, I was on 900 mgs a day of that shit. For no real reason than the fact that I “tolerated” it. Or appeared to. Or maybe I wasn’t complaining.
Anorexia was a great way to complain. It made a statement. Don’t mess with my body, bitch.
I was coerced into eating disorders “treatment.” It did more harm than good. Every time they forced me to gain, I left feeling devastated, and even more worthless than before.
My weight’s okay now. But that’s in spite of “treatment.” I think in the end they wouldn’t have cared if I’d committed suicide. I wonder now if I had, if anyone would have understood why.
Following summer of 2013, I kept asking, “Why did they abuse me?” The question was never answered. It wasn’t the weight that upset me, but the fact that I had been stripped of my dignity. But I wouldn’t satisfy them with my death nor would I stop writing and speaking out.
My revenge is that I am alive and doing fine. I see no shrink and take no psych meds. I am doing better and better. I am getting stronger the further away I am from “treatment.” I had the idea to leave the oppressive situation in which I was trapped. Clearly, my “crazy” notion to ditch them all saved my life.
I’m glad those shrinks didn’t quite drive me to suicide. I was hanging in the precipice for a while, though, due to their abuse. I’m glad I waited it out until I could escape that horrendous nightmare.
I want to remind anyone out there that while so-called “mental illness” is claimed to be “for life,” many realize this isn’t necessarily true. Likewise the consequences of psychiatric abuse don’t have to be forever, either.
True, my kidneys are at about 1/3 functioning, but the rest of me has only grown stronger to compensate for the loss. I even like myself. A lot. I especially like my rebellious spirit, which I suppose I always had. It was buried all those decades.
I’m okay now.
I love you all, Julie and Puzzle