Gaining Peace... in Exchange for a Gut
When I first became medicated in 2019, I started off with a mood stabilizer to treat my bipolar disorder. I got one warning from my psychiatrist, regarding side effects - a permanent rash that can occur if I don't slowly work my way up the dosage ladder. Considering I'm in a profession where my face gets me jobs, it scared the bejesus out of me, to the point where I hesitated a couple of days to take my first dose.
Google-imaging "Lamitcal rash" on the subway ride home may not have been the best thing for me at that time, but alas, I came out of it rash-free. Unfortunately, that experience deterred me from doing proper research when taking my next leap in medication, this time to treat my anxiety.
Today's blog post is about gaining weight.
It was August of 2020 - peak "what the fuck, is this going to be forever" covid times. My partner and I just moved into a new apartment that we loved at first, but in the first two months were bombarded with a litany of issues. Most of them were noise-related, and the kicker was the moment I saw scaffolding being erected around the front of the building.
My brain quickly whipped up the narrative of spending the next ten months listening to construction right outside my window every morning and my anxiety reached a five-alarm-fire-high. That scenario actually came true - construction commenced right outside out bedroom window, every morning at 7am, for months. So despite being a complete bane-of-my-existence fuckhead asshole, my anxiety monster is one smart cookie.
I got on the horn with my psychiatrist at the time - a really sweet guy that was a far-more-fun person to talk to than the personality-less buzzkill who did my intake (don't drink and you'll be fine, ppfffftttt). I explained it all to him, and he suggested Lexapro.
Now, I'm not sure if it was the bro-ey rapport that we developed over the course of the previous six months, but the first thing he told me was, "you might have trouble having an orgasm, or getting an erection."
Other common side effects of Lexapro:
Less common side effects of Lexapro:
Low Blood Sugar
A Disorder With Excess Antidiuretic Hormone Called Syndrome Of Inappropriate Antidiuretic Hormone
Low Amount Of Sodium In The Blood
Low Amount Of Potassium In The Blood
A Decrease In The Blood Clotting Protein Prothrombin
Decreased Blood Platelets
Very Low Levels Of Granulocytes, A Type Of White Blood Cell
Low Levels Of White Blood Cells
Mental Problems From Taking The Drug
Extrapyramidal Disease, A Type Of Movement Disorder
Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome, A Reaction Characterized By Fever, Muscle Rigidity And Confusion
Serotonin Syndrome, A Type Of Disorder With High Serotonin Levels
High Blood Pressure
A Heart Attack
A Clot In The Lung
Rapid Ventricular Heartbeat
Torsades De Pointes, A Type Of Abnormal Heart Rhythm
Prolonged QT Interval On EKG
Blood Clot In A Deep Vein Of The Extremities
Low Blood Pressure
Inflammation Of The Lining Of The Stomach And Intestines
Liver Tissue Death
Inflammation Of The Liver Called Hepatitis
Acute Inflammation Of The Pancreas
Bleeding Of The Stomach Or Intestines
Priapism, A Prolonged Erection Of The Penis
A Skin Disorder With Blistering And Peeling Skin Called Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis
A Skin Disorder With Blistering And Peeling Skin Called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
A Condition With Muscle Tissue Breakdown Called Rhabdomyolysis
A Feeling Of Restlessness With Inability To Sit Still
High Blood Sugar
A Type Of Allergic Reaction Called Angioedema
Secondary Angle-Closure Glaucoma, A Type Of Eye Disorder
But of course, we are men, and we need to make sure we take care of our dicks first.
We talked through all the penis stuff, and what do you know, we ran out of time. I made sure to report back to him if my show-runner was taking a leave of absence.
What I neglected to ask about, or research, was the one side effect that hit me the hardest: weight gain. Within three months, I added 30 lbs. to my initial covid weight-gain. Fluctuation has been an issue my whole life. I've struggled with body dysmorphia since I was young. Plus I have some double-chin genetics, which, in my journey as a film actor, has been deeply difficult to overcome.
From 2015-2016, I lost 50 lbs., thanks to cardio-kickboxing and long-distance running. I kept it off for years, maybe gaining 5-10 lbs. here and there, but I was always able to manage it. Just before covid hit, I got into a terrific groove with MMA workouts and was really inspired to keep exploring that. Then, you know, the world stood still while also bursting into flames.
The bitch of it all was that the meds worked... really, really well. While the noise was theoretically "driving me crazy", I was able to manage it better than before. My anxiety decreased almost as fast as my hips expanded.
When I gain weight, the first thing that changes is my face. Then onto my torso. I joke a lot about having a dad-bod, but you know, it's a defense mechanism for a crippling insecurity. It felt like it happened all in one day. I had trouble sitting up, tying my shoes, walking up hills. My... fuck, I'm gonna say it... "fat clothes", the ones I didn't get rid of when I lost weight, didn't fit me anymore. (I really hate putting that kind of shaming language out there, but the dysfunctional voice in my head had a fucking huge presence, even more-so when I was thin.)
I went from a medium to a large in the beginning of the pandemic, then bumped to an XL almost immediately. I went form a 32 waist to a 36, borderline 38. Two years ago, I weighed 180. At my peak on Lexapro, I hit 240.
So, instead of panic attacks, I went back to fat shaming myself. I hated looking in the mirror, being naked, and, most of all, auditioning. Every time I had an audition, I would think to myself, "well, they're going to get a look at this face and think 'this fatso isn't the guy in the picture, never call this fucking impostor into my office again'".
And so, the spiral ensued. I resented the idea of trading anxiety for 60 extra lbs.
I decided I wanted to go off them, to try possibly upping my dosage of the mood stabilizers. My therapist advised against it - especially since we were in the throes of finding a new apartment. I figured once we got out of that hellish place, it will all become more manageable.
I didn't last two weeks. I went back to the psychiatrist and was put on Prozac. That was about ten weeks ago, and I've lost 10 lbs since. I've also been excercising more and eating better, which I also feel more motivated to do as a result of feeling good on the new meds.
I should note - medications have different effects on people. I'm obviously not a medical professional, I still do bunny ears when I tie my shoes. I don't want to get sued here - I'm just sharing my personal experience. Please, don't sue me. I'm a broke-ass actor.
Anywho, in almost two years of medication, I'm learning that there's a lot of trial and error. My body seems to be responding better to this medication, and I'm going to ride this wave as long as I can. It's the best I can do.
And hey, I booked two TV gigs last month!
EDIT (10:36am): I just reread this, and I definitely didn't make it clear that I love myself, and I am practicing grace with the changes in my body. It's fucking hard, but it is necessary.
Okay, enjoy your day.
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.