Since I first started writing this blog in the summer of 2010 I have made no secret of the fact that I am fat; that I am not the ideal weight for gliding up hills on my bike.
I weigh 14 stone. My doctor says that I should weigh 12 stone something. So, according to my generous calculations I am about a stone and a half too heavy. Of course it’s well-known that obesity and dieting are topics that attract plenty of attention.
I find it striking – and pretty offensive – that people seem comfortable to comment on my weight in public and, if I’m not mistaken, this happens to men rather than women notwithstanding the strong emphasis that the media puts on women regarding this issue.
Recently I joined my parents for coffee with a couple whom they have been friends with since we lived in the same village in the late 1960s and early 70s. I didn’t like going to their house the atmosphere was thick with tension – a result of domestic abuse and unfaithfulness by the husband – as I later learned. I had not seen him for several years. He greeted me with the comment ‘you’ve put on a lot of weight.’ I managed to control myself (unusual, I must admit) leant over and whispered: ‘I’m over weight thanks to having to take 300mgs of Quetiapine every night.’ I did my best to ignore him until I could make my excuses and leave.
While it’s true that (according to the handy leaflet listing the side effects) 1 in 10 people will gain weight on these tablets, that’s not the whole story.
I accept that I have a responsibility to manage my weight, to take into account the weight gain, and take steps to reduce this as far as possible. It makes me think of how I relate to my mental health challenges and what I can do about them. In my job as a Peer Supporter I am full of hope and (I hope) inspiration to people like me who struggle with what we euphemistically call ‘troublesome symptoms.’ I am happy to share strategies to promote recovery. This is all very well, but I don’t always apply this approach to myself. It’s easier to think (and say) that I can’t help this, that this side effect is just part of the price I have to pay to manage my mental health. What a sensible approach.
Being over weight is not part of who I am. And while there is much more to me than my diagnosis, I accept that it is part of who I am. The trick is to be able to identify those things I can change by taking practical steps (paying close attention to my diet) and seperate out those things that are a constant, about which I have little choice if I want to stay reasonably well (taking my medication).
I can see that my reaction to an observation about my weight is inconsistent with my usual approach to discussing mental health issues at every opportunity. I think that’s because it means my having to accept that while the side effects are part of the story, I am censoring any discussion about the role I need to play in managing the whole of the impact that my mental illness has on me.
Where does that leave me? Well I guess it highlights the fact that I need to accept an uncomfortable truth about my attitude to my mental health. How can I expect others to change their attitudes to mental illness if I’m not prepared to do so myself?
This is Just to Say
I have eaten
that were in
the ice box
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)