A size 12 is not fat. Recovering from prescription drug-induced anorexia

Autumn has come and with it, much cooler weather.  I live and have always lived in a northern climate where snow and often lots of it is the norm, often beginning in mid to late October.  Here in Cambria County, Pennsylvania we experienced our first frost of the season on September 25th, 2012.  It's getting nippy outside already.  Time to switch our clothes from summer towards winter.


Naturally I find myself needing some new clothes.  From 2007 to 2011 my doctor prescribed Topomax for my chronic daily migraine -- with all its horrible side effects.  Over the four years I took this very strong drug, my weigh plummeted from a healthy 113 to just 85 pounds!  I literally fell from a nice, average size 12 to a 2!  This was a prescription drug-induced form of anorexia that could only be cured by stopping the drug -- which I did about a year ago. My weight quickly surged back.  My previous 24" waistline ballooned into 32" after only about 4 weeks after stopping the drug.  I gained nearly 50 pounds in that month -- more than 50% of my previous weight as my body stopped eating muscle (including heart muscle, something I have yet to recover as evidenced by a much higher heart rate than I had before the drug) and started the long road towards a more normalized metabolism.  


But gaining that weight, and trying to return to normal, has cost me socially. My dress size moved from a tiny 2 to a normal 12 or 14 (depending on the designer and fit of the clothes).


Today our society praises the size 2 and regards the size 12 as "fat," a sentiment echoed by my boyfriend who felt I was "letting myself go" physically by gaining all that way, especially what seems like overnight.


Let me tell you plainly:  a size 2 is NOT healthy for a woman in her 30s or 40s.


When I was on Topomax I was so thin that sitting for half an hour or an hour on New York City's subway (I lived in Brooklyn from 2005 through July 2011) was physically PAINFUL.  I literally could NOT sit down in a non-padded chair -- a subway car, a park bench, a booth in a fast food restaurant.  My ribs protruded from my body.  My pelvis was readily visible.  I had trouble breathing trying to climb just one flight of stairs and often felt like vomiting when I reached the top.  I was severely dehydrated by the drug.  I even threw up on the subway trying to come home from a University of Nebraska class reunion in Manhattan (the University of Nebraska alumni association holds regular gatherings for graduates of the University of Nebraska living in or near NYC) after only having a couple drinks over dinner.


This is NOT what you want to live like, my friends!  This is pain and agony that no one should have to endure.


Some people abuse Topomax as a way of losing weight quickly.  Let me tell you:  that is VERY STUPID to do!


I suffer chronic daily migraine through a traumatic brain injury suffered as a teenager.  Following a very normal progression of increasing pain since the accident, my migraine became severe and daily in January 2007.  Topomax was a logical step by my neurologist at the time.  I paid dearly physically in terms of side effects for minimal pain relief by taking that drug -- including the induced anorexia I've been struggling to recover from physically, even a year after stopping the medicine and switching to a natural pain therapy (that thankfully actually helps!).


Topomax really screwed up my body.  I cannot emphasize enough to you that you should AVOID IT at all costs!


That includes the social stigma I've been experiencing since switching pain therapies (as I write, my pain is up to about a level 6, moderate, even though I am very diligent about taking my medicine) where a size 2 is praised and size 12 is frowned upon.


People really do look at me as if I'm obese at 120 pounds!




Finally, I can handle my errands (having 20/80 vision, I have to walk or take buses to do so) without feeling like I'm going to vomit.  Finally I can climb the stairs to my apartment without feeling winded.  Finally I can sit in any chair instead of making excuses so I can stand instead.

There is no obvious flat or blubber on my body.  The color has returned to my skin.  I have a very normal (YES NORMAL) rounding from my waist to the base of my hips.  

I can even dance again at my living history re-enactments without getting winded after just one bransle or petit rien (okay, War Bransle and Maltese Bransle I still get winded with -- but then, so do everyone else dancing it!).


But let's be straight:  I'm having a real hard time psychologically with my new, healthy body.  I see the media images and talk about a size 6 being "heavy" and I feel the pressure to look and live like I did before, as if there is something horribly wrong with wanting to interact with my environment without the physical problems I had while on topomax!


I don't look like a 15 year old with her flat stomach.  I cannot cram into the clothes I had before.


At 40 years old, I'm normal -- but I still feel fat, as irrational as that sounds.


I'm brilliant at colors and finding flattering fashion for my body -- but I have no clue how to dress myself anymore.  I'm so terrified of my waistline and so scared I'm obese.


I wish so much the media would stop the fantasy crap and show real women as Nature made us to be.


What is wrong with wanting to live my life as a healthy size and weight?  Why do I need to try to force my body to look like I did in 8th grade?


I'm not the same person (thank Goddess!!) as I was then.  So why do I get messages that I'm fat or ugly because I'm not anorexic anymore?  Why do we praise anorexia and condemn healthy women?


All these images make me feel truly ugly physically.  When a man tells me I'm pretty, I completely dismiss him as lying to me to get something.


I cannot look in the mirror and say to myself that I am attractive.  Compounding this, I've never had true love.  Men don't want me.  Being talented seems to be less important than how big my breasts are or what my tummy looks like.


Who cares about how great my novel is or how skilled my non-fiction articles (you can read those at http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/564524/laurel_a_rockefeller.html) are? Who cares how well I care for my beautiful cockatoos Mithril and Elendil or how intelligent and educated I am? After all, I don't look the way those people in the media tell me I'm supposed to.


Isn't my dress size more important than my IQ?


Laurel A. Rockefeller, author

The Great Succession Crisis

E-Book ISBN: 9781476243344
Print book ISBN: 978-1479144808

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from beauty-style

Beauty & Style
by Deena Campbell | 8 days ago
Beauty & Style
by Christina Grasso | 9 days ago
Beauty & Style
by STYLECASTER | 10 days ago
Beauty & Style
by Chloe Metzger | 10 days ago
Beauty & Style
by STYLECASTER | 11 days ago
Beauty & Style
by Katie Stanovick | 13 days ago
Beauty & Style
by Jason Pham | 15 days ago
Beauty & Style
by Jason Pham | 18 days ago
Beauty & Style
by Ashley Haines | 22 days ago
Beauty & Style
by STYLECASTER | a month ago