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Bipolar Disorder and Weight Loss Surgery

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I have bipolar disorder. And while many of you may think that means I am quite simply insanity defined, the truth of the matter is this: I have a chemical imbalance that triggers emotional responses - sometimes at inopportune times. While my behavioral patterns attempt to lend themselves to sway me to make irrational decisions in my life, I fight hard everyday to do the right thing and to ensure that I am on track with who I chose to be in this life. In short, I do not let this disorder define me. I am living with it, but I refuse to allow it to consume me.

Having this disorder is not unlike other disorders. It requires me to maintain said chemical levels through the use of medicinal aids in order to function in a manner suitable to everyday life. When I try to wean off of these medications (and I have tried in the past,) the results can often times be detrimental to my health. I mention this not as a means of garnering sympathy, rather because I know that there are others much like myself who live with this disorder and are on similar medications with adverse side effects who have undergone VSG and are fighting an uphill battle.

These medications, as they have been described by many medical practitioners, is the root cause of weight gain in someone with a normal metabolism and who can eat normal sized servings. For weight loss surgery patients it is widely known that these medications compete with weight loss efforts by causing weight gain. The only known remedy for this is to stop taking said medications. But that would appear illogical. After all, if it were that simple, someone like myself wouldn't bother to be on them. But because I require them to function with some level of normalcy, that doesn't seem like a rational option. So I did the next best thing and researched this topic. And what I found was equal parts confusing and hopeful.

On one hand it was confusing because many practitioners (especially in the bariatric world) denounce the effectiveness of bipolar medications in conjunction with weight loss surgery citing much of what was stated above. On the other hand, there have been studies conducted that have found that despite the use of these medicinal aids, for an obese person on said medication, weight loss surgery is the best alternative for fighting obesity.

So which is it? It would seem the medical world is divided regarding this matter. All the while, people much like myself are left wondering where we fit in with regard to bipolar disorder and weight loss surgery. The answer is, we don't fit in. But we need to. We need to become viable people in this world. We need to live, breathe, and exude happiness. We are faced with enough hardship, shouldn't we begin to focus on an alternative?

I refuse to accept that because of my condition I am condemned to life a life of obesity. And I refuse to accept that medication alone is the root cause of weight gain. I gained a few pounds over the course of my absence here not because of my medications, rather because I felt a little discouraged and fell back into my old habits. Nothing more. Nothing less.

My point is this (and then I will gently tuck away my soapbox). If you are living with bipolar disorder and you have undergone or want to undergo weight loss surgery, DO NOT let anything stand in your way. I have been successful thus far and so can you. Just do not allow yourself to slip back into the trappings of old habits because that, in reality, is the true culprit here. Does the medication as a whole promote weigh gain? Absolutely. But you can combat it. It takes a great deal of time and hard work, but you can do it.

I am proof of this.

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  1. simplyseahorse's Avatar
    Thank you for writing this. I also have bipolar disorder and will of course have to be on medications to correct my imbalance for the rest of my life. Not taking them has not been a good idea for me at all. However, I am not letting my diagnosis stop me any longer from living my life. It robbed me of so much, so many irrational thoughts and decisions, so many regrets basically because I was not in full control of my mindset until I was properly treated. Well, now it is time to get myself back into shape. Yes, those meds pack on the pounds, but using the sleeve as a tool to help me to calm the beast is a positive step. Thank you again for putting yourself out there. There are many of us who are going through the same things that you are, and I am one of them
  2. Shannon'sVSG's Avatar
    Hi simplyseahorse!

    It was my pleasure to have written this blog entry. I wanted to for some time, but to be honest, the stigma that comes with having the disorder prevented me from doing so. But I know deep down that this was something that needed to be discussed because even if we are the only two to recognize publicly that we live with bipolar disorder, there are countless others who are feeling much the same as we are. So it is fair to say that this was posted for me, for you, for the countless others sitting in silence, and to the masses who think they understand, but truly have no idea.

    Live well and be strong! Have a great week!
  3. KiwiGal's Avatar
    Thank you for sharing this with us. I admire your strength.
    My partner is on medication for anxiety. He tried to come off the drugs a few months ago and it wasn't pretty. He has now realised that he will be on these for the rest of his life. You are right about there being a stigma around these disorders. I have told him that it is no different than having any medical condition that requires medication. He is really good about it and would rather be taking some pills every day and be happy and able to cope with life than not! We have a programme in NZ specifically aimed at men (they tend to not discuss these things) to try and get them to talk about mental health. A famous Kiwi sportsman (John Kirwan - ex All Black rugby union player) is part of it. He suffers from depression. Hopefully by him coming out in the open and talking about it has made the issue less "scary" for a lot of people.
    I personally feel that the more we are open and honest about these issues the more knowledge people will have and the stigma will hopefully disappear.
    Thanks again for sharing your story.
  4. Shannon'sVSG's Avatar
    Hi KiwiGal!

    Thank you for the kind words. This was a tough post to write for many reasons, but I felt it was a necessary post to write none the less.

    Your partner sounds like a strong individual and should be commended for his efforts to stay safe and do the right things - which is to become informed and receive help. I think we (people with mental disorders) have all at one point or another tried to go it alone after having been medicated, but it always ends up in a terrible form of a train wreck. This is why we sought help to begin with; to avoid to cataclysmic disaster that can unfold as a result of going off of our medication.
  5. Christie13's Avatar
    I love your determination and strength to be open with the group. Your words can just be the difference that someone needs to guide them on their journey. Wishing you continued success as you find your path and your way along this journey.
  6. Shannon'sVSG's Avatar
    Hi Christie13!

    Thank you for the encouraging words. I'll continue to do my best to bring forth content to the group that is beneficial to those who might happen to find something valuable in what I have to say.
  7. sraebaer's Avatar
    My psychiatrist insists people stay on meds for things like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, etc. WLS doesn't mean giving up medications you need to survive! WLS didn't mean I don't need glasses to see anymore, that's who I am. I admire you for speaking out and helping others in your situation.

    I, personally, am still on meds for high cholesterol, it's a family thing, has nothing to do with how I eat or how much I weigh. (I know that as I tried giving them up for 3 months and got to about 400!!). I still can't sleep. (Another genetic trait, no sleep apnea, had all the sleep studies). Life will probably never be perfect, but it will be a whole lot better without being fat.
  8. Stacey03's Avatar
    So great to read this Shannon. There should be no stigma but there is and by speaking out we change the world. Onya x
  9. Shannon'sVSG's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Stacey03
    So great to read this Shannon. There should be no stigma but there is and by speaking out we change the world. Onya x
    My reasoning behind it wasn't to gain sympathy, rather to be the voice for those who are afraid or ashamed to step forward. I have nothing to lose by doing so, but everything to gain in personal freedom.