Insomnia? Sleeping too much? Lose weight.

Mary writes:

I had always had problems sleeping, ever since I was very young. But when I was in high school, they got worse. I was tired all the time, I could barely stay awake in class. All I wanted, more than anything, was to stay in bed every morning.

One day when my mom was tired of hearing it, she told me that if I wanted to stay home I could. But I had to go to the doctor. I told her that was fine with me, because I couldn’t stand those feelings any more. The fatigue wasn’t my only symptom, but at the time I wasn’t connecting the others to my problem.

The doctor did some blood tests, and declared that I was fine. He gave me a boring list of ways to help me sleep better (keep the room dark and quiet, don’t drink soda for hours before bed, etc). He then told me that all of my problems with fatigue would go away if I would just exercise and lose weight.

Once a year, for about three years, we had the same conversation. I didn’t point out that I was more active than I had been at any other point in my life. I didn’t point out that while I was heavy (at the time, 5’3″ and 165lbs) it wasn’t worse than it had been before the fatigue. They ran the same bank of blood tests every time, he gave me the same list of sleep tips every time. And every time, he told me that if I just exercised and lost weight, I wouldn’t be so tired.

I told my mother I would never go back to that doctor. So when I went off to college, and the fatigue started affecting my class work, she took me to another one. He gave me the same list of sleep tips (turn the clock away from the bed, go to bed at the same time every night, but don’t go to bed if you aren’t tired, don’t drink or eat anything too soon before sleep…) and prescribed Ambien.

The sleeping pills knocked me out as they were intended, but I woke up feeling groggier and more disoriented than before. Then one night, I didn’t go to bed immediately after taking them, and experienced the now infamous hallucinations. I stopped taking them.

I waited another year before I went back to any doctor. This time, because of family history, I wanted to get tested for diabetes. The doctor, for the first time, sat and listened to my symptoms. Then he started asking questions, ones that I’d never been asked. I had never even considered them. He ran the same battery of blood tests, but concluded that I had been suffering from Depression, probably since that first visit six years before. He prescribed an anti-depressant.

It wasn’t overnight, it wasn’t a sudden change. But slowly I started to climb up from the place I had been in before. Unfortunatly, that wasn’t the end of it. Since then, I’ve even had a gynecologist tell me I should lose weight, when I honestly have no idea what it had to do with the problem I was seeing him for. He never explained it, just put it in his list of recommendations, and started rambling about BMI. When I moved, my new primary care physician was once again more concerned with my weight than listening to me explain my symptoms. Only now we had the added crutch of my depression diagnosis. I was labeled before I got in the door, and I still don’t actually have a good picture of what is wrong with me. Like many others, I’ve given up on seeing a “primary care physician.” I no longer trust them to take the time to really diagnosis problems. If I have a severe enough problem, I see a specialist.

I don’t understand why the doctors can’t grasp that I know my own weight. Each of them talks about it like I hadn’t noticed that I was fat. The anti-depressants made me gain a massive amount, and I have only started to lose that. But I know my own body, I know my own weight. I don’t need them to remind me of it, I don’t need them to say, “You know, you are overweight.” Really? Is that it? Is that why stores don’t carry sizes that fit me? I had no idea! I don’t need another person to tell me I’m fat. I don’t need another person to tell me all the lies about how dangerous it is to be fat. I need someone to listen to my symptoms, diagnosis a problem, and help me treat it the best way possible. Losing weight is not always the best way.

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  1. MargB

     /  June 9, 2009

    I find it bizarre that so many health professionals have difficulty distinguishing between causes and symptoms – in my case I had gained a lot of weight and couldn’t seem to lose it, no matter how much I dieted and exercised. I was also incredibly fatigued – which made it hard to exercise or cook healthy meals instead of buying take away. This went on for years – and several doctors. I was tested several times for diabetes and it always came up negative but an experienced nurse thought this was worth investigating further. She ordered blood tests that showed that although I didn’t have diabetes, I did have very high insulin levels – which explained both the weight gain and the difficulty losing weight with regular cardio exercise. She started me on a regime of light weight-resistance training which brought my insulin levels down to normal within 4 months and with no drugs. I’m still overweight but healthier than I have been for years. And that’s what really matters.

  2. I am very pleased for you that your depression was finally diagnosed. But I have the shoe on the other foot (so to speak). I have extreme fatigue constantly as well as being on meds for depression but I know that the fatigue is not because I am depressed. I have been on meds for a loooooon time now (different types over the years) and I have been tired since I was about 16. I know exactly when it started and would say that has more to do with it than my depression diagnosis. Ironically, I was of ‘normal’ weight when it started. Everytime I mention it, I am told it is because I am depressed and/or fat. It is because of neither but no medico will believe that. They can’t get it through their heads that I have been constantly exhausted even when I was thin and that I am not depressed (while I am on my meds), in fact I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. I am just really really tired…


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