Medication and Body Image

If you have epilepsy you will be on medication, and we all know that medications come with side effects.

I have tried quite a few different medications over the years to try to help control my epilepsy, and many of them had side effects such as nausea, headaches, mood changes. Etc. but not many people tell you that they can also cause you to gain weight.

When I began taking anti-epileptic drugs I was 14yrs old. I was tall and slight in my build. The moment I began taking the medication, my weight increased and my face plumped out, and when your 14yrs old this is the last thing that you want to happen to you.  I couldn’t do anything to slim down and it wasn’t for what I was eating. I found myself skipping meals to try to help lose weight, which obviously didn’t work. As a teenager I didn’t realised to danger I was potentially putting myself at, as skipping meals could have triggered seizures.

Even though medications altered for a few years, my weight either stayed the same or it increased. I never returned to my original size I was before.

I used to hate being around my friends sometimes, especially during summer or if we went swimming, as they seemed so perfect and slim. I realised how self-conscious I was becoming.

When I was 20 I was offered to change medications. This one did have a warning of weight loss. Thankfully it has worked for my epilepsy, and it certainly worked for the weight loss as well.

Within 3 months of using the medication I had dropped from a (UK) dress size 16 to a size 6 (btw I’m 5’10 tall).

Before I took this medication, I assumed everyone would be praising me for looking better like you always see with other people who have lost weight. But they didn’t. Everyone thought I was ill. Some people approached me and bluntly asked me if I was unwell.

My family were beside themselves and my Dad was constantly trying to give me fried foods.

I thought that I would be viewed differently be people. I thought men would find me more attractive and that I would be more socially accepted by friends and other people. It’s not the case at all. Apart from the people who thought I was dying, every other social encounter remained the same, and I never had a new meeting with anyone which was different from before. People accepted me the same, because I was the same person.

I think we have been far too conditioned by media to believe that looking a certain way is attractive. With attraction, the same amount of men noticed me, whether I was slim or not. When I actually consider the men I like. It’s not the type; it’s the personality that’s the most important. If I think about my perfect guy, I don’t instantly think about a man in a magazine, and that was something I didn’t appreciate when I was 20. I guess I thought that all men wanted women who looked a certain way. But it’s not true.

If you were in the consultant’s room with me when I decided to choose my current medication then, yes, you would know that the weight loss played a part in my decision-making. Since taking this medication it has been a tough road, where I have had terrible nausea, been unable to eat and worried many people, but I am pleased to say those side effects have passed and that my weight has now plateaued to a healthy size 10.

This is just one area of which medication can have an effect on your life and I would like to explore others in the future. But as I grew up with epilepsy as teenager to a young adult I consider body image to be high on the agenda for many people.

My body image had certainly affected me, but on reflection, the people in my life have always supported me and only had my best interests at heart, what I look like has never mattered to them, and that’s true for everyone we care about. We just love them and want them to be OK.

Thanks for reading!

Becky 🙂

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