Compulsive Eating and Zyprexa (updated)


This is my ALL EYES ARE UPON US papier mache sculpture head — It should easily be finished by the time I am having a poetry reading and exhibit in Mystic on November 15th. I would like to exhibit it with the others if possible. It is the newest of my work and therefore the one I am most proud of. I am not completely clear just where I am going with it, but I do know not to worry, that inspiration will come to me eventually. Indeed, some already has; I am starting to place a tri-folded American flag underneath her ( yes it is a woman…) arms, as if she is hugging it for dear life…Why? not sure, but I believe my subconscious has a message for me there…I will decipher it and rest of it later, when I am through. However, my thoghts on the “meaning” is never the last word on it. I expect my viewers to do the same, that is, interpret the sculpture according to their own lights, according to the vicissitudes, or the longstanding truths of their own lives, not mine. It should mean whatever they want it to mean, according to their own life experiences. All of which is to say, There is no right answer, no real meaning here, only the sculpture’s evocative power to suggest this to one person and that to another.

Now regarding this post’s title, Compulsive Eating and Zyprexa: I had a rough week two weeks ago, during which I did something self-destructive though along too familiar lines with a “fagot” of cigarettes tied together with thread and simultaneously lighted. There was talk of the hospital to “keep me safe” if nothing else, but I saw no point, and indeed there was none. No hospital had ever proven they coud truly keep me safe: I have attempted and successfully hurt myself sometimes seriously almost everywhere I’ve been sent to, including breaking a carefully supervised mirror in a make-up compact and slicing my wrist open. My visitng nurse knew and agreed but made me agree to take a PRN of Zyprexa for a while. I didn’t really fight this. As  you, Readers, know, Zyprexa is a drug abut which I am extraordinarily ambivalent. It is both the single most helpful and effective drug I have ever taken, nearly a miracle medication, if not precisely that, but also the absolute pits in terms of a side effect I hate more than any.  I have not yet figured out how to tolerate this love/hate relationship I have with the drug. For instance, despite hating the single worst side effect, I very much appreciate being able to read, read, read, to concentrate and pay attention and remember..

Oh, perhaps it feels subtle the effect that Zyprexa produces, the therapeutic one, the helpful effect . In actuality, though, the change in my behavior is immense, not to mention on some very fundamental thought patterns. I don’t actually recognize at first that all of it is drug-induced: I just sit down and decide to pick up a book — that all by itself is unusual for all that it feels natural. But so too is the astonishing fact that I feel interested instead of listless and fearful that I won’t “get” it, that I wont be able to attend,  and upon opening the book, the fact that every word seems to flow,  my mind fluid and absorbent and the words just pour, the words and the sense and the meaning, well, if I weren’t so absorbed in it, I would be amazed… But I think, Why haven’t I read before now? Why,  when it is so easy, have I not been doing this all along? ( I have forgotten that it was NOT this easy until I took the Zyprexa…). But the difference between then — not reading, and now — being able to attend and absorb and read — is not subtle at all. It is marked and significant. I finish books and articles, instead of merely dabbling in them. And I remember what I read, instead of most of the content flying in one ear and out the other.

But the same effect that brings about the therapeutic effect, unfortunately and seemingly by the same mechanism, induces the unwanted and horrid side effect of an insatiable appetite. Just as subtle and my being able to read, I scarcely notice at first that i want to eat more than usual. I simply feel increased desire for food, and think nothing of it, since wanting food is normal, right? It is only when I recognize, when I realize that it is constant, and occurs immediately after I have just finished a full dinner plate that I  begin to associate it to the new medication. My weight quicky increases, but because the food desire feels like me, as if it is simply native to me, I cannot justify it as purely drug induced, but am ashamed of my new lack of self-discipline and my also new tendency to compulsive overeating. Even when I know for certain it is all “chemistry” –and begin to tie ALL obesity therefore to chemistry to the effect of body chemistry that is out of whack, either congenitally or induced by the environment, perhaps by  igesting the wrong foods themselves. What if eating high fructose corn syrup, already associated (the reasons are still unclear) with obesity, changes one’s chemistry to produce a malignant positive feedback that only induces more obesity ad infinitum as long as one continues ingesting it? Even when I know for certain that my increased and uncontrollable appetite is pure “chemistry” it doesn’t fully relieve either my shame or my latent anger at what ‘I have done to myself.”

I have been off Zyprexa for many months now, and have rarely needed or taken a PRN, but thought it makes a noticeable and positive difference, it is the already evident weight gain I cannot/WILL not tolerate  (Truth is, it showed no sign of ending even at 160 pounds the last time I took it). My friend Joe who has taken it for years developed another very common “side effect” of this drug, diabetes, on top of ALS… So I am between the Scylla of “negative” and/or cognitive symptoms — poor concentration and inability to pay attention, the lack of a certain spark in my life AND Charybdis  — the whirlpool of an uncontrollable urge to eat up everything in my refrigerator right after I have already had a full meal, the wild animal panic if I cannot, and the lack of concentration induced in its place because all my mind can focus on is “What can I eat now???” It is a panic I feel in my hands, especially along the backs of them, more than anywhere. I certainly do not eat out of even imagined hunger. I know that. I feel FULL, in most cases because when I am hungry I usually will eat sensibly… But when smitten by the drug-induced food-seeking behavior after a  full meal, I can even tell myself out loud, “You aren’t hungry, you don’t need to eat”…this piece of bread, or cheese, or fruit, whatever is in my hand. I listen too, I put the food back at once, and wash my hands, and go back to the living room to read or do my art or whatever I was occupied in doing before I was seized by this compulsion. But literally no more than 10 or 20 seconds later, another food impulse will propel me from my seat to the refrigerator, and if not consciously thwarted I will eat. And eat, and eat. Not like a bulimic, mind you. No, I take one piece of fruit or bread or cheese (I did not last as a vegan, alas, because I felt sick and dizzy living on fruit and green and colored veggies) and a knife and a plate, and sit in a chair, and cut it up and eat it reasonably slowly while I read. But soon I am finished and ready to read again “solo.” That is when the tension starts building to another threshold over which I feel it is impossible to climb in safety.

What I do instead, is follow this ritual, with another just like it a couple of minutes later, and then a couple of minutes after finishing the second and ditto the third and fourth and… Before you know it I have eaten so many calories up to a certain point, a set point if you will, where finally the switch flips off and my “hunger” goes off, and so does the food-seeking…I can now settle down and get something done. but until the threshold is reached and surpassed, I cam think of nothing but eating. The cure for it, the only remedy, is that I must be sure to short circuit the cycle by taking Xyrem and forcing myself to go to bed after supper. And I must NOT eat all day and evening except for coffee and diet soda (luckily the Zyprexa induces food-seeking behavior and not real hunger, so I am not tortured as long as I do not break my fast), until right before bed I allow myself to take a few bites. If I do not eat at all, I do not feel like eating and the cravings do not even begin. It is when I do take the first bite, just like an alcoholic, that all bets are off and all the control gates to hold back the flood open.

I still think that Zyprexa induced eating and 15 mg of Abilify-induced lack of appetite would be a great way to study the science of appetite, what causes compulsive eating and what breaks that cycle and stops appetite and interest or uncontrollable interest altogether. I would agree to be that guinea pig but I’d aso say that plenty of people could do so…I don’t see why others would not react as I do, especially a plenty of people have had the same weight gain reaction as I.

I will try to continue my discussion of this topic soon, as I want to research it a bit and I have some further thoughts on the subject. However, at the moment I needs must get other work done…


Oh yeah, by the way, Li and I had a decent discussion abut TLE during one of my recent visits and it made me feel better about him, for the time being. At least he is going to consider it, though he told me it never rules out schizophrenia as there are always a percentage of those with TLE that concomitantly have schizophrenia as well.