Recently, I’ve been seeing a much larger number of negatively themed posts about bariatric surgery. “The Dark Side of Bariatric Surgery.” “Bariatric Surgery: What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You.” “I Wish I Never Had Bariatric Surgery!” Whether this is a cycle I just happen to be catching up with, or some genuine pushback I don’t know. Whichever it is, there are some genuine questions being raised by these objections to bariatric surgery. So, as a veteran of the bariatric surgery process, I would like to offer a little personal insight. This week I would like to chat about the objections/issues I keep seeing time and again First up: depression.
Does Bariatric Surgery lead to Depression?
The story goes something like this: “I was perfectly happy before I had bariatric surgery. Now I am depressed!” I’ve even seen some major articles by medical journals talking about this issue.
Here’s the problem: depression and obesity are actually linked. If you are obese and not already depressed, you are among the minority. Not only is obesity likely to cause depression, but depression is likely to cause obesity. They share common risk factors.
Now, here is what can happen: a bariatric patient falls prey to “golden ticket syndrome.” They think that since they have had bariatric surgery, their lives will now be stress-free. This pleasant feeling lasts until Real Life Happens. Something goes wrong, and they are suddenly just as stressed out as they were before surgery. Plus, they have a whole bunch of new rules that have to be followed. On top of that, they are cut off from what was likely their #1 way of dealing with stress: eating.
Suddenly, they are thinking “My life was so much better before I had surgery!”
Remember, surgery is a tool – it is not a solution in and of itself. (Though it does act like one for the first few months after surgery.) Life won’t change just because your weight has.
So, then, how to deal with encroaching depression after you’ve had bariatric surgery?
First, try the post-surgical secret weapon: exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can ease the symptoms of depression. If you are feeling a little blue, a bit down in the dumps, strap on your sneakers and hit the gym. Run a mile. Meditate. Remind yourself that you are now healthier than you were before surgery, and you have many more options than you did at the start of this process.
Second, surround yourself with emotionally healthy people. Maybe talk to that one person at work who seems calm in every crisis. Pick up the phone and call a friend or family member who isn’t constantly talking to you about the problems of their personal life. Look for people who will add stability to your life – you already have enough chaos, right?
Lastly, get some help. Clinical depression is every bit as real an illness as obesity is. Get yourself a counselor or other medical professional who can help you through the rough patches. Most insurance plans cover some kind of mental health treatment. Utilize the resources available to you.
Be Good To Yourself
It is worth repeating: you are still you, even after bariatric surgery. The responsibilities, relationships, and stresses you took into the surgical suite are still waiting on the other side. All surgery has done for you is given you a healthier and more stable platform from which to operate. Life was not better when you dealt with stress by sitting in a darkened room eating a whole package of Double-Stuffed Oreos.
Remember, taking care of yourself does not stop with leaving the hospital post-bariatric surgery. It actually only begins there.
Though, as someone diagnosed with clinical depression, I do admit to sometimes missing Double-Stuffed Oreos Therapy.
Protecting Myself From Poor Life Choices,