I’ve known Sarah since college. To me she’s always been bold and brave with a huge heart. It’s only recently did I learn how brave she truly is. We lost touch, as college friends often do, but reconnected recently. I am so grateful we did. I see her every time she comes to Springfield now.  She said she’d be with me when I check another item off my 100 Dreams list – get a tattoo.   – Pamela

I am Sarah and I’m thirty-four years old and 5’9” tall. I have a job, a husband, a dog, Bipolar I Disorder, and Functional Neurological Disorder. My fighting weight was 155 pounds in high school and college. I was very active; I played basketball, lifted weights, ran track, swam, and bicycled. I was always a dress size 10-12. At 23, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder & gained 70 lbs in the years following due to the medication used to treat the disease.

My weight continued to soar when I started having dystonia (irregular body movements), which left me unable to drive, walk without a walker, or stand up for long periods of time.

First, I was diagnosed with akathisia, a movement disorder due to a medication withdrawal. When that treatment was unsuccessful, my psychiatrist thought I had Parkinson’s. I was essentially a prisoner in my own home for ten months while my psychiatrist and neurologist remained baffled as to what was wrong with me. I reached my highest weight of 290 pounds, dress size 24-26. I got a new psychiatrist and a new neurologist who determined I have Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). This is a movement disorder caused by stress, so the doctors began to treat my anxiety. My shaking continued some after treatment, but I was able to walk and drive again and my life went relatively back to normal.

Last May, my father became ill with terminal cancer and I was his primary caregiver. I knew I had to get healthy in order to take better care of my day. I started following a nutritionist buddy’s advice; eat off of a small plate. I lost thirty pounds just doing that. I also don’t drink alcohol or soda, so that helped more weight come off. I cut out fast food and started a low carb diet. After I lost about forty-five pounds, I started walking three times a week, and giving myself one weekend “cheat” day from my diet.

My dog is a wonderful exercise companion. I began to realize I felt less stressed about my father’s illness during and after a workout. I got into jogging, slowly at first, but better with time. My husband got on board and signed us up for the YMCA. I started swimming two to three times a week, slowly at first, but now I can swim a mile in about 47 minutes. We went to the gym together and ate nutritious, low carb meals. He lost thirty pounds right away. I reached my goal weight of 200 pounds in July of this year. I now wear a 14-16 dress size.

I did a 5K once in college, and I ran it in 28 minutes. I decided to run another 5K in September. It was a superhero dress up 5K benefiting depression and suicide education. I raised a few hundred dollars, dressed up as She-Ra, and ran the race in 38 minutes. I now work for the non-profit I ran for, Chads Coalition for Mental Health.

I am very glad to have improved my life in this way. I’d like to lose about twenty more pounds, but mostly, I am loving the body I am in now and I feel better than I have in years. I maintain more energy, get better sleep, and am less stressed in general with my workouts and healthier lifestyle. I feel like if I can do this, anyone can.

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