I take my chances with a bottle of small blue pills. They’re intended for my grandfather, but since he isn’t here anymore, he won’t mind sharing a couple, maybe three or four. Ten minutes into surfing the Web, I can’t feel my legs. I am slipping from my chair, and I can’t stop myself from falling. I am on the ground. I have enough strength to reach up and knock my cell phone off the desk. Next thing I know, I am in a hospital bed surrounded by worried faces as I am force-fed a new stomach lining, a black tar toothpaste of sorts. It is gross. I have ash in my teeth for a week.
“If she had gone to sleep, she would have never woken up.” At least that’s what they tell my mom, two hours after I am admitted.
I am lucky. But now, I have to pretend I am somewhat normal. As the days, weeks, and months went on, the fetal position becomes my only escape from the real world.
It all started with David Westerfield, the pervert who snatched a seven-year-old girl.
Ever since I was little, I would check my closet. Not for monsters or ghouls but for murderers and rapists. I was afraid of being kidnapped. As I grew, that paranoia became an everyday obsession. TV news didn’t help. With creepers and media working together, it was impossible for me to ignore my fears.
It was February 2002. I was 13, at a friend’s house for the night. A relatively quiet, safe Sabre Springs neighborhood was about to break its silence.
“Taylor, wake up!” My friend shook me.
“What?” The sunlight was scorching my sensitive eyes.
“Don’t you hear those police cars? Someone has been kidnapped! Right down the street!”
“Who was it?” I was now on full alert.
“Some girl I knew. It’s all over the news.”
After a late-night pizza party, Danielle van Dam’s parents noticed that their little girl was not in her room. She was taken in the middle of the night by Westerfield, their neighbor. The innocent seven-year-old girl with the choker was never to be seen again.
Stories like Danielle van Dam’s had a major effect, especially because they were going on right around me. I don’t know whom I should thank more for my phobia: David Westerfield or cable TV shows. If they didn’t report on child abductions, maybe I wouldn’t even know these types of crimes existed. But weirdoes like Westerfield are real.
While I am in the hospital, I am told that I need to see a psychiatrist. Days later, my mom and I spend most of our time on the Web and phone, trying to find someone. We schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
It takes the five-foot-tall Asian doctor a couple of questions to figure out what is wrong with me. I’ve only been sitting on the love seat in her office for five minutes.
I am depressed. Obsessive-compulsive. Anxious. She writes a prescription and I am out the door.
The thing about the pharmaceutical companies is that they brainwash doctors and patients alike into believing that there is a pill to cure any ailment. If there is a little something wrong with the medicine you are taking, there is another one you can add to your handful. Like when they put me on Zoloft. I hated it.
“So how is the…” The doctor stops talking to look at my file. “How is Zoloft working for you?”
“Well, honestly, I just don’t think it is working.”
She gives me a fake empathetic look. “Why do you say that?” Like she really cares.
“When I miss a dosage, I feel like crap. I am gaining weight and sleeping all day.”
“Those are the side effects, you know, the ones I told you about.” She seems smug in her big office chair, which swallows her tiny body.
“Okay, the thing is, I don’t want to feel like this anymore.”
Instead of taking me off the medicine, she adds another one, Lamictal, to the mixture. I am in high school, on antidepressant, antianxiety, and mood-stabilizing pills. I am losing focus and my GPA. As my attention slips, self-control slides away.
“I don’t want to take this stuff anymore!” I complain to my mom as we are walking out of the doctor’s office. “I hate the way it makes me feel.”
“It isn’t as bad as you think, Tay.”
“Really? Then why have I gained, like, five pounds?” I grab the roll of fat.
“I’m sorry, but you should really just do what the doctors tell you. They say it for a reason.”
My mom agrees with the doctors, and why wouldn’t she? She is the drug industry’s prime target. She never had the best health and always has to take a new medication for something. My dad never misses a chance to call us the family pharmacy with “all our fixes for whatever ails ya.”
He isn’t lying. Our pantry is loaded with painkillers, tranquilizers, and vitamins of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The lazy Susan, piled high with bottles, is at our disposal for any type of headache or dietary need. Just like the little blue pills that sent me on my journey.
When my cousins were old enough to have their spongy minds infected with anything and everything, you can bet I was there. We put on dance shows to classics like Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” I taught them to say phrases like “Somebody needs a Prozac!” which even my 12-year-old mind couldn’t even fully comprehend. Seven years later, that would come back to bite me in the ass.
Even though the medicine was supposed to help my obsessions, I still lived in fear. I would use my cell phone or laptop as a nightlight in order to fall asleep. Sometimes, if I heard footsteps outside my door, I would sleep with my field hockey stick, staying up for hours planning an escape route just in case something happened.