My fears didn’t just stay in my room at night; throughout the day, they followed me. Even though I was an active, outwardly happy person, I was a terrified child on the inside. My therapist refers to it as catastrophism.
“Your problem is that you take a small thing, and your mind creates an elaborate scenario around it,” she says.
Her curly hair and sweet disposition keep me comfortable on the sofa in her air-conditioned office, but it is her tough-cookie personality that makes me stay. Facing my problems is vital to fixing my issues, especially my ability to distort a situation.
“So I am Chicken Little, so to speak?”
“Exactly. If something hits your head, you start thinking the sky is falling.” She has a pad of paper in her lap, but her eyes are on me.
She’s right. If I am at the grocery store and someone looks at me funny, that produces a horrible scenario of murder in my brain. And even though I can shake off the idea and laugh about how stupid I am being, in the back of my head, I am wondering if I should look up the number of registered sex offenders in the area on FamilyWatchdog.us, just to make sure.
Every day seems to be a new roller coaster, and I am getting sick of the ride. I tell my miniature psychiatrist about my attention-span problems. Instead of listening, she sits in her enormous chair, writing yet another prescription for some sort of ADD medication. I am fed up. I say no to the new meds and walk out. I never make another appointment with her. For the two years that follow, I deal with it, myself.
Leaving high school, ready to enter college, I want to leave all prescriptions of the past behind me. Thinking I am cured of my disorders, I start weaning myself off the pills. It is a rocky road, but I feel it’s worth all the bad emotions.
I’m off the meds for less than a year, but I find myself checking into the San Diego State Medical Center. Mascara running, body trembling, I am a knee-buckling mess. My out-of-control spiral leaves me feeling out my skin, which is all too grotesquely familiar. The doctor, who knows nothing about prescription-anxiety medications, gives me the same stuff I’ve been taking. It’s a punch in the gut. After almost a year on nothing and just dealing with my problems internally, I get back on the path I tried so hard to avoid.
For six months, I continue on the medication. I get over the fact that I don’t really have a choice. Instead of enjoying the days, I take them as they are.
After the pill-plagued fall and winter, I again really dislike the medicine. I decide to be done with Zoloft and Lamictal for good.
After going off the medicine the second time, the fears become worse. I am more jittery and anxious. My friends aren’t as sympathetic, so they don’t understand. I can’t blame them for calling me a p@#$y. I am a coward, but at least I can own up to it. It has come to the point where I have prohibited myself from watching certain movies, knowing they would keep me up for nights on end, crying over which body part the ax murderer is going to chop off first.
I find myself getting flushed about the dumbest things, like outfits that don’t feel “right” or when people wear the colors brown and black together. I obviously need help for these issues, but I really don’t want to jump back on the pill wagon. I want to take a different route.
Enter: cognitive behavioral therapy. This focuses on the problem and fixes it with tasks and mental focusing. My tough-cookie therapist won’t take my crap any longer. I am all aboard to fix this problem for good.
“You can’t control what goes on around you, but you can control your thoughts, rather than them controlling you,” she says. “Being able to take the bad news — crime, media, apocalypse — and separate it from your own life, you will be able to start living free of these debilitating thoughts.” She hands me a paper with different faces on it, representing a range of emotions.
“Can you identify what you feel like when you think of being killed?”
I struggle with the question, looking from the paper to her face. In this no-pressure atmosphere, I feel put on the spot.
“Um, well… I feel vulnerable.” The faces are wrinkling in my tightening grip. “I feel helpless, scared, and out of control.” I feel better, saying it out loud.
“Good, now we are getting somewhere.”
I begin to relax. Someone is going to help me.
We are two sessions into working out my problems when the words I fear come out of her mouth. She tells me that my problem is biological. I still need medication.
“Prozac,” she says.
Tears roll down my cheeks.
“Tell me, why are you crying?”
“I am 20 years old, and for the rest of my life I need to be on medication to keep me sane. Other people my age don’t have to deal with this. I don’t think it’s fair. Why can’t I be normal?”
“It takes work, but I really can see you overcoming this,” she reassures me. “Medicine will help for the time being.”
Well, that’s it. I admit defeat. Pharmaceutical companies 3, Taylor 0.
I have an ongoing battle with an industry that has a drug for everything but a cure for nothing. It is like a profitable inside joke of the pharmaceutical bigwigs, because as the rest of us try to fix ourselves with their meds, some of us end up dead because of too many prescriptions. (Rest in peace, MJ.) The joke might be on the pill-popping world, but since I am on Prozac now, I can have a good laugh at it.