I did something dumb last month. Or, I guess, I didn’t do something, which was dumb — I didn’t take the antidepressant my doctor prescribed me over winter break.
When she advised me to take something, I suggested maybe meditation would be sufficient instead. That worked for my dad, and he’d been pushing me to try it.
“Oh, you’re way past that,” she said.
So I picked up the Zoloft at Walgreens that night. By that point, I was in such a bad place I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t take it. But the pills made me so sick I couldn’t eat for a week, and somehow losing five pounds didn’t make me feel any better.
I went back to the doctor, because I’d stuck a Q-tip too far in my ear and had started feeling my heartbeat in it, but also to address the antidepressant thing. They swapped out the Zoloft (and assured me the Q-tip incident was not incredibly uncommon).
It was the second prescription I’d received recently for Lexapro, but the first one I’ve had filled.
Near the end of fall semester sophomore year, I sunk into a pretty deep depression I couldn’t shake. My parents urged me to transfer, but I knew the problem wasn’t Miami — it was me. I loved my friends, my job and my major, but I was still struggling.
I saw a psychiatrist, and he prescribed me the same Lexapro dose I’m currently taking.
“I just looked up the side effects,” my mother said over the phone later that night, after I’d called her and my father to discuss the possibility of me taking the antidepressant. “I don’t like this — do you realize one of the side effects is ‘suicidal thoughts?’”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her I already had those. So they ended the conversation by telling me I was an adult, so I could do what I wanted, but they’d really rather me not take the medication.
They had their reasons, some of them valid, and after a week or two, for whatever reason, I felt better. So I tucked the prescription in my desk drawer and told myself I didn’t need it.
That prescription is probably still in my desk drawer at home now, buried under a bunch of leaky old highlighters and Target receipts. I never got it filled because, though I was hit with a few more waves of depression and heightened anxiety over the next year or so, they never lasted for more than a couple weeks. I told myself I could live with that, and I did — until last semester.
In October, I was hit with crushing anxiety and depression, and they didn’t go away. I was a functioning human being until winter break, but I didn’t feel like one; I took incompletes in two classes, and wine nights with my friends inevitably turned into drunken sobfests (usually after they left). None of my previous go-to antidepressants — Nora Ephron movies, Taylor Swift music, even writing— made me happy anymore.
I was a mess.
I desperately wanted to feel better, but I remembered my parents’ reservations about antidepressants, and I kept waiting for my feelings to dissipate, as they always had in the past. They didn’t.
But even when a psychologist and my doctor recommended I take an antidepressant over break, I was hesitant. And by the time they switched the Zoloft for Lexapro, I’d already started convincing myself I didn’t need it again.
My parents were supportive now, and I had a prescription, so there was nothing stopping me — except the fact that this confirmed there was really something wrong with me. Yes, the previous year, a doctor had told me I probably had depression, but I’d felt fine a couple weeks later. I’d figured I would never have to worry about it again. And I was stressed about something happening over winter break, but once it was resolved, I secretly hoped my depression and anxiety would be, too — except, obviously, they weren’t.
Realizing this might never totally go away was terrifying. This was not the puppy my parents temporarily adopted in 2009, then gave to a family friend. This was my little brother, whom they brought home from University Hospital in 2004 and, to my knowledge, don’t ever plan on giving away.
It was also scary how I’d heard people around me talk about mental health until that point — or, more troubling, that I’d barely ever heard anyone talk about it.
A guy I briefly dated at the beginning of last semester urged me to obtain some Prozac. He’d started taking it recently, and said it made him feel better. Plus, according to him, “you can still drink on it.”
“I just get anxious, not depressed,” he was quick to clarify. “I’m not, like, crazy or anything.”
I know he wouldn’t have said this had he known me better, but either way, he would have thought it. And it wasn’t just him; it was my parents’ trepidation the previous year and the fact that none of my friends (that I knew of) had the same problems. It was my exasperation with the fact that I couldn’t just wait it out this time.
I got the prescription filled. But after I returned to Oxford the next day, the Lexapro sat on my desk for a week. I felt okay again, for the most part, and when I didn’t, I would down a bottle of pinot grigio — which helped, even if only for an hour or two.
Then another week went by, and I no longer felt okay. School was already stressful, and I felt myself slipping back into the same way I’d felt the previous semester.
I’d like to say I independently decided to stop pretending to not see the orange pill bottle on my desk and using wine to dull my unpleasant feelings, but it took two people lecturing me about it.
But I did start taking the Lexapro. It hasn’t magically absolved me of my depression or anxiety — sometimes, like this past weekend, I still feel the same way I did last semester, and getting out of bed is a feat — but it’s at least made my anxiety manageable. I no longer have panic attacks regularly or feel like my chest is caving in when I’m just sitting in class taking notes (or at any other point), and while I can’t really drink at wine nights anymore, it’s worth it.
40 percent of college students have anxiety, and about one-third have depression. I grossly underestimated these numbers, and underestimated how supportive my friends would be when I told them about these issues. I’ve also realized I’m not the only one of my friends dealing with them — not even close.
It’s only been a few weeks, so I’m not trying to paint myself as a spokesperson for antidepressants, but I will say this: I wish I’d gotten the prescription filled the first time.