Again, I had to comply with the doctors who were overseeing me during that daunting period. So, I went to the local CVS in East Lansing, Michigan on main campus. What if I ran into someone there and they happened to see the word Zoloft on the prescription paper? Would they think I was mentally insane? Severely depressed? Anxious? These thoughts just kept coming as I walked up to the pharmacy. My heart was racing as I handed him the script, and the young gentleman behind the counter looked at me. “When will you need this by?” I didn’t even hear the question. Why was he staring at me? Was he wondering why I was so depressed? Why is he looking at me funny? Obviously there was something psychologically wrong with someone who was filling a prescription for antidepressants. I felt like not only the people in the pharmacy were judging and scrutinizing me, but the entire world had started looking at me differently.
“Here is a prescription that I need you to fill today, and begin taking tomorrow. It will take a couple weeks to kick in, so you may not feel or see any changes. Take a half a pill a day to start,” my psychiatrist instructed me. I looked at the script and it read, “Zoloft.”
ZOLOFT?? As in antidepressant medication? As in any medication period? I’m sorry doc, but I was raised to fight through tough times on my own. And no doubt would there be tough times to fight through, but I was not to depend on a pill to assist me. Was I not strong enough to overcome this? What were my parents going to say when I called to inform them that I was put on psychiatric drugs? No one in my family had ever needed this type of medicine (or I should say, now, that no one in my family was ever prescribed this or took it, but they definitely may have needed it!) Besides, medication was for someone who was mentally ill. I was not mentally ill. I was simply a student-athlete striving to do my best academically and athletically.
Not only had no one in my family ever taken psychiatric medications, but not a single friend of mine had either. I didn’t know a soul that needed them, or so I thought. However, according to National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), “One in every five adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, or roughly 43 million Americans,” which means it would have been impossible for me to have been the ONLY one experiencing such distress. A study also done at Harvard Health published that, “about one in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant…and… antidepressants were the third most common prescription medication taken by Americans in 2005–2008,” which further supports the fact that I would not have been the ONLY one on mental health medicine at the time.
Do you know what it was like filling out paperwork at every medical office and listing current medications? I was so insecure and uncomfortable with being on antidepressants that I just started hiding it. Because, truthfully, did I need a nurse, PA, or physician walking in, skimming my background, and saying, “Oh, that’s so sad. She’s on Zoloft. She must have psychological issues.” Not the first impression I was imagining.
I was assured numerous times that the medicine would not change the person that I was, but simply help chemicals in my brain that may have become unbalanced and caused the depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms. And, clearly, there was something going on as I had incessant thoughts, continued weight loss, and methodical behaviors with food.
But, again, was my family disappointed in me for taking antidepressants? Would I have been looked at differently? Would people assume I was unstable, depressed, or anxious? I certainly would never wanted to be judged because of a pill.