I originally planned on titling this entry as some kind of allusion to the Wizard of Oz (more specifically, to the “bears, tigers, and lions! oh my!” quote), but I couldn’t find any particular three word sequence to best summarize what I wanted to write about. Instead, I opted for something seemingly more fitting; something that only placed precision on a beginning, as opposed to also including middle and end.
They were the optimistic words of the intern when she met with me for a session after I had retrieved my medication from the pharmacy earlier that day. I had always thought that these magic pills would be expensive, even with health insurance, but the generic Zoloft, which the cat lady had prescribed, only took a meager $5 from my wallet. In which case, one could draw the conclusion (as the intern did) that it was a positive sign for things to come. But in retrospect, I should’ve perhaps been wary of the small monetary cost and in stead suspected that it would be made up for in some other way.
Antidepressants (SSRIs in particular) have a funny way of working. When you read the pamphlets stuffed into the paper bag, there seems to be the possibility of an ironic increased risk of suicide in teenagers and young adults. And while the connection isn’t clear, I perhaps noted one key element towards my personal inclination towards hurting myself soon after starting on Zoloft. To be frank, side effects had never been a concern of mine up until that point; after all, I had popped pills before (mostly antibiotics), but the listed side effects had never bothered me. So when I found myself somnolent and lethargic, even after a full eight or nine hours of rest, it was merely a point of declination.
And while some would say that there could have been worse side effects, I would have to refute such by saying that they’ve never experienced what I had. Opening my eyes and pulling myself out of a bed everyday became a physical torment, never mind the constant struggle to stay awake in class or or to concentrate on important tasks on-hand (whether it be at work or with regards to finals). In effect, I had become the dormouse from the tea party in Alice and Wonderland. It was in itself an added torture; I could feel my physical abilities inhibited and trapped in a body that possessed no energy.
What I was able to do, though, was knock back drinks with ease, since all I had to do was have glass in hand and empty the contents. Duly noted that whatever alcohol I drank, as an effect of the Zoloft (as well as Lexapro and Prozac) on my system, would double in terms of effect (i.e. one shot would have the equivalent effect of two). Somewhere through that unbearable lethargy that ate away at me, I came up with the “ingenious” idea at a Christmas event to ultimately test the limits of the side effects of my medication.
It wasn’t until after my eighth drink of heavily loaded vodka and cranberry concoctions, and after leaving the event, that I blacked out. To be honest, I remember little of what happened after. It was as though I was watching a public service announcement; I felt detached from the actual events that unfurled. I would be conscious for short intervals of time long enough to sign myself into my residence, to realize that I was throwing up into my toilet, and to feel my eyes squeezed shut and hear the loud chatter of my teeth as I lay on the ground convulsing. And much to everyone’s surprise, not only had my roommate slept through most of what had happened, but also, I had managed to pull myself together to present myself to the EMS. Despite probably having some case of alcohol poisoning, the EMS dismissed me as having simply drank a “little” too much for the evening and merely had to sleep it off.
The next morning welcomed the most wonderful hangover that one could ever experience. Suffice to say, I managed to bond with the numerous bathrooms found in my temporary home at 726 Broadway. One of the circus folk booked me for a “safe-eval” (the follow-up to any event in which one hurts oneself) with the specialist for when I returned for the winter semester. It was never made clear what I had achieved in my stunt; the interaction of my medications, the real intent of my behavior, or the extent to which I was inebriated. In any case, I was continued on the Zoloft with no modification to my prescription. The time spent at home in Toronto could be summarized with the following illustration: for most of break, I lay in bed with eyes half open and too tired to do anything aside from emptily gaze at the television.
Returning from my shortened winter break, I met with the specialist early in the morning who then decidedly passed me onto another member of the circus after our first and only session. The reason for such was never clearly defined; all that had been made known to me was that I would have to meet with someone new to complete the second half of the safe-eval. In any case, I felt a sense of rejection from those that were supposedly there to help me, but I could’ve also interpreted it as a courtesy done unto me as I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed meeting with the specialist again. Subsequently, the PhD replaced the specialist’s role in determining what had happened that night. The interest in my referencing the nurse practitioner as the cat lady intrigued the PhD, as it seemed impossible for me to acknowledge the nurse practitioner by actual name.
Speaking of which, the cat lady didn’t seem to want to treat the incident as it was. In some bizarre interest, this event sparked some kind of quest to have me admit that I had a drinking problem (which to this day I will admit if the rest of college students concede to being alcoholics). Aside from that, the cat lady opted to switch my medication to Lexapro, which would take little time to work, but unbeknown to me would be too similar to the Zoloft in terms of somnolence.
It seems as though I had left the intern out of the picture. But in truth, my next appointment was only scheduled towards the end of January. It was then when she posed what seemed, to me, to be the one of the most interesting questions of the complete duration of my time at the Student Health Center as response to my mumbled admission to her of what had transgressed – “did you really try to kill yourself?”