Book Review: Prozac Nation
Synopsis: Twenty-six-year-old Wurtzel, a former critic of popular music for New York and the New Yorker, recounts in this luridly intimate memoir the 10 years of chronic, debilitating depression that preceded her treatment with Prozac in 1990. After her parents' acrimonious divorce, Wurtzel was raised by her mother on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The onset of puberty, she recalls, also marked the onset of recurrent bouts of acute depression, sending her spiraling into episodes of catatonic despair, masochism and hysterical crying. Here she unsparingly details her therapists, hospitalizations, binges of sex and drug use and the paralyzing spells of depression which afflicted her in high school and as a Harvard undergraduate and culminated in a suicide attempt and ultimate diagnosis of atypical depression, a severe, episodic psychological disorder. The title is misleading, for Wurtzel skimps on sociological analysis and remains too self-involved to justify her contention that depression is endemic to her generation. By turns emotionally powerful and tiresomely solipsistic, her book straddles the line between an absorbing self-portrait and a coy bid for public attention.
Review: I liked this book. It was very easy to relate to and the language was engaging, not clinical. I spiral down into clinical depression also occurred when I was 12 (puberty age <~~~ hate this word). The more extreme accounts of her actions seem very desperate and almost exaggerated… but I think that’s part of the point: things seem more desperate, more traumatic internally then they appear to be externally. This book covers all the things she tried in order to cope with her depression from drugs, men, study, therapy, hospitalization, etc. Having often fallen to alcohol in order to self medicate it’s easy to understand how she could so easily lose herself to the drug culture. While I haven’t had the hospitalization experiences (though probably I should have) it gives a good account of what depression can do to drive someone to madness. It exemplifies the devastating effects that depression can have on someone, the hopelessness, the lifelessness, the lack of control, inability to function, the desperation to feel something, anything, that is not depression.
Living now, just a few years after this was published, it was very hard for me to believe that doctors refused to medicate, or were reluctant to medicate her for her depression. Nowadays doctors throw medication at everything. Having fought against and struggled to maintain my sanity on my own (without medication) for nearly 17 years, it’s interesting to see just how far someone else can be taken in order to deal with something so insidious. I do like that she did try virtually every option available to her before she was given prescription meds. I do believe doctors throw drugs at people much too quickly which does not actually help a depressive learn to cope with life. What I ultimately took from this was: No matter how much help, how many distractions, how many attempts to control depression, it is a chemical imbalance. Like any other disease, it is very difficult to treat a medical imbalance without medication and expect recovery. Medication alone is not enough though. For chronic, clinical depression therapy should also be encouraged to better learn how to cope with mood disorders.