Caitlin's Reviews > Prozac Nation

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
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Jul 19, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: read-in-2010
Read from July 19 to 31, 2010

If you are someone who struggles with the isolating and depleting pain of depression then this book will be one that you read with great empathy. You will find yourself identifying with certain passages, certain experiences, that the author describes. Wurtzel was raised by a single mother and basically abandoned by a father who refused to pay for therapy in her teen years, thus it took her a long time to finally enter a treatment program, find the right therapist, and begin the trial and error of medication. On the outside, she seems to have a great life; she is smart, pretty, and a student at Harvard but the depression is eating away at her mind and it isn't until she hits rock bottom and is prescribed Prozac, which at the time had just hit the market, that her life begins to improve. The drug is not a miracle, no drug ever can be when it comes to depression, but it allows her to function.

All this said, the book is not perfect. I found some of her analogies and metaphors to be a bit cliche, odd, and even mystifying. When people once complained to Wurtzel that her memoir is too self-indulgent, too annoying, she replied: Good. She wants to make people understand what depression is like, how monotonous and dull it is, how narcissistic and self-absorbing all that sorrow can be, but this can make for a slow reading experience.

If you know someone who is depressed and you want to get a better idea of what it's really like to be in his or her head for a little while, this memoir might be enlightening and it might give you more compassion for what that person struggles with every day of his or her life.

I'd also like to add a bit of a political angle to all of this and say that I was disappointed that Wurtzel did not more vehemently criticize our health care system for its inadequacies and complete failure to meet the needs of those suffering with mental problems. The only answer is universal coverage for every single person so that, when one is depressed, he or she can seek help and not be turned away because they have no money. As it is, there are no options for people who lack the money to afford costly therapy and medications. This isn't right and it shouldn't be happening. I'm glad Wurtzel got the care and attention that she needed but I can't help but think of all the people who haven't been as fortunate.
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Quotes Caitlin Liked

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“At heart, I have always been a coper, I've mostly been able to walk around with my wounds safely hidden, and I've always stored up my deep depressive episodes for the weeks off when there was time to have an abbreviated version of a complete breakdown. But in the end, I'd be able to get up and on with it, could always do what little must be done to scratch by.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“homesickness is just a state of mind for me. i'm always missing someone or someplace or something, i'm always trying to get back to some imaginary somewhere. my life has been one long longing.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“Sometimes, I get so consumed by depression that it is hard to believe that the whole world doesn't stop and suffer with me.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“How can you hide from what never goes away? --Heraclitus”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“That’s the thing I want to make clear about depression: It’s got nothing at all to do with life. In the course of life, there is sadness and pain and sorror, all of which, in their right time and season, are normal—unpleasant, but normal. Depression is an altogether different zone because it involves a complete absence: absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest. The pain you feel in the course of a major clinical depression is an attempt on nature’s part (nature, after all, abhors a vacuum) to fill up the empty space. But for all intents and purposes, the deeply depressed are just the walking, waking dead.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“Rock bottom is an inability to cope with the commonplace that is so extreme it makes even the grandest and loveliest things unbearable...Rock bottom is everything out of focus. It's a failure of vision, a failure to see the world as it is, to see the good in what it is, and only to wonder why the hell things look the way they do and not some other way.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“That's the problem with reality, that's the fallacy of therapy: It assumes that you will have a series of revelations, or even just one little one, and that these various truths will come to you and will change your life completely. It assumes that insight alone is a transformative force. But the truth is, it doesn't work that way. In real life, every day you might come to some new conclusion about yourself and about the reasoning behind your behavior, and you can tell yourself that this knowledge will make all the difference. But in all likelihood, you're going to keep on doing the same old things. You'll still be the same person. You'll still cling to your destructive, debilitating habits because you emotional tie to them is so strong that the stupid things you are really the only things you've got that keep you centered and connected. They are the only things about you that you you.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“Depression is about as close as you get to somewhere between dead and alive, and it's the worst.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“...if you feel everything intensely, ultimately you feel nothing at all.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“Forget about the scant hours in her brief life when Sylvia Plath was able to produce the works in Ariel. Forget about that tiny bit of time and just remember the days that spanned into years when she could not move, couldn’t think straight, could only lie in wait in a hospital bed, hoping for the relief that electroconvulsive therapy would bring. Don’t think of the striking on-screen picture, the mental movie you create of the pretty young woman being wheeled on the gurney to get her shock treatments, and don’t think of the psychedelic, photonegative image of this sane woman at the moment she receives that bolt of electricity. Think, instead, of the girl herself, of the way she must have felt right then, of the way no amount of great poetry and fascination and fame could make the pain she felt at that moment worth suffering. Remember that when you’re at the point at which you’re doing something as desperate and violent as sticking your head in an oven, it is only because the life that preceded this act felt worse. Think about living in depression from moment to moment, and know it is not worth any of the great art that comes a its by-product.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
“It doesn’t matter how many years go by, how much therapy I embark on, how much I try to achieve that elusive thing known as perspective, which is supposed to put all past wrongs into their rightful and diminished place, that happy place where all the talk is of lessons learned and inner peace. No one will ever understand the potency of my memories, which are so solid and vivid that I don’t need a psychiatrist to tell me they are driving me crazy. My subconscious has not buried them, my superego has not restrained them. They are front and center, they are going on right now.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation


Reading Progress

07/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Jocelyn (new)

Jocelyn I tried reading this a few years ago and couldn't stomach it because it hit too close at that time. What I did manage to read helped me in some way, but it's difficult to explain depression to someone who has never experienced it.


Caitlin Very true. It wasn't hard for me to read because I struggle with depression and have struggled with it most my life, mainly because I've never had access to treatment due to being uninsured (which was an important point for me to bring up. You cannot talk about mental illness, or illness at all, without discussing the fact that millions of people cannot get the help they need), I had trouble reading it at times because I just didn't love her writing style. She's a good writer and there were some very profound passages but that was the problem: the whole book wasn't as strong as its parts.

I know that it's impossible for someone who doesn't have depression to comprehend someone who does but there are people who want to empathize, they want to understand, like Wurtzel's mother, and though they might never "get it" I thought this book could give them an idea of how painful, isolating, draining, and atrocious it is to be depressed.


chucklesthescot Excellent review! It is clear that you have real empathy for depression sufferers. I've suffered from depression for 10 years and it has been a hellish rollercoaster, though I've been lucky never to get suicidal with it, so I can relate to so much of this book. Also being in the UK, all my treatment was free on our national health service and the health professionals were excellent. I can't tell you how bad I feel for those who need to pay for this treatment or can't pay for it.


message 4: by Katie (new)

Katie Sholty I don't know why, but I can't get into this book. She describes depression really well, and in a way that I can't explain to people who don't have it. It's not that Wurtzel is whiny, it's more of the style of writing. The constant stream of consciousness.


message 5: by Mee (new)

Mee great review. doesn't seem like a one star review, though i enjoyed reading your thoughts.


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