Prozac Nation tells the story of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s childhood, her troubled relationship with her father who left her and her mother and refused to accept his responsibilities to his family, her move to Harvard, and her mental decline leading to several stays in hospital and a suicide attempt. Finally, after trying many different psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and medications, she tries Prozac and it helps her rise above her despair.
In the Afterword to Prozac Nation, written for the paperback edition in 1995, Wurtzel asks the question that will have occurred to many of her readers.
What on earth makes a woman in her mid-twenties, thus far of no particular outstanding accomplishment, have the audacity to write a three-hundred page volume about her own life and nothing more, as if anyone else would actually give a shit? (p. 354) She gives a long answer, the crux of which is:
I wanted this book to dare to be completely self-indulgent, unhesitant, and forthright in its telling of what clinical depression feels like: I wanted so very badly to write a book that felt as bad as it feels to feel this bad, to feel depressed. I wanted to be completely true to the experience of depression—to the thing itself, and not to the mitigations of translating it. I wanted to portray myself in the midst of this mental crisis precisely as I was: difficult, demanding, impossible, unsatisfiable, self-centered, self-involved, and above all, self-indulgent. (p. 356)
Wurtzel certainly succeeds in her aim to portray herself as capricious and self-preoccupied. Indeed, according to her own description, she seems so impulsive, self-preoccupied, needy in relationships, and manipulative that readers will probably wonder whether depression is indeed Wurtzel’s most basic problem. It’s very tempting to speculate that Wurtzel has just as much claim to a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder as she does to depression. Wurtzel says that her psychiatrists gave her a...
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