The United States of Depression – Elizabeth Wurtzel (1967 – 2020)

Posted: January 8, 2020 in Uncategorized

I was a little late to the Prozac Nation party, but when I discovered it, I inhaled it. It was 1998, four years after the book—written by Elizabeth Wurtzel, who died of metastatic breast cancer this week—was published. I was 21 and had been living with anxiety and depression for many years and had been on antidepressants—not Prozac, in my case, but another selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)—for two of them. Almost no one in my life knew.

Back then, nobody spoke about mental health. At least, not in my life. And if they did, it was in vague, meaningless terms spoken under the breath (“she’s struggling”) or with more than a hint of disparagement (“she’s gone off the rails”). I knew nobody who had lived some of what I’d lived. Then I read Prozac Nation.

Look at how we live: We communicate in text messages and e-mails; even those of us old enough to have lived in a world where landline was not a word because it’s all there was have fallen into this lazy substitute for human contact. I have. When I was young, when I was the age I should have been when all this happened, if I needed to tell a friend, an acquaintance, or the customer-service person from AT&T the smallest thing, I had to talk to him. Every day, many times a day, whether I felt like it or not, I spoke to people, lots of people. It is as obvious from a voice as it is not from print if all is well. Now, in a whole long day of croissants in the morning and multiple dog walks and stops at the bodega for yogurt and jam, I may speak with people I care about only in type. When you add the mistake of Facebook and Twitter into this equation, very bad things can happen: The illusion of friendship defeats the real thing. Someone who people believe they care about and cannot live without could end up dead.

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