The book “Prozac Nation” is the young writer Elizabeth Wurtzel’s memoir of her depression. In the book Wurtzel describes her experience in the depths of a depressive illness, her own character failings and how she managed to live through particularly difficult periods while completing college and working as a writer.
The setting is several places in the USA and at one point in London in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. This is the period of her life when she is going from childhood to a teenager and then towards adolescence. She traces her depression back to when she was around 8 or 9. This was the time when her parents decided to split, and her father left them. Elizabeth is always being sent off to Summer Camp for months, which she really dreads. When she stays there after her parent’s separation, she takes her first overdose at just 9. This is her cry for help, but when nobody is there for her, she changes quite drastically. She isolates herself from the world and spends a lot of time sitting in the toilets at school cutting her legs. Her life go on with several unnoticed cries for help. Her mother and she then become strangers, and she is always sent off to different places, like her aunt and so on. Unfortunately away from home, things just get worse for Elizabeth. She starts to drink alot and take lots of drugs to try to make the pain go away. As well as to try to “fit in”. But this just makes things worse. Every year she is sinking further and further into her depression. We then follow her through several therapists and medications, until she finds peace after over ten years of depression, in the antidepressant Prozac.
“Prozac Nation” is an autobiography, so it is naturally told in first person. You really get inside Elizabeth Wurtzel’s mind, feelings and thoughts, as well as really feel her feelings. One gets to side with her. Elizabeth is a very interesting, strong and intelligent person. She is brought up Jewish by her mother, but soon doesn’t live up to her expectations and becomes “the lonely and scary child”. Elizabeth describes some bi persons, like her friends and boyfriends, but none have a particular important role. People are constantly in and out of her life, but the one who really makes a turning point in her life, is the psychiatrist, Dr. Sterling. She is the only one Elizabeth relies on and gives her hope.
Elizabeth Wurtzel uses extraordinary language to describe her depression. She uses a lot of comparison and pictures, and draws parallels with other situations. She describes her depression for instance as a huge, black wave which she is always running from. The language is very complex and demands knowledge of the pop culture and persons from the last part of the 20th century. The book contains numerous literary references, for example snapshots of characters or storylines who Elizabeth feels she can relate to. But Wutzel has said herself that she wanted to write a book that felt as bad as it feels to feel as bad as she has felt.
Elizabeth has hope through the book, and only wishes to get out of her depression, but at the end of the book she looses all hope and plans her suicide in every last detail. While reading the book you are expecting her suicide at the end of each chapter, but it is at the most unlikely moment she tries to stop herself. She does that as an impulse when she is told that she has to be locked in for some time. It isn’t until after the suicide attempt that the Prozac kicks in and she becomes a totally different person.
In “Prozac Nation” the subject may be depression because of parents divorcing, depression amongst youngsters, how to deal with depression and depression in itself. The theme is how the author, Elizabeth Wurtzel, deals with depression and her story from when the depression starts to when she is cured and her new life begins.
Elizabeth Wurtzel looks upon Prozac as a national joke and thereby wanted to write a book on the subject of depression through therapy and medication. As a summary I would like to say that “Prozac Nation” is highly topical, and a great reading for everyone who wants to see today’s society through new and experienced eyes. This is by far the best book I have ever read and will recommend and buy it for everybody I know.