21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2004
"Gradually... then suddenly." There appears little else to descirbe the journey of depression that is suffered by not just the authour, but thousands everyday. Those on the outside do not understand; they cannot comprehend what is experienced by the individual labelled clinically depressed.
'Prozac Nation' truly made me feel that I was not alone; that there indeed was someone to help me. Someone who truly knew that I wanted to live. "The same way I came down, I came up." If it hadn't been for this account, I genuinely do not believe I would be here today. I highlight the pages of her narrative and every page seems applicable to myself. But there is only so much to mark. You have to make it for yourself and for any manic depressive, I genuinely belive that you are strong enough to bid adieu to the black cloud.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2004
prozac nation is an incredible memoir of depression by beautifully talented young writer elizabeth wurtzel. i finished reading it a few weeks ago and i was left blown away by her strength, her bravery, and the poise with which she manages to convey her harrowing story. somehow she is capable of describing the horrific occurences of her life without hardly ever sounding sorry for herself or as though all she wants is your attention and/or pity. instead, her sardonic dark wit and the attentiveness with which she examines the life and the pain around her is simply breathtaking. i finished the book and somehow, despite being frighteningly capable of identifying with many of the things she recounts, i felt more like a whole than i ever have. read this book.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2000
I first read this book when I was suffering from depression myself. Elizabeth Wurtzel captures what it is like to be depressed and expresses it vividly. She also shows that just because you suffer from depression, you don't have to lose your sense of humour.
The danger with this book is that a depressed reader can relate so well to the author's description of her own experiences that it can encourage them to sink further into a pit of despair. However, the book may help people who do not know others with the same problem and who would welcome the reassurance that they are not alone.
The book is so good because despite the accusations of self-indulgence, it is in fact written from a critical distance. Wurtzel makes fun of herself, her own neediness and sense of inadequacy, while simultaneously reminding you just what hell depression is.
Wurtzel emphasises that depression is mostly an emptiness where life should be, but a book about lying blankly in bed feeling very sad would have perhaps been rather boring, so she does tend to devote more space to her more histrionic moments, which may perhaps give casual readers the wrong impression.
The book is a remarkable achievement in being both so painful and so entertaining at the same time.
85 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2006
The book is a true to life portrayal of Elizabeth’s life in the USA, written first hand. It starts of in her childhood, in approximately the 1970’s, when she is only around 8 or 9 from when she still feels normal to when she starts to feel the depression first kicking in. Her parents separate when she is pretty young and she gets sent away to Summer Camp for months on end which she dreads. During one of these Summers as a child of only 9 or 10 she takes her first overdose, not enough to do any real damage, but enough to be recognised as a cry for help…. She also spends long periods of time sitting in the toilets at school cutting her legs, however she can hide this all too well. Sadly no-one notices her cries for help and life goes on with Elizabeth sinking further and further into her depression.
The bulk of the book is set during her late teens and the time she spends at college. Elizabeth is an interesting case because she is a very intelligent person and despite her depression she gets a place to study at Harvard and she always somehow manages to just scrape through. Unfortunately away from the security of home, things just get worse for Elizabeth. She starts to drink a lot and to take a lot of drugs, cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis, speed, you name it, to try to make the pain go away and to try to ‘fit in’ but this just makes everything worse.
When she isn’t on a manic partying spree Elizabeth’s days are primarily spend alone, in bed, in the dark, because she can’t even find the energy to drag herself up out of bed. She cries endlessly for days on end and tortures her poor mother who simply cannot understand her ups and downs. Her father stops speaking to her altogether and disappears for up to years at a time. She doesn’t eat and can’t seem to sleep even though she’s too tired even to stand up. Something little like going to the bathroom or answering the phone seems like the worst ordeal ever to Elizabeth at these times. At her worst moments she considers suicide, she doesn’t go to any lectures or do any course work, she literally cannot do anything. A great deal of the book is devoted to the description of these periods at the bottom of despair, it is painful to read and it can become quite depressing, although also fascinating.
Elizabeth’s lowest states can be demonstrated with two examples, both of which occur while she is at Harvard. She sleeps with a lot of people, but because she is so depressed she doesn’t even notice that she hasn’t had a period for two months. That’s until she wakes in the middle of the night, covered in blood and is taken, screaming, to the hospital where she is told she’s had a miscarriage. The other example is her description of the time her Grandparents, two lovely old people, went to visit her in Harvard. They undertake the five hour drive only to find that Elizabeth is not there. She is recovering from a night of taking one hell of a cocktail of drugs on the floor of a friend’s house, depressed and on a come-down she is simply unable to get up and go and meet her Grandparents. They bang on her door and leave countless messages, worried sick, just five minutes away and all Elizabeth can do is lie and cry about the fact that she can’t get up and go and meet them, she just cannot deal with it…...
Her saving grace must be her friends who also seem there to pick her up and drag her to the psychiatry ward or give her a good talking to and of course, her mother. Without these people who are described in great detail within the book, who knows where Elizabeth would be today, or even if she would be….
Other parts of her life are more positive, at times she holds down a good summer job, throwing herself into the workload manic as ever, working all night and proud of what she can achieve and partying all night with it. These are clear manic episodes in which she does crazy, impulsive things without thinking them through and consequently these things often end up going horribly wrong. But of course, such moments never last long, it always goes back to the depression. Elizabeth knows this and she just waits for it to happen.
It gets to the state where Elizabeth is admitted to the psychiatric ward fulltime as she starts to contemplate suicide, in fact there is a period where she is in and out of here on a number of occasions. She eventually has a lot of therapy with a women named Dr Sterling, who she comes to trust and rely upon deeply and who managed to help her and keep her away from the edge. It is this women who eventually starts to try Elizabeth on drugs to control her depression. Some make it worse, some improve the situation marginally. At this point Prozac is a brand new drug on trial and Elizabeth agrees to give it a shot despite the little knowledge there was about the drug at this point. Of course you can guess the rest. The improvement is dramatic and immediate and it changed Elizabeth’s life immensely for the better, letting her control her depression and at least attempt to lead a normal existence.
In many ways this isn’t a happy ending, for Elizabeth the problem will never go away and she has to deal with a life in which she relies on pills, the side effects that come with them and the occasional bouts of depression she still seems to slip into…..
At the end of the book there is a prologue and considerable information about the life of Prozac since Elizabeth became one of the first to be prescribed the drug. There is a very amusing extract in which Elizabeth discusses her friend’s cat. The owners of the cat had recently separately and there had been a house move; consequently the cat had become distressed and had starting to tear fur from it’s coat and chew it. The vet diagnosed depression and prescribed the cat with a low dose of Prozac. Sure this is America, they love their legal drugs over there, but isn’t this just the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? The whole point of course is to illustrate that the whole Prozac thing has got way out of hand, millions of people in America and World Wide now take Prozac and the drug is well over-prescribed. Elizabeth had to suffer for over a decade with the debilitating disease that is depression before she was offered any real help now you can just pop to the Doc’s and I reckon you or I could get some without much cause for fuss at all…. Still that’s the way of the world!
What I also liked about the book is that it contains numerous literary references, for example snapshots of characters or storylines who Elizabeth feels she can relate to. Elizabeth is a literature student and a huge bookworm which explains this constant referencing. If you’re like me and you really enjoy reading then you’ll find that your attention will constantly be grabbed by another interesting book title or author to add to your list of must read material.
In summary I’d just like to say that this is truly a great read, passionately written and shocking to the core, you just won’t be able to put it down. It is an insight into a world you didn’t know existed and if anything at least it helps the rest of us to understand to some extent. Depression is a real problem, however exaggerated it has become, we just have to hope and pray that it is something we don’t have to deal with in our own lives but it personally or to those we love.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2010
I read this book over 10 years ago when I was 16, had recently attempted suicide, been diagnosed with depression and been prescribed Prozac.
While I indentified with a lot of her feelings and incidents early on in the book, by the time I got nearer the end I felt there was no purpose to this book, other than the author to gain sympathy and attention for her illness, and it made her sound like a self pitying teenager stuck in learned helplessness.
This may sound harsh, but that's how I found the book.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2007
Having suffered from depression since I was 13, I have found this book an insightful read that attempts to abolish the perception that children do not suffer from or cannot suffer from depression. I have read rview that say this memoir is self-pitying and egotistical. I cannot agree because in all honesy, this is how depression takes hold, especially when the audience has never suffered from it. People around one tend to pre-judge making implications that one is self-absorbant and just morbid & needs to 'snap out of it'. This is something that 99% of sufferers have had to deal with at least once during their illness.
Elizabeth captures the ambience perfectly & describes how the depression takes hold of her & how hysterical it makes both her mother & herself. She shows the lack of understanding of others without blame & that it is a difficult illness to understand when there seems to be no 'real reason' behind it. Elizabeth tries to emphasise that she struggles with the guilt that she feels for having this illness considering that other people have been through worse things than her during their lives. I do think that Elizabeth's ego and confidence as a woman with this illness has been perceived badly. I honestly don't think she wrote he book to appeal to her own ego. She wanted to share her struggle & get rid of the taboo that surrounds mental illness & to show that some people are genetically more prone to the illness & do not need a 'legitimate reason' (such as abuse) to suffer from it.
The only advice I give is to try to put yourself in the same position as Elizabeth & to try to understand how this illness affects people. We are not being deliberately selfish, but obviously, the self is the only thing you can think of when you're in the bubble of depression.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Depression is the subject of this hugely repetitive and strongly downbeat novel. It's not an easy read and I can't with any honesty recommend that you read this. It is the story of Elizabeth Wurtzel, a woman who has almost every advantage, a place at Harvard, a mother who scrimps and saves to afford to pay for her daughter's therapy and education, money for cocaine when she wants it, and what begins and ends with an almost terminally depressed life. Her father leaves her mother and they have difficulty with the matter of child support. But of course, Wurtzel's depression is the big problem.
At the same time she manages to write for the New Yorker, manages to go to some of her lectures, manages a to have quite a few boyfriends and plenty of casual moneyed friends, many of whom can provide theatre tickets and casual help, plus an audience of friends and sympathisers willing to listen to her long diatribes of helpless and self-involved misery.
It is a long, dark fruitless search for meaning and as well as narcissistic, it is a deeply negative narrative. Wurtzel's life seems meaningless to her and after only a few pages one is drawn into her miserable story. The trouble is, negative feelings are all she has to tell us about, and this is clearly because all she has is negative feelings. Avoid this, if possible, or else you might find yourself drawn into the darkness. Although the blurbs for this book call her funny, clever and very brave, leading one to suppose you'll find her story life-affrming in the end, I struggled with this book and resorted to skim reading. I'm very glad I'm not her. I've had periods at the bottom of the world and it's hard to pull yourself out.
Sometimes, you just can't bear it. And believe me, the drugs don't won't help you. Ever.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2012
This is an indulgent and brutal account of Wurtzel's life and her troubled mind and her dealings with mental illness. It makes for fascinating reading not only because of the portrayal of clinical depression but also because of the author's own personality. As a sufferer of clinical depression even I found it difficult to sympathise with her even as she articulated beautifully how depression can feel.
She did come across sometimes mean and selfish but I still connected with her because I felt like she knew that. It also is one of the most hones aspects of the book which I admire her for writing. Severely depressed people can act selfish and act differently from how they usually are. However, her actions sometimes portray manipulation not effects of her illness. She call her therapist throughout the night, claims if she does not listen to her she will kill herself and admits a few times that she is addicted to her own depression.
The ending was the one part I could not possibly believe. The author suddenly got better after having an epiphany. I felt like she had been told to stick a happy or hopeful ending on the end to get that and it gave a jarring ending to the book.
If you have gone through something like what the quote describes above then I recommend you read this book. Reading it made me realise further that the depression was not a weakness of mine but an actual illness. However if you want a complete truthful account of clinical depression I would suggest looking elsewhere.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2012
This book is absolutely fantastic. I purchased it about 5 years ago from Amazon and have read it at least twice again since that time. I've also recommended it to many friends and family. I think that this book touches areas of life we can all relate to, some more than others. The way Elizabeth (the author and protagonist) describes depression as being like a black wave, washing over you suddenly and then not suddenly, pulling you down like an undertow - it really struck a chord with me. I can recommend this book to anyone - especially those interested in a well written first account of clinical depression and the struggles of it throughout early life, and ongoing medication.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 1999
I read this book at one of the worst periods of my life and found it a very sharp reminder that I was not the first person to be depressed and that there was help if I could climb out of myself to get it. Whilst I couldn't relate to the drugs angle (apart from the prescription variety) I could relate to the full of promise idea and the sense of despair. To Elizabeth Wurtzel I can only say thank you for reminding me that I was not alone. I would recommend this book to anyone who is going through depression, and for the people who are forced to leave with people going through depression. We are not an easy bunch to relate to and we can be intensly frustrating. this book offers a kind of explanation for what goes on in the head of a clinically depressed person- and proves that whilst you might feel like death you can still retain your sense of humour. A harrowing but hopeful book, this is essential reading.