A harrowing story of an egoistic girl’s breakdowns, suicide attempts and trysts with psychopharmacology. This was an engaging read – a proficient girl’s insight on her own mental health issues which happened, as Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises puts it, gradually then suddenly. I dropped Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man with only a hundred pages more to go to read Prozac Nation mostly because I was in a slump and had no patience for silliness and fantasies. I wanted to read something introspective, something real, something I could relate to, and this was the perfect book to accompany my PMS tendencies.
You see, there is a time (if I’m lucky, times if I’m not) in a month that I crash into a mild malaise. It’s like depression but not as scary or debilitating (they have a word for it now – “dysthymia”), and this was the perfect book for when I was deepest in the throes of err, dysthymia (this is such a fancy, pretentious word for something so unproductive). Anyway, I wanted, or needed an understanding companion, and I felt like Wurtzel spoke to me. She was honest, she was brutal, and she was mad and she knew it. I also related to her in many levels – raised by a single mother, abandoned by a father, excelled in her youth, liked Joni Mitchell, and seemed like a girl “full of promise”. Yep, we also share the same inflated ego, though hers is attested with scholarly achievements while mine is just a flaw, a cardinal sin.
Ultimately though, this was an annoying book whose only purpose, at the time of my reading, is to satisfy my own self-pitying. Wurtzel is self-absorbed, annoying and a joyless burden – traits I think all depressives share, which Wurtzel thought was good. She wanted to come out as someone whose face you want to throw a book at, which I wanted to do at around the middle of Prozac Nation. I am, very obviously, ill-suited to be in any depressive’s support group, something I’ve always known but only confirmed after reading this. I am not equipped to handle clinical self-deprecation and I always feel a guilty boredom when people cling to me for help. I do love listening to my friends’ problems and I empathize, and I offer condolences and sometimes, my insights, but please don’t talk to me if you’re sadness is abstract, if your sadness is shamelessly self-involved, if the darkness you feel does not correspond to the external life you’re living with. Depressives don’t need friends who are busy with their own issues. They need therapists -trained listeners who can help them untangle whatever it is they need untangling from.
This is probably the first memoir I’ve read ever, or at least for a very long time. Are memoirs often like this? The verse was free-flowing and lyrically beautiful to the point that it read like fiction. I picked it up from a bargain bin thinking it would drive a point – like how America is The United States of Depression, but analysis of the drug-addled nation was only briefly touched. This book was simply, well, a memoir about the despair and chaotic tendencies of Lizzie Wurtzel.
Her episodes were sometimes so ridiculous to be almost unbelievable, but I believe her. I mean she’s crazy and the fact that I found her unbelievable is a good sign that I have not crossed over the edge. I am still me, with a healthy sense of perspective, and an awareness of the spectrum of sadness. My filters still work. I guess that’s what memoirs give you, eh? A sense of perspective. Something to hold down your overblown sense of importance.
I can’t wait to read more books like this. Suggestions are welcome.
There is a movie adaptation with Christina Ricci playing Elizabeth Wurtzel. She looks the part.