The author of the acclaimed Welcome to My Country describes in this provocative and funny memoir the ups and downs of living on Prozac for ten years, and the strange adjustments she had to make to living "normal life."
Today millions of people take Prozac, but Lauren Slater was one of the first. In this rich and beautifully written memoir, she describes what it's like to spend most of your life feeling crazy--and then to wake up one day and find yourself in the strange state of feeling well. And then to face the challenge of creating a whole new life. Once inhibited, Slater becomes spontaneous. Once terrified of maintaining a job, she accepts a teaching position and ultimately earns several degrees in psychology. Once lonely, she finds love with a man who adores her. Slater is wonderfully thoughtful and articulate about all of these changes, and also about the downside of taking Prozac: such matters as dependency, sexual dysfunction, and Prozac "poop-out."
"The beauty of Lauren Slater's prose is shocking," said Newsday about Welcome to My Country, and Slater's remarkable gifts as a writer are present here in sentences that are like elegant darts, hitting at the center of the deepest human feelings. Prozac Diary is a wonderfully written report from inside a decade on Prozac, and an original writer's acute observations on the challenges of living modern life.
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May 31, 2011
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Excerpt from Prozac Diary by Lauren Slater
WHERE HE WAITS To get there, you turn left off the highway and drive down the road bordered on one side by pasture. And then, a radio song or so later, you turn right into the hospital's gated entrance, easing your car up the slope that leads to the turreted place where he waits. Safety screens cover all the windows. The stairs are steep, and exit signs cast carmine shadows on the concrete floors. Four flights you must travel, and then down several serpentine corridors, before you finally come to his office. I had never been here before. I had never heard the word Prozac before. It was 1988, the drug just released. I was to be one of the first to take Prozac, and, even though I didn't know this then, one of the first to stay on it for the next ten years, experiencing what long-term existence on this new medication is actually like. The Prozac Doctor is a busy man. He sees thirty, forty, sometimes fifty patients a day. He is handsome in ways you don't expect your medicine man to be. He has shining black hair and beautiful loafers made of leather so fresh you can practically see the hide still ripple with life. He wears one simple gold band on a finger as tapered as a pianist's, topped with a chip of nacreous nail sanded to perfect smoothness. He is host as well as doctor, and that first time, as well as every time thereafter, he invites me in, standing behind his desk and ushering me forward with stately sweeps of his hand, bowing ever so slightly in a room where you half expect caterers carrying platters of shrimp to emerge from the shadows. "Sit, Ms. Slater," he said to me the morning we met. He gestured to a deep seat, and I sat. There was a silence between us then, a kind of weighted silence, a grand silence, like the sort you hear before a symphony begins. And that day was the beginning, the bare beginnings of a story very little like the popular Prozac myths-a wonder drug here, a drug that triggers violence there. No. For me the story of Prozac lies not between these poles but entirely outside of them, in a place my doctor was not taught to get to-the difficulty and compromise of cure, the grief and light of illness passing, the fear as the walls of the hospital wash away and you have before you this-this strange planet, pressing in. But that first day, there was just Prozac pressing in. I looked around me at the office. On the doctor's desk I saw a Lucite clock with the word prozac embossed across the top. I saw a marble mount holding four pens with prozac etched down their flanks. The pads of paper resting on his bookshelf were the precise size and shape of hors d'oeuvre napkins, and all had prozac in fancy script across their borders, like the name of some new country club. "What is this stuff?" I asked. I heard my voice repeat itself in my ears, as so many sounds seemed to do lately, the screech of brakes, birdsong nipping at my brain. The doctor leaned back in his seat. "Prozac," he said, "is the chemical compound fluoxetine hydrochloride." He told me it had a three-ring chemical structure similar to that of other medications I'd tried in the past but that its action on the body's serotonin system made it a finer drug. He told me about the brain chemical serotonin and its role in OCD-obsessive-compulsive disorder-the most recent of my many ills, for me the nattering need to touch, count, check, and tap, over and over again. He told me about synapses and clefts, and despite the time he took with me that day, I felt him coming at me across a gulf. He had all the right gestures. His knowledge was impeccable. He made eye contact with the subject, meaning me. But still, there was something about the way the Prozac Doctor looked at me, and the very technical way he spoke to me, that made me feel he was viewing me generally-swf, long psych history, five hospitalizations for depression and anxiety-related problems, poor medica