Book Review: Prozac Nation

Book Review: Prozac Nation  

Synopsis: Twenty-six-year-old Wurtzel, a former critic of popular music for New York and the New Yorker, recounts in this luridly intimate memoir the 10 years of chronic, debilitating depression that preceded her treatment with Prozac in 1990. After her parents’ acrimonious divorce, Wurtzel was raised by her mother on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The onset of puberty, she recalls, also marked the onset of recurrent bouts of acute depression, sending her spiraling into episodes of catatonic despair, masochism and hysterical crying. Here she unsparingly details her therapists, hospitalizations, binges of sex and drug use and the paralyzing spells of depression which afflicted her in high school and as a Harvard undergraduate and culminated in a suicide attempt and ultimate diagnosis of atypical depression, a severe, episodic psychological disorder. The title is misleading, for Wurtzel skimps on sociological analysis and remains too self-involved to justify her contention that depression is endemic to her generation. By turns emotionally powerful and tiresomely solipsistic, her book straddles the line between an absorbing self-portrait and a coy bid for public attention.

Review: I liked this book. It was very easy to relate to and the language was engaging, not clinical. I spiral down into clinical depression also occurred when I was 12 (puberty age <~~~ hate this word). The more extreme accounts of her actions seem very desperate and almost exaggerated… but I think that’s part of the point: things seem more desperate, more traumatic internally then they appear to be externally. This book covers all the things she tried in order to cope with her depression from drugs, men, study, therapy, hospitalization, etc. Having often fallen to alcohol in order to self medicate it’s easy to understand how she could so easily lose herself to the drug culture. While I haven’t had the hospitalization experiences (though probably I should have) it gives a good account of what depression can do to drive someone to madness. It exemplifies the devastating effects that depression can have on someone, the hopelessness, the lifelessness, the lack of control, inability to function, the desperation to feel something, anything, that is not depression.

Living now, just a few years after this was published, it was very hard for me to believe that doctors refused to medicate, or were reluctant to medicate her for her depression. Nowadays doctors throw medication at everything. Having fought against and struggled to maintain my sanity on my own (without medication) for nearly 17 years, it’s interesting to see just how far someone else can be taken in order to deal with something so insidious. I do like that she did try virtually every option available to her before she was given prescription meds. I do believe doctors throw drugs at people much too quickly which does not actually help a depressive learn to cope with life. What I ultimately took from this was: No matter how much help, how many distractions, how many attempts to control depression, it is a chemical imbalance. Like any other disease, it is very difficult to treat a medical imbalance without medication and expect recovery. Medication alone is not enough though. For chronic, clinical depression therapy should also be encouraged to better learn how to cope with mood disorders.

Book Review: I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me

I Hate You – don’t leave me: Understanding the Borderline Personality” by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Strauss.
Book Synopsis: People with Borderline Personality Disorder experience such violent and frightening mood swings that they often fear for their sanity. They can be euphoric one moment, despairing and depressed the enxt. There are an estimated 10 million sufferes of BPD in America today – each displaying remarkably similar symptoms:
  a shaky sense of identity
– sudden violent outbursts
– oversensitivity to real or imagine rejection
– brief, turbulent love affairs
– frequent periods of intense depression
– eating disorders, drug abuse, and other self-destructive tendencies
– an irrational fear of abandonment adn inability to be alone
For years BPD was difficult to describe, diagnose, and treat. But now, for the first time, Dr. Jerold J. Kreisman and heal writer Hal Straus offer much-needed professional advice, helping victims and their families to understand and cope with this troubling, shockingly widespread affliction.
Review: This is a good primer for anyone that does not have any experience with Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s easy to read and accessible.  It gives a good run down for all of the DSM criteria and highlights them with actual patient experiences. It begins to delve into the environmental factors that contribute to BPD. It is also good in helping those around someone with BPD learn how to cope with them. The title “I hate you, Don’t leave me,” gives you an insight that it is an illness of relationships with others. The others are not just those that are closest to you, however; it gives insight into how this person came to have this disorder, how they relate to others, how they can help themselves, and how important it is to understand what they are going through.  It goes through techniques and helps the reader understand what some with borderline personality disorder is experiencing and dealing with, equipping outsiders with an understanding that helps explain such irrational behavior. This book will help you identify and understand borderline behavior as well as cope with those who are suffering from BPD. Ultimately it aims to provide perspective.
One flaw that bothered me about this book was the personal experience examples almost exclusively included violent and abusive upbringings. It leans very heavily on this as a primary factor in what causes BPD as an environmental cause. That’s not to say that in a great many cases this is unfortunately accurate, but I do not think it paints a complete picture and could come off as almost accusatory to the families of BPD patients that have not come from such a background. To place so much blame on upbringing and not focus on an emotional/mental predisposition to this behavior is lacking.   
In this way and many others I did find it to be a little simplistic and it was far from an exhaustive study into the depths of BPD. However I also don’t think an extensive look is what this book was aiming for. It’s a preliminary look, to begin to understand BPD and hopefully initiate the healing process and coping functions for those that live with or are involved with someone with BPD.

So, a good introduction to BPD but ultimately a little outdated.