I think it goes without saying that I’m a pretty awesome person, but here goes: I’m a pretty awesome person. While I have always been an awesome person, I must admit my awesomeness is only apparent to all because of Prozac.
We’re more than a decade out from Elizabeth’s Wurtzel’s autobiography Prozac Nation, and the accompanying ’90s anxiety about a generation starting to pop psychiatric pills in earnest. Then, as now, the possible improvement of mental health was overshadowed by what antidepressants would mean for this generation of depressives. Would it make us zombies? Pervert our personalities? Were selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor actually effective but destined to be an easy way out, a cure with long-run moral implications that an Evangelical-leaning nation shouldn’t dabble in?
To many, especially those who are considering using antidepressants to treat their mental illness, these are valid questions. In my experience, however, I can comfortably say that Prozac has changed, and probably saved, my life. No exaggeration.
Making this column an advert for Big Pharma – not that they need any help – is not my intent. Neither do I want to paint Prozac as a universal panacea simply taken once a day, like a Flintstone vitamin. The truth is, it’s taken years of hard work, therapy and many psychiatrist-supervised med combinations to finally reach the stability that Prozac has given me.
It wouldn’t be true to my natural cynicism if I didn’t include the inevitable downsides that recovery from major depression and various anxiety disorders can bring. With the help of Prozac I can hold down a job, get passing grades, and not jump off a cliff; I can have relationships, maintain friendships, and get fewer panic attacks. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t some gnarly side effects.
Having the capability to fulfill all my obligations is dampened a bit by constant exhaustion. I need at least nine or 10 hours of sleep per day to function, and if I let myself, I could sleep pretty much indefinitely. Needless to say, 12 hours of sleep isn’t in the cards for a busy student. I’ve resorted to caffeine and resourceful napping, though classes are still missed, and homework is still put off.
That’s not all in Prozac’s bag of tricks. I was prepared to deal with the anorgasmia, the asthenia, the occasional hand tremors. What I wasn’t expecting were the horrible, vivid nightmares. Not only are they awful, but I often can’t even recognize they aren’t real. Before I got on meds, I usually knew I was asleep when my grandma hit on me while wearing my boyfriend’s skin (WTF?).
Without getting into the very salient issues of mental health and what that means, the dangers posed by all-powerful pharmaceutical companies, and the fact that every person has different psychiatric needs, I wanted to use this space to say that antidepressants work for me. They may work for you and they may not. They may be temporary or perhaps require more consistent use. Personally, even with the side effects and the social stigmas surrounding both mental illness and its treatment, living with Prozac is exponentially better than being sick. It doesn’t look like much on paper, but sometimes I feel like the luckiest person alive.
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