Assassination Press

Friday, July 15, 2005

Elizabeth Wurtzel: feminist champion, pharmaceutical watchdog, or pathetic self-absorbed child?


With great pride, I introduce my guest writer, my femme fatale, my righteous babe, and my significant other, Jennifer Knight.

You will find that she is a very talented writer, satirist, and has a unique voice to add to the Assassination Press.


James Knight

Elizabeth Wurtzel: feminist champion and pharmaceutical watchdog or pathetic self-absorbed child?

By Jennifer Knight (Assassination Press)

I admit I devoured every page of Prozac Nation when it was first published over seven years ago. I was especially drawn to Wurtzel’s long soulful diatribes on the meaningless of life and read certain, particularly depressing sections over and over as she waxed poetic on the vortex of darkness which sucked her in and forced her to spend endless days lying in bed, listening to Bob Dylan and eschewing her schoolwork, hygiene and basic responsibilities. It was alluring, the idea of spending those days when there seemed to be no reason to kick off the covers, safely cocooned in my bed. I felt her piercing pain and unfulfilled longing, had known all her disappointments as my own and longed to spend my days commiserating at her side. Depression is, after all, a disease, and I was a vicarious member of her support group.

Wurtzel’s next book, More, Now and Again, was even more inspiring. Although I’d never actually snorted Ritalin, I knew that she had been duped once again by the evil pharmaceutical giants. First Prozac, to create a zombie Wurtzel, And when the Prozac let her down, in the same haphazard vein as everyone else in her lonely existence, I understood her disappointment. So now she is left with the little white pills that just can’t mask the pain in their original form. Once again her depression leads her into unchartered waters, and now she has become addicted to a drug prescribed by a physician she trusted, a doctor in charge of her mental health. Once the Ritalin prescription is yanked by said trusted medical physician Wurtzel is left no other choice but to seek less legitimate drugs. The 5th Avenue pushers are replaced with those of lesser credentials—cocaine and heroin become the substitute for her insurance subsidized pharmaceutical cocktail. The book goes on to describe each day of her trials and tribulations in minute detail. At the time her words were my oxygen as she continued to validate my depression, my desperate need to medicate and thus numb the overwhelming hopelessness she and I had become victims to.

Seven years later I thumb through the pages of these worn books--large blocks of text highlighted in yellow and orange, scribbled notes covering the narrow margins, exclamation points peppered throughout—and I wonder why I was so in awe of such blatant narcissism. Rereading the highlighted passages I cringe and wonder how I fell so completely into myself. And then I wonder how many other young women she has lulled into this sticky web of hopelessness, indecision, and self-immersion. I want to draw them a map out of this dark labyrinth, every path leading to endless hours inside their own heads. I want to tell them that the only way out of depression is to step out of your mind and into the world. I want to remind them that this poor Jewish writer went to Harvard and made millions writing her memoirs about these sketchy years of darkness. Her claim to fame is her depression---without her mental anguish she is just another self-absorbed upper-middleclass young woman who hid from the world when deadlines and responsibility called.

I am no stranger to depression, I hear it calling when dusk turns to darkness and long, endless evenings stretch before me. I felt its breath caress my skin in stagnant rooms under mounds of heavy blankets. I have walked hand-in-hand with the darkest spirits calling my name, inviting me to join them in the other-world---any world other than mine. But one day long after reading and rereading Wurtzel’s justification for her blatant and sometimes malicious abuse of substances and family members, I decided to do something for someone other than myself. And by stepping outside of my own mind I learned that happiness has nothing to do with anything that is swirling around in your head---depression is a by-product of long indulgent periods of inner reflection.

And so my advice to Elizabeth Wurtzel is to step outside of herself for five minutes. The most immediate thing she will likely discover is that there are other sentient beings living in her world. And then perhaps her first step should be as simple as thanking her mother for paying the mounds of psychiatric bills she racked up during her years at Harvard. And then maybe she could try actually doing something for somebody besides herself. She could keep it simple in the beginning: bring a sick friend some soup or ask the guy who prepares her daily soy milk lattes at the coffee shop on the corner how life is treating him. No need to vie for the Nobel Prize—just recognize that she is connected to every other living being on this planet---rather than living in the Wurtzel cocoon. I don’t expect miracles; I just want her to put the mirror down for five seconds.

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Blogger Storm Trooper said...

Do you remember me at all? I remember you! Ha ha!

2:35 PM  
Blogger Rowan said...

Great post! I agree that sometimes depression is just self-indulgent wallowing and the best thing to do is shake it off, get out there and live a good life!

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anette said...

I remember reading Prozac nation, and thinking this is not a book I would ever recomend to somone who have ever had depression themselves, because I was on the verge of getting depressed by reading it. I do understan that people can se depression as a self indulgent walloing, I do so myself sometimes. But I also se that there are some people that do not have the abilety to give themself a kick in the as, or step outside their head as you say it. And some of them do need medicine to function. I don`t think we will ever understand how it is for depressed ones. It would be nice to aske one why they are so selfish, but I do not think that they will understand the question. Thats life, people are different, and so let them be. "give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change

1:37 PM  
Blogger Graham said...

I haven't read Prosac nation, but obviously, so much of what you say is true. But, it's a process we all go through... or a lot of us do... I know I have, and I think it's an important part of the path to maturity. Often wrestling, indulgently with irresolvable issues of self is an internal struggle to embrace the sheer overwhelming responsibility we have to make the most out of what little time we have on this earth. Sometimes the sheer weight of the most simply, trivial aspect of my life makes me wanna curl up in a ball and ramble on my comp to myself about the sheer unrelenting darkness of psyche...

... but then, if we do well, we finally open our hearts to the enormous sublime beauty that life holds, usually in our compassion, caring, and engagement with the welfare of those we love and care for... and of course it is always a battle, and a continuous journey of life lessons, and personal growth.

From what I read in your column, as indulgent, and narcistic as Prosac Nation sounds, it also strikes me as relevant, important, and profoundly reflective of an important part of the human psyche.

Great column.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

It was pathetically self indulgent. I three that bookin the garbage.

11:02 PM  
Blogger V said...

I never did read Prozac nation because I was too depressed.

8:49 AM  
Blogger The Human Quilt said...

Hello, my name is JJ. I was looking through some blogs and I think you might like a blog I am starting up. It’s called The Human Quilt. The Human Quilt has a goal of sharing the lives, expressions, emotions, memories, secrets, and desires of people across the globe. Share your story in a square. Each square tells the story of a life. I would greatly appreciate it if you take a look and give me some input. Thanks a lot.

9:09 PM  
Blogger gabbi said...

when in the grip of depression i am a different person. when i'm my better self i don't understand that other side to myself. i don't understand how i thought that way. my medicine cocktail when in balance keeps all the over-thinking (i agree is the problem) and quiets my mind. i am then able to live again.

1:57 AM  
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2:46 AM  
Blogger ruinme said...

You are wrong, wrong, wrong, and stupid. I loved prozac nation and it did not make me depressed. She is a fabulous writer and I forget which reviewer said this but somebody said she could write about watching paint dry and make it fascinating. I couldnt agree more. She leaves me spellbound.

9:28 AM  
Blogger ruinme said...

For reference on ELIZABETH WURTZEL stepping out of herself and her mirror, check out her book BITCH.

9:29 AM  
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