It was 1994. Netscape Navigator was the biggest thing on the internet, My So Called Life was on TV, and millions mourned the death of Kurt Cobain. Prozac had been on the market for seven years and was revolutionizing psychiatry, but wasn’t the kind of thing people talked about in polite company.
Then, 26-year-old Elizabeth Wurtzel burst onto the scene with a navel-gazing account of her decade-long battle with depression and mania, which came to an end (of sorts) once she was finally prescribed Prozac. It was like Sylvia Path and Billy Idol had a bitchy daughter. She wrote, “A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it's impossible to ever see the end.”
Through beautiful prose she overshared before it was a thing people tried to avoid, and many critics hated her for it. The New York Times wrote that “self-pitying passages make the reader want to shake the author, and remind her that there are far worse fates than growing up during the 70’s in New York and going to Harvard.”
Which was exactly not the point. The genius and bravery of Prozac Nation was the way she described the darkness of depression and let the world see just how miserable it made her. She sucked the romance out of depression. And those of us who understood that pain finally felt understood.
And, because I am a fangirl, here’s a pic of me and Queen Wurtzel at the Jed Foundation gala two years ago.