One Woman's World
THE PROZAC PARADE
by Elizabeth Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- We live, we Americans, in a time of the quick fix for every woe, every twitch of discomfort, every mood.
We live as though it's a personal insult to experience anything except pleasure. We want surgery for problems that a Band-Aid would better serve. We want pills to dry one tear, pills to put us to sleep, and pills to wake us up.
Pills to endure a spouse's anger, a boss's bullying, a demanding child's needs, the loss of a loved one.
In the fall of 1989 my gentle, kind, Ozark Mountain mama died in my bedroom after a three-year battle with colon cancer.
I stumbled into the early 90's with lingering grief, insomnia, imagined physical aliments, and depression.
In a short period of time I went from a reasonably successful businesswoman to inability to find a phone number or dial a phone without mental strain. I would get disoriented in downtown traffic and have to pull my car over until the anxiety and the trembling ceased. I became reclusive, cancelled endless lunches with friends. I avoided commitments and responsibilities. Facial tics, shaking hands, mild memory loss and a blunted brain became a part of my grey days. I stopped writing, stopped rejoicing in a sunrise and, more importantly, I stopped being a loving and involved parent to Leah, the delightful child that blessed my life.
One morning I looked down on the sleeping form of that incomparable young girl who seemed to have grown older while I was blundering around in my anti-depressant stupor. From the far and foggy recesses of my tired mind, I remembered better days, brighter times. I remembered being in control of my life, of enjoying simple things. I remembered having full kitchen cabinets and enough money left over from teaching sessions to eat out, buy Leah new tennis shoes, put money in savings.
The difference in then and now, I realized with almost physically painful shock, was the anti-depressants. Prozac had been followed by Lorazapam for depression and Ambien for sleep.)
I cold turkeyed the pills and waited for the first night of anticipated hell without them.
Nothing happened. I got through my first days and weeks without the sky falling and with little noticeable differences in my daily existence.
Gradually my world began to right itself and my sense of being back from some distant, grey hell brought me a growing joy and a sense of power. I could remember new and old phone numbers. I enjoyed the smell and taste of simple foods. I looked at Leah and seemed to see her for the first time in many months. I placed ads, took students, started writing again.
A couple of years after my decision to stop taking the pills, I spotted Prozac Backlash,, a book by Dr. Joseph Glenmullen. Having put my personal anti-depressant nightmare behind me, I had resumed my motivational work with women and was appalled at the growing number of women who were being handed powerful and debilitating anti-depressants as though they are a kissing cousin to a baby aspirin.
I took Dr. Glenmullen's book home, sat down with a cup of coffee, began to read and was totally unprepared for my response. I wept with recognition. I rejoiced to know my term in anti-depressant hell had not been blundering incompetence or the imaginings of a poetic mind. I underlined the glaring side effects that had been part of my grey, blunted existence for so many months.
What am I trying to say? That all anti-depressants are a medical evil and no woman - or man - should take them? No. I am not a doctor and I would never tell anyone to take, or not to take, any medication.
What I am saying is that I despise the casual prescribing of these powerful, often harmful, drugs for situations that are a part of the natural process of being human.
Grief is a natural process. Who does not experience it when we lose a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend? Divorce is the death of a marriage, and is usually followed by some degree of depression after its demise.
Work-related headaches, budget problems, parental nightmares, and a host of other maladies, are a part of the human picture called living and none of us can side step them completely. They can build muscles on our character, or they can make us reach for the Prozac, the Jack Daniels, the marijuana.
The price of our American pursue-pleasure, avoid-pain attitude comes at the expense of our creative ability to resolve our problems, our discovery of inner power, our growth from claiming daily responsibility for our moods, attitudes, actions and reactions. Crutches are for suffering limpers who have temporarily forgotten the magic and the spiritual comfort of remembering we are fearlessly and wonderfully made. Forgotten That-From-Which-We-Came created us out of Itself - stronger, bigger and greater than any self-imposed misery or external circumstances over which we have no control save how we choose to re-act to them.
In remembering lies our power, and our personal sunrise after every dark hour of the soul.
Elizabeth Andrews is a former businesswoman and newspaper columnist now living in Cartersville, Ga., where she writes poetry. Contacted her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or P.O. Box 816, Cartersville, GA 30120.