How Prozac (& Pychotherapy) Saved my Brain (& the Rest of Me)

[This is an updated version of a Facebook note from 2009.]

If you’ve known me more than say, 14 years, I’m quite different these days. Beginning in my senior year of High School, I began to have severe emotional downturns. I first remember depression as me sobbing on the phone to my best friend, Paul H., because the girl of my dreams had zero interest in me and was dating the class president. I realistically had no chance with her, but I dissolved into a blubbering mess.

The downturns intensified in my twenties. Shortly after I got married, I began a cycle of working in a job for a while, spiraling into frustration and powerlessness until I was either fired or quit. I cycled through at least 11 jobs in 10 years.

I first sought professional help when one day I was so overcome with rage that I wanted to launch my toddler daughter through the window for misbehaving. I knew that something was horribly, horribly wrong.

I met with both a psychiatric social worker and psychotherapist, every week for 7+ years. I plumbed the depths of my abusive childhood, forgave my father’s physical beatings, embraced my wounded inner child, and achieved some level of self-awareness. But, still the depression hung over me like a vampiric specter.

After trying three different anti-depressants, I had been hearing for a few years about the wonder drug Prozac. I asked the social worker if we could try that, I wanted relief. I had feverishly tried prayer, and God seemed unable to cure this thing. (The beginning of my nontheism lies here.)

Within a few weeks, I begin to unravel, in a good way. Really, really good! I couldn’t stop giggling to myself at how silly my bad moods now seemed. During this time, I’d attended a few services of what has been called “The Laughing Revival” where I’d experienced elations that dwarfed my childhood Pentecostal holy-rolling (I was quite the hallelujah kid back in the day). However this new elation wasn’t God, but, chemicals that were re-writing my wetware (that’s nerd-speak for personality). One can argue that God guided the scientists to find the chemicals, but I’ll leave that argument to others.

Eventually, the side effects became too troublesome; I had to go off Prozac. However, the shift in my baseline emotions was permanent, for the next 14 years. Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of _Prozac Nation_, said it best, “with Prozac, you’re not happy, you’re not sad, you’re just *not* *depressed*.” (Not an exact quote.)

It’s been 14 years now. I have held a job with the same company for 10 years, a world record in comparison to that dismal failure rate of my twenties. I still feel unfulfilled, and I’m back in college to finish that durn bachelor’s. But, I still have this little glowing undying ember of *contentment* lodged firmly in my innermost soul. It’s good to be alive, to just be.


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