by Lauren Slater
Penguin USA, 1988
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 15th 2000
Lauren Slater's account of her experience with Prozac is one of the most thought-provoking discussions of a person's relationship with medication available. Slater, by her own account, was an extremely troubled person in her childhood and twenties. She had been hospitalized many times and her diagnosis included borderline personality disorder since she was 19 years old. She had tried many forms of treatment and none had been successful. Then she tried Prozac.
Prozac changed Slater's life. The story is quite simple really. On Prozac, she was able to be normal. After an initial period of adjustment, she started to enjoy life. She managed to not only find stability, but also eventually get a Ph.D. in psychology in record time from Harvard University and she has gone on to become a psychotherapist, write two books, form a permanent relationship (with a chemist!), and since the publication of Prozac Diary, have a baby.
Her "diary" is really a meditation on what it means to be taking a drug. At first, she is full of enthusiasm for it. Then she has some difficulties-the drug starts to be less effective and she suffers a relapse of madness. She finds that she has to take increasing quantities of medication for it to be continue to be effective. Her love affair with Prozac ends, and she starts to question whether she likes being dependent on medication. She doesn't feel that she has much choice, since without it, her life is unlivable. Yet she also feels that something about her life is reduced by needing a drug to live. Her reflections on her feelings are probing and sophisticated in ways that is rare for memoirs of mental illness.
Her memoir is remarkable. Most notable is that most accounts of uses of Prozac have a detailed accounts of struggles through emotional pain, leaving the successful treatment to the last chapter, Slater hardly even describes her life before Prozac. Another welcome feature is her humor-I laughed hard at some of her observations and stories. Her writing is smart and her discussion of several other books on health is astute. In short, this is wonderful book.