Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America - Chapter 13, Woke Up This Morning Afraid I Was Going to Live Summary & Analysis

Elizabeth Wurtzel
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Chapter 13, Woke Up This Morning Afraid I Was Going to Live Summary and Analysis

Wurtzel is walking to Stillman again after returning back to the States. She is supposed to pack clothes but since she returned from London ten days ago, she hasn't changed clothes, so why should she now? The inevitable pattern of clean, dirty, clean again, etc. tires Wurtzel.

Since she has come back from London, Wurtzel has stopped fighting her depression and has decided to accept her constant lows. In essence, she refuses to get better from now on. Dr. Sterling comes to see her and realizes that Mellaril is not working for her anymore. Before she left for London, she qualifies to take a new drug called Prozac, for which she appears to be the perfect candidate. She can also qualify for free medical help. Dr. Sterling lectures Wurtzel on the various forms of drugs so that Wurtzel can understand why she is taking Prozac over other drugs.

Wurtzel has been officially diagnosed as having atypical depression. It is not an easy diagnosis, but Sterling and other psychiatrists determine that Wurtzel is too consistently low to be bipolar, despite her occasional manic-like episodes (such as the intense production cycles she has while in Dallas). The sufferer's mood can also be somewhat lifted by outside surroundings, although the overall disease is long-term and chronic. Also, the atypically depressed are more likely to be the walking wounded, the functionally depressed. The unfortunate result of this is that without proper treatment, the atypical depressive will eventually commit suicide out of desperation for the years of sadness.

Now that she can look up her disease in the American Psychiatric Association manual, it makes her depression seem more manageable. She thought that she would get progressively worse year after year and now she feels like there is finally some hope.

However, antidepressants take anywhere from ten days to three weeks to work. Without her Mellaril, Wurtzel is in a kind of depression hell without any medication as she waits for the Prozac effects to kick in. She curls up in her typical fetal position and listens to sad music like Lou Reed over and over again. Dr. Saltenstahl comes to visit her at Stillman a few times a day and assures her she will be fine one day. She begs for shock therapy; anything to make her depression alleviate. Instead, her dose is increased from one pill to two.

She returns back to her apartment and is still waiting for the Prozac to work when she gets a call from Elaine, a colleague of her mother's. Elaine tells her that her mother was mugged and attacked while walking down the street. She finds out that her mother has been badly hurt, puts down the phone and gets back into bed. She prays for adrenaline or for the Prozac to suddenly start working. She needs to rise up and take care of her mother.

She visits her mother at the Roosevelt Hospital and sees that she is in bad form. She cries and promises to stay by her mother and take care of her. Although her mother assures her that she is fine and can handle it by herself, they both realize when they arrive home that Wurtzel desperately needs to be there to help her recover. However, while at home, her mother tells her that something is wrong with her. She's depressed and that is the real problem in Wurtzel's life. Since her mother has never addressed her depression in such a straightforward manner before, Wurtzel is shocked — and then relieved. And when Wurtzel hears the words "You're depressed" coming from her mother's mouth, the diagnosis becomes a reality for her. Finally, Wurtzel thinks, she understands.

This section contains 640 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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