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Prozac Diary




Excerpted from
Prozac Diary
By Lauren Slater, Ph.D.

When I was a girl I loved fevers and flus and the muzzy feeling of a head cold, all these states carrying with them the special accouterments of illness, the thermometer with its lovely line of red mercury, the coolness of ice chips pressed to a sweaty forehead, and best of all, a distant mother coming to your bedside with tea. In illness the world went wonderfully warped, high temperatures turning your pillow to a dune of snow and bringing the night sky, with its daisy-sized stars, so close to your bed you could touch it, and taste the moon.

I loved my illnesses. I loved my regal mother bending to the mandates of biology, allowing me to rest and watch TV. She even read me stories, sitting at my bedside. In the dim room, her wedding ring twinkled like the eye of an elf, and her hands brushed stray strands of hair from my face.

Illness was a temporary respite, a release from the demands of an alienating world. In my world, women had hair as hard as crash helmets. In my world, girls did not play. They practiced: the piano, the flute, French, manners so refined they made all speech stiff. Illness was not stiff. You went kaput. Fluids rushed in and rushed out, your nose got gummy, and frogs hopped around in your chest. Getting better was a grief. One morning you woke up and your fever had fled. Your throat felt depressingly fine. You looked across your orange carpet and saw your black patent dancing shoes, your child-sized golf clubs. You saw your French and Hebrew workbooks, with all those verbs you would have to conjugate before dinner tonight. You wanted to weep.

Prozac, too, made me want to weep. Prozac, too, was a grief, because it returned me to the regular world with consequences I never expected. The first few days on the medication I vomited a lot, and I got headaches. The Prozac Doctor, Koskava, told me these were normal side effects in the early stages.

At first I didn't think much of the stuff. I was as obsessive as ever, needing to touch, tap, knock, and count my way through the day. I did notice I was sleeping a little better, although my dreams were jagged and relentless, filled with images of tide pools and the sounds of shouts.

And then one morning, about five days after I'd first started the drug, I opened my eyes at eight A.M. I'd turned out my light at midnight, which meant I'd gotten, for the first time in many months, a seamless eight hours of sleep. It was a Saturday, and stripes of sun were on my walls. I sat up.

Something was different. I looked at my hand. It was the same hand. I touched my face-nose, cheeks, chin, all there. I rubbed my eyes and went into the kitchen.

The kitchen, too, was the same-table, two pine chairs, gray linoleum buckled and cracked along the floor. The sink still dripped. The grass moved against my window ledge. All the same, all different. What was it?

A piano tuner used to come to our house when I was young. He was a blind man, his eyes burnt-out holes in his head, his body all bent. I remember how strange he looked against the grandeur of our lives, how he stooped over that massive multitoothed instrument and tweaked its tones. The piano never looked any different after he'd worked on it, but when I pressed a C key or the black bar of an F minor, the note sprung out richer, as though chocolate and spices had been added to a flat sound.



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