At the time I was thinking about taking St. John's Wort as an answer to my own feelings of depression, a good friend of mine was given a prescription to Prozac by the school doctor. When I heard this news, I found it somewhat shocking. Apparently, the school doctor keeps free "samples" of chemical prescription anti-depressants in her office and doesn't hesitate to give them out. Actually, she often encourages students to take anti-depressants as a first-step "solution" to the "problem."
This gives everybody the impression that not only is it no big deal to go on Prozac, but that it's a common practice and a perfectly wonderful answer to a variety of troubles. Boyfriend broke up with you? Worried about what your parents are going to say when they see your transcript? Afraid you can't handle the academic pressures of college life? Afraid you can't handle the social pressures? Worried about whether or not you're going to find a good job or get into a good grad school? Panicking about meeting a thesis deadline? Trying to balance ten million things in your life? According to the school doctor, these and many other ailments common to college students can all be taken care of in one simple way: take a pill. Never mind the world of controversy that surrounds chemical anti-depressants, never mind the existence of alternative treatments, never mind how much it's going to cost or what the side effects might be, not to mention the long-term effects. All you have to do is take the pill, and let everything work itself out.
It may be true that Prozac is the right answer for a lot of people, but it's never the only answer, and it's never a simple answer. But if you aren't well-informed, if you don't really know anything about anti-depressants, if you trust that the doctor is going to do what's best for you (and not easiest for her), then you probably aren't going to realize what a big decision you're making when you accept the free sample she offers you.
Imagine that you're walking on a narrow pathway on the edge of a huge ravine. As you walk you become tired, and suddenly your feet start to slip, you start to lose your balance, and you become desperately afraid that you're going to fall. Then imagine how nice it would be if there was a guardrail on the edge of the path that you could hold onto and lean against, protecting you from the danger of falling. Then imagine that instead of a guardrail there was a six-foot concrete wall, so that you couldn't even see the ravine much less worry about falling into it. Then imagine that there was also a concrete wall on the other side, and a concrete ceiling as well. Now you're walking in a concrete tunnel: it doesn't get much safer than this. Nothing can get to you and there's no chance of losing your way. You have no options, you have no anxiety; all you have to do is keep walking along the straight line that the tunnel provides.
For many people, this is what it's like to be on Prozac. The depression and anxiety are indeed gone, but gone too is the rest of the emotional spectrum. All the stuff opposite the ravine, all the wide open spaces, all the excitement, happiness, and pleasure-all those things are blocked off by a concrete wall just as impenetrable as the one "protecting" you from falling into the ravine.
Is the school doctor going to tell you all this when she hands you the free sample and explains, in that uncannily convincing and persuasive voice that doctors have, that this pill is what you need to take to fix your problems?
RECOMMENDED READING FROM THE PSYSTORE:
Listening to Prozac
by Peter D. Kramer
Our Price: $11.16
"A noted psychiatrist examines the current status of Prozac in America, including the latest research, as well as personal observations into how and why this drug has become so popular in the quest to cure personality problems." -- Synopsis
For a selection of books on this topic, visit the Psystore.