“I am becoming a little bit spiritual, which I’m sure is not a side effect Eli Lilly reports in its literature on Prozac.”
From Prozac Diary by Lauren Slater
I read this line and smile to myself. I remember when I started taking Paxil in January, I noticed a calming effect and a new ability to float. It was Zen, the way I could just notice something lovely like, say a robin hopping on the lawn, and think, “How lovely.” Gone were the cobwebs in front of my eyes, gone was the heart-pounding feeling that I should be noticing this more, feeling it more. A bird! I should be exclaiming to myself, like Walt Whitman. Is there nothing more perfect than this bird, this moment? On Paxil, I didn’t have to dredge up the appreciation. It was there, and then, like the bird, gone. There was no problem.
This is the relief I feel when the medicine is working. The pain is gone. I am almost a normal functioning person. At least normal enough, for me, to do my life. I can do all that I really need to do. I can write, and take care of my children, and have a relationship with my husband, and see friends, and read, be interested in the world, and keep the minimum requirements as mistress of this house.
My illness placed a scrim over my vision, and a levee around my heart. What I can feel, now drugged on appropriate levels of serotonin, are things like synchronicity. Fleeting beauty. Direct connection between the sun and my soul, my child’s eyes and my heart. Zap. Zing. Ah. It’s not operatic ecstasy, it’s life as good as anyone could want it.
In Prozac Diary, Lauren Slater finds she can enjoy sipping a latte for the first time in her 26 years. Rocking in a rocking chair, just for its own sake, is pleasurable. A former anorexic, depressive, and sufferer of OCD, she grows very suspicious of this ability she suddenly has to contact the beauty of daily life. She asks:
“What does it mean, for instance, that my burgeoning contemplative bent does not come directly from God but from Prozac? Might this mean that Prozac is equal to God? What an awful, awful thought. So turn it around. Primitive cultures often use drugs as a means of accessing their gods. That’s better. Maybe Prozac is to the modern world what peyote is the to Indians.”
As I feel myself as more healthy, I can feel other things, too. It’s as if I have gotten out of my own way, and oh, what a beautiful morning! If this isn’t “real,” I don’t care.
But it is real. I’ve been here before.