No Prozac

How to Write Poetry and Live Poetically

Free E-Course Lesson 11


Chapter 4: Me, Myself, and I
Part 2: Your Self Is Irrepressible

Join now! Find details about this free E-course at Lesson 1.


Get depressed, learn to knit

Prozac (fluoxetine)

Prozac (fluoxetine)

In 1970, when I was twenty-two, I was hospitalized for depression and anxiety. I was so depressed I couldn’t tie my shoes. What was the point? They would just come untied again.

Worse yet, I was depressed about being depressed. I had a two-year-old daughter to care for and a husband to try to hang on to. I didn’t have time to be depressed.

In those days when you were depressed they put you in a room with other depressed people and taught you how to knit. It was called occupational therapy. You sat around with these people and exchanged misinformation. There were four middle-aged women who played bridge all day, every day. They were so chatty and cheerful that I assumed they made clumsy suicide attempts every so often just so they could spend a week or two in the hospital playing bridge.

There were no drugs like Prozac in 1972. Psychiatrists were people who tried to help you figure out why you were depressed and then, when you figured it out, stop doing whatever it was and go on with your life.

My psychiatrist was a family friend whom I’d known all my life. He wasn’t the kind of psychiatrist who asked you about the trauma of potty-training or about your sexual fantasies. He was the kind of psychiatrist who explained things and gave advice.

Liberating my inner bitch

“Know thyself,” was, in effect, the advice he gave me. He said that I was angry and didn’t know it—that I had “projected” my anger onto the world and therefore perceived the world as hostile. I was also diminished by having projected my attributes—intelligence, wisdom, sense of humor—onto other people and things, so that I had lost confidence in my abilities and my judgment. (See figures 1, 2, and 3.)

The essential I will assert itself. It will not be ignored or subjugated. If I deny it, it will flap its wings in my face. “Claim me,” it squawks. “Use me. I’m the reason you’re here.”

Mine was a quick recovery, followed within just a few months by separation from my husband and ultimately by divorce. I spent the next few years, yes, liberating my Inner Bitch but also gleefully gathering other scattered bits and pieces of myself and just enjoying the hell out of my life, my daughter, my family, and my friends.

Figure 1. Unworthiness

Figure 1. Unworthiness

Figure 2. Anxiety

Figure 2. Anxiety

Figure 3a. Personality in Balance

Figure 3a. Personality in Balance

Figures 3b and 3c. Out of Balance

Figures 3b and 3c. Out of Balance


Next: Defining the Self Made Simple

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