Prozac Diary: [Excerpt]

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Excerpt

Prozac, too, made we 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 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 8 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.
This is what was different. It was as though I’d been visited by a blind piano tuner who had crept into my apartment at night, who had tweaked the ivory bones of my body, the taught strings in my skull, and now, when I pressed on myself, the same notes but with a mellower, fuller sound sprang out.
This was what was different—tempo, tone. Not sight, for everything looked the same. Not smell, for everything smelled the same. Not pitch, for the vibrations of the world were just as they’ve always been. To describe the subtle but potent shift caused by Prozac is to tussle with failing words, sensations that seep beyond language. But that doesn’t make it any less miraculous. Doctors assure the public that psychotropic drugs don’t get a patient high; rather, supposedly, they restore the patient to a normal state of functioning. But what happens if a patient, say, myself, for instance, has rarely if ever experienced a normal state of functioning? What happens if such a patient has spent much of her life in mental hospitals, both pursuing and pursued by one illness after another? What happens if “regular life” to such a person has always meant cutting one’s arms, or gagging? If this is the case, then the “normal state” that Prozac ushers in is an experience in the surreal, Dalí’s dripping clock, a disorientation so deep and sweet you spin. Thus Prozac, make no mistake about it, blissed me out and freaked me out and later on, when the full force of health hit me, sometimes stunned me with grief.
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