Pros of Prozac: A Book Review
Honestly, as a woman who suffers from anxiety and depression, and currently takes medication for it, I was not thrilled to receive Beca Mark’s book, “Pros of Prozac.” My story is my own, my experience is my own; reading a book about somebody else’s experiences was not very high on my list. I’ve been discussing depression online for almost 9 years, and the stigma of medication, to me personally, no longer exists. I felt that my involvement in the conversation was finished.
But then I read the book. Beca’s story was a simple one, and as I read it, I realized how important it was for people to read. Not only that, but how important it was for people to discuss.
As the title clearly insinuates, this book is about the positives of taking medication for depression. Beca writes in first person about how depression and anxiety was manifested in her life and how she was finally able to overcome both through medication, specifically, Prozac. She explains she was only able to do this by overcoming the perceived (and real) societal stigma of weakness associated with taking medication for something that should be curable through .
Things I really liked about the book:
1. It’s length! Honestly, I really enjoyed the succinct style. At first, the short chapters were off-putting, but as the book continued (and the chapters got slightly longer), I enjoyed how quickly she got to her point. This was done on purpose (Beca explains this in the Preface) so people could understand her story and get help quickly without feeling overwhelmed by the length.
2. It’s true that there is a stigma about depression and anxiety in our culture and in our church. It is not coming from the Church itself, but from it’s members. I know this because like Beca, I thought taking medication meant weakness. I figured I could solve my depression on my own. When I finally saw that I had to do something outside of eating right and praying more, I was able to start getting better.
3. Depression is a pandemic in our society right now. There are arguments as to why (I, personally, feel it has to do with the foods we consume (processed, GMO’s, gluttony, etc.) and the sedentary lives we live (no need to work hard physically to survive), among other things — like the desire of perfection, the entitlement addictions, and lack of selfless service), but it doesn’t change the fact that it exists. Instead of ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist, Beca pleads with people to acknowledge it as one would view any other biological disease, such as diabetes.
4. Beca admits that she did everything in her power to eradicate her feelings of depression on her own. When they didn’t work, she realized she needed medication. But at the same time, she wishes she could have seen medication as a viable option even before trying everything else. She says: “In general, doing everything we can to be self-reliant is a good thing. We should not trouble another for something we can successfully do ourselves. On the flip side, it is human error to reject help when needed.” (p.67)
5. Chapter 15, “With Prozac Comes Great Responsibility,” was one of my favorite chapters. Beca discusses how Prozac doesn’t suddenly make life perfect, but how it makes life livable again, especially when one continues to mold their lives in positive ways.
6. Beca writes about her family history in Chapter 9 and how the secrecy and shame surrounding family member’s mental illness could have been the cause for greater suffering. She says: “This is all very sad because despite the prevalent secrecy surrounding these issues, more transparency within a family could prevent a lot of suffering. Unlike our ancestors, who didn’t live when medication like Prozac was available for refuge, treatment is readily available for us.” (p. 37) I agree that when our families view mental illness as something shameful, it only causes more pain and solves nothing.
Personal (although minor) disagreements with the book:
1. I do not believe that medication is the cure-all answer for everybody, and I feel that people need to understand all options. I have family members that have been able to keep depression at bay through exercise and diet (including holistic means), while others (like myself), have needed medication. Some women with post-partum depression have seen an improvement with in a few months (due to hormonal balance), others (again, like myself) have watched post-partum depression turn into what I call full-time depression.
2. The one thing I felt this book was missing was a plea for therapy. I understand that the book’s primary focus was about medication, and although therapy was mentioned in passing during chapter 15, I felt it was a missing link. Many times, depression and deep anxiety can be caused by underlying methods of thinking (due to the inability to express emotion safely, abuse, addiction, sensory disorders, etc.) and without the tools to help shift or change the way one thinks, medication can only do so much. The years I was on medication did not help me nearly as much as the years I was taking medication AND going to a licensed therapist. I cannot overemphasize enough the value of a good therapist or psychologist.
3. Not surprisingly, this book champions Prozac specifically, and although sometimes Beca mentioned others who tried other medications, they only had success on Prozac. There are many medications out there (which Beca lists in Appendix B) people have used with success. Although I do not doubt Beca and her family and friends had the most success with Prozac, it is not the only medication that works. In fact, for some of my own family members, it made the depression worse.
Overall, I feel that this is a valuable book that can help many people who are suffering needlessly. I admire Beca for speaking out and sharing her personal experiences in order to help others like herself (and me!) find help. As someone who thought that the conversation was over in regards to medication for depression, I was glad to see someone else realized it was not, and ended up recruiting me in the process.
Beca Mark is the author of Pros of Prozac: A Faith-based Memoir of Overcoming the Stigma (available in eBook, paperback, and audiobook). She wished she could have found this book when struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety after having her first child. By sharing faith-based, personal details about her life, she hopes to soften the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness, shedding a more positive light on these issues. www.ProsofProzac.com