A few posts ago, I told you about a book I didn’t recommend to read, so now I thought I’d make amends and recommend a book instead. I have to admit that it is more fun to write negative book reviews — but it’s only fun when the book sucks. Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy (Penguin; 2006) was not fun to write because the book did not suck.
After the release of Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest (1975), ECT was pretty much put on the old curiosity shelf for decades, and for good reason. It was often used indiscriminately, but not in all hospitals or asylums. This book gives ample time to proponents of ECT but also spends a good deal of time interviewing people who claim they were harmed by shock therapy.
ECT is now performed when a person is under anesthesia. It is saved as a last-ditch resort in many cases — often when someone has just tried to commit suicide and has bad or no reactions to existing psychological medications. Shock therapy sure isn’t for everyone (I hadn’t needed it — yet, anyway) but it does seem to benefit a small number of people.
Anyway, my review is here on Yahoo Voices. The money I get from page views on Yahoo helps ensure that this blog stays ad-free. Thanks.
Some books are memorable because they are so good. And then there are books that are equally memorable because they suck so bad. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation (Riverhead Trade; 1994) falls into the latter category. I read this a few years ago but still can vividly remember how much I hate it.
The subtitle is Young and Depressed in America: A Memoir, which gives you a good clue that the best use of this book is as a doorstop. Disease memoirs are tedious unless the reader can really identify or pull for the narrator. After about fifty pages, you just want to smack this narrator about the head. She whines so much that it becomes repetitive and repulsive.
The book bounces back and forth from looking at major depression in America as a whole to her own sad, sorry life. The book would have been far more interesting had the author kept herself in the background and made depressed America at the foreground. The book also discusses the growth of “crazy meds” or psychiatric drugs in the early 1990s.
I am not a fan of Big Pharma, but Prozac (fluoxetine) certainly helped me out. A couple of years ago, under my therapist’s supervision, we cut the dose to one 20 mg pill every other day. It didn’t work out. Within two weeks I was my old suicidal self. It looks like I’ll have to take Prozac for the rest of my life or the rest of my life will be damn short. There’s nothing horrible about that but Prozac Nation does suggest that the use of medicines to treat depression may ultimately do more harm than good. I disagree — using myself as a personal example.