Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The United States of Anxiety?

I've been seeing this on Twitter the last few days (from the New York Times):
Prozac Nation is Now the United States of Xanax

While to epidemiologists the disorder is a medical condition, anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition, too: a shared cultural experience that feeds on alarmist CNN graphics and metastasizes through social media. CreditDevin Yalkin for The New York Times 

This seems weird as I am in the midst of writing a memoir on depression and anxiety
and am still on Prozac after nearly two years. I've never had Xanax.  I recalled being on Paxil, Serzone and other antidepressants years earlier, then just leaving services and quitting cold turkey, returning to more than a decade later.   No one I know has ever admitted to being on Xanax.  And I have plenty of anxiety!

From the article (click above to read the full article):

This past winter, Sarah Fader, a 37-year-old social media consultant in Brooklyn who has generalized anxiety disorder, texted a friend in Oregon about an impending visit, and when a quick response failed to materialize, she posted on Twitter to her 16,000-plus followers. “I don’t hear from my friend for a day — my thought, they don’t want to be my friend anymore,” she wrote, appending the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike.
Thousands of people were soon offering up their own examples under the hashtag; some were retweeted more than 1,000 times. You might say Ms. Fader struck a nerve. “If you’re a human being living in 2017 and you’re not anxious,” she said on the telephone, “there’s something wrong with you.”

It was 70 years ago that the poet W. H. Auden published “The Age of Anxiety,” a six-part verse framing modern humankind’s condition over the course of more than 100 pages, and now it seems we are too rattled to even sit down and read something that long (or as the internet would say, tl;dr).
Anxiety has become our everyday argot, our thrumming lifeblood: not just on Twitter (the ur-anxious medium, with its constant updates), but also in blogger diaries, celebrity confessionals (Et tu, BeyoncĂ©?), a hit Broadway show (“Dear Evan Hansen”), a magazine start-up (Anxy, a mental-health publication based in Berkeley, Calif.), buzzed-about television series (like “Maniac,” a coming Netflix series by Cary Fukunaga, the lauded “True Detective” director) and, defying our abbreviated attention spans, on bookshelves.
Continue reading the main story

With two new volumes analyzing the condition (“On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety,” by Andrea Petersen, and “Hi, Anxiety,” by Kat Kinsman) following recent best-sellers by Scott Stossel (“My Age of Anxiety”) and Daniel Smith (“Monkey Mind”), the anxiety memoir has become a literary subgenre to rival the depression memoir, firmly established since William Styron’s “Darkness Visible” and Elizabeth Wurtzel’s “Prozac Nation” in the 1990s and continuing today with Daphne Merkin’s “This Close to Happy.”

While to epidemiologists both disorders are medical conditions, anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition, too: a shared cultural experience that feeds on alarmist CNN graphics and metastasizes through social media. As depression was to the 1990s — summoned forth by Kurt Cobain, “Listening to Prozac,” Seattle fog and Temple of the Dog dirges on MTV, viewed from under a flannel blanket — so it seems we have entered a new Age of Anxiety. Monitoring our heart rates. Swiping ceaselessly at our iPhones. Filling meditation studios in an effort to calm our racing thoughts. ...

It seemed even weirder seeing this  at the same time that Elizabeth Wurtzel's  bestseller is being re-released with a new afterword by the author.  I'm almost tempted to buy a copy just to read the rest of the afterword, even though I have a used copy from Amazon of the original already. Someone on Twitter admitted she owns three copies already and may have to get the reissue now too. I guess I need not feel to bad about thinking this way. I really loved this book after all and it made me do what I am now doing.

Seeing the beginning of the new afterword (above) on Twitter makes me even more curious to read the rest.  The world has changed after all, and as I work my way through my own memoir, I have noted and recalled different things I went through back in the day and have in my mind seen how different they are today. I grew up in the era before cell phones, being live TV could be paused and can remember when VCRs were too expensive for most people.  All this appear somewhere in my manuscript. I recently remembered The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, a yearly bound guide to find magazine and scholarly journal articles we used back in the day when doing research papers. I know I used this a few times in high school and in college, as I was in high school and began college before the Internet, finishing college as the Internet was coming into vogue.  I recalled last year how I had to write a 10-page paper for my exit requirement in college and how that was the longest paper I remember typing before beginning work on my memoir. Which now is over 210 pages.  

For a while last year, I was hesitant about beginning my memoir. I had been inspired by another person's bestselling, iconic memoir of one of the best-known antidepressants of all time and felt I could not do the same.  But my boss reminded me of the fact the things have evolved over the years and that it had been more than 20 years since Prozac Nation had been written. Indeed all this is true and I have been seeing this in my writing and in some of the things we see and hear about today.  It's been almost 30 years since Prozac was approved by the FDA for depression treatment and it's till in use today. My psychiatrist says he prescribes  Prozac the most because it's been around the longest out of all the commonly prescribed antidepressants. 

I've also been looking up information on dysthymia as fewer seem to have this form of depression than others.  Bipolar disorder seems more common and has been written about more often (I began to suspect early on that it might be what I have).  

Some  things are different today and some are still the same even as they evolve over time. 

1 comment:

  1. The afterword piqued my interest. It's thought provoking.