I have applauded all that over the years, and I still do. Serious depression is paralyzing and insidious, and if a medication like Prozac can lift a person out of the grip of despair long enough to function, I’m all for it. And yet I think my friend is right, too: like her, I didn’t do much weeping on Prozac. I’ve always found it difficult to express painful emotion, but over the last few years my crying jags have become fewer and farther between, as though the gap between me and my darkest feelings has somehow widened. When she talked about crying (or not) on Prozac, I think I questioned the medication’s buffering effect for the first time: maybe crying a little more than I need or want it to; maybe it’s time to see what happens without it, what feelings might bubble up from their dark recesses.
Six weeks post-Prozac, I can’t say with any precision what the difference is, what those little green-and-cream capsules have been protecting me from, but I do think they’ve been protecting me from something. I feel rawer, more exposed. I cry these days, a lot. And although I’m not entirely convinced of this, I think the crying is a good thing, healing rather than masochistic.
Recently, one of my closest friends described a sad encounter with her three-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. She and her husband are breaking up, and she told me about sitting the child down to tell her about the divorce: the two grown-ups told Elizabeth that they’d been unhappy living together, that Dad would be moving out, that Elizabeth would have a bedroom at both homes. They explained it as gently as they could, and when they finished, Elizabeth looked up and said, “Is it because I won’t take a nap in the afternoon?”
A few months ago, that story would have saddened me, but I think it would have left me dry-eyed and stoic, somewhat detached: these things happen, I’d have thought, she’ll be fine in the end. But this time, it touched emotions I haven’t been near in a long time. I got teary for the little girl, who’s so vulnerable. I got teary for my friend and her husband, who are facing a great deal of upheaval and uncertainty in their own lives. And I got teary for myself, for some ancient, barely definable memory of what it felt like to be a child myself, assuming that the strains of deep unhappiness between my own parents must have been my fault. The tears were hot and heartfelt, and I suspect I should have shed them long ago. Perhaps, post-Prozac, I’ll shed some more.