The Bell Jar of the 90's. Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of this book, which is her life story. She writes about her ordeal with manic depression. It's a classic tale of a girl who is smart, and overly perceptive. Although I love this book, I personally am irked by Miss Wurtzel and really don't understand how she graduated Harvard.

This book is a memoir; its title a term to describe our generation’s collective bad mood. It was published in 1994, written by Elizabeth Wurtzel who became a writer, she says, because she didn’t really have any other talents. She has been described as a modern day Sylvia Plath, though I think that’s a bit too generous.

In the final chapters Wurtzel questions why six million people have felt the need to take Prozac. She asks why depression, while once considered a tragic state of mind, is now an all too routine condition. She considers whether doctors are being too open handed and snap happy with their prescriptions, or whether Prozac (and other drugs such as Zoloft and Paxil) should be handed out even more readily. She asks whether the world is "too difficult to negotiate without some kind of a chemical buffer zone".

I cringed and sometimes felt utterly embarrassed for the author, but I feel like this is a testament to her utter honesty; for that is precisely the way I felt for myself when I was depressed: I made myself cringe. Those who are depressed should read it so they can explain what it’s like, to all the people who don’t get it. Everyone who hasn’t had depression should read it in order to realise what all these sniveling brats are wailing about.

An excerpt from the book which describes Wurtzel’s tentative beginnings with depression and self-mutilation:

"I guess the cutting began when I started to spend my lunch period hiding in the girls' locker room, scared to death of everybody around me. I would bring my functional black and silver Panasonic, meant for voice recording and not music, and I would listen intently to the scratchy sounds of the tapes I'd accumulated, mostly popular hard rock like Foreigner, which, trashy as it was, sounded like liberation to me. I'd sit there with my tape recorder, eating cottage cheese and pineapples from a stout thermos I brought from home (I was, by this time, also certain that I was fat), and it was a peaceful relief from having to deal with other people, whether they were teachers or friends.

Every so often, I would sit in the locker room on the floor, leaning against the concrete wall while my tape recorder sat on the bench, and I would fantasize about going back to the person I had always been. The reverse transformation couldn't be that much of a leap. I could just try talking to people again. I could get the astonished look off my face, as if my eyes had just been exposed to a terrible glare. I could laugh a bit. I would imagine myself doing the things I once did, like playing tennis.

Every so often I would make a decision, first thing in the morning as I headed out the door for the school bus, that I was going to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed that day; I would be friendly, I would smile, I would raise my hand in math class from time to time. I remember those days, because I could see how my friends got this look of relief on their faces. I would walk toward them, standing in a huddle in the blue-carpeted hall outside of the classroom, and they would half expect me to say something like 'Everything's plastic, we're all gonna die' and instead I would just say, Good Morning, And suddenly, their bodies would relax, their shoulders would drop comfortably, and sometimes they would even say, Oh wow, you're the old Lizzy again, kind of like a parent who has finally accepted that his oldest son has become a Shiite Muslim and is moving to Iran when, suddenly, the kid returns home and announces that he wants to go to law school after all. My friends, and my mother for that matter, would be relieved to find that I was more the me they wanted me to be.

The trouble was, I thought this alternative persona I had adopted was just that: a put-on, a way of getting attention, a way of being different. And maybe when I first started walking around talking about plastic and death, maybe then it was an experiment. But after a while, the alternative me really just was me. Those days that I tried to be the little girl I was supposed to be drained me.

I went home at night and cried for hours because so many people in my life expecting me to be a certain way was too much pressure, as if I'd been held against a wall and interrogated for hours, asked questions I couldn't quite answer any longer. I remember being in a panic one day at school when I realized that I could not even fake being the old Lizzy anymore. I had, indeed, metamorphosed into this nihilistic, unhappy girl. Just like Gregor Samsa waking up to find he'd become a six foot long roach, only in my case, I had invented the monster and now it was overtaking me. This was what I'd come to. This was what I'd be for the rest of my life. Things were bad now and would get worse later. They would.

I had not heard the word depression yet, and would not for some time after that, but I felt something very wrong going on. I felt that I was wrong - my hair was wrong, my face was wrong, my personality was wrong - my God, my choice of flavors at the Haagan Dazs shop after school was wrong! How could I walk around with such pasty white skin, such dark, doleful eyes, such straight anemic hair, such round hips and such a small clinched waist? How could I let anybody see me this way? How could I expose other people to my person, to this bane to the world? I was one big mistake.

And so, sitting in the locker room, petrified that I was doomed to spend my life hiding from people this way, I took my keys out of my knapsack. On the chain was a sharp nail clipper, which had a nail file attached to it. I rolled down my knee socks (we were required to wear skirts to school) and looked at my bare white legs. I hadn't really started shaving yet, only from time to time because my mother considered me too young, and I looked at the delicate peach fuzz, still soft and untainted. A perfect, clean canvas. So I took the nail file, found its sharp edge, and ran it across my lower leg, watching a red line of blood appear across my skin. I was surprised at how straight the line was and at how easy it was for me to hurt myself in this way. It was almost fun. I was always the sort to pick scabs and peel sunburned skin in sheets off my shoulders, always pestering my body. This was just the next step. And how much more satisfying it was to muck up my own body than relying on mosquitoes and walks in the country among thorny bushes to do it for me. I made a few more scratches, alternating between legs, this time moving the file more quickly, less cautiously. I did not, you see, want to kill myself. Not at that time, anyway. But I wanted to know that if need be, if the desperation got so terribly bad, I could inflict harm on my body. And I could. Knowing this gave me a sense of peace and power, so I started cutting up my legs all the time. Hiding the scars from my mother became a sport of its own. I collected razor blades, I bought a Swiss Army knife, I became fascinated with different kinds of sharp edges and the different cutting sensations they produced. I tried out different shapes - squares, triangles, pentagons, even an awkwardly carved heart, with a stab wound at its center, wanting to see if it hurt the way a real broken heart could hurt. I was amazed and pleased to find that it didn't."

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