Letters to the editor

Is Prozac a crutch? Plus: Tips for saving your sex life on antidepressants; Did homophobia drive apart the brothers Nabokov?


Salon Staff
May 19, 2000 8:00PM (UTC)

At peace with
Prozac

BY KELLY LUKER
(05/17/00)

The most basic tenet of
evolutionary theory is that a trait
continues to exist throughout
generations because it confers some
adaptive benefit. Kelly Luker fails to
address this aspect of unhappiness in
her ode to drug-induced wellness.

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I am a few months out of college,
working a mindless office job and
miserable. I wouldn't have it any other
way. My current angst is acting as a
motivating force for me to make change
in my life, to figure out what is
meaningful, to question my assumptions.
If I were on Prozac -- as I was a couple
of years back -- I would be happy. And
complacent. And resigned.

-- Erik Kraft

Kelly Luker sounds like a
wonderful candidate for Prozac, but she
doesn't consider that many people who
are prescribed the drug, may not need
it. Also, her dismissive tone regarding
tardive dyskinesia means she's never met
anyone who has TD. TD is for real.
Other, older and less-prescribed
psychotropic drugs have been giving
mentally ill people TD for decades. It's
not a minor discovery that Prozac can
cause this horrible side effect: It's
huge. There isn't a dosage large enough
of Prozac to cure the misery she'll
suffer if she gets TD.

Also, many people who "face it down" as
she says, and treat their anxiety
disorders, drinking problems or bulimia
without medication, actually win the war
over their problems.
Behavioral/cognitive therapy is JUST as
effective as Prozac and friends in
curing most neurotic illnesses.

-- Paula Bomer

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Having experienced 20-plus years
in the clinical chronic depression wars,
I believe drugs such as Prozac are the
equivalent of insulin for diabetes. And
I wish insurance companies would pay for
psychiatric/neurohormonal chemical
imbalances as they do for, say,
endocrinological disorders.

Prozac, per se, is not the only chemical
answer and it disturbs me to see it
misused so frequently as metaphor in the
media and by society at large. Trust me:
I don't have "Prozac moments"; I have to
function in life, and for someone with
my DSM-IV diagnosis, Prozac is one means
to that end.

These days I have an entire
pharmaceutical arsenal behind (or, to be
more precise, inside of) me. I know more
about possible drug interactions than
several of my doctors, in part because
there isn't enough medical research on
how these drugs play out long-term in
different systems of the body, much less
communication among doctors in my
mismanaged care "network." Then, too,
sometimes my meds change, and I feel
like a guinea pig, FDA approved or not.

There is so much that medical science
simply doesn't know about psychoactive
medication that even as a guinea pig, I am
grateful for what they do know, for what
has saved my life.

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-- Nancy E. Frank

Sex-free
bliss?


BY STEPHEN G. BLOOM

(05/17/00)

How could Stephen Bloom fail to
mention Viagra as one possible solution
for some of the sexual problems that so
frequently accompany these drugs?

I am a 50-year-old woman who has been
using Viagra to help me achieve orgasm
since I started using Zoloft three
months ago. Like many of Bloom's
examples, I was willing to exchange the
anguish and pain of my depression and
anxiety for my sex life, but my doctor,
bless him, was not so willing. Although
Viagra is not approved for women (and
thus not covered for them by
prescription drug plans), some doctors
are prescribing it to women for this
reason. I'm sure Viagra won't work for
everyone and it can't give you the
desire for sex. But if your problem is
the frustration of achieving orgasm, it
might just be the answer.

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-- Ev McElroy

I've been taking St. John's wort
for over a year and have seen a HUGE
improvement in the way I feel and the
reduction in stress, depressive mood
swings and anxiety attacks. My friends
have noticed the difference in me as
well.

While studies on St. John's wort have
not really defined why SJW works, many
psychiatrists and non-medical therapists
agree that for many of their depressed
patients it is effective, with NONE of
the loss-of-sexual-appetite side
effects. Not for seriously depressed
(i.e., suicidal) or for the manic-depressive, but great for those of us
anxiety-ridden folks with debilitating
black moods. Only downside that I can
see is an oversensitivity to sunlight,
which can be alleviated by wearing a
high-octane sun block. It's also much
cheaper, since you can buy SJW over the
counter at health food stores, herbal
outlets, even in the medical section at
Wal-Mart!

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-- Stacy Selmants

Your article on sexual
dysfunction was well done, but one
suggestion that was made was a bit
alarming. I'm not sure about the other
drugs you mentioned, but I've been
taking Effexor for almost two years, and
you can't just "take a holiday" from it
for a few days. Unlike some of the other
antidepressants, Effexor has some fairly
unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and
requires tapering off. If I miss even
one scheduled dose, within a few hours I
have dizziness and a very unpleasant
buzzing sort of sensation in my head.
You might want to check this out a bit
more. I'd hate to see someone take your
advice and end up in the emergency room
instead of enjoying a weekend of
sex-filled bliss.

-- Robin

I am genuinely sorry for anyone
that has a dramatically decreased sex
drive resulting from taking an SSRI.
However, I am tired of hearing
antidepressants described as "happiness
pills." Some lucky souls may experience
euphoria beyond reason, but most of us
have been relieved just to get the hell
out of the pit we were in.

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God bless modern medicine -- whatever
its failings. Only a fool would go back
to the 19th century.

-- Phil Ford

I was on Zoloft, a sister drug of
Prozac, for a year. I'm sure what I
experienced could be called sexual
dysfunction, however, I found this
dysfunction much to my liking. It must
be said that I was a 20-year-old male,
so my standard arousal pattern was rapid
and violent; Zoloft softened and slowed
my libido, ultimately making arousal
more pleasant and sustainable. This
sexual dampening would be more alarming
for one whose sexual impulses were
already weak, however, for large
portions of the population, this sexual
dysfunction can be a welcome release.
To call it a sexual dysfunction presumes
that the hornier you are, the better.
This is simply not true. As one who was
way too horny a few short years ago, I
must object to this presumption.

-- Carl Olson

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The gay Nabokov

BY
LEV GROSSMAN

(05/17/00)

Thank you so much for your
vibrant rendition of the life of Sergei
Nabokov.
Very few pieces of journalism can make
me forsake my morning caffeine. This
incisive piece did.

As for Vladimir's homophobia, it would
be interesting to get Edmund White's
take on it because the novel Vladimir
praised of White's is as overtly queer
as you can get in a surreal manner.

-- Brandon Judell

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Many years from now, we will
doubtless recall one of the dirty little
secrets of late 20th-century criticism:
moral indignation.

I want to thank Lev Grossman for
exposing yet another human foible of the
past through the dim prism of identity
politics. There is so much more to do,
however. A special column dedicated to
dead writers with secret flaws and bad
characters would allow your readers to
assess accurately whether or not we
would have liked them as co-workers or
dinner guests, which is, after all, the
litmus test of all great art.

-- Tamara Griggs

If Vladimir Nabokov was indeed
homophobic, so what? Why is this of
consequence? He, like all of us, is a
creature of his time and his
environment. In that he was raised when
and how he was raised and in the close
company of a homosexual brother, it
would have been unusual for him not to
have developed ambiguous feelings about
homosexuality. Art reflects the values
of the society of its creation, at the
time of its creation. Consider Twain's
handling of American Indians in
"Roughing It," Thomas Wolfe and the
black man, or Hemingway and women. Is
Grossman concerned that we will respond
to Nabokov's quite rare use of gay men
as symbols of artists that are not
sufficiently serious about their work by
concluding that all gay men are
insufficiently serious artists?

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Grossman's mention of the author's
exclusion of reference to his homosexual
brother in the body of his work is
inaccurate. In "Speak, Memory" it is
fairly clear that his brother was killed
by the Nazis because he was gay. Also,
in "The Gift," Nabokov's description of
his emotional response to the Holocaust
is strikingly touching. I remember
having read "The Gift" before "Speak,
Memory" and on reading "Speak, Memory"
realizing the source of the emotion.
Last, my impression of "Bend Sinister"
is that it uses the totalitarian state
as a way of getting at the ravages of
aging; and suggests madness as the only
available way of coping. To invoke any
homophobic significance to this is a
considerable stretch. Perhaps Nabokov
is telling us that as we age, we will
develop homosexual tendencies and this
will lead us to a contented state of
insanity?

-- Jim Owens

Not being a Nabokov scholar, I
have no basis for doubting the various
conclusions contained in Lev Grossman's
excellent piece concerning Nabokov's
homophobia. It hadn't struck me before,
but the author doubtless does use the
word "mincing" a lot; and perhaps he or
-- what may be a somewhat different
matter -- his narrator introduces
homosexual characters with what Grossman
calls "a nudge and a wink and a
snigger."

And yet it seems a bit reductive to say
that all Nabokov's gay characters are
"two-dimensional at best," that they are
all like the ballet dancers in "Mary" or
Gaston Godin in "Lolita." In
particular, the one Grossman refers to
simply as "the egomaniacal narrator" of
"Pale Fire," Charles Kinbote, emerges as
considerably more than two-dimensional,
though he may be at the same time "vain,
silly ... shallow, intellectually
trivial and ineffectual." Kinbote seems
to me, among other things, a
metaphorical double of Nabokov himself,
the exile as homosexual, excluded or
marginalized, an outsider looking in,
and, as such, the object of the
compassion of another Nabokov double,
the poet John Shade, a man with his own
considerable knowledge of exclusion. As
Kinbote says toward the end of his last,
mad, rambling footnote to Shade's poem
"Pale Fire," "I may turn up yet, on
another campus, as an old, happy,
healthy, heterosexual Russian, a writer
in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans
audience, sans anything but his art."

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-- Ron Macdonald


Will you tell me a story --
please?

BY WAGNER JAMES AU

(05/16/00)

Where did Au get his information
on the plots of the games at E3? Did he
sneak into the corporate headquarters of
each game developer, steal a copy of
their games and then read through the
plot? The average plot preview at E3
was as long as the average blurb on the
back of a novel -- and would show just
as little of the plot of the real thing.

I think Au has also vastly overestimated
how much gamers want plot. Some people
have said, "I hated that game -- you had
to click the mouse so many times to get
[through the plot and] into the action."
I personally want to hear a good story,
but others honestly resent having their
fragfest spoiled by narration.

-- Evan James

While it's true that we haven't
seen much of what Halo's story is going
to be, I think I can say with pretty
much confidence that Halo will have a
story, and that it will be more complex
than just about any computer game in the
last couple of years. The reason I say
this is that Halo is set in the same
universe, and in fact, the same time, as
another game created by Bungie Software,
Marathon. Marathon was an FPS in a
science fiction setting, and pretty much
the only way the story was developed was
through textual computer terminals that
you would interface with. But what a
story it was! Pages and pages have been
devoted to trying to puzzle out all the
things that were going on. If one goes
to Marathon story and just spends a
couple of hours reading, they might
begin to grasp how huge it was. And as I
said before, Halo is set in this world,
and already we are starting to see ties
to the Marathon story.

-- Francis Arant


Knowing what's up
down there

BY CARMEN WINANT
(05/17/00)

Carmen Winant need not feel she
has failed her mother. As she grows and
sheds the insecurities natural to her
age, the intelligent, articulate
teenager she is today will turn into a
young adult free of ignorance and
prejudice.

Yes, Carmen, indeed some day "vagina"
will not be a dirty word, and some day
people of both sexes will have a level
of maturity higher than what you find in
boys your age today. Believe it. It's
just going to take a lot of people like
you and your folks.

-- Walt Roberts


Salon Staff

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