“Prozac Nation” author Elizabeth Wurtzel died at the age of 52 on Tuesday as a result of breast cancer that metastasized to her brain. The Washington Post said Wurtzel’s husband, Jim Freed, confirmed her death. She announced she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.
In her 1994 memoir, “Prozac Nation,” Wurtzel candidly described what it was like living with depression and other mental health struggles, including self-harm and suicidal ideation. She followed up with the 1998 essay collection “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women” and a second memoir in 2001, “More, Now, Again,” which chronicled her struggles with addiction.
Many have credited Wurtzel’s writing with inspiring a new generation of personal essay writing that got real about difficult issues. “Prozac Nation” also changed the conversation around mental health because Wurtzel didn’t shy away from telling her real story.
“Such love for Elizabeth Wurtzel!” said Mighty community member Kim A. about “Prozac Nation.” “I’ve read this book so many times, the first time at 15 when my symptoms really started to present. It was like my Bible.”
Fans, friends and colleagues reacted to her death on social media, shared condolences and lauded Wurtzel’s work.
It's impossible to convey the impact Elizabeth Wurtzel had in the '90s. She was unapologetic, raw, honest. She stood for a very specific form of GenX femininity, confession, rage.
We learned from her—and from how intensely she was mocked for writing about her own life. pic.twitter.com/1KAViZL503
— Erin Blakemore (@heroinebook) January 7, 2020
Incredibly sad. Bitch and Prozac Nation were incredibly formative to me as a young writer. I remember reading about Elizabeth in a magazine and having my mom take me to the local bookstore to order them when I was like 14. https://t.co/xfEtwIB60q
— Amanda Mull (@amandamull) January 7, 2020
— Jennifer Schaffer (@jmschaff) January 7, 2020
I came to know Elizabeth through my ex-husband, her oldest friend (quoted here) & @caseygreenfield, her law school classmate, & in texts & calls & at family events in the last 20 years she was always warm, wild & mind- & heart-expanding. This is crushing.https://t.co/16CllBczNr
— Virginia Heffernan (@page88) January 7, 2020
"Cancer is excessive. It is growth run amok. It is a disease I understand." Rest in peace, Elizabeth Wurtzel. https://t.co/NTJ5J5fg4m
— AmanaFontanella-Khan (@AmanaFK) January 7, 2020
Seven years later, I still remember this essay and the punched-in-the-stomach-with-writing feeling that I felt when it ended. RIP. https://t.co/Y4ZiJhrbUV
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) January 7, 2020
This is heartbreaking. Liz was a true original, a brilliant writer I admired but a kind, encouraging and loving friend to so many. I'm just so angry the world was robbed of her too soon. https://t.co/xeQqPhgb80
— Elise Jordan (@Elise_Jordan) January 7, 2020
Liz Wurtzel wouldn't have known me from a bump on the sidewalk but her death feels like a personal blow because I feel like I've known her for decades, a testament to her skill as a writer, something we should have appreciated more https://t.co/zkOOHeVPWQ
— Reyhan Harmanci (@harmancipants) January 7, 2020
I never met Lizzie in person, but for awhile, we emailed regularly and would occasionally talk on the phone. She was brilliant, restless, and wholly original — obviously. She would literally never rest in peace! But I hope she found some. https://t.co/OOGAv5vRZ5
— Kate Aurthur (@KateAurthur) January 7, 2020
Sad news indeed. Elizabeth Wurtzel’s refusal to compromise in her writing on mental health makes her work more important than ever. https://t.co/sNNzGXoqw5
— The Lancet Psychiatry (@TheLancetPsych) January 7, 2020
oh god i loved her so much. goodbye elizabeth wurtzel & thank you for always being you pic.twitter.com/misWwDt4Y2
— porochista khakpour (@PKhakpour) January 7, 2020
RIP Elizabeth Wurtzel. She was a mental health awareness champion for young people with her raw, honest writing. Can’t believe it. #prozacnation
— Roger Clark (@rclark98) January 7, 2020