The Valedictorian of Being Dead
From New York Times bestselling author and blogger Heather B. Armstrong comes an honest and irreverent memoir—reminiscent of the New York Times bestseller Brain on Fire—about her experience as one of only a few people to participate in an experimental treatment for depression involving ten rounds of a chemically induced coma approximating brain death.For years, Heather B. Armstrong has alluded to her struggle with depression on her website, dooce. It’s scattered throughout her archive, where it weaves its way through posts about pop culture, music, and motherhood. But in 2016, Heather found herself in the depths of a depression she just couldn’t shake, an episode darker and longer than anything she had previously experienced. She had never felt so discouraged by the thought of waking up in the morning, and it threatened to destroy her life. So, for the sake of herself and her family, Heather decided to risk it all by participating in an experimental clinical trial involving a chemically induced coma approximating brain death.Now, for the first time, Heather recalls the torturous eighteen months of suicidal depression she endured and the month-long experimental study in which doctors used propofol anesthesia to quiet all brain activity for a full fifteen minutes before bringing her back from a flatline. Ten times. The experience wasn’t easy. Not for Heather or her family. But a switch was flipped, and Heather hasn’t experienced a single moment of suicidal depression since.Disarmingly honest, self-deprecating, and scientifically fascinating, The Valedictorian of Being Dead brings to light a groundbreaking new treatment for depression.

The Valedictorian of Being Dead Details

TitleThe Valedictorian of Being Dead
Author
ReleaseApr 23rd, 2019
PublisherGallery Books
ISBN-139781501197048
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Science, Biography Memoir, Health, Mental Health

The Valedictorian of Being Dead Review

  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Shuster Canada for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. Well, I never stray away from a tough subject in my reading material. I was seduced by the title and I stayed for the compelling and raw account of a woman's struggle to overcome the painful depression that enveloped her every moment. Heather B. Armstrong goes to a place that I never could have believed possible. In 2017 , the single mother of two and popular blogger, became the third partic Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Shuster Canada for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. Well, I never stray away from a tough subject in my reading material. I was seduced by the title and I stayed for the compelling and raw account of a woman's struggle to overcome the painful depression that enveloped her every moment. Heather B. Armstrong goes to a place that I never could have believed possible. In 2017 , the single mother of two and popular blogger, became the third participant in a scientific study in which the subject is given a huge dosage through anesthesia which would leave her nearly brain dead for 15 minutes. All done in an effort to quiet the electrical activity in her brain. She would go through this process TEN times. Heather shares her family story and treatments in such a conversational manner that I felt I was talking with a friend over a cup of coffee. As I came to the end of Heather's story, I couldn't help but allow the tears to fall freely. As much pain as there is in this book, there lies within a message of hope. The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live is one of my most memorable reads of 2019 Goodreads Review 19/04/ 19Publication Date 23/04/19
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  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsHeather B. ArmstrongHeather B. Armstrong is a popular 'mommy blogger' who uses her website 'Dooce' to share posts about her family, personal life, pop culture, music, commercial products, and so on. Over the years Heather also wrote about her struggle with depression, which became more serious over time. By 2016 Heather had been suffering from an eighteen-month-long bout of a depression so deep that she wanted to be dead. Heather would wear the same yoga pants, sports bra, and T-shirt f 3.5 starsHeather B. ArmstrongHeather B. Armstrong is a popular 'mommy blogger' who uses her website 'Dooce' to share posts about her family, personal life, pop culture, music, commercial products, and so on. Over the years Heather also wrote about her struggle with depression, which became more serious over time. By 2016 Heather had been suffering from an eighteen-month-long bout of a depression so deep that she wanted to be dead. Heather would wear the same yoga pants, sports bra, and T-shirt for days in a row, with her unshowered body topped by dirty hair. Feeling her normally trim body was out of shape, Heather writes: "I slept in my yoga pants because I didn't want to have to change my pants and see my alien body."At the time Heather fell into the abyss, she'd been living in Salt Lake City, Utah for most of her life and was raising her two daughters Leta (13) and Marlo (7) alone. Heather B. Armstrong with her daughtersHeather's daughters, Leta and MarloHeather's ex-husband Jon had moved to New York, and she was desperate to keep her depressive condition from him, fearing he'd demand custody of the children. Instead Heather would hide in a closet and call her mother, who lived nearby. Hoping the children couldn't hear, Heath would let loose, sometimes "making noises like a pig makes in a barn fire" and sometimes moaning "I don't want to be alive." Heather could hardly bring herself to do laundry or unload the dishwater; got anxious when her boss emailed or called, knowing he'd want something completed; and was amazed that she could perform her 'mommy' job from day to day, which she describes as: "Make sure the girls have eaten; make sure they're showered and dressed; make sure they have their homework; is Marlo wearing socks? make sure to let the dog back in; make sure we have Cheerios for the next two breakfasts; make sure Leta has taken a pill for her allergies; make sure Leta has asked her friend for a ride to school tomorrow, since the other carpool just cancelled......and so on. Morning after morning after morning. And then again. And then again." Heather felt like she was barely hanging on. Heather's psychiatrist, Dr. Lowry Bushnell, had prescribed many medications over the years, but her illness had become resistant to drugs - and pharmaceuticals no longer helped. When Heather visited Dr. Bushnell after a nine-month lapse, he looked at her and said "You don't have to tell me [how you feel]. It's all over your face. It has stolen your eyes." The psychiatrist then suggested that Heather participate in an experimental study with Dr. Brian Mickey, who was investigating the use of Propofol (the anesthetic that killed Michael Jackson) to treat depression.PropofolWith this treatment, the patient is put to sleep - that is put into a REALLY DEEP INDUCED COMA (simulating brain death) - about three times a week for ten sessions. The purpose is to find out if "burst suppression" - quieting the brain's electrical activity - can alleviate the symptoms of depression.....sort of like rebooting a computer. Heather agreed to the Propofol regimen and this book describes each of her ten treatments, interspersed with anecdotes about herself, her children, her parents, her job, and more. Heather's mother and stepfather stepped up to accompany her to each session, while her children - who didn't know exactly what was going on - quietly hoped for the best. Heather had to forego food and water prior to every therapy session, each of which went something like this: Heather arrives at the clinic; fills out a form assessing her level of depression; tells a nurse what drugs she's taking; has a 22-gauge needle inserted into her vein; lays down on a gurney; has sensors attached to her body; and passes out when a doctor starts the Propofol (plus other meds) drip. The medical team then inserts a breathing tube into Heather's throat, which is removed at the end of the session. When it's over, Heather is transported to a recovery room, where she wakes up confused and thirsty. A nurse then gives her apple juice and assesses her condition. When Heather demonstrates that she's compos mentis (knows her name and the year), she's allowed to go home with her folks. Heather's mother and stepfather watched every procedure from beginning to end, her mom keeping an eagle eye on everything and everyone, making sure Heather's eyes were taped shut and substances that constipated her were left out (to Heather's eternal embarrassment).🙂 Heather notes that she started to feel better after treatment five.....and was on an upward trajectory from then on. In the course of Heather's story we learn that she comes from a family plagued by depression; she left the Mormon Church; her biological father has an anger problem and traumatized her as a child (I would have liked to know more about this); her mother is an angel who helps with laundry, meals, babysitting.....whatever's needed; her kids have a full roster of activities, including school, piano lessons, and sports; she helped a blind man run a marathon; she wouldn't mind having a nice boyfriend who has a job; and she's eternally grateful to the medical team that treated her, all of whom volunteered their time and were immensely caring and helpful. In an afterward, Dr. Brian Mickey, MD, PhD, writes that tens of millions of people around the world have treatment-resistant depression, and "this situation has inspired scientists like myself to search for new treatments." Dr. Mickey goes on to say "The study Heather participated in could be the beginning of something new. But the true benefits of Propofol for treatment-resistant depression remain unknown. Much work still needs to be done." Dr. Brian MickeySo far Heather continues to do well. With luck, she'll be a long term success story. I found the story to be a bit repetitive (all those treatments) and would have liked to know more about Heather's upbringing. Nevertheless, the book is laudable for explaining a therapy that (eventually) might help a lot of people.Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Heather B. Armstrong), and the publisher (Gallery Books) for a copy of the book.You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    I am so conflicted with this book. The good is that the author is honest about her depression and describes it so very well. Her writing is compulsive and her relationship with words is enviable. I applaud anybody who is willing to write an honest memoir. But that is where my conflict comes in. It is certainly her choice to share what she wishes to share of her personal journey and I acknowledge that. What drove me crazy was the little tidbits that hinted of a much, much bigger story that is pro I am so conflicted with this book. The good is that the author is honest about her depression and describes it so very well. Her writing is compulsive and her relationship with words is enviable. I applaud anybody who is willing to write an honest memoir. But that is where my conflict comes in. It is certainly her choice to share what she wishes to share of her personal journey and I acknowledge that. What drove me crazy was the little tidbits that hinted of a much, much bigger story that is probably relevant to her journey but then, after one sentence, she drops it. Why mention it at all if it isn’t going to be fleshed out adequately for the reader? There are deep issues with her father and I respect her discretion as she has a continued relationship with him yet she intimates how very horrible he was to her in her childhood by making a reference to TV bombshell and then drops it. I found the author very, very good at describing how it feels to be so depressed that she wanted to be dead but much of the book is a lot of description of the sounds of her mother’s shoes as she walks quickly, a conversation about constipation, how tired she is after a treatment, or the minutiae of making special sandwiches for her daughter’s. Her writing tends toward promising something deeper but leaves me wanting as it doesn’t deliver. Apparently, there are also inside jokes or references that I didn’t get. I don’t like to feel stupid or excluded when I read a book. I enjoy an intellectually challenging read but the references were not that. They were inferences made within her mind, pop culture, or her blog. Truthfully, I’m not as trendy as she is. I admire the author for who she is and what she has accomplished and continues to accomplish. Fans of her blog will probably understand a lot more than I did. My review is based on my frustration level and not on the author’s writing ability.
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  • Deborah Stevens
    January 1, 1970
    Memoir consists of two things: the strength of the story being told, and the strength of the book.The story here is very compelling because it concerns a topic we all know, some of us too well: depression. Considered the "common cold of mental health," almost everyone has experienced it. Yet in some it becomes so entrenched and treatment resistant that it endangers the life of the sufferer. This was the case for Heather B. Armstrong, leading her to try an experimental treatment involving being v Memoir consists of two things: the strength of the story being told, and the strength of the book.The story here is very compelling because it concerns a topic we all know, some of us too well: depression. Considered the "common cold of mental health," almost everyone has experienced it. Yet in some it becomes so entrenched and treatment resistant that it endangers the life of the sufferer. This was the case for Heather B. Armstrong, leading her to try an experimental treatment involving being very deeply anesthetized, 10 times.The book, however, is not strong. Armstrong does not take the time at the outset to introduce herself in any compelling way to her reader; perhaps she is writing more to her blog followers than to new readers such as myself. She is also wildly inaccurate in her description of her IV placements before each treatment, describing the 22 gauge needle as enormous (not the case, this needle is much smaller than those used in blood donation), and the medical professionals placing the needles as phlebotomists (we phlebotomists draw blood but do not place IVs. Ever. This would have been a certified IV Tech or an RN.). She lost all credibility with me here. The strongest part of her narrative is her description of what it is like to be depressed, and this may appeal to those readers who are in relationship to a depressed individual and wish to better understand the hopelessness, lethargy, parenting lapses and poor hygiene that she describes. And the success that Armstrong experienced as a result of her treatment is such a ray of hope. I wish her continued health and strength.With thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    Blogging must be such a weird way to make a living. You’re a good writer, so you start writing...about your job, your life, your kids. And then the ad money starts to roll and suddenly: commodification. And internet troll fury. Meanwhile, you’re still a good writer, so you keep writing. And your non-troll audience, who has been with you all along...through the having of babies and the getting of divorces and the moving of houses and all of it...keeps reading and rooting for you. And, in that odd Blogging must be such a weird way to make a living. You’re a good writer, so you start writing...about your job, your life, your kids. And then the ad money starts to roll and suddenly: commodification. And internet troll fury. Meanwhile, you’re still a good writer, so you keep writing. And your non-troll audience, who has been with you all along...through the having of babies and the getting of divorces and the moving of houses and all of it...keeps reading and rooting for you. And, in that odd way the internet connects us to strangers, keeps feeling invested in your life. So a book like this one—unsettling, smart, darkly funny, revealing—which from a different writer would be “shocking” and “pathbreaking” feels like a natural long-form extension of your stock in trade. But this shouldn’t lessen the impact of this book’s power. Heather Armstrong’s voice and humor aren’t for everyone, but the life events she chronicles here are astonishing. And, in that odd way the internet connects us to strangers, my overwhelming reaction while reading it was pride and joy. I’m so proud of what Heather has accomplished—what a brave treatment to undertake—and her found happiness brings me joy.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    A valiant effort chronicling a devastating illness, I feel for Armstrong and the strength it must have taken to face her demons head on via 10 experimental treatments despite scary complications. Gutsy as heck and her family support was unwavering and amazing. Thanks to Gallery Threshold for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to the publisher via NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc for review, this has in no way influenced my opinion.The Valedictorian of Being Dead is Heather B. Armstrong's recollections of her experience of undergoing an experimental treatment to attempt to lessen her depression symptoms. She is put into a state of brain death ten times over the course of a 3 week period, and has not had a relapse since. The best part of this book was the afterword, written by the primary doctor leadi Thank you to the publisher via NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc for review, this has in no way influenced my opinion.The Valedictorian of Being Dead is Heather B. Armstrong's recollections of her experience of undergoing an experimental treatment to attempt to lessen her depression symptoms. She is put into a state of brain death ten times over the course of a 3 week period, and has not had a relapse since. The best part of this book was the afterword, written by the primary doctor leading the study, reiterating that this study is early days and that more money and eyes are required to holistically improve the lives of depressed patients. I did not enjoy my time reading this book - not because it was triggering or anything like that, but for writing related reasons. Armstrong's voice, on paper, agitates me - I care for neither her style nor her "humour (Her "humour" isn't too dry or subversive for me; it's just absent, but she talks about it like it is a thing that exists).The word valedictorian is used constantly, a weird tick coupled with the idea that being the valedictorian is somehow life's sole aspirational goal. I don't remember who was valedictorian at my graduation and I can't think of the last time I've even heard the word; maybe it's an American thing - like yearbook superlatives - to give a s*** about the role? I started feeling like Peter in that Family Guy episode wherein he draws attention to movies that mention the film title in dialogue, although he finds it enchanting.Lastly, because Armstrong's life is so known to her fans, as someone new to her I was left feeling like I needed an in-book primer - I couldn't summon up the revulsion I think I was supposed to feel toward her father, ex-husband, or ex-boyfriends, creating an emotional gulf I couldn't cross, further compounding how little I was otherwise connecting with the memoir.However, I think this book could be helpful to other people. The struggles of depression, single parenting, and dating are struggles that many people can relate to - even if Armstrong admittedly comes to these struggles with a moderate amount of privilege. There is value in showing that while privilege mitigates struggles, money and post-secondary education don't resolve everything on their own. I hope the right audience finds this book and benefits from the anecdotes Armstrong has to impart.
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  • Librariann
    January 1, 1970
    This book proves that I still like Hi I'm Heather B. Armstrong and this is my website. I just find her voice so strong and readable. She's not everyone's jam, but if she is yours (even if you stopped regularly following her blog before Marlo was born), you will like this book. If you have no dooce reference points, this is a good book for anyone who battles mental illness or know someone who does. Now I'm wondering how Allie Brosh is doing....
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  • Heidi Rikard
    January 1, 1970
    I really thought this would be a little more "dramatic" considering the severity of this clinical trial, but maybe it's just because the author has a very self-deprecating sense of humor about everything that I never felt the "gasp" moments I thought I would. I have never experienced clinical depression. I know a few times I have been "depressed", but it was situational and did resolve on its own. So, being that I can't relate to that, her level of repeating constantly how hard it is to be a sin I really thought this would be a little more "dramatic" considering the severity of this clinical trial, but maybe it's just because the author has a very self-deprecating sense of humor about everything that I never felt the "gasp" moments I thought I would. I have never experienced clinical depression. I know a few times I have been "depressed", but it was situational and did resolve on its own. So, being that I can't relate to that, her level of repeating constantly how hard it is to be a single mom was a little annoying. I am a single mom, and while I don't do it with my ex living thousands of miles away, I also pretty much still do it all myself. That being said, I do appreciate how she acknowledged that her drive to get better was almost exclusively for her children and to not let them down. I think this book could help a lot of people. I'm just not one of them.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.I got approved for this book yesterday afternoon, downloaded it, and then read it in one sitting over the course of a few hours. It's a fast read down to Armstrong's conversational writing style as well as to the repetitiveness of the treatment she experienced. It's a good book. As a long-time reader of dooce.com, it's hard not to feel a small connection to Armstrong, and who among us would not be overjoyed to watch a person go fr I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.I got approved for this book yesterday afternoon, downloaded it, and then read it in one sitting over the course of a few hours. It's a fast read down to Armstrong's conversational writing style as well as to the repetitiveness of the treatment she experienced. It's a good book. As a long-time reader of dooce.com, it's hard not to feel a small connection to Armstrong, and who among us would not be overjoyed to watch a person go from wishing they were dead to being able to hear music again? I enjoyed every appearance by Leta & Marlo, as well as all of the shade Armstrong threw at her ex-husband, who sounds like a bit of a tool.
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  • Kristina
    January 1, 1970
    This book is so powerful. Heather can be a polarizing figure to the haters out there, but damn if this isn't one of the most powerful and important stories I think a "mommy blogger" has ever shared. Normalizing mental health is so damn vital to the well-being of so many people out there and she's done it beautifully and poignantly. It left me with hope that there is help out there for all who so desperately need it. Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    I am shocked and amazed by this story. I almost don’t have words for this book yet somehow I find myself talking to everyone about it. Our local library likely has a long waiting list for it because I have recommended it so much. You can’t help but be intrigued by the summary and as soon as I heard about it I was dying to get my hands on it. I was not disappointed because it absolutely blew my mind! I had been woefully ignorant about treatments for depression and I honestly didn’t even know that I am shocked and amazed by this story. I almost don’t have words for this book yet somehow I find myself talking to everyone about it. Our local library likely has a long waiting list for it because I have recommended it so much. You can’t help but be intrigued by the summary and as soon as I heard about it I was dying to get my hands on it. I was not disappointed because it absolutely blew my mind! I had been woefully ignorant about treatments for depression and I honestly didn’t even know that Electroconvulsive Therapy was something that was still used today, much less the even more terrifying new treatment that the author undergoes. It makes sense in a way because pretty well every piece of technology can be fixed by unplugging it and then plugging it in again. I never imagined that rebooting would do the same for the brain! I’ve never suffered from depression but with what seems like the recent rash of celebrity suicides I am very aware of just how deadly this disease can be. Heather does an amazing job of describing her disease and her mindset during this time. She is brutally honest and remarkably open about her experiences. I think we can all relate to how hard it is to ask for help, and to do it when in the depths of despair is quite remarkable. To what lengths would you go to save your own life and to feel joy again? In Heather’s case dying ten times then being brought back seemed like a reasonable if last resort option.At first I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy Heather’s voice. It took me a bit to get her sense of humour, and there are many parts that are very funny. I could completely relate to her perfectionism and need to be the best at everything. No one can be the best at everything but for perfectionists anything less feels like total failure. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was to let go of “being the valedictorian.” It’s okay to not do everything perfectly. Sometimes it is enough to just get the things done! This aspect of Heather’s stress was 100% my stress. Thankfully I’m fine now and I think she is too. This story is such an inspiration to everyone who thinks that things will never get better. You will have to ask for help and you might have to go to extremes but things will get better. No low is ever permanent. If it takes dying ten times to get out of it then go for it! I’m such a nerd for this but I have to quote John Lennon: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.” Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and Gallery Books for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
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  • Ali Edwards
    January 1, 1970
    I'm going with 5 stars on this one because I think it's such an important read about depression + hope + life. It's Heather's own experience - not a prescription - showing a path she took to get out of a significant depressive episode. It's also a lot about understanding and kindness and asking for help and showing up for people. Really important read.
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  • Abbey
    January 1, 1970
    Solid 4.5 StarsWow. Heather has just laid it all out on the line...and good for her for doing it! I don't have as severe a depression as she does, but it still really spoke to me. This book was so heartbreakingly and beautifully written...the details so exact and real. I know a lot of people have given her a hard time over the years, but the one thing that has always been true with her is how real she'll get about mental illness. If more people spoke as openly as she did/does, maybe having a men Solid 4.5 StarsWow. Heather has just laid it all out on the line...and good for her for doing it! I don't have as severe a depression as she does, but it still really spoke to me. This book was so heartbreakingly and beautifully written...the details so exact and real. I know a lot of people have given her a hard time over the years, but the one thing that has always been true with her is how real she'll get about mental illness. If more people spoke as openly as she did/does, maybe having a mental illness wouldn't have such a stigma.
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  • Casey
    January 1, 1970
    Heather B. Armstrong, best known as Dooce, has written about her struggle with depression for years. In the midst of an 18-month bout, she agrees to participate in a trial treatment that involves flatlining her brain ten times. I’ve been reading Armstrong’s writing for over a decade now, and this book still blew me away. No one else is able to so sharply illustrate what it’s like inside your head when you’re depressed. I could not highlight passages fast enough - I kept reading bits out loud to Heather B. Armstrong, best known as Dooce, has written about her struggle with depression for years. In the midst of an 18-month bout, she agrees to participate in a trial treatment that involves flatlining her brain ten times. I’ve been reading Armstrong’s writing for over a decade now, and this book still blew me away. No one else is able to so sharply illustrate what it’s like inside your head when you’re depressed. I could not highlight passages fast enough - I kept reading bits out loud to my partner, in awe of how it seemed like Armstrong had transcribed my own thoughts and feelings. She lays out all the ways your own brain is inescapable when you’re dealing with depression and anxiety. How could you possibly shower when the water hurts your skin? How could you possibly fold one more piece of laundry? And maybe worst of all, how could you possibly burden anyone with helping you? And, not to get spoilery, but she also captures what it’s like to come out the other side and how in a matter of days you can wonder how you possibly could have thought you were down such a dark hole. Lest you think this book is a total downer, Armstrong’s usual lightning quick sense of humor is still present - it’s cliche to say I laughed and then I cried, but it’s true. If you’ve ever wanted to understand a loved one who is dealing with depression, read this book. It’s hard to believe a book about dying ten times can give you hope, but this is the case for THE VALEDICTORIAN OF BEING DEAD.
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  • Donna Hines
    January 1, 1970
    First I want to stress the fact that before you diagnose yourself with depression make sure you're not surrounded by A-holes especially anyone involved with toxicity or NPD.This is a story about truths. Survival. The power of love.It shows Heather at her most vulnerable times when depression took hold and refused to let go.Suicide seemed to be her only option and while it was a very serious book for many single mothers we can relate to the everyday stress and strain of going solo.The anxiety, th First I want to stress the fact that before you diagnose yourself with depression make sure you're not surrounded by A-holes especially anyone involved with toxicity or NPD.This is a story about truths. Survival. The power of love.It shows Heather at her most vulnerable times when depression took hold and refused to let go.Suicide seemed to be her only option and while it was a very serious book for many single mothers we can relate to the everyday stress and strain of going solo.The anxiety, the sadness, the exhaustion, the loneliness, and even the feeling of loss and desperation becomes enormous.The propofol for depression is relatively new and she was a candidate for this breaking research.While it seemed to have helped it was at a price.To rid herself of one's day's work of anguish is worth it but what price are you willing to pay to be 'normal'?A truly remarkable read that is highly recommended.Thank you to Heather, the publisher, NetGalley, and Aldiko for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    Disclosure: ARC received from Netgalley & publisher in exchange for an honest review. (They may regret this.) Any and all quotes were taken from an advanced edition subject to change in the final edition.
  • Jim
    January 1, 1970
    When Heather B Armstrong found herself in a depression that left her not just thinking, but wishing, hoping, "Please let me be dead," she decided to accept her psychiatrist's advice and become part of a medical study using propofol anesthesia as a potential alternative to electroconvulsive therapy(ECT) with the hope that her depression would lift. As such, Armstrong would be subjecting herself to ten separate treatments in which the anesthesia would be given at a dosage that would take her to th When Heather B Armstrong found herself in a depression that left her not just thinking, but wishing, hoping, "Please let me be dead," she decided to accept her psychiatrist's advice and become part of a medical study using propofol anesthesia as a potential alternative to electroconvulsive therapy(ECT) with the hope that her depression would lift. As such, Armstrong would be subjecting herself to ten separate treatments in which the anesthesia would be given at a dosage that would take her to the level of being nearly brain dead for 15 minutes in the hope that it would quiet her brain's electrical activity.She agreed to fill out the paper work and become part of the study.The story as a result of her medical journey that she tells is raw, gritty, determined, fearful, and...hopeful.It is a very human story...and a very medical story as well.With more people now admitting to their bouts of and struggles with depression and other mental illness, Armstrong's story provides hope that perhaps new treatments such as she experience might provide help in lifting the dark cloud of depression. But there is more to the story that just what Armstrong goes through.This is also a very...very human story. It is the story of a mother, daughter, and friend...a human being who desperately runs a race every day in her mind and body with a to do list that was never getting done and only two hands to get anything done.Armstrong not only tells about her treatment journey but also about her life journey as one who dealt with depression from childhood on. This is a gripping story about trying to succeed and be successful (the title comes from her status as valedictorian of her High School and her subsequent pursuit of perfection as a way of getting love.) As readers walk (and sometimes run to keep up) with Heather as she tells her story, they come to see how much depression manifests itself in a variety of ways even in high functioning people such as Heather.Now, not only did the entire story grip this reader's heart, but what really got his attention (and heart) was reading of Heather's need to revisit some painful memories with her mom as a way of healing at another level. That willingness to revisit those memories were important in Heather' healing and treatment.Ultimately, Armstrong, who is best known as one of the leading 'mommy' bloggers on the Internet at dooce.com, offers us an example of gritty determination, especially for those who suffer depression and other mental illnesses. This book, which brought this reviewer to tears at times, is a much needed one today for those who deal with mental illness and the ones who love and care for them. But it is also the story of a woman, who finally came to not want to "be dead" but to live...and thrive.I gave this book a five-star rating on Goodreads.Note: I received an eCopy of an ARC from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.
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  • Kim Zoot Holmes
    January 1, 1970
    I came to Heather's book having been a fan of her writing for over 15 years. With this experience, I fully expected to 100% connect to her words - especially about mental health. While I never suffered as long as she did (I have always been lucky that a medication change or the guidance of a new therapist could get me out of the darkness) the way she describes her suffering is so poignant and truthful it hit me in ways I couldn't have prepared myself for, even as someone who has been reading her I came to Heather's book having been a fan of her writing for over 15 years. With this experience, I fully expected to 100% connect to her words - especially about mental health. While I never suffered as long as she did (I have always been lucky that a medication change or the guidance of a new therapist could get me out of the darkness) the way she describes her suffering is so poignant and truthful it hit me in ways I couldn't have prepared myself for, even as someone who has been reading her for as long as I have.But what made me sob openly was story after story of the unconditional love associated with Motherhood. FIRST: from her point of view. From the ways she tried to suffer silently to the eventual struggling through this new treatment to get better (on top of being a single Mom with a full-time job) for her girls. The way Heather writes about the desperation of Mothering her girls with unquantifiable love just spoke to my soul in ways I had never felt before. But SECOND was the way she wrote about her own Mom and her journey watching her daughter's brain turn "off" for 15 minutes 10 separate times. The way her Mom describes Heather's courage, the way she witnesses Heather's journey, the way she answers Heather's calls and hold her hand...it's just something you have to read for yourself. This book is definitely about depression and I encourage anyone who has struggled to understand a loved one who suffers from depression to read this book. Heather is such a gifted writer that you can FEEL her despair as she describes it. And then when life comes back to her again, you will feel it through her words in very visceral ways.But to me - it also very much about Motherhood. It made me understand myself as a Mother so much more and it made me grateful for the opportunity to love my children the way Heather loves her girls and the way Heather is loved by her Mother.
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  • Meagan Houle
    January 1, 1970
    Heather keeps this fairly light and humour-filled throughout, but between laughs you'll find a deeply thoughtful memoir and an eloquent exploration of what it is to be depressed. Many writers have tried to explain it, but rarely have I felt as immediately understood as when I read Heather's descriptions of the burdens she carried. What people struggle to understand about depression is that, in many cases, patients just carry on. They get the kids to school. They eat and sleep, if not well then a Heather keeps this fairly light and humour-filled throughout, but between laughs you'll find a deeply thoughtful memoir and an eloquent exploration of what it is to be depressed. Many writers have tried to explain it, but rarely have I felt as immediately understood as when I read Heather's descriptions of the burdens she carried. What people struggle to understand about depression is that, in many cases, patients just carry on. They get the kids to school. They eat and sleep, if not well then at least enough to seem relatively stable. They do what needs doing, though rarely more than that. Like Heather, they may frequently skip showers and lose interest in their favourite activities, but they keep chugging along because it's just what you do.The procedure Heather undergoes to battle her treatment-resistant depression is undeniably drastic. Over and over, she allows herself to be brought to the brink of brain death, then revived. Again and again, her concerned mother stays by her side as she goes under, sighing with relief as Heather wakes back up, babbling nonsense and guzzling apple juice. The strain on Heather and her family is evident, and Heather herself makes no attempt to downplay the enormity of what she was experiencing three times a week. It was risky and scary, but she understood that continuing to let depression run the show was far riskier. As I read about her gradual reawakening, mapping her tentative journey toward joy and stronger connections to the world around her, I couldn't help but rejoice. Being "the valedictorian of being dead" might seem too extreme a measure, but from what I've known of depression in my own life, extremity is sometimes what ultimately saves us. And when it comes to severe illness--an illness so powerful that it robs you of the basic, primal urge to exist--you do what you have to do. For my part, I am infinitely glad she chose to stay.
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  • Sozie
    January 1, 1970
    I struggled to give this a 4/5 rating, but I did so because I think the medical aspect of a potential new breakthrough in treating severe depression, and I found that part fascinating. I also feel so sad that someone could be in that much pain from mental illness while trying to parent/work/etc.If I were basing it on the writing itself or how much I like this author, I'd probably give it a one star - to be frank, I wanted to read this because I followed her blog for a very long time, but mostly I struggled to give this a 4/5 rating, but I did so because I think the medical aspect of a potential new breakthrough in treating severe depression, and I found that part fascinating. I also feel so sad that someone could be in that much pain from mental illness while trying to parent/work/etc.If I were basing it on the writing itself or how much I like this author, I'd probably give it a one star - to be frank, I wanted to read this because I followed her blog for a very long time, but mostly because it was like watching a train wreck and also her kids are really cute. However, I greatly dislike someone blaming everyone else around them for their mental illness. Of course, people can be shitty and of course, your childhood can affect you later in life - but if you're blaming your ex husband, every boyfriend you've ever had, your mother, your father, your siblings, your OWN CHILDREN, ex co-workers, etc - then you should consider that maybe you're the one that has the problem (and that even YOU can't control your own mental illness). It was very uncomfortable listening to her basically call out everyone she's basically ever known and how they didn't live up to her expectations. I know this is something that bugs me because of personal experience, but if you can't even be honest with your own therapist, how do you expect your friends and family to magically read your mind?Anyway, I got off on a tangent - but this is definitely worth reading, or just look up propofol-based brain flatlining depression treatment and you can learn about it a different way. I am incredibly happy for the author that she ended up finding relief from this really brave, gutsy attempt at getting some healing.
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  • Cate
    January 1, 1970
    I have a special place in my heart for people who can speak honestly and well about the depths of major depression. There are important (but generic) reasons for that— such as it helps decrease stigma around mental health. But there are deeply personal reasons as well— such as my own need to hear stories like mine told, to know that I’m not alone. I spent almost four hours reading this book from cover to cover. It is all the wit and humor that has been part of Heather’s writing since the earlies I have a special place in my heart for people who can speak honestly and well about the depths of major depression. There are important (but generic) reasons for that— such as it helps decrease stigma around mental health. But there are deeply personal reasons as well— such as my own need to hear stories like mine told, to know that I’m not alone. I spent almost four hours reading this book from cover to cover. It is all the wit and humor that has been part of Heather’s writing since the earliest days of her blog, Dooce, but it is also raw and real and true. She captures the experience of severe anxiety and major depression in a way that was very nearly a cathartic experience for someone who has been there; it’s like being heard. More than that, the story gave me hope. It was a reminder that there are doctors out there that care about advancing science and improving treatments in a field that can feel very stagnant to those who suffer through the short-term or partially-effective treatments that may or may not relieve symptoms which could prove fatal. I feel full of gratitude for those who keep searching for answers and those who volunteer for the trials that help the research progress.
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  • Ariel
    January 1, 1970
    Uuuugh, this is such a hard book to rate. There was a time in my life where I read a LOT of Heather's blog, Dooce. Then it fell off my radar and life went other places. All those things that made me a devotee to her internet space made this a great read (or listen in my case). She's got a great written voice. She's funny. She knows how to tell a good story. And, after all that time reading her blog, I feel weirdly invested in her and her family (the internet is so weird, why do I feel invested i Uuuugh, this is such a hard book to rate. There was a time in my life where I read a LOT of Heather's blog, Dooce. Then it fell off my radar and life went other places. All those things that made me a devotee to her internet space made this a great read (or listen in my case). She's got a great written voice. She's funny. She knows how to tell a good story. And, after all that time reading her blog, I feel weirdly invested in her and her family (the internet is so weird, why do I feel invested in a total stranger?). This topic and her story in this book is pretty wrenching. To hear her read it is really tough - the sadness, hopelessness, and then the elation and joy in her voice are all apparent. The story itself (of her experience with an experimental treatment) is compelling and the outcome is encouraging. Do I think it's a great book? Probably nah. It won't stay with me any more than her blog did. Was it a nice diversion? Yep. Do I feel like calling her intense, deeply emotional story "a diversion" makes me a jerk? Yep. The internet is weird and the whole thing makes me a little uncomfortable, to be honest. Ha!
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  • Kathrine
    January 1, 1970
    There’s a real problem with talking about mental health in our country. This very real stigma keeps people from expressing how they’re feeling when they experience mental health issues, but even worse, it can keep them from seeking much-needed treatment. For that reason, we need more books like Heather Armstrong’s “The Valedictorian of Being Dead.”As a long-time follower of Dooce.com, I had been looking forward to this book (with thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for an Advanced Reader Copy. There’s a real problem with talking about mental health in our country. This very real stigma keeps people from expressing how they’re feeling when they experience mental health issues, but even worse, it can keep them from seeking much-needed treatment. For that reason, we need more books like Heather Armstrong’s “The Valedictorian of Being Dead.”As a long-time follower of Dooce.com, I had been looking forward to this book (with thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for an Advanced Reader Copy.)It’s an interesting walk through of the experimental treatment Armstrong went through to treat depression. And it’s full of humor, grit, and insight, just as you’d expect from this author. And it’ll be interesting to see if this ECT treatment turns out to be a viable option for more individuals seeking treatment for severe depression.
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  • Genevieve Trono
    January 1, 1970
    I have known of Heather Armstrong as a blogger but have never read one of her books until now. I thought The Valedictorian of Being Dead was an incredible story and I am so happy that she shared it because mental health treatment is just as important as physical health. I had never heard of this treatment before and I think it is wonderful that she is helping normalize this by sharing. I had a harder time with the memoir aspect of this book because of the details that she chooses to share about I have known of Heather Armstrong as a blogger but have never read one of her books until now. I thought The Valedictorian of Being Dead was an incredible story and I am so happy that she shared it because mental health treatment is just as important as physical health. I had never heard of this treatment before and I think it is wonderful that she is helping normalize this by sharing. I had a harder time with the memoir aspect of this book because of the details that she chooses to share about her family members. I did admire that she was able to share so opening what it truly felt like to experience depression that was deeply debilitating on many levels and I was happy to hear her parents were so supportive of her during this time as well. Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing me with a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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  • Sara Habein
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fascinating look at an experimental medical procedure to treat severe depression. I found a lot of what Armstrong had to say about swimming through the fog of depression relatable, and it was interesting to see her different family dynamics while she underwent treatment. I was aware of her blog before now, though I was never a reader of it. I imagine some readers of this book will be more aware of the context to some things she mentions here that aren't fully fleshed out, but it was m This was a fascinating look at an experimental medical procedure to treat severe depression. I found a lot of what Armstrong had to say about swimming through the fog of depression relatable, and it was interesting to see her different family dynamics while she underwent treatment. I was aware of her blog before now, though I was never a reader of it. I imagine some readers of this book will be more aware of the context to some things she mentions here that aren't fully fleshed out, but it was mostly regarding details that were not wholly pertinent to the main subject, this treatment.I wish the end of the book had more reflection rather than just a recounting of a conversation she had with a friend, and maybe it tied just a little too neat of a bow on the story, but that's a minor quibble. I would still recommend this to anyone who either wants to know they are not alone, or to anyone who wants/needs to know what severe depression is like.
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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.Heather Armstrong has never held back. You are considering this book because you already know that, because you have a morbid curiosity about this very radical treatment, and because you hope she will keep you from being completely freaked out with her wry outlook and FML rawness. If you spent the early years of dooce.com being a little...concerned about Armstrong, and wondering whether you can really "know" a blogger well enough I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.Heather Armstrong has never held back. You are considering this book because you already know that, because you have a morbid curiosity about this very radical treatment, and because you hope she will keep you from being completely freaked out with her wry outlook and FML rawness. If you spent the early years of dooce.com being a little...concerned about Armstrong, and wondering whether you can really "know" a blogger well enough to tell her to be a little more careful and take care of herself, this book will not make you feel better -- not for a long time. But have faith: The first-person narration of a story about dying ten times lets you know she comes out of it. Maybe better enough to sign a book deal.The book's greatest strength is sticking to its subject matter. It is no longer than it needs to be, no more dramatic than it already is, and in the end it is indeed hopeful. Sometimes I think that if Sylvia Plath had been just 10 years forward on the timeline, she might have made it through.
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  • Laura Leonard
    January 1, 1970
    I knew nothing about this author before, but heard good things about this book. This book was a biography about the authors struggle with depression. While the topic is serious, the author uses laugh out loud humor to lighten the mood. This was a great book.
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  • Danielle
    January 1, 1970
    Having followed Heather for years online, when the opportunity came up to review this book, I jumped on it. What I found was an achingly honest account of what she went through to get back to the living. She doesn’t hold back from her divorce, single parenting, depression, why she eased back on blogging, family and more.Thank you Heather for inspiring others to own their truth like you did.My mom died at a young age. Because of my personal history and having daughters as well, I felt connected w Having followed Heather for years online, when the opportunity came up to review this book, I jumped on it. What I found was an achingly honest account of what she went through to get back to the living. She doesn’t hold back from her divorce, single parenting, depression, why she eased back on blogging, family and more.Thank you Heather for inspiring others to own their truth like you did.My mom died at a young age. Because of my personal history and having daughters as well, I felt connected with every page.If you have a loved one who is struggling or you are feeling alone, this is a book for you.
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  • Lesa
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.I was intrigued by this book because I realized that I used to read the author's blog several years ago. I had completely forgotten about it, but I remember being entertained by reading about her life on a regular basis. I didn't know anything about her more recently, however.Her struggle with depression is astounding and difficult to read about. I struggle with anxiety, so I understand how it is possible for I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.I was intrigued by this book because I realized that I used to read the author's blog several years ago. I had completely forgotten about it, but I remember being entertained by reading about her life on a regular basis. I didn't know anything about her more recently, however.Her struggle with depression is astounding and difficult to read about. I struggle with anxiety, so I understand how it is possible for someone to feel the way she did. I had a very easy time relating to Heather, as I also have two young daughters, and their personalities are similar to how she described her daughters'. I am not a single parent and have no doubt that I would find it just as daunting as she did. Her story was really compelling and I had a hard time putting the book down. It's well-written and engaging.
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