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The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live

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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,494 ratings  ·  498 reviews
Armstrong shares her story of living with debilitating depression and the radical treatment she underwent to cure it. For years she controlled her depression with a mixture of prescriptions, but when their effects start fading, Armstrong experiences an 18-month period of deep depression fueled by suicidal thoughts. Scared of what will become of her and the possibility of l ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 23rd 2019 by Gallery Books
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Heather Armstrong Have you ever slowly rolled through a stop sign? If you can honestly say no, I admire you. I do. I am flawed, but I would never put my kids in the…moreHave you ever slowly rolled through a stop sign? If you can honestly say no, I admire you. I do. I am flawed, but I would never put my kids in the kind of danger you are suggesting. The entire book details my despair and the hope for others who might be able to benefit from this treatment.

If you suffer, I hope for you. And I hope that this combative question came from nowhere except from something inside of you that is hurting. And I care enough to wish that you find freedom from that suffering. xo(less)

Community Reviews

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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,494 ratings  ·  498 reviews


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Diane S ☔
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
I had never heard of this young woman before reading this book. I've since learned she is a well known mommy blogger. So it is natural for her to write down her thoughts, and to share them with the world. Depression is an insidious disease, one I don't suffer from, though a few people very close to me have at one time or another in their lives.

In this candid memoir, Heather, chronicles her life during an eighteen month bout of a severe depression. As the single parent to two daughter, she simpl
...more
Nancy
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
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
...more
Erin
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, kindle
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
...more
Barbara
Apr 09, 2019 rated it liked it

3.5 stars


Heather B. Armstrong

Heather 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
...more
Michelle
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, ebooks
Although author Heather Armstrong suffered from profound depression, she wasn’t suicidal and would never take her own life. In her fascinating medical memoir “The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times In Order To Live” (2019) it was this fact combined with other criteria that qualified her for a new cutting edge study and treatment: Armstrong would undergo a 15 minute chemically induced state similar to actual brain death while on a breathing tube. The treatments were de ...more
Deborah Stevens
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Beth
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Gretchen Rubin
Haunting, powerful memoir of depression.
Karen Rush
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
Sarah
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: e-arcs
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
...more
Ali Edwards
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kate ☀️ Olson
(free review copy) PHENOMENAL.

**Note that I think your prior knowledge of Heather and dooce before reading this book will factor heavily into your understanding of her life and your appreciation of her humor. I’ve loved her years and years and years based on dooce, so I had LOTS of background knowledge 😉
Gina
It took a great deal of courage to write this book, and for that I applaud Heather Armstrong. However, I also wish she hadn't had to suffer so much to have this story to begin with.

For many years, Heather struggled to control her depression, often hiding in a closet from her two daughters and smothering her screams. She knew her depression could be held against her and her ex-husband would attempt to get custody, and losing her children was not an option for her.

In 2016, she was in such a deep d
...more
Ariel
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooked
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 ...more
Karen Nelson
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just wow. This is an amazing book. Should I just stop there? Because all other statements may simply pale.

"Depression robs us of the ability to think of anything but the worst possible outcome. Period. It is inevitable. That is the logical end to every thought and action and sequence."


Heather B. Armstrong is a brave person to have written this saga of how depressions kills your soul. Let me just tell you now how I feel about those who don't believe there is such a thing as depression. It's rea
...more
Librariann
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, 2019, arc, nonfiction, memoir
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....
Emily
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book so closely resembles my experience with starting ketamine...the overachieving, the Mormon religion as the backdrop for my family, the persistent insistance on staying alive, not because I wanted to, but because everyone told me it would be worse for my kids if I was gone, and while I didn't want to believe them, I wasn't going to risk that as long as I could concentrate on "depressed Emily is better than dead Emily." (Also, hey, author and I both really enjoy writing in the third perso ...more
Lauren
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-book
Yikes. This was rough. I found this author to be insufferable. I kept reading because I was interested in learning about her treatment and how she felt about it, but the focus was never on that. It was mainly her random thoughts on her life and family, and a ton of complaining about things that every mom experiences. Honestly, I would have been fine with more complaining about her actual mental illness, but she mainly whined about serious first world shit like having to regularly get a baby sitt ...more
Kristina
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Susan
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
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 ...more
Melissa
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
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
...more
Heidi Rikard
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Tim
As coincidence would have it, at the same time as I was reading this book, my computer had developed the unfortunate habit of freezing up at inopportune times. As a stop gap measure that allowed me to continue using the computer until I could determine the cause of this behaviour, I would turn the computer off, wait a few moments, and then turn it back on again. It is an appropriate analogy for the experimental treatment for clinical depression the author of this book subjected herself to: they ...more
Kent Winward
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes you read books that intersect with your own life in ways you hadn't anticipated. This happened to be one of those books. Utah religion and environ-based--check. Mental health issues--check. Alternative? treatments for mental health issues--check. Old-school blogging--check. Throw in my underlying, but well-earned skepticism, and for me, the entire book ended up as a meditation on belief. In this, I may be unique from others who read this book. I may not. But that's where it took me.

Fi
...more
Heather
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've written and rewritten an opening sentence for my review. It all sounds trite and too fluffy.

Read this book and have everyone you know read this book. Let's have the difficult conversations about chronic depression and suicide ideation out in the light where they need to be and give people the support they need.
Maryse
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to read Heather’s blog years ago when she was just starting out. I loved her voice and her ability to be vulnerable and so open. Back then she wasn’t so much the mommy blogger, she was just hilarious. I had read about her struggles with depression and constipation - the first with interest, the latter with less, so I was eager to read this book.

It was great to hear her voice again. I envy her ability to express herself. I am definitely not the valedictorian of that. And I was interested
...more
Brenda
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Heather Armstrong has done an outstanding job of inviting us into the world of the chronically depressed and shared with us the hopelessness that is generally experienced by individuals plagued with this illness. She is by trade a blog designer and writer so as you might imagine, her message delivery is captivating. She introduces us to her family, both immediate and extended. For me, her mother is the heroin in this story. Unconditionally always being there, never outwardly flustered and always ...more
Donna Hines
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, netgalley
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
...more
Cathi
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I've read Heather's blog for a long time, and was interested in the book when she shared she was writing it.

Heather does a fantastic job of describing depression (no small task) and sharing her experience of the process. Having heard about her treatment prior to reading the book, I didn't think much of it, but halfway through, the reality of flat lining your brain as a reset, and the risks that implies, hit home.

It feels greedy to say I wanted more from this book - Heather has incredible skill
...more
Noelle
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Being a long time reader of the blog I knew of her struggles. I wish she would have delved into her childhood issues more because I think of you aren’t a long-time reader of the blog, you feel somewhat left out. I’m glad she wrote the book and I hope this treatment continues to work for people and becomes more widely available. A few things got on my nerves throughout—her constant use of the word valedictorian even though I understand why she did it, her overstatement of the size of a 22 gauge n ...more
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Heather B. Armstrong is widely acknowledged to be the most popular “mommy blogger” in the world. Her website, dooce®, has twice been listed as one of the 25 best blogs in the world by Time magazine and Forbes listed it as a top 100 website for women. In the eighteen years that Heather has been shaping the internet writing community, she’s worked to create targeted content not only for fellow paren ...more
“That’s another thing that people don’t understand about depression: we don’t want to take a shower, we don’t know why we feel this way, and even if we did, it wouldn’t make us stop feeling this way. We have lost all interest in doing anything, especially anything that once brought us joy—because that thing will not bring us joy, and we can’t bear the meaning of that. It would be too much. It would crush us.” 3 likes
“Depression extinguishes our purpose in life—the purpose of anything in our lives—making it quite literally impossible to handle anything. Every day and hour and minute is an obstacle course of things we are supposed to handle; most people do so without any effort, but we can’t even see around the first corner. And so we collapse. Or we sleep for days on end. Or we yell at people who don’t deserve it.” 1 likes
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