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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author and blogger Heather B. Armstrong comes an honest and irreverent memoir - reminiscent of the New York Times best seller Brain on Fire - about her experience as one of only a few people to participate in an experimental treatment for depression involving 10 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 18 months of suicidal depression she endured and the monthlong experimental study in which doctors used propofol anesthesia to quiet all brain activity for a full 15 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. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Heather B. Armstrong (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • RB
  • 2019-05-09

Incredible story about depression

One of the best books I've ever read about the experience of depression. Also, the narration was second to none. Thank you, Heather, for writing this book.

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A must read.

I have followed your blog since the early years and it is nice to finally meet YOU. Your sharing of this journey is groundbreakingly beautiful and inspires such hope for those of us who currently feel or have battled that despair. Thank you for taking the leap into The Abyss, bringing the awareness to your platforms and sharing your journey with all of us. Your bravery in narrating it, hearing you speak through your tears-the authenticity with which you’ve given voice to your book and the subject matter is powerful. I am so thankful to have received these messages and while you didn’t ask for a review from this total stranger, I feel like I actually know the real you now and I have to say that the grace with which you were able to share your story without vilifying either of your main antagonists is beautiful. #endthestigma This. Everyone affected by depression/anxiety/panic needs to read this.

ETA: If you or someone you know and love battles depression this book will help you understand. Read. It. Now.

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A very brave woman

Having the author read the story seemed to make her relive such tragic memories and emotions. This added greatly to the story.

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  • Dan
  • 2019-04-24

Connection

This experience is about more than just depression. It's about family, friends, and connections with other people that you may never expect have a bearing on your life. I'm not going to even attempt to discuss the obvious details.. Ms Armstrong eloquently and unabashedly shares everything about the experience to take you through that journey that you'll never forget. My additional take away is that we should be grateful for our connections to other people - good or bad - because it shapes our opportunities and reminds me that we are who we are because of other people. What a lovely thing it was too share this with us.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • tillyrae
  • 2019-04-25

Life changing

I disconnected from Heather Armstrong's blog years ago. As a believing member of the church of Jesus Christ, I found her vitriol off putting. However, as a student of psychology who spent 18 years married to someone with severe, treatment-resistant depression, the book content called to me. This book is phenomenal. It's very dark in the early pages, you feel her hopelessness and awkwardness and it's intense. As she emerges through the treatments, the evolution is moving and redemptive. Kudos to the doctors exploring beyond antidepressants. There are so many who suffering for whom medication does nothing. I'm hopeful that neuroscience will discover better, life-gifting treatments. I feel hope for my ex husband, the father of my four children. Maybe one day he'll find similar relief. I hope it comes before he hits desperation and descends fully into suicide. He swims through it for now.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Sharon
  • 2019-04-26

Poignant and hopeful

I love this book. Hearing Heather read it was icing on the cake. This book has resonated with me and has helped me better understand myself (in some ways) as well as others. It is as heartbreaking as it is hopeful. I think it is a must-read for anyone who is suffering from mental illness or has a loved one who suffers.

I was also fascinated by some of the technical aspects of her procedures and found the afterward to be helpful as well. I highly recommend this book! Thank you for writing it, Heather.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • fiddspop
  • 2019-05-04

Overall, excellent.

Until Chapter 16 I was irritated with this narration and story. It all changed thereafter.

The candor of her mood and tone was appropriately tiresome prior to the “switch being flipped”. It all ended well and testifies to the importance of courageous and compassionate care and effort.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris Millar
  • 2019-04-29

Beautifully raw...

This book was absolutely incredible. If you or a loved one suffer from anxiety or depression this is a must read. The audio version was a must... hearing Heather’s emotion as she read left me in tears.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Marie Stanesic
  • 2019-05-05

My Heart

I have followed Dooce and read her blog since way back in Mary J Blige inspired masthead times. I’ve always appreciated her honesty and humor. I was NOT ready for this story. I mean. I knew what the book was going to be about since I listen to her podcast but...I.. WASN’T READY. I’m sure reading the book is impactful but hearing Heather read it with the at times trembling voice ...for and extremely empathetic person like me...I cried. A lot. The journey is worth it. I know it’s weird to be so invested in a stranger’s life. I don’t care. I’m cheering my head off for her while having a slight tinge of jealousy that I do not have a family that I can lean on like she does. This is a must listen. Thank you Heather for sharing your life with us.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Preston
  • 2019-05-01

Was hoping for more science and medicine

Before I begin my review I'd like to clarify a few things. Prior to purchasing this book I did understand the author was writing about herself. I did know the author was also narrating the book herself. I also did know the author had/has a blog which she talks about herself and her kids. I also know the author states she is a writer. I also did realize the book was written and narrated by a literal mental patient. With these things made clear I can write my review such that it may be more beneficial to others.

This woman is easily the most miserable wretched person I have ever listened to. The sound of her voice makes me want to jump out a window. I realize her narrating the book herself may add to the realism of things, but for me I struggled to listen to the whole book. I couldn't wait for it to be over. I was hoping for some science behind this experimental procedure, but there was none. There is nothing clinical in this book. The book is nearly seven hours of the author complaining about having to do all the basic things in life every person has to do and how she can't deal with it. There isn't much of a real story here, instead it is just the author talking about her life and kids and problems like it is one long blog about her and her problems. You're not going to get real facts about this type of treatment or any background information about it. All you're going to get is the miserable author talking about how she is miserable and wants to die. She complains about having to do laundry, dishes, cook, take the kids to school, fix the car, and on and on. Six hours of this. I'm not sure the point of this book. I didn't really take away anything from it. It's really just the author talking about a year or so of her life in retrospect. I don't know that there is any great revelation in this book. She is still mentally ill and on lots of prescription drugs. I don't know who this book is for other than perhaps depressed divorced women who want to commit suicide. I don't think this book will inspire anyone or provide guidance for people in need of some type of treatment. This book seems like a book written by a person that likes to write about themselves like people do on social media. I can't recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand depression or treatment for it. I can't recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand this type of experimental treatment. Go read some white papers on the subject or research medical journals which scientists have written on the subject and save yourself seven hours of precious time. I don't think this book was very well written even for people who want to hear about someone else's story. I realize the author is not a renowned author and wanted to do it herself, but I have to compare her to Otto Rank and Alexander Solzhenitsyn if she wants to write and declare she is a writer.

7 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Maribeth B.
  • 2019-05-19

Really tried to like/listen

I ended up returning this book. I was so excited to hear her story and her eventual comeback. BUT...at times the voice I couldn't handle. especially at certain times it was just too...cant even think of a word. I really wamted to finish but just couldn't because of the voice/narration.

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  • Orwell's Ghost
  • 2019-05-18

powerfully read by the author

this book is a must for anyone who has family and friends suffering from depression, or who have suffered from it themselves. Heather tells the story in her characteristic witty and unflinching manner.

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  • Tami
  • 2019-05-15

BRAVE

What a brave lady, Heather Armstrong, is to be able to relive such a dark period in her life! She spoke for many of us that can’t. Thank you.