My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Holy cow. This book.
The Valedictorian of Being Dead is Heather Armstrong’s story of recovery and it’s powerful. She’s long been known as a “mommy blogger” over at Dooce and has shared her life with readers for years. However, following her divorce and bitter custody, Armstrong actively worked to keep her crippling depression secret from everyone but her mother. With nothing working and no other options, she decides to try an experimental treatment meant to reset her brain by nearly killing it.
The book is well written though conversational — think of it as an extended blog post. Armstrong is both poignant and hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud and openly sobbing over the course of the book. It’s a quick read and I finished it in just a few hours. The writing is very detailed and some readers might not understand why Armstrong writes about the sound of shoes on the floor or the overpowering feeling of exhaustion. It’s almost something one has to have lived to understand.
The Valedictorian of Being Dead hit closer to home than I anticipated. While I don’t suffer from clinical depression, I do suffer from chronic illness and I’ve been having more flare-ups since December 2018. I know what it’s like to look down the tunnel and there’s no light. I know what it’s like to wonder “Is this all there is?” I know what it feels like to want to be dead. I know all these things and my heart goes out to everyone who fights this battle Every. Damn. Day.
This is a fantastic book for family members who don’t understand but want to learn more about the struggle faced by those with mental or chronic illness. Bottom line — this is a good book. It’s an important book. It’s a must read from me.