The Valedictorian of Being Dead
by Heather B. Armstrong
“You’ve been struck by a debilitating brain illness. A cardinal symptom of this particular disease is the inescapable urge to kill yourself, fueled by a loss of hope. Even in the face of these symptoms, you have managed to diligently attempt multiple treatments that were recommended by your doctors, to no avail. You, along with tens of millions of other individuals around the world, have treatment-resistant depression (excerpt from Brian J. Mickey, MD, PhD).”
Heather B. Armstrong is a single mother. She washes the dishes, folds the laundry, makes breakfast, and gets the girls to school. This is just one small part of her “All the Things Needing to Get Done” list. “I only have two hands,” she has sobbed to her mother on the phone almost every night for over 18 months. Heather wants to be dead. She thinks her family would be so much better off if she were dead. Suicide is not something she really thinks about, but she wants to be dead.
Heather has waited for more than a year to ask for professional help because she is afraid her ex-husband will try to take the children if he knows she is depressed. Now she has the opportunity to be part of a clinical trial. With this treatment, a patient is put to sleep using propofol anesthesia three times per week for 10 treatments. They are going to take Heather’s brain “down to zero” or “almost brain dead” 10 times. They hope this “burst suppression” will reboot her brain like rebooting a computer.
Despite the risks involved, Heather sets out on a journey with her mother and stepfather to reclaim her life from the black veil that shrouds her existence. Will this work? Can she ever wake up wanting to live? Or will she feel like she is swimming in peanut butter forever?
My thoughts: This book sheds light on how Heather feels and what she goes through in each treatment without bogging the reader down with scientific jargon. I can see people reading this book and being encouraged to find help.
Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. An estimated 17.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2017. We probably all know someone who struggles with depression on a daily basis.
Some struggle with depression, but have learned to hide it well. It could be feelings of sadness, not wanting to get out of bed, angry outbursts, or a number of other thoughts or feelings. Sometimes you can’t just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. You need help. I’m not telling you to take your brain down to zero, but I do encourage you to talk to someone if you feel depressed. You’re not alone in this battle.
If you have thoughts of suicide, reach out to someone or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- 8255.
Ricky Statham is director at Oneonta Public Library. Visit the library Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to check out this or another great book.
Summer Reading is going on now! Come by the library or visit www.oneontapubliclibrary.org for more info.