The candid self-portrait of a woman who, years deep in depression’s clutches, mustered the courage to live again by way of dying.
In her third book, acclaimed “mommy blogger” Armstrong (Dear Daughter: The Best of the Dear Leta Letters, 2012, etc.), the founder of the popular website dooce, tells the intriguing story of how she was put into a coma 10 times as part of a controversial experimental procedure to overcome severe clinical depression. In a narrative that is part cathartic confessional, part apology to those who stood by her through years of anguish and recovery, and part accessible explanation of a highly scientific procedure, the author takes readers on a room-by-room tour of events leading to the treatment that finally helped her overcome her depression. “I’d been almost brain-dead for fifteen minutes,” she writes of the first session. “I felt fantastic! When you want to be dead, there’s nothing quite like being dead. And boy, did I do dead well.” Chronicling how the anesthesiologists used propofol (“the Michael Jackson drug”) to induce the coma, the author writes that “the study is designed to determine if ‘burst suppression’—quieting the brain’s electrical activity—can alleviate the symptoms of depression.” Later, she continues, “it’s like rebooting a computer. Anyone who has ever had problems with a computer knows that sometimes you have to turn it on and off again several times to fix whatever glitch was causing all your applications to crash.” Instead of detailing the personal hells of the glitch itself, Armstrong tactfully walks around it, poring over past failed therapies. She provides an experiential blow-by-blow chronicle of the test study, its effects on her daily life, the progressive improvement of her condition, and the reactions of her daughters, unconditionally dedicated mother, and the team of specialists overseeing the closely monitored deaths and rebirths that ultimately led to her victory.
An unvarnished account of a boundary-pushing procedure and patient.