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The Valedictorian of Being Dead  By  cover art

The Valedictorian of Being Dead

By: Heather B. Armstrong
Narrated by: Heather B. Armstrong
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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 the third person ever 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. 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. For the sake of herself and her family, Heather decided to risk it all by participating in an experimental clinical trial.

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.

“Breathtakingly honest” (Lisa Genova, New York Times best-selling author), self-deprecating, and scientifically fascinating, The Valedictorian of Being Dead brings to light a groundbreaking new treatment for depression. 

The Valedictorian of Being Dead was previously published with the subtitle “The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live.” 

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

Featured Article: The Best Audiobooks to Help You Cope with Depression


Sometimes when the world feels like too much, it can be helpful to listen to an audiobook that explores similar feelings. Maybe you're looking for a first-person narrative about struggling with or recovering from depression, or maybe you just need a fiction title featuring characters with whom you can relate. Here are a few of the best books on depression—but before you dive in, please be aware that the subject matter might be triggering for some people.

What listeners say about The Valedictorian of Being Dead

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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.

21 people found this helpful

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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.

13 people found this helpful

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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.

10 people found this helpful

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Terrible

Good lord wait an extraordinary waste of my time! Do not bother. Terribly written and even more terribly narrated!

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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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More like “Valedictorian of Narcissism”

I could not make it through thirty minutes due to the intense narcissism of this author. I’m sorry she went through this and I’m so glad this treatment (hopefully) helped her, but no one should be forced to listen to her tell this story because your eyes will roll out of your head.

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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.

4 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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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.

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Would have been better as a case study written by a doctor

Constant fact checking, which is almost impossible, is needed while consuming this story. I would rather read the doctors' medical account and this as a case study, because inaccurate depictions of the procedures abound. It's as if a child with no idea what was happening to her is telling the story.

The slightly slurred reading by the author makes the whole situation worse. It reads as fantasy even though the general framework of the use of propofol is true.

I read this because of an author interview, and am somewhat familiar with the author from her blog in the 2000s. With the slurred speech and dull writing, it feels like the author has suffered brain damage since those years--perhaps from the procedure?

Eventually a documentary by a doctor will become available and accurately explain this experiment, but meanwhile this book offers the quality of a self-published memoir.

Also, I doubt the family mentioned throughout the story appreciate being dragged in as examples of depression sufferers who did not get "miraculous" healing by anesthesia.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-02-21

truely inspiring - I am grateful - thank you

This is my first review - amazing book - heartfelt & heart breakingly honest. Thank you very much Heather

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-07-19

inspirational

an eye opening account of battling depression and the struggle to keep life together. This book is hope.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-22-19

Raw and Riveting

It takes a special kind of human to so share a journey so raw, so emotional and so inspiring and Heather B. Armstrong is all that and more. I was drawn to her writing way back when her blog was full of tips on How To Charm her, to read the rollercoaster she has experienced tore me apart as it is written so magnificently that you feel every word. I truly hope she continues on to be the valedictorian of living.