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on February 18, 2015
I had a sinking feeling that this wasn't going to go well when I read the beginning where she feels the need to defend her status as a "stay at home mom in a nice three bedroom house." It was disingenuous from the start. Read the author's bio. She has an accomplished career in writing and has landed multiple book deals from New York publishers. And it felt like she was lying to make herself more relatable when all it did was make me doubt her story from the story.

And I was right. A constant theme was that when she struggled with various mental illnesses, it was how much it sucked for her, how hard and painful those times were--but other than her shame of dealing with everything, there were no consequences or effects on her and her family's life. She excessively drank in high school and there was no social fall out or difficulty getting into a good college. She was depressed throughout college, even had testing to show she was cognitively effected by the depression, but there was no mention of missed opportunities, difficulty socializing, failed classes. When we get to the part where she is suicidally depressed, there's no mention of what it did to her marriage or if she missed deadlines and flubbed up projects. She even maintained and initiated friendships.

So...her depression just made her feel really, really awful but it didn't impact her life all that much, or that's how interpret it. When she was better, she just picked up where she left off. The omission made her story inauthentic, as if candy coated. How are people supposed to relate to that, when they very well may be dealing with job loss, divorce, flunking out of college because of depression? There's no view of the other side where things get better but it has its own challenges. No, just make sure to eat your vegetables, run six miles a day, keep seeing your psych, etc.

I was also offended when she sneered about her roommate in the psych ward as "Slashing wrists? How white trash." I expected some follow up of her recognizing now that it was a horrible comment and she wasn't always a very good person, but the narrative just continued on without any insight or reflection. Later, she was upset at her depression and was afraid she was going to be like "those real crazies that were on disability because they couldn't handle any kind of responsibility or job." Again, no insight or reflection of how deeply insulting that is to a large portion of readers who are looking for support from reading about others' experiences with depression and mental illness.

The writing is fine, but the humor also falls flat. It's generic Mommy-blog stuff that can be read on any monetized, internet-marketed blog out there nowadays. It's copy to sell us her story, and uninspiring copy at that. I don't recommend this book and highly suggest looking for a more honest account of what life is like struggling with depression.
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on January 11, 2010
When I knew I was going to be writing about her book, I sent a Facebook message to Therese Borchard.

"Review on the way," I told her. "Don't kill yourself this weekend."

It felt good to write that cheeky message, because Therese Borchard wasn't likely to kill herself over the weekend. And I think it's a good bet she won't do herself in this week, or anytime soon. And not because she has two kids who need her or a husband who loves her, but because she had the courage to go beyond seven inferior therapists and well-meaning but addled New Age healers and --- at last --- found caring, talented professionals who actually helped her.

This is not quite the same thing as dreaming of a killer dress and trying every store in town until you find it.

As she writes, by way of introduction, at the start of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes:

"I'm a manic-depressive, an alcoholic, and an adult child of an alcoholic; a codependent, a boundaries violator and a stage-four people-pleaser; an information hoarder or a clutter magnet; an Internet abuser; and an obsessive-compulsive or ritual-performing weirdo; a sugar addict; a caffeine junkie; a reformed binge smoker, and an exercise fanatic; a hormonally unbalanced female, a PMS-prone time bomb, and a sexually dysfunctional or neutered creature, a workaholic; an HSP (highly sensitive person); and, of course, I'm Catholic."

In clinical terms: suicidal for almost two years, endured 22 failed medication combinations, twice committed to a psych ward.

In laymen's terms: a full-blown trainwreck, barely holding on to life.

And, now, obviously, better. Much better. That is, realistically better --- she has good days and bad days. Which she chronicles in her blog on Beliefnet. And in videos that pierce the heart.

"Beyond Blue" is the best first-person account I've read about the experience of manic depression. It's not that Therese Borchard is a great writer, like William Styron, who produced a great writer's account of depression in Darkness Visible. Her gifts are clarity, honesty and humor. That is, it amazes her that she spends weeks on end wishing she were dead, but can write about it....

"I remember sitting in the car after I drove home from the last day of my intensive outpatient program-after the nurses basically told me I was out of luck --- if you weren't fixed in eight weeks, they couldn't do anything else for you. I had tried absolutely everything, but I still wanted to die."

"So I issued God an ultimatum in the car. I sat there, with a bag of about 20 bottles of prescription drugs next to me (which was my exit out of this life), and told him I was getting the hell out of this place because I had tried everything, EVERYTHING, and nothing was working. Obviously He didn't give a damn. I shouted, "Give me a sign I'm supposed to hang on, or else I am out of here. I am so out of here if you don't let me know you are with me!"

"After about 20 minutes of wailing, I decided to go inside and, on the way into my house, checked the mailbox. There was a letter written by a woman I had met at a conference, and she sent me a medal of St. Therese that was an exact copy to the one that I had been carrying in my pocket ever since the depression set in."

"I knew from that point on that, even though I didn't always feel God's helping hand, that I must somehow try to have faith in him."

Faith takes many forms, and a spiritual/religious belief may not be required. Borchard also had faith in her final therapist, who advised her to check in to Johns Hopkins and changed her drug cocktail. She had faith in the six people she knew she could call when she felt the walls come crashing down. And, finally, she had faith in herself --- she accepted that this bad day was only one day, that tomorrow was a fresh chance, that better could come.

For a long time, one of her doctors notes, Therese Borchard "carried a bag of rocks" on her back. In short chapters, short on technical writing but long on facts about the brain, she shows us the weight and then, one by one, lightens her load. She's not giddy with joy at book's end --- this is a book that deals in stark reality.

But that reality is an enormous achievement. She understands that she's not to blame for her dysfunctions. She grasps that her illness is exactly that --- a sickness. And she shows you how, with good therapy and smart self-care, depression need not be a death sentence.

"Beyond Blue" can save lives. If you or someone you care about is suffering from gloom that's deeper than the blahs, I can think of no better gift than this book.
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on January 22, 2010
Disclosure: I know Therese Borchard, Therese Borchard is a friend of mine, and let me tell you, the Therese Borchard in the pages of Beyond Blue is the Therese Borchard I know and love. I am a book editor and publisher (not of Beyond Blue) and the thing I look for most in new books is authenticity, honesty, and a lightness to leaven a powerful theme. That is all here. Therese has been through the hell of clincal depression, still struggles with it, and tells her story in Beyond Blue in such a way that it is the story of everyone else who has gone through this hell. Her book will surely help readers transcend their suffering and regain a sense of lightness as well as understanding and compassion for themselves and otehrs.. If I were a doctor or a minister or any kind of mental health professional, I'd have copies of Beyond Blue on my desk to give to those who come to me for support. I may know the author but I also know a genuinely helpful book when I read one, and this is it.
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on May 7, 2010
What if you were afflicted by major depression, AND obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), AND manic-depressive tendencies, AND anxiety issues - what would you be?

Well, Therese Borchard, I guess!

I just finished reading her story in her book Beyond Blue (Surviving Depression and Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes), which grew out of her Beyond Blue blog.

Why would I care about such a book? Well, because of my own history with depression. There's a unique window of understanding that fellow sufferers have, and I found it fascinating to trace Therese's thoughts and experiences in this volume.

And, I also felt immensely grateful that I did not experience the cocktail of disorders she seeks to survive daily!

Now I'll come right out and say that unless you are suffering with one of these disorders, or seeking to help someone else who is, you might find it to be heavy weather navigating Beyond Blue. However, for those with skewed brain chemistry, this is a valuable resource, for one overriding reason: You're not alone.

The greatest value of Terese's writing is that she very transparently, and often humorously, describes the day-to-day travails of living with a mind that refuses to stay within "normal" bounds. For those suffering with these afflictions, it can be tremendously lonely to experience the guilt, the confusion, the hopelessness that cannot be controlled by force of will. When she describes considering suicide 20 times a day, you cringe - but that's a silent and hideous reality for many folks, and Therese forthrightly lays it all out there.

Her writing style reflects her thought patterns, so there is an interesting "jumpiness" and spontaneity in the the book. This is not a highly structured medical treatise, but almost a train-of-thought account of living with multiple conditions. That humanity, that surprising candor, is what makes this Terese's story in a unique way. As a wife and mother, she is very open about how mental illness impacts her relationships. She's a very lovable nutcase (yes, she refers to herself in such language!) and I'd love to stroll around Annapolis and talk with her further!

I found the book moving, not because of its literary style, but because of its raw humanity. It's not easy to admit to struggles with mental illness. People don't understand why you walk under a dark cloud, why you feel like the most worthless person to walk the planet, why drugs (and other interventions) may be an absolute necessity to achieve day-to-day sanity. Therese is providing a valuable service to many just by being herself and hanging it all out there, dirty laundry and all.

And so I will take this opportunity to thank her, not just for sending the book, but for being Therese. There's a whole bunch of folks out there who need help getting beyond blue.
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on January 15, 2011
Therese puts this book in terms anyone suffering from depression or having a family member who suffers from depression or bi-polar disorder can understand. I read this book for the first time on my Kindle. I just ordered my own personal copy so I can use a marker, write in the margins, etc. Reading Beyond Blue has helped me understand myself and my ongoing battle with depression. I encourage anyone who suffers with depression to read this book. You will be forever grateful to Therese Bouchard.

I have bought and read many books from Amazon, this was the very first time I felt compelled to write a review.
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on October 23, 2011
I bought this book months ago, along with stacks of others about depression and bipolarism, when I got sick of rotating through medications that had miserable side effects and decided my doctor didn't have a clue and was causing more harm than good with drugs. I'd had enough exposure to the idea that I could take a drug-free mind-over-matter approach and overcome it with willpower to convince me that was a viable option. Like so many I believed that somehow I was at fault - if I was stronger, more focused, smarter, I should be able to overcome this. That was nine months ago, and I've failed miserably and find myself in the darkest place I've ever been. I just happened to finally reach for this book at the right time. Reading the first chapter had me sobbing with relief - of course, everything has me sobbing lately, as anyone who's been through this can relate. But I think it might've saved my life. There is someone out there who understands, and I'm not totally alone or a complete freak, and her experience shows that it is possible to pull it back together and continue to live. Beyond Blue gave me the perspective that I needed to take the first steps toward getting well again. This book doesn't tell you how to solve the problems, but it does give you hope that it can be done, and the comfort of knowing that there are others out there who've been through it, too. For the first time in a long time I feel a bit of optimism thanks to Therese Borchard.
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on October 22, 2013
I thought this book would be about how to work through depression and anxiety, but it reads more like the author's diary/memoirs. The description calls this "part memoir, part self-help," but I found the self-help portion almost non-existent. Advice to find the right doctor and to live a healthy life are things everyone has heard a million times, regardless of mental health status. Because this book is so specifically about her progression through disease and illness, it wasn't helpful for me at all because I couldn't relate. Imagine you go to a friend for advice, and she goes off on a tangent that's only semi-related about her own problems. That's exactly what this book was like.

While I may be to blame for not reading the description more closely, I still don't think this book offers much for those struggling and looking for help. People who have worked through depression and anxiety may find Borchard to be a kindred spirit. But, I would not recommend this for anyone still trying to find an even keel.
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on January 26, 2010
This book is divided into two parts: a memoir account of the author's struggles with mental illness, and a "self-help" section with advice on how to recover from mental illness. I had never heard of the author, nor ever read her blog, but when I logged on and saw 20 five-star customer reviews, I thought I couldn't go wrong with this book. Well, I could.

My main issues with the book have to do with the memoir-y passages recollecting the author's own experiences. The writing style is reflective of the author's day job as a blogger, which in some cases can be fine, but in this case comes off as disconnected, with little thought or editing put into the final product. Also, the author claims to have a "sarcastic" sense of humor, but I found her constant attempts to be hilarious annoying as hell.

The self-help/advice section has one redeeming quality as it is solidly based on scientific research. The author does include lots of empirical study details and information on the physiology of mental illness. Unfortunately, the advice itself was nothing I hadn't heard before (Eat right, exercise, develop your spirituality, get natural sunlight, get therapy, take meds, reach out to supportive people, etc.)

If you have very little to no experience with recovery from mental illness, by all means this book will provide you with a succinct summary of the best steps you can take towards getting well. If, however, like me, you have spent years and years in the recovery process and are still struggling or relapsing, you won't find anything new here.

A final warning to agnostics, atheists, and non-believers: The author writes from a very religious/spiritual perspective in many sections of this book. I found myself having to skip over whole pages of information that did not apply to those who do not believe in a higher power.
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on February 11, 2010
the author of this book suffers from bi-polar disorder, not clinical depression. They are very different psychiatric disorders. If you have been diagnosed with clinical depression this book may not be for you. A lot of the book is irrelevant to clinical depressives, so the title of the book is a little misleading. I have been diagnosed as clinically depressed on and off over the years, so I read the book from this perspective. If you are clinically depressed, read "The Noonday Demon" by Andrew Simon.

If you have been diagnosed by an MD as bi-polar and are looking for a good book on bi-polar disorder, first read Dr. Kay Redfield Jameson's book, "An Unquiet Mind" for advice. She's an MD and also bi-polar sufferer. Then read this book if you want the patient's perspective.

From a purely biographical perspective the book is worth reading just to see what she "went through" before she got help. Like others, she struggled with several shrinks who badly misdiagnosed her disorder, friends/relatives who were clueless and unsympathetic, people close to her who had no idea how sick she was. It was very frustrating to me to see how much this poor woman suffered because the people around her had no idea that she was sick. Maybe they just were in denial. At several points I wanted to throttle her husband.

The prose style is very frenetic, sort of like a stand up comedian on meth. I found it irritating after awhile.
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on April 19, 2012
If you have experienced a major depressive episode, you know what it is like to feel completely alone, certain that those around you do not understand what you are going through and wresting with the social expectation that 'depression is something you could control if you wanted to'. There is nothing more comforting / validating than sharing the experiences of someone who has faced and conquered the disease.
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