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Life, In Spite of Me
on December 24, 2011
I really wanted to like this book. It's difficult to dislike a book when the main goal of the book is to encourage others and make sure they know that life is worth living and they should continue on, not take their own lives or give in to life's challenges. However, for me, it seemed that the book kept things pretty shallow and was light on details and substance. Of course, as I read this book, I realized that I wasn't really the target audience. But at one time, I would have been the target audience: young, female, frustrated by the state of the world and my life, feeling like there was little reason to continue. And with that in mind, I am not as impressed with this book as I wanted to be.
The author of this book attempted suicide when she was a teenager. Her life was spared, and following that event, she has started a relationship with Christ and has begun an organization that helps others who are struggling (I think primarily younger people, but I am not certain of that). She has become a speaker who shares her story with others and encourages people to continue. That is laudable and worthy of respect. I am glad that she is making a difference with her life and has seen that she is loved. I think she is brave to share her story, but I think it could have been done in a different way. However, I am not pompous enough to think just because it did not connect with me that it could not have a huge impact on someone else.
Most of the book talks about the aftermath of the attempted suicide and her recovery from it. Her legs were severed from her body after lying on a train track as a train approached. Experts agree that she should not have been able to live after such an experience. I wish that she focused less on her attempt to discover if she had indeed tried to commit suicide (apparently it is common for a person's brain to block a traumatic experience like that, so she could not remember the actual event for some time). I also wish she had focused less on the attention she received following the suicide attempt. I wonder if there are any people on the edge, looking for attention, who consider an act that resembles suicide as a way to seek attention and would be encouraged to do this by her account of balloons, cards, etc.
It seems that the author had several disappointing encounters with medical professionals. I get that, and I think that can be common. And I know that it can be nearly impossible to make yourself heard in such a situation, but I am disappointed that her parents or other adults (school professionals or others) did not attempt to find other health professionals for her, or in the case of school professionals or church personnel, have references available. That seems like a huge deficit in her mental treatment, with the exception of her counselor.
My biggest concern with this book is the author's anti-medication stance (at least for herself, and she does nothing to suggest that meds could be valuable to others). She makes it clear that her medication was creating a situation where she was not adequately experiencing life or emotions or able to go through appropriate cycles of feelings. I know that this can happen, and I have had at least one friend choose to wean herself off antidepressant meds, just like the author did. However, there are many cases where the meds are important, and actually do a vital work in helping to save lives and especially to redeem the quality of lives. I think she does a disservice to those who experience depression, especially those in Christian circles who may have already heard that all we should do is pray and then we will not have to deal with this condition any longer. Depression is a physical condition, and needs to be considered as such. So when someone who is presenting herself to be a resource for avoiding suicide seems to discount a possible aid, that is a problem for me. (I get that some doctors can be prescription-happy, as one of hers seemed to be, trying to give her bi-polar meds and anti-depressants after mere minutes with her, but that is not the case for everyone).
With that said, I think that this book could be an interesting read for teenagers and parents to read together and discuss their responses as well as if they have ever felt the same way or had similar experiences.
This e-book was provided to me free of charge from the publisher. The above opinions are my own.