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How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person's Guide to Suicide Prevention Paperback – July 8, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For 18 years, Blauner survived obsessive suicidal thoughts with the help of three psychiatric hospitalizations, an excellent therapist, 12-step support groups, "spiritual exploration," Prozac and a network of family and friends. This personal account of what worked for her offers excellent practical advice to "teach you how to get through those excruciating moments when every cell in your brain and body is screaming, `I want to die!' " Approaching "suicidal thoughts" as an addiction, Blauner clearly explains how some people's "brain style" responds to environmental stresses or "triggers" with obsessive suicidal thoughts rather than cravings for alcohol or other drugs. Strongly influenced by the very successful 12-step model, she fashions a patchwork of strategies for understanding, preventing and treating suicidal "gestures," which she asserts are not actually attempts to die but efforts to stop unbearable psychological pain. Childhood sexual abuse and the death of her mother when she was 14 contributed to Blauner's long struggle, but she herself had to make the decision and effort to begin therapy at age 19, before her problem was even recognized or treated. Now Blauner provides others like herself with "Tricks of the Trade" that can literally save lives. With neither hollow platitudes nor medical doublespeak, she covers brain function, antidepressants, finding a good therapist, identifying triggers, creating a "Crisis Plan" for critical moments and heading off suicidal thoughts by coping with hunger, anger, loneliness and fatigue. Blauner provides an extremely valuable and much-needed tool for both suicidal thinkers and their loved ones. B&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for all Americans and the third leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24. Yet as Blauner points out, suicide is rarely talked about openly. In her heartfelt and important book, Blauner, who has survived multiple suicide attempts and developed a statewide suicide prevention program for teens in Massachusetts, offers guidance and hope for those contemplating ending their lives. The story of her 18-year struggle with suicidal impulses is followed by a concise explanation of the biochemical process inside the brain of a suicidal thinker. The bulk of the book consists of her 25 personal "tricks of the trade," practical, safe alternative activities any suicidal thinker can employ to "outthink" his or her brain and stay alive. These include asking for help, keeping emergency contact information handy, creating a crisis plan, keeping a journal, practicing meditation, and attending support groups, to name just a few. The chapter on helping others will be useful for mental health professionals. A resource list includes numerous crisis hotline telephone numbers, web sites, and contact information for support organizations. This vital resource is recommended for all public libraries. Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Quill ed. edition (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060936215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060936211
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I wish I'd had a copy of this book when I was suicidal. It's full of simple, practical ideas for keeping yourself safe and beginning to feel better. The crisis plan is especially good, and easy to follow even when you find it hard to think straight. The only reason I gave this book four stars rather than five is that I came across it after I'd recovered, and haven't tried out all of its techniques myself - but from my experience of what did help me, they're all excellent.

"How I Stayed Alive..." would also be a useful self-help book for people who self-injure, even if they don't feel suicidal. Most of the suggestions work just as well for getting through the urge to self-harm.

I've heard two main criticisms of this book. The first is that the author wasn't "really" suicidal, but just attention-seeking. I disagree. All suicide attempts should be taken seriously, even if the person's done it many times before, or chooses to get help afterwards. In fact, the more unsuccessful suicide attempts a person has made, the more likely they are statistically to die by their own hand. And seeking medical help after one has taken an overdose can, tragically, be too late. That's why books such as this one are so important, because they help prevent the suicide attempts in the first place. Admittedly, this book is aimed mainly at people whose suicidal thoughts and feelings come and go, and who need help in getting through those difficult times without harming themselves. Someone who is unrelentingly suicidal and not interested in alternative courses of action probably needs to be in hospital, not reading a self-help book.

The other criticism I've heard is that not all the book's suggestions can be used by everyone. That's true.
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Format: Hardcover
If you need to change a fan belt on a 1994 Fiat, you buy a Chilton's manual, and not a treatise on the joys of high-speed touring. If you need to make a lemon meringue pie, you get a cookbook, and not a memoir on the joys of great French cuisine. Car manuals and recipes are not always great literature by any means, but they are often necessary in helping to get a job done.
Susan Rose Blauner's HOW I STAYED ALIVE WHEN MY BRAIN WAS TRYING TO KILL ME is nobody's idea of great, or even good, literature. From a purely literary standpoint, the book is chatty, tiresome and irritating, filled with sentimentality, New Age nonsense, and ghastly psychological claptrap. It has been edited with an over-gentle hand, preserving every little cliché and every annoying scrap of poetry and personal reflection. It is a book that very few people will pick up for pleasurable reading, and rightly so.
And yet, it will undoubtedly save lives.
HOW I STAYED ALIVE WHEN MY BRAIN WAS TRYING TO KILL ME is not, as you might think, merely a personal tale of survival from mental illness. It is primarily a manual, a reference book, a resource for people who have suicidal thoughts. Although the book is guided by the author's own experiences with mental illness and suicide attempts, it is written not to chronicle her life but to provide direction and guidance for others in the same situation. And as such, it is an undeniable success.
Blauner's book is guided by several hard-won insights. Suicide begins as a thought, driven by negative feelings, and such feelings are temporary and changeable. "Suicidal," Blauner tells us, "is not a feeling." Suicidal thoughts are paired with feelings of anger, guilt, loneliness, and desperation, and it is necessary to separate those feelings from thoughts of suicide.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book quite by accident laying obviously in the wrong place at the public library. I've suffered from depression for 7 years and it got worse and worse until I became suicidal. From page 1, the author's words caught me and I recognized myself in her. The best thing for me in the book was the Tricks of the Trade section where I was guided through ways to help cope and the almost 'work-book' like style. It gave me strategies and hands on things to try to when I needed it the most. I took the book to my psychiatrist and showed him what I was doing and he applauded me. Now my husband is reading it and I'd highly recommend it.
The book is written in an everyday tone of voice, it's not medical, it's not preachy, it's just like talking to someone who's been there.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book saved my life today. Here, as I write this review on 7/8/2012. Without the words and comfort offered by the author of this book, I would have been dead on this day at about 11:00 AM, from a shotgun blast to the head.

IF YOU ARE HERE READING THIS RIGHT NOW, CALL Call 1-800-SUICIDE / 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255. DO NOT WAIT ANOTHER MOMENT. THE FACT THAT YOU ARE HERE READING THIS MEANS THAT YOUR SITUATION IS SERIOUS, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR BRAIN TELLS YOU, THIS IS VERY, VERY SERIOUS. DO NOT SHRUG IT OFF.

***PLEASE**** PICK UP THE PHONE, RIGHT NOW AND CALL Call 1-800-SUICIDE / 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255 (The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). I am telling you this because I know how bad you are feeling, and even though you don't know me, I love you because I know what you are feeling and have felt it myself, and want to help you. The way I can help you is if you make the call. I care about you, and so do the people at that telephone number...it is true, they do not know you, but they are there because they know what you are going through, and are waiting for your call because they love you. It's OK, go ahead, pick up the phone and call Call 1-800-SUICIDE / 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255. Do not be afraid, the people there are caring people, and want to help you. Please pick up the phone and call, do it now. And then continue reading this after you have finished the phone call.

If, after you have made that call, you are still feeling bad, drive yourself or have someone drive you to a hospital as soon as possible and tell the hospital staff that you are feeling suicidal. No one will judge you. They understand, and are there to help you. Even though they do not know you, they also love you, as I do.
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