The Woman Who Changed Her Brain by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

597212

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 288 pages.
Read from November 26 to December 07, 2014.

This book was given to me as a gift and it is a book that I wouldn’t have normally picked up as I don’t have any learning disorders (that I’m aware of). However, this book is inspirational for anyone that underestimates the power of their own brains and is proof that we are more capable of rewiring our brains to change our thoughts and even behaviors.

Barbara struggled immensely for most of her life due to severe learning disabilities. She could not understand complicated conversations as she couldn’t make basic associations as well as not being able to understand basic math or reading. Additionally she is severely uncoordinated and accident prone which also relates to her learning disabilities. However, she is blessed with a remarkable memory and can retain vast amounts of information which is what helps get her through many years of school.

After 26 years of struggles Barbara comes across some work done on a brain damaged solider who has managed to partially recover from his injuries, as well as some additional information on how a brain can be changed. Through her research and schooling Barbara began to create exercises for herself in order to get the parts of her brain functioning properly. After an extensive amount of training Barbara started to notice improvements in things that use to be a massive challenge for her. Her own improvements lead her to start a school to help other learning disabled people. The book goes into detail about Barbara’s personal story and improvements as well many of her student’s personal success stories. She also goes into details with how specific learning disabilities effect people and what is going on in their brains. Unfortunately, she doesn’t go into too many specifics about the exercises that bring about these remarkable changes but I suppose she can’t reveal her program in a book or her school wouldn’t be successful. With that being said, her work is so immensely important that it really should be revealed so that more people can start applying her tactics.

Barbara shows that learning disabilities are so common and that they can cause life long devastation’s. So many of those affected think that they’re stupid but really it’s that their brains are missing specific connections and, like any muscle, just needs to be worked on.

I was so remarkably impressed with the success stories in this book. It makes me believe that I am capable of accomplishing anything in terms of changing my behaviors. As someone who has had mental health issues, I know that the symptoms are sometimes very difficult to deal, I can however choose I am going to deal with them and I can work towards rewiring some of my current behaviors. I think there is so much we don’t know about the capabilities of our own brains and this book gives me hope that we can make massive improvements in terms of mental health and learning disabilities.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 416 pages.
Read from October 17 to November 05, 2014.

After falling in love with A Thousand Acres, I was looking forward to reading this new novel. Some Luck is the first book in trilogy that follows the life and times of an Iowa based family. The story starts in 1920 with each chapter being the beginning of a new year. This book ends in the year 1953 but the trilogy is supposed to follow to family for 100 years.

The story opens with how Rosanna and Walter Langdon came to be married in the early 1920’s and Walter’s stubborn endeavors to be a farmer. The two of them are well suited for each other and soon start to build their family. The narration switches between Rosanna and Walter, that is until the birth of the their first child, Frank. Smiley ingeniously narrates some chapters from Frank’s perspective as a baby and as a young child. Additionally, the narration continues with each child that the couple delivers and the plot eventually changes from Iowa as well. Frank is apart of a World War and is a gifted college student, while Joe, the Langdon’s second son, is sensitive young man and chooses to stay and farm. Claire, their eldest daughter, ends up eloping with a stranger to another city. Henry and Claire are the Langdon’s youngest children and will likely have more attention given to them in the next book. I particularly enjoy Rosanna’s narration and how she handled the birth and growth of each of her children. Her experiences with each child were so individual and unique from one another and I imagine that after having that many children, her feelings are fairly accurate for that day and age.

I’d go further into the story line but there really isn’t that much more to say. The story is about the trials and tribulations of this family and as the story follows every single person in the family there isn’t one particular protagonist so there isn’t one particular antagonist. However, Smiley still knows how to tell a story even if there isn’t much going on!

Her writing is solid and her characters are extremely well developed and you get to watch so many of them grow so you do end up wanting to know how each character is going to change, evolve and deal with the challenges that life is going to throw at them. It’s just that there isn’t one major conflict or antagonist that carries the plot. The story line is literally about life, so challenges happen often and the characters move on from each of them, just like real life.

Why read a book about real life? Well that’s a good question, this is why the book has mixed reviews. The book is well written and a good read but depending on the reader it may or may not appeal. I enjoyed reading about a time frame that I was not born into as Smiley’s portrayal was very intriguing. I also loved and hated a few characters so I wanted to know what their adult life would be like but if you’re the type of reader that requires a story that’s a bit more objective this book may not be for you.

Overall the book doesn’t compare to her previous work but it’s still very well executed.

Get It Done When You’re Depressed by Julie A. Fast

3/5 stars.
ebook, 270 pages.
Read from August 26 to October 07, 2014.

As I usually do with most of the self-help books I read, I took my time. What was refreshing with this book is that it helped me to realize that some of my thoughts and even behaviors are not actually who I am. That when I wake up in the morning and that cloud is lingering over me, I know that I may have difficulties with what I expected to get done that day, that my negative thoughts are a result of my depression and that my brain is lying to me as a result. In recognizing when I’m struggling, I know that I can put out the extra effort to push past as much as I can and still be productive or at least be kind to myself that day if it’s particularly bad.

The author’s main suggestions are in regards to self-recognition and knowing when your depression is taking hold and when your thoughts and behaviors can’t be trusted,  along with suggestions to stay focused and organized. The author also provides plenty of exercises to help the reader along. Additionally, she lays down the science behind getting enough sleep, the importance of exercise and the effects that alcohol and caffeine can have on a depressed brain. What was also very interesting was that at the end of each chapters she poses a question or scenario that relates to the content that was just discussed so that you can get the scientific explanation to that question.

Many people have complained that this book is too straight forward or that if they had tried the author’s suggestions it would have made their depression worse for them but I disagree to an extent. I believe that this book is directed to people with mild to moderate depression, so those of us who are held together enough to not be hospitalized and are of no harm to ourselves or others. While depression sucks all around, no matter how bad you have it, the less severe it is the more we are able to deal with it and I feel that this book is a great aid for the milder situations. The information may be straight forward in some areas but how many of those complaining have willingly tried and put forth positive energy into applying the authors methods? Everything is harder when you’re depressed so it takes more effort to try the exercises and recommendations but, like anything in life, the hard stuff is often worth it.

I think that there are a few stages that a sufferer goes through with depression. The beginning starts with the unawareness which is the pre-diagnosis, the second stage is that recognition and the diagnosis, and the third is how the person chooses to deal with the situation. Depression has a horrible way of making the sufferer very negative and more often than not during the third stage, the sufferer victimizes and feel sorry for themselves at some point. I think many people sadly, are not able to move past this victimization. With this victimization the sufferer believes that they are their condition and that nothing will ever change, therefore handing over all of their power, control, and ultimately their life over to the condition. This is why, I think some people scoff at the exercises and suggestions that the authors makes.

The suggestions, I think to a person in this position, seem to mock their suffering in that they didn’t ask for depression so they don’t need to be accountable for it. However, nobody asks for depression and just like a lot of things in life you have to learn to adapt and to deal. One of the most difficult things I’ve done has been recognizing my own depression for what it is, stop being angry that it’s there, and learn to manage my life with it. Nothing happens over night, so repetition and practice are key to leading a life with depression which, is where this book comes in handy. Everyone is different to so not everyone’s coping methods will be the same. Some people require more compassion while others need a tough love approach.

I believe that people who are dealing with mild to moderate depression don’t have to let it consume their lives. Depression really blows and the effects from it can be overwhelming but the best plan of action is recognizing its presence and not giving up your control to it. It’s a matter of trying to alter our focus and knowing that we have choices and we have options.

My one complaint with the book is that the chapters seemed a bit repetitive after a while in that the relayed very similar information. I mean, if practice and repetition are key I suppose this isn’t a terrible thing, it just made for some tedious reading.

Overall I really enjoyed the books message and I have noticed a difference in my own work flow since reading this book. I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with depression.