February 16. 2018
A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety
by Michelle Balge
Genre/categories: nonfiction, memoir, mental health
Thank you Michelle Balge for an ARC (advance reader’s copy) of A Way Out. I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Through memoir format, Michelle Balge shares her personal experiences towards conquering depression and social anxiety. It’s a story of Michelle’s perseverance, fighting spirit, determination, hardships, courage through the ups and downs of treatment, and bravery as she strives to live a productive and fulfilling life with a mental health diagnosis. She holds nothing back (*trigger warnings) and in her own truthful words, she shares “about the hardship of living with mental illness, the road to recovery, and the spaces in-between.”
***trigger warnings*** If reading this book causes anxiety, please connect with someone to talk.
A personal memoir is extremely powerful as it helps readers build compassion and understanding and helps us all not to feel so alone in the world. There were many times in reading her story that I thought “Oh, I’ve felt that way, too!” Or thought that as a teacher, I have observed students with similar patterns.
I deeply appreciate Michelle’s transparency and honesty in sharing her story from early childhood to present day. As she relates her story, she gives special emphasis to the signs and symptoms which are invaluable to parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, etc. Some of the symptoms she excellently articulates include speech and comprehension becoming slower, early bedtime, lack of appetite, staying in her room, risky behavior, feelings of guilt, extreme shyness, overly worried about making mistakes, etc. Most of these are symptoms we’ve seen listed in textbooks or pamphlets; however, hearing about them in her own words as she experienced them is a powerful aspect of her story.
Of the myriad strategies she tried, a few seemed particularly helpful for her: group therapy, meditation music, an accountability partner (friend) whom she promised to contact if she felt like she might hurt herself, and becoming involved at college with a mental health awareness group for which she “won the Spirit of Brock medal for the one undergraduate student who best exemplified the spirit of Sir Isaac Brock through their courage, inspiration, leadership, innovation, and community involvement.” I was struck by the fact that being a highly sensitive person who didn’t want to hurt or disappoint others kept her from hurting herself on many occasions. This was a powerful section of the book that helped me realize the value of close family and friend relationships and connections for any person struggling with depression and anxiety.
Her personal memoir is a story I will never forget and I’m honored to have read it. I rooted for Michele through every sentence, paragraph, and page as she grew to love and value herself, tried various strategies and medications, and ultimately realized what a special gift she is. Her story brings hope for many living with depression and social anxiety.
Michele’s mantra: “Continuing to do my best is the most I can do, and the most I can do is good enough.”
An especially important section in this book is the list of strategies and resources that Michelle used and found helpful and included for others at the end. Also helpful in reading Michele’s story is hearing that she lied to a therapist in the reporting of the severity of her mental health symptoms. This puts more responsibility on concerned adults and friends to act on and trust their careful observations and provide intervention.
One Important Take Away. As a teacher, (she said stepping on her soap box) I strongly feel that we can do more for children at a young age whom we observe struggling with extreme shyness and other social anxieties. How much easier it would be on everyone to provide strategies for intervention during the formative elementary school years. During my teaching years, I stayed in close contact with our site psychologist and/or counseling intern and referred many students to a professional to address red flags that concerned me. My regret is that I could not have referred more children for mental health services….students with extreme shyness…..students who are bullied…..students who live with traumatic family dynamics…..students who are loners…..etc. I am a strong advocate for early and accessible mental health services. I see this as one of the most important and urgent needs in our public schools. A lack of mental health services is an area that I felt most frustrated with as a teacher.
Heartfelt thanks to Michelle for sharing her story with the world! Her goal in writing this is “to help people who are struggling with their own mental illnesses and show them that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.” Her story is so important to read that I think every psychology and/or counseling student needs to have her memoir right alongside their textbooks.
Recommended. Highly recommended for individuals who might be traveling the same journey of depression and social anxiety as Michelle (her experience and strategies might be helpful), for ALL teachers and/or professionals that work with children or young adults, for ALL counselors, counseling interns, psychology students, and psychologists, for parents who are concerned about signs and symptoms, and for ALL readers who seek to gain understanding and compassion in the field of mental health.
My Rating: 5 Brave Stars
Preorder and/or Buy Here Release Date: 2/27/18
About the Author, Michelle Balge
Michelle Balge is a mental health advocate, web designer, and animal lover. She has won awards thanks to her dedication to mental health, and has spoken about her experiences to students, the community, and professionals in the field. Michelle holds an Honours BA in Sociology with a Concentration in Critical Animal Studies, and will receive a Web Design Graduate Certificate in June, 2018. She was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, with a taste of city and small-town life.
Happy Reading Bookworms!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I’m continuing to read Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).
Join me next Friday (2/23) for February’s Most Memorable Character link up!
Reviews of “As Bright as Heaven” and “Out of the Dust” coming soon!
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