Julie Ann Toomey wrote this wonderful book about her life-long experience with depression and bipolar disorder. It does a good job of letting you into her life to see how "Depression makes everything harder." Julie Ann's book also lets you into her head, illustrating how depression can color (and sometimes even dominate) all of a person's thoughts. A lot of time is spent discussing and showing how there is no single easy solution to any of this. Julie Ann's loved ones offer support, her faith offers her clarity and strength, her doctors offer the best treatments available. Even with all of that, her mental health ebbs and flows, from highs to lows, all leaving her at times feeling like a disempowered passenger in her own life. And yet, it is a beautiful life worth living. For me, the best part about this book was how it helped me to find empathy for those who struggle with different mental health issues. Those issues can make people act in frustrating, irrational ways, but seeing it all through Julie Ann's eyes has helped me to understand them better. If you or someone you love struggles with mental health problems, this book can give you insight and encouragement without making false promises of an easy cure.
Matthew Rowley
Reader

Reviews for Failure to Thrive

My story is a hard one to tell. There were times when I was literally sobbing just writing this. But it was needed. And it’s necessary for people to understand what their loved ones are going through and to figure out how to help them. I wanted everyone with a mental illness to know that you aren’t alone. No matter how much it feels like it right now, you are not alone.

My story is a hard one to tell. There were times when I was literally sobbing just writing this. But it was needed. And it’s necessary for people to understand what their loved ones are going through and to figure out how to help them. I wanted everyone with a mental illness to know that you aren’t alone. No matter how much it feels like it right now, you are not alone.

Excerpt from Failure to Thrive

Excerpt from Failure to Thrive

I don’t care. I can’t care.

The ability to feel is what makes us human. I know what it is like being without those feelings. I’m very good at pretending. I can even make someone think that I understand and empathize.

But I don’t. I can’t.

I hope that this is a temporary feeling. One that I will get over sooner rather than later. But I believe I can understand what would make someone look at their life and decide it’s not worth sticking around for. I want to do something with that knowledge. I want to help people. I want to make it so that no one ever has to feel this way.

Maybe I do care.

I don’t care. I can’t care.

The ability to feel is what makes us human. I know what it is like being without those feelings. I’m very good at pretending. I can even make someone think that I understand and empathize.

But I don’t. I can’t.

I hope that this is a temporary feeling. One that I will get over sooner rather than later. But I believe I can understand what would make someone look at their life and decide it’s not worth sticking around for. I want to do something with that knowledge. I want to help people. I want to make it so that no one ever has to feel this way.

Maybe I do care.

Why would you continue to feel when all you can feel is pain? How do you keep from turning it off? When the ability to turn off your emotions is so easy—like flipping a switch—why would you leave them on?

This story is for the friends and family members of those fighting mental illnesses and those fighting their own battle. Many don’t understand what their loved ones are going through. They don’t understand how real mental illnesses are, how deeply they can hurt the person struggling, and the toll it can take on family. They may not “get” that a mental illness, unfortunately, isn’t something you can just fix and that suggestions like “do more service,” “think outside yourself,” “push yourself to be better,” or worst of all “just smile more,” while good ideas, don’t help as intended, but can instead end up worsening the issue. A mental illness is exactly as it says, an illness that is in the brain, and cannot be fixed by simply “sucking it up” or merely deciding to change.

Mental illnesses are complicated problems with frustratingly complicated solutions. While the most common treatment includes therapy and medication, every person is unique. Sometimes therapy is all that’s needed, or a medication may be the best solution. Whatever is required, a mental illness isn’t something that simply goes away. Sorrow can leave. Moods can change. You can improve your focus. However, when these are signs of a larger complication, the root issue must be addressed, not merely the symptoms.

In order to be allies with those fighting mental illnesses, we need to help rid the world of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Conversations about mental illness must be as commonplace as conversations about diabetes or cancer.

In this book, I will share my experiences and take you through my journey to mental wellness. It took me years to get to a point where I can say that I have a mental illness. My worldview had to change drastically. It had to reform completely.

As someone who has suffered, I am an advocate for mental health reform in many ways, but mostly in the ways we talk about mental health. We, as a society, need to understand that depression is more than just sadness, bipolar disorder is more than just changing your mind a lot, and Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) isn’t just having trouble sitting still. These mental illnesses need to lose their stigma. Correct information is out there and easily available, but misinformation can lead friends and family members, though well-meaning, to add to the problem. And there is far too much misinformation out there. If my struggle can help others understand what they’re going through and seek the help they need, then it will be worth it.

I want the world to know what has happened in my life. I will not exaggerate my feelings, but I will not tone them down either. I want you to understand. Because maybe, if you can come to understand, you could help someone instead of accidentally making it worse. I don’t want anyone struggling with mental health to feel like I did, a failure.

Why would you continue to feel when all you can feel is pain? How do you keep from turning it off? When the ability to turn off your emotions is so easy—like flipping a switch—why would you leave them on?

This story is for the friends and family members of those fighting mental illnesses and those fighting their own battle. Many don’t understand what their loved ones are going through. They don’t understand how real mental illnesses are, how deeply they can hurt the person struggling, and the toll it can take on family. They may not “get” that a mental illness, unfortunately, isn’t something you can just fix and that suggestions like “do more service,” “think outside yourself,” “push yourself to be better,” or worst of all “just smile more,” while good ideas, don’t help as intended, but can instead end up worsening the issue. A mental illness is exactly as it says, an illness that is in the brain, and cannot be fixed by simply “sucking it up” or merely deciding to change.

Mental illnesses are complicated problems with frustratingly complicated solutions. While the most common treatment includes therapy and medication, every person is unique. Sometimes therapy is all that’s needed, or a medication may be the best solution. Whatever is required, a mental illness isn’t something that simply goes away. Sorrow can leave. Moods can change. You can improve your focus. However, when these are signs of a larger complication, the root issue must be addressed, not merely the symptoms.

In order to be allies with those fighting mental illnesses, we need to help rid the world of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Conversations about mental illness must be as commonplace as conversations about diabetes or cancer.

In this book, I will share my experiences and take you through my journey to mental wellness. It took me years to get to a point where I can say that I have a mental illness. My worldview had to change drastically. It had to reform completely.

As someone who has suffered, I am an advocate for mental health reform in many ways, but mostly in the ways we talk about mental health. We, as a society, need to understand that depression is more than just sadness, bipolar disorder is more than just changing your mind a lot, and Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) isn’t just having trouble sitting still. These mental illnesses need to lose their stigma. Correct information is out there and easily available, but misinformation can lead friends and family members, though well-meaning, to add to the problem. And there is far too much misinformation out there. If my struggle can help others understand what they’re going through and seek the help they need, then it will be worth it.

I want the world to know what has happened in my life. I will not exaggerate my feelings, but I will not tone them down either. I want you to understand. Because maybe, if you can come to understand, you could help someone instead of accidentally making it worse. I don’t want anyone struggling with mental health to feel like I did, a failure.