Option B. When Option A Goes Up in Flames Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg - A Review

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This book was recommended to me and it turned out to be quite the page turner.  Sheryl Sandberg was noticed by the world when she became COO of Facebook and then went onto be the first woman on the board at FB.  The topic of female empowerment was covered in detail in her book Lean In.

However, this book is about something entirely different.  Whilst vacationing in Mexico with her husband, he suddenly died of a cardiac event.  This book is about how she dealt with and recovered and is still recovering from this trauma in her and her children’s lives (who were aged 7 and 10 when Dave died).


It’s about facing head on the elephant in the room, how do you talk to someone who has had a sudden trauma, do you ignore it, do you say something akin to a platitude or do you educate yourself to say something healing and comforting?  It’s for people who have been victims of abuse, have a mental illness, have gone through a messy divorce, have a difficult and combative relationship with family members and any number of yucky things that happen.  And which one of us have not been through these difficult times at some time in our lives? I know I have, and some of it is still unresolved so I was interested to hear what Sheryl had to say on the topic.

Sheryl talks about resilience which has been a topic I have been interested in for many years after working as a Community Nurse in inner city Philadelphia.  Why do two adolescents both exposed to poverty, lack of education, and access to firearms have a different outcome? One becomes a drug dealer and one goes onto university and breaks the mold of dysfunctional living.  If experts knew how to replicate resilience then many of those in at risk situations would have a very different outcome.

However, I digress, back to the book and how resilience is described.  It can work for you or work against you in a grief situation.

  • Personalization, a way of identifying this huge event, affects you and those near you OR a belief that the event is your fault, what could you have done to prevent it?
  • Pervasiveness, a knowing that an event is so huge you will always be affected by it OR a belief you will never be happy again because this trauma will remain incredibly disabling for all area of your life.
  • Permanence, the belief that you must always keep your loved one who has died or whatever the trauma is alive so you may learn from it OR a belief that this level of pain will last forever, till the end of your days and how can you possible function in that level of devastation?I

What a juxtaposition of ways of coping and ways of being crippled by an event. It involves blame, survivors guilt and a hope and wish that with time you will become functional again, one day.

When family, friends and the victim of an event stay silent there is a risk of isolation.  It takes a whole village of people to support a family in a difficult time and if we disconnect from that community it can seriously inhibit healing.  Being alone with your thoughts is a necessary solitude but not a long-term solution.

Anna Quindlen puts it well when she says:

“Grief is a whisper in the world and a clamor within.”

The fear of recovering from the acute grief seems like a betrayal of the person you have lost or the event that has happened.  But knowing one day the pain can stop may give a person permission to be in deep pain because one day you will have the tools to deal with it.

When my mother died in 2015 and we were estranged because of a history of abuse and lack of healthy communication, I felt so deeply depressed by her death knowing that there would no longer be a chance of reconciliation. I fully welcomed the 3 P’s into my life in the negative sense. But slowly with a lot of time (and that process is still ongoing) and a lot of help I began to embrace the 3 P’s in a non-dysfunctional way.

The quote from Sheryl is "don’t die while you are still alive."  Firstly, what a waste of a life and what a disservice to the one you have lost or giving more energy than it deserves from that traumatic event. 

And self-compassion, wow that’s a big one, whether you are going through a tough time or not.  I used to say to myself:

“Suck it up buttercup."

Now I say:

“You are doing the best you can right here, right now.”

It makes a huge difference to the perception of tough times if there is a non-blaming discernment.  There is absolutely no point in finding guilt and shame in your situation, what a useless waste of time.

Soren Kierkegaard (a well-known philosopher, wish I was as smart as him) said:

“Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forward.”

That makes a lot of sense to me, but can be hard to put into practice.

Sheryl also refuses to talk of Post-Traumatic Stress but rather Post Traumatic Growth. That is a mind-blowing concept.  How encouraging it is to think, to know that eventually lemons can be turned into lemonade.

This review is just a small part of the book, there are so many more nuggets of wisdom.  Those that not only spoke to me but yelled at me from the pages.

If you happen to read the book I hope it has the same enlightenment on you.

Have. Be a good day.

A Review of a Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan

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My very informed son suggested I read this, and as I always do what my adult children tell me (because they are usually right!), I bought the book, listened to the podcast, got the T-shirt!

The book is written by an integrative psychiatrist (holistic approach to mental health issues) especially written for women who have depression and anxiety issues.  I was so blown away by it to the extent that I have been buying extra copies and giving them away.

The premise of the book is the best way to heal the mind is to heal the body.  With some serious changes to diet and lifestyle, depression and other mental health diagnoses cannot just be helped but cured.  That’s a bold statement but she has anecdotal evidence from years and years of patients successfully implementing her guidelines and resolving all their issues

Kelly states that it all begins in the gut, if the gut flora is off then there is an imbalance in the body, especially the brain affecting mood.  She recommends that you eliminate gluten and dairy (oh boy no more pizza!), drink filtered water, because the water table is full of drugs and bugs and the EPA know and are doing nothing about it (this I think is outrageous), stop taking synthetic hormones like the contraceptive pill and incorporate meditation and yoga into your schedule and stop wearing perfume - now that is going a little too far, I am really not willing to give up my Estee Lauder habit! And absolutely no alcohol.  She also recommends adding an Omega 3, Vitamin B6 and B12 and a multi vitamin. 

So as a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety and a spring where I unexpectedly was struggling with this I decided to give it a go.   

Week 1: I was miserable, no cheese or wine what is the point of going on!  I was not too hungry but was craving dairy and bread all week, but I valiantly soldiered on.

Week 2:  Much much better, getting in my stride, beginning to feel lighter and glowing (skin clear and bright).

Week 3:  Becoming a lifestyle.  I think adding the vitamins has been key, Omega 3 and the B6 vitamins are closely linked to mood disorders and most of us are deficient in these so no wonder we are sad.

One of the points that Kelly is quite insistent on is getting rid of all psych meds as soon as possible.  I knew this was a no-go for me as soon as I read it.  She may be right but I will never, never give up my meds, I think it could be potentially disaster for me and my family may well leave me on a top of a mountain with no supplies and no chance of escape if I did that.  It would not be a gift to me or my family.

Kelly sees patients in New York and will not even see you if you do not eat meat (meat is rich in B vitamins) so I am not going to see her anytime soon because I am quite happy being a vegetarian/vegan thank you.

She also recommends you get rid of all the chemicals in your house.  Now steady on, as a self-proclaimed OCD cleaner I would have a hard time giving up my Lysol and my Bleach, but I am willing to do in baby steps so the dishwasher cleaner just went organic as did hand soap and shampoo!

All in all, a very very interesting read. Most of all it gave me a plan to make some healthy lifestyle changes on my own which gives me some sense of destiny of a lifelong issue with depression that I can control with certain interventions.

STOP PRESS:  Just had the results of some routine blood tests.  After a month on this regime my A1C (indicator of blood sugar) dropped over a point which I have been battling for a couple of years and the doc also recommended a cut to my thyroid medicine (which has never happened) because my thyroid is beginning to function better – yeah for healthy living!

Still doing the raw diet as much as I can and pretty much vegan 90% of the time.  Does not suit everyone but my body does seem to like it so we will carry on.

Until the next time, 


Everything I Needed to Know I Read in A Harry Potter Book

Back when the Harry Potter books first became popular my boys were about 8 and 10, the perfect age to be introduced to these magical stories.  Every night I would read them a chapter and they would beg me not to stop even though some of those chapters were really long and my voice was giving out.  It was a sad day when they proclaimed they no longer needed me to read to them, they could read Harry Potter on their own.  And they did, and I was so grateful to JK Rowling that it awakened in my children a love of literature.  We had a rule - you could only go and see a Harry Potter movie if you had read the book. It was never a problem to achieve that goal. And side note, I would not let them read the American version of the book, I made them wait until we could get our hands on the British version, some of the titles and language and spellings are very different and it was just my small attempt at keeping our British roots.

I recently decided to revisit the whole series of books, as it has been over 15 years since I picked them up. I did not realize how much I had forgotten and having that world open to me again has been very nostalgic remembering 2 little boys snuggling up to me hanging on my every word.  But it also made me think about how many great lessons we learned through reading these books.


  • Good friendships will get you through just about anything, whether it be dementors or mothers in law - good friends are walking beside you through the good and bad times.
  • Being brave is not about how physically strong you are, or how smart you are, or what your lineage is, it’s about that small voice of courage that may roar, or may whisper in your heart.  Harry was a small boy when he first stood up to Voldemort.  The Voldemort people and situations in my life have been squished when I say to myself “I can do hard things, I can do hard things and it does not matter if I am a Muggle.”
  • First impressions are not always what they seem.  When Harry first met Hagrid, if he had bought into the bumbling clumsy giant who had been expelled from Hogwarts, he would have missed out on a beautiful friendship.  When I first moved to the States, the weather, people, language and culture were so different my first instinct was to hide under the bed, but if I had not ventured out and immersed myself in the culture I would have missed out on so many great experiences.
  • Its ok to ask for help.  How many of us are too proud, ashamed, confused to reach out and say I need help?  Harry’s first instinct was often to try and do things alone, a lot of us are like that.  It’s easier sometimes because then no one sees when we fail, but its ok to ask for help even if it's finding the right disappearing staircase or learning how to avoid Peeves the Poltergeist.
  • Heartbreak happens but true love always wins.  Poor Harry lost some good friends to death and struggled with betrayals and let downs but his pure heart and the loyalty of his closest friends was what he really needed in the end. Sometimes, often, family is not just blood but those you hold close to you. That is a lesson I am willing to live by every day.
  • And finally, in the Chamber of Secrets Harry is tortured by the memory that the sorting hat wanted to put him in Slytherin, the darkest of the Hogwart Houses but he ended up in Gryffindor.  Headmaster Dumbledore reminds Harry at the end of the book that our choices can change our destiny, Harry chose to be in Gryffindor.  That gives me great comfort and hope that the authentic decisions we make for ourselves can change the course of our lives for a path more hopeful and more glorious than we ever could have imagined.  Dream big my friends.

Still only half way through the second book, already hooked, only 5½ to go. Now I just need to figure out how to incorporate some Harry Potter yoga moves into my kid’s classes!