book reviews, mental health, psychology

Reposting my review of Tina Zahn’s Why I Jumped…

Here’s a reposted book review that was originally written for Epinions.com in December 2011. I am posting it here as/is. It may be of special interest to anyone who has suffered from postpartum depression.

Last month, my husband Bill and I were watching TV in a hotel room in Barbados, reflecting on the marvelous vacation we had just taken.  I flipped through the channels and stopped on a show about dramatic police rescues.  The program highlighted the case of Tina Zahn, a mother of two who, on July 19th, 2004, dramatically attempted to end her life by jumping off the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  I was riveted by the footage shown on the program, captured by the dash cams on the police cruisers that had pursued her in a high speed car chase.  Tina Zhan had climbed over the railing and planned to drop 200 feet to her death.  She would have died if not for the quick reflexes and sheer determination of state trooper Les Boldt, who had grabbed her wrist and refused to let her go. 

Tina Zahn did not die that day, though postpartum depression had made her so very desperate to end her life.  Within seconds of her suicide attempt, Trooper Boldt was joined by three other officers of the law, who pulled her to safety and took her to a hospital.  That dramatic day in July 2004 was the beginning of Tina Zahn’s recovery from a lifetime of pain and despair.  When Tina Zahn spoke about the book she had written, I reached for my Kindle to see if it was available for download.  It was; so I bought it.

Tina Zahn’s story

With ghost writer Wanda Dyson’s help, Tina Zahn begins her story with her childhood, which was spent with a stepfather who sexually abused her and a mother who didn’t seem to care enough to stop him.  Though she was bright and a hard worker, she endured a very traumatic childhood.  Luckily, she managed to go to college and earned degrees that allowed her to be successful in the work place.  But she had always battled depression, which seemed to dog her in everything she did.

She married her husband, Daniel, and later had her first child, a girl named Sarah.  After Sarah’s birth, Zahn suffered severe postpartum depression, a hormonal condition that makes it difficult for mothers to bond properly with their babies.  She sought help for it and was given a prescription for Prozac.  Her doctor promised her she would be her old self again in no time, but it took over a year for Zahn to feel better.  She didn’t know it at the time, but she later learned that once postpartum depression strikes, it’s very likely to strike again and with more severity with each subsequent pregnancy.

As Zahn recovered, she began to get more involved with church.  She and her husband had always attended a Lutheran church, which Zahn apparently found unsatisfying.  She began attend a more contemporary church which she liked much better, but her husband was uncomfortable with the more casual services.  They argued over their clashing faiths, which caused tension in their marriage.  

In 2002, Zahn and her husband decided to have another child.  Zahn’s pregnancy was very unpleasant, mainly owing to chronic physical pain she had long suffered and more acute pain brought on by a hernia that developed during the pregnancy.  Baby Noah was born in 2003 under traumatic circumstances.  Both Noah and Tina spent a long time recovering from the birth and Tina was soon plunged back into another brutal bout of postpartum depression.  She was unable to take care of herself, her children, or her household duties.  Fortunately, she still had many friends from church who prayed for her.  Those friends were praying on the day Tina Zahn almost succeeded in killing herself.

My thoughts 

I think Why I Jumped is worthwhile reading, particularly for those who have, in some way, struggled with depression.  In the late 1990s, I battled depression myself.  While I was never near as debilitated as Tina Zahn was, I related to her descriptions of what depression feels like.  This book may be even more helpful for women who have dealt with or are currently battling postpartum depression, as well as those who care about someone with postpartum depression, particularly if they are Christians.  In fact, this book is very faith promoting, which may or may not be a good thing.

Readers who either don’t mind the testimony bearing or are actively seeking a faith promoting story will probably really appreciate Zahn’s story.  People who are turned off by Christian memoirs or testimonies may not enjoy Tina Zahn’s book.  She is very clear about her Christian faith and how it, as well as prayers from nine close friends, saved her from suicide. 

Zahn is very detailed in her story.  Some of her details are on the mundane side, though they do give readers some insight into the dynamics of her family of origin as well as her marriage and relationship with her mother-in-law.  There is a lot of dialogue in this book, which makes it read more like a novel.  Zahn also includes pictures, which were easy enough to see on my Kindle.  Zahn also includes several appendices with information about depression, postpartum depression, and suicide resources.

Overall

It seems that Zahn’s life made a dramatic turnaround on the day she tried to jump off the Leo Frigo Bridge.  She made good friends with the police officers who saved her, told her miserable abusive stepfather to stop contacting her, and wrote a book, which has no doubt inspired a lot of people.  I found her story mostly fascinating and would not hesitate to recommend it to those who want to learn more about depression… as long as they don’t mind also reading about religion.

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