I enjoyed reading this, and felt very quickly that I was 'inside' the head of the MC, and I was completely engaged.
Although this is seemingly not going to a plot-driven story, I did notice that nothing seems to really happen in this opening chapter: it's predominantly introspection and flashbacks. This type of content, although definitely interesting and absorbing, is 'slow'... so by the end of it, I didn't feel like I had properly started the story itself yet, and I wanted to.
In answer to your questions specifically:
1. Yes I felt it was successfully 'grounded' now (although I haven't read the first draft yet, so can't comment specifically on the changes you've made). Your depiction of the main character drew me in and I felt able to empathise completely with her feelings and emotions, and visualise the scenes you describe in the flashback clearly.
2. Despite not being a plot-driven story as I just said, in my humble opinion it does still need to be a story first and foremost. It's from that that any 'self-help' component will come: your readers will identify and empathise with your MC, and take the necessary messages for themselves away from the book via that. Your goal can, by all means, be to craft a narrative that will offer wide-reaching and genuinely beneficial 'life lessons' to your readers; but my own feeling is that if you market it that way explicitly, it'll run the risk of sounding like you're trying to be a bit 'preachy': "Read this because it will show you how to fix yourself if you're suffering from depression". (Do you know what I mean?) So my thoughts on your Qu2 are that it might be better to be a bit discreet about the 'self help' part of the book's purpose, and let readers figure that part out for themselves.
Thank you so much for your feedback. Yes, my husband and I were laughing that it is a book about nothing because most of the action is centered around the mental / physical process of enduring depression. I really appreciate that idea of taking out the self-help part in the foreword because my goal in writing it is not to give some ridiculous recipe for depression that will never work. It is to describe how it feels to be stuck in one's own Bell Jar and constantly try to get out, but to no avail. The last thing I want to be is preachy. Yikes! I will look for some of your writing to read Emmaloo. I'm actually okay with it not being plot driven because it feels like depression which literally has no purpose...but then things develop as one reads on, if they choose to; I'm going to think about it. If you are interested in reading more, I have a google classroom with the whole "living" manuscript divided up into chapters and sub chapters. NO PRESSURE.
you need a gmail to register. I already have five people (not "writers" who have been helping me copyedit so that I can get it polished). If you have something you'd like me to read, I would love to give you feedback. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
And thank you, too, for the invitation to read the whole book, which I will graciously decline at the moment (my time in the next 3 or 4 weeks is pretty tied up, sadly!) But I am happy to give feedback on some further shorter sections if you would welcome/feel in need of some.
As for me, I've posted a few excerpts from my current WIP in the "Contemporary/Women's Fiction" Group, which I would be delighted to hear your thoughts on, if you felt so inclined :-)