I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read on anxiety, depression, etc etc etc. A hundred, maybe? A hefty proportion of the books out there, anyway. Some are good (the classic How To Stop Worrying & Start Living), some not so much, but none of them have had any lasting effect on me. Neither has the three lots of therapy that I’ve had. Well, that’s not entirely true. The therapy has made me much more self aware, more enlightened as to why I am who I am and why I do the things I do. Unfortunately, therapy on the NHS is highly abridged – we’d only just got to the roots of my problems when the course had to end. They cut you loose, to sink or swim. I usually sink…….
So then I turn to books, in a desperate attempt to continue my own therapy, but it’s hard, so hard, to see yourself objectively and to know how best to get yourself out of your own mental pitfalls. Like someone floundering in quicksand, trying to pull themselves out.
But when it comes to reading, I’m an eternal optimist. Tony laughs at me, because my first reaction in any given situation is to go buy a book about it. Hence the 1000 books crowding us out of our tiny home. Anyway. I bought a book, and read it, and re-read it, and worked through it, really worked, with a notepad and pen and exercises and everything, and this is the first time I’ve ever done that, ever been inspired enough to actually work along with a book. And the result?
GO BUY THIS BOOK.
Yes, really, go and buy it. Here’s an Amazon UK link, and an Amazon.com link, and it’s also available on Kindle and Audible. The title is Self-Coaching: The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression: How to Heal Anxiety and Depression by Joseph J. Luciani Ph.D. I’ll wait for you. Go on!!!!!
Ok, you got it? Good. Now I’ll tell you the drawback. Yes, I know, but I wanted you to buy it before I changed your mind.
First of all, some context, for those of you who haven’t been slugging through my depression with me for the last few years. My story in a nutshell: anxious/depressed child, anxious/depressed adult, culminating in a good old fashioned nervous breakdown 3 (or was it 4? I’m losing count) years ago. Short periods of relative wellness interspersed with recurrent breakdowns since then. With a particularly bad one at the start of this year, with all kinds of medication horrors to complicate it.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that I have been utterly, completely, passionately convinced that depression is a clinical illness, brain chemistry all wacko, something I’m going to have for the rest of my life, like diabetes, etc etc etc etc. If you’d suggested otherwise to me, I would have brained you with the nearest blunt object. Which makes me wary of saying this out loud, for fear of upsetting or angering my readers with depression, but……..
This book is built around the premise that anxiety/depression is not a clinical illness, but something we do to ourselves……..
I know! I KNOW!!
Don’t shoot the messenger. Just take it from me, if I can be convinced by the reasoning in this book, anyone can. I would have fought to the death to defend the clinical illness theory, trust me. No one wants to think that they are bringing that amount of suffering on themselves by choice. Well, it’s not that simple. It’s an involuntary choice, and the idea of the book is to give you back the power of choice, so that you can steer your way out of the darkness and back into health. As far as I can tell, the exercises are cognitive behavioural based, but they seem to go deeper than anything else I’ve read, or done through CBT counselling.
I should clarify: the book acknowledges that depression is a brain chemistry problem, and that medication can be useful, and for some people, vital (that would be me). BUT. It theorises that the brain chemistry problems are the result of years and years of stress, anxiety, panic, insecurity, fear, worry, and all the other negative emotions that make us go rigid in the face of life’s problems and strains. That our coping strategies are developed when we are children, and that we just carry them into our adult life, where they are no use to us at all, but just drag us down into the quicksand of depression and chronic anxiety.
What I found so amazing about this book is this: it combines some of the best explanations for why depression/anxiety strikes some of us, with strategies for beating it. Hmm. I didn’t put that very well. You’ll have to read the book, then you’ll see what I mean. Suffice to say, nearly every page was a lightbulb moment for me, which is saying something considering the many, many books I’ve read on the subject. I was able to very quickly identify patterns that led up to each episode of depression, and I promise you, not one of them was external, they were all thinking patterns, internal reactions to external events. This blows my mind. I never ever thought I would believe this, but I do. It makes the most perfect beautiful logical sense when you read through the book.
I’ll admit, it’s scaring the crap out of me. It’s seriously scary to face the fact that your happiness and well being is squarely in your own hands. Scary but incredibly exciting. In equal parts. But the book makes so much sense to me that I’m trusting it, and working through the exercises, and taking one little step at a time. So far, it’s working. It’s working GOOD. It’s two steps forward, one step back, of course, because ingrained thinking habits do NOT like being disturbed. But progress is progress, however slow. This post has been hard to write, partly because I don’t want to offend anyone with what is a pretty out-there idea, contrary to what I’ve said in the past, and partly because I have this stupid feeling that I’m jinxing myself by saying out loud, this is working for me.
But, there it is. Give it a try. Be open. Maybe you’ll have your own lightbulb moment. Maybe.