Posts Tagged ‘self-help books’

Up, up and a way out

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

I got a new shipment of self-help books today.  I went a little book-crazy in the first months after getting my diagnosis.  I read a very large number of things in a very short time frame, and have since been labeled as a little nuts for this by my current therapist (in her defense, it was a very large number).  It’s a coping mechanism for me, I guess, that I want as much information as possible.  Takes some of the stress off, and lets me feel like I’m doing everything that could be done (I do this in other areas of my life as well…getting our cats, planning my wedding, scheduling the honeymoon.  Not always with books, per say, but I sure do my research).  Plus, I’m not good at handing off responsibility for my well being to somebody else.

I acknowledge her point.  Sometimes this lets me get my hopes up that I will find a solution that may not be coming, or sets my expectations at levels I can’t possibly reach (except on the honeymoon – priceless!).  And of course, if you scan the previous paragraph for extreme language, it’s not possible to do “everything” that could be done.  I like to get pretty damn close, though.

I was good this time, and tried to keep my book-related expectations as reasonable as possible, and saved my bank account as best I could.  I sifted through reviews and personal recommendations, and weeded out those that I didn’t absolutely want to read right away or those that were duplicates on the same basic subject.  I left the $50 volume on my wish list instead of in my shopping cart.  I acknowledged that there may be tiny bits of help in what I was buying, but that they might not contain the definitive answer.

I have learned a lot from my books, though.  Really a lot.  I always had a kind of biased impression of self-help books.  Maybe from scanning through my mother’s copy of “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” when I was younger.  Maybe just because there really is a lot of tripe out there.  What I’ve read has been exceptionally useful, though.  I have learned a lot more and improved a lot more from the reading I’ve done than I have from both of my therapists.  Not to say that they’re no good, just that I get a lot more strategies a lot faster from my reading, and I’m pretty diligent about putting them to use.

(Not always so good about following through in great depth, but that’s a post on its own.  I like to master things quickly.  So the stuff that takes years of practice to progress with?  Not my strong suit.)

I have to say, the more I read about this stuff, the more fascinated I am with how much there is out there that we’re just now barely starting to comprehend.  Also with how many “fringe” things actually have a scientific backing if they’re done correctly.  Meditation has tons of legitimate research behind it now (as effective as Prozac, they say), but I’ll be damned if my psychiatrist would ever suggest it to me.  First psychologist, yes.  Psychiatrist, no.

Today I started adding guided imagery to my repertoire.  I am on some level hopeful that maybe some of what I’m doing will keep an allergic reaction away.  It’s not actually unreasonable – there have been some studies done in which people managed to prevent a reaction to poison ivy, or create a poison ivy rash from harmless plants.  The Wellbutrin is harmless…The Wellbutrin is safe…Please let the Wellbutrin actually help me so I’ll be justified in doing all this…

So far it seems very much like meditation with a slight twist to it.  That’s fine.  I acknowledge that it would be good for me to meditate again anyway.  Can’t say the thought of actually committing to it doesn’t come with an expectation of progress, though.  I remember the last time I was taking Wellbutrin and meditating daily, and I felt freer and more self-content than I ever have in my life.  Can I get myself to do this every day without looking for that, or being disappointed if I don’t see improvements?  I’m not sure that I can.

As a side note, the book mentioned in passing something about a “safe” memory from childhood.  I am not entirely certain that I have one of these, and it is weirding me right out.  I have many “pleasant” memories, but most of them are tinged with one kind of stress or another.  Pure safety and comfort seems to come with a parent.  My father was not helpful, and I always felt on some level like I needed to take care of my mom.  It would crush her to know that.  Which is why I’ll never tell her.  Because I need to take care of my mom.  Maybe children shouldn’t worry about whether it’s a good financial idea to buy that Barbie doll.  Not nearly as dramatic as the terrible traumas many people have been through, so it’s another example of what I tend to write off as irrelevant or self-indulgent lines of thought.  Still, one more moment of feeling suddenly like my life has maybe been a lot more interesting than I thought it was.

And not always in a good way.

Interesting times.

Vader’s Team

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

A while ago, I read a book called “Learned Optimism.”  It was recommended to me by my psychologist, primarily for my husband (as I had recently introduced her to his tendencies towards occasional voracious negativity) but also for me.  But why? I asked myself.  I am the eternal optimist.  Always have been.  I am the “silver lining,” “everything for a reason,” “look on the bright side” kind of person.  I have been engaging in CBT to try to modify some of my core beliefs because “people should be happy all the time” is not really realistic as a life goal.

Turns out, when defined psychologically, I am a terrible pessimist.  I put my husband to shame.  In the “normal world,” though, optimism is pretty strongly linked with trying to be positive about things.  In psych terms, the perfect optimist sees everything as temporary, limited in scope, and not their fault.

Everything is my fault.

Restaurant got my order wrong?  Husband seems grumpy?  Mom’s feeling guilty?  Coworker snaps at me?  Awkward silence?  Given inappropriate medication?  Not past the depression yet?  Must be me, at least partly.  I am vividly aware that I am at least partially responsible for almost all of the bad things around me.

Global warming?  I’m pretty sure I had a hand in that.

I recognize clearly that other people or circumstances may have a hand in these as well, but that isn’t where my focus goes.  I am immediately reflecting on what I could have done differently or better to prevent whatever it is that was undesirable.  Even now that I’m aware of it and sometimes try to deliberately think about another person’s role in things, my mind is constantly interrupting with the “yeahbut.”  Yeah, but if I had been articulating more clearly I’m sure they would have heard me correctly.  Yeah, but if I had said the right things at our appointment, then I’m sure he would have known what to prescribe.

And as much as I hate to admit it, and can see rationally that it’s just not true, at my heart I do have a hard time recognizing that unpleasant situations are just a transient blip on my emotional radar and not the signal that something permanent and dire is going on.

I am feeling generally tired today.  The last few have actually been pretty good for that.  I’ve had a pretty predictable “high” around two hours after I take my morning Ritalin.  I had tentative visions in my head of what I would do with that high today.  And I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited.  And it never came.  First instinct?  THE RITALIN IS NOT WORKING.  There is no particular panic to the statement, just an intense dawning realization.  I was mistaken.  I thought it was helping, but it must have been some other set of circumstances that was making it seem like it was.  Maybe just the timing of my morning coffee (which I can drink again now that the Prozac and its coffee-hangovers are gone!).  The Ritalin does nothing for me.

See, this is the way it almost always works for me.  Unless I focus really, really hard on it (and even sometimes then), my mind immediately decides that I’ve been mistaken in my perceptions of all good things previous, and that this one piece of negative information is what’s real.   Twenty pieces of evidence that I’m doing well and then one that I’m not?  I’m not.  Hours of great conversation with someone and then a stray comment that leaves me feeling misunderstood?  Maybe I can’t really trust them.  Maybe they don’t really get me at all.  Fifty pieces of really positive feedback in a job evaluation and one thing needing improvement will send me scurrying out of the room to work my ass off.

So today, maybe Ritalin is useless.  Sigh.

I will point out that I just finished editing a big list of tips on weathering antidepressant withdrawal symptoms in which I mention the importance of keeping one’s blood sugar stable.  And that I’ve eaten barely anything today.  Except milk.  Which my husband keeps telling me doesn’t count as a meal.

What does he know anyway?

(…besides geography.)

(which helps a lot when we play as a team in Trivial Pursuit)