I admit that I want to still add “not” to the end of a remark that is so off-base. But that is so 90s. (or 80s. whichever it is, it is passe.)
When I was in the outpatient program at Edgewood after my trip to the loony bin, the counselor there suggested I read and complete the book Ten Days to Self-Esteem by Dr. David D. Burns. In fact several of the clients were carrying one around.
It’s kind of like a workbook. And, if you did a lesson a day, then, supposedly your self-esteem skyrockets. Well, maybe not skyrocket, but increases.
Misleading premise #1. You aren’t supposed to do a lesson a day. Two a week is recommended. So now we are talking ONE MONTH to Self-Esteem. But that’s just not as catchy.
Misleading premise #2. The cover says I’ll discover the secrets of joy in daily living! Woo hoo! Yeah, I know joy, and this ain’t it.
Misleading premise #3 (and the final one). I will learn how to defeat depression. (Wow! That’s some book!)
Now, I was truly gung-ho on doing this book. After all, who doesn’t need to boost their self-esteem? Many of you that know me personally probably think I don’t have an issue with self-esteem. Well, it’s tough to have clinical depression and feel great about yourself. (He doesn’t mention that, by the way. He really doesn’t address clinical depression. Even though, he promises to help me learn to defeat it! (see premise #3)) News flash, Dr. Burns: Defeating my depression involves a treatment program that I’m going to write a book about. Better Living through Chemicals-Lose the Embarrassment and Win Back Your Life! Lines are open 24 hours a day, and operators are standing by to take your order!
Somehow, I got off track there. I was gung-ho on doing the workbook. I did the first chapter and actually thought it was going to be awesome! I was to fill out a survey each time about my depression, anxiety, and relationship satisfaction, and hopefully the numbers would improve.
After I was released from the outpatient program, I kind of put the book aside and did my best to start enjoying life.
Yesterday, I got the book out again, thinking, “I haven’t done anything with that book for quite awhile. I’ve got some time. Why not?”
I did the daily survey, numbers had improved, so far so good.
Then, the questions required me to “picture a time when you were sad or discouraged, blah blah blah.” Okay. I stopped for a moment. Then, I relived my past hospitalization. I started feeling worse. Next step: “List several of your bad feelings here.” (He was kind enough to provide a list for us, in case we had no idea what our feelings were.) Now, I’m sinking into a hole…But, fear not, friends! I was bound and determined to get back to feeling better! On with the next step!
The Stick Figure Technique!
(Okay, now I’m laughing at how funny that sounds. Again, Dr. Obvious came up with an idea that takes up two pages of this fascinating book!) He has a stick figure with a frown and we are supposed to make up some negative thoughts that explain why the stick figure is unhappy. Now, mind you, I took this very seriously. Then, I started to feel really crappy. Not unlike Mr. Stick Man. I pushed on. (still looking like Mr. Stick Man. But fatter.)
I turn the page to see this giant chart where I am supposed to describe a time that triggered certain emotions and what kinds of thoughts lead to that emotion. Guilt or shame, frustration, anger, anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness and discouragement.
“I’ll take GUILT OR SHAME for 100, Alex.”
I started writing the answers for guilt or shame and could barely pick up my pen. I was feeling so down.
I slammed the book shut and said, in my best Scarlett O’Hara voice, “Tomorrow is another day!” (It was an excellent Scarlett voice, by the way.)
But, I’m not going to do the workbook another day. Who needs to relive a very painful time of their lives?
“Bye bye, self-esteem workbook! You suck.” (Scarlett didn’t say that, but if she’d read this book, she would have.)