bipolar mom shares her insights on everyday life

Posts tagged ‘self-esteem’

Increase Your Self-Esteem!!! Not.

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.)

 

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Deep Thoughts with Kent

Yep.  Today was another session with my therapist Kent.  I had a long list of things I wanted to talk to him about.  There was a big issue that took most of our time.  (Fortunately, I saved it for last.)

I have been attending this marriage class/small group study about marriage for the past several weeks.  One of our assignments was to discover our own strengths and weaknesses and to discuss them.  Then we were to ask each other to work on one of our weaknesses (which happens to be the other’s strength).  I asked Tom to be more vocal; tell me what he’s thinking, more than just a few words when he answers questions, etc.  He asked me to be calmer when dealing with the kids and not fly off the handle.  Fair enough.

My question for Kent was “How can I get him to comment on my progress?  I feel like I am handling things with the kids better, but I am not getting that response from Tom.”  Kent then asked me why it was important to me that Tom thinks I’m doing a good job.  And I said it keeps me trying.  I said everyone likes an “atta boy!”  He nodded, but prodded deeper, until we got down to I felt as though I needed Tom’s approval to make me feel good about what I was doing.  As you can guess, this is not a good thing.

As usual, Kent made a comparison to food.  🙂  “If you make some potatoes and Tom thinks they aren’t salty enough, does that make you a bad person?”  Well, no.  But it does make me feel bad.  Again, wrong answer.  “Michelle, you are who you are.  Those potatoes are a separate entity.  They are not a part of you.”  Okay.  So?  “Now, the next time you make potatoes, you may add extra salt.  If Tom doesn’t say, ‘Hey!  These are the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted!’ does that really matter?”   Well, yeah, it does.  I always ask “Do you like this recipe?  How does that taste?” 

Kent starts to grin, realizing this is going to take awhile.

“Okay, let’s start out with the fact that MOST people take ownership of this kind of thing; MY potatoes, MY pumpkin pie.  So, when someone says, ‘That is a beautiful pie,’ that makes most people stand up straighter and all happy.  But, think about it.  They didn’t say YOU were beautiful; they said the PIE was beautiful.”  I laughed and said they might be thinking (yeah, you are UGLY, but that is one beautiful pie.)  “Exactly!” he said.  “That pie is just a separate entity and is not a part of you.  You are who you are.  You are a whole person and that pie does not complete you nor does it take away a part of you.  You don’t really need anyone to tell you that you are more than you think you are.  That would be like someone telling you ‘Hey, Michelle, you have ten fingers!  You thought you only had eight, but you have ten!’  Now that’s a completely different story.  That IS a part of you.  The pie is not.  If they say, ‘You made a terrific pie!’ is that going to give you another arm or something?”

Now, I’m finally catching on.  (Sometimes I am a little slow…)  But, I am also getting a little teary.  I’ve spent my life trying to work for approval of someone, be it my parents, friends, or husband.  I do feel like their approval is a part of me.  When I don’t have it, I feel as though there is this hole in me, that only they can fill.

Kent said, “We’ll work on this the next few times.”  Obviously, he thinks this may take some time. 

I will write more about this tomorrow since I’m just writing this from memory without even looking at my notes.  I know what you’re thinking, “How could there possibly be more?  This whole thing took me an hour and half to read!  Her session is only an hour, for cryin’ out loud!”  Yeah yeah.  Whatever.  No one is holding a gun to your head and asking you to read this…

Maybe I just need Jerry McGuire to say, “You complete me.”  Then, I’m good.

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