Depressed? Read yourself well.

I have collected books on how to cope with depression for what seems like forever.  For years I thought I would find the answer inside a book. I never discussed my purchases with others but occasionally offered a few books to someone on the point of desperation. My bi-polar was hidden away, secret, never talked about, the books, like men’s magazines in a newsagents, on a high shelf hidden amongst tomes on diet and health and fitness, particularly yoga.

Inwardly I thought that that I must be an ‘odd’ person who bought books on insanity rather than fiction or celebrity memoirs. The books remained gathering dust only perused when I was low and felt the need to revisit some well worn advice and inspiration.

While depression takes away the pleasure of reading, seeking out solutions can be a useful way to pass time when you do not feel like socialising. Also it is good to ‘read for health’ when well.

Recently I have been clearing out cupboards, files and bookshelves. I visited my local library but unfortunately they will only take books less than five years old, even if they are a donation. Seems a shame really as these books hold words of wisdom many mental health workers or service users would find beneficial.

Clearing my ‘mad’ books was therapeutic as their presence was a constant reminder of past periods of inactivity and stunted emotions. My first reaction was to bin them or even ceremoniously put them to the stake like a bad witch.

However, after hearing a doctor talk about various methods of treating depression, the subject of ‘bibliotherapy’ came up. When questioned, he said, he would give a list of books to a patient to take to the library. This was a revelation to me as the only time I have been offered a booklist was when I was waiting for a course of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and needed to see a psychotherapist for referral. At that time, I was recommended books on Mindfulness. This, in 2006, was news to me. I had heard of meditation and been helped in relaxation techniques at various points in my illness but the big M word was news to me.

Suddenly I didn’t feel an ‘odd ball’ any more. I could give myself permission to buy or borrow a book and attempt some re-education to improve my mental health. Doctors and therapists recommend books so, far from feeling a failure for needing such literature, I feel good about it.

And that is how, when I cleared my bookshelves the other week, I collected all my old ‘mad’ books – they filled a large carrier bag – and took them to my local support group. I walked home later empty handed feeling happy that someone may be helped by my donation.

From experience I know that the chances of the books reaching the right people if donated to a charity shop are slim. Most are well-thumbed and some have brown tinges on the leaves. These would most certainly find themselves in a recycling bag and never see the light of day in the living rooms of the depressed and anxious.

So which books did I donate? Some examples are Living in the Light by Shakti Gawain, Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert, The Book of the Mind, Raj Persaud, Why Am I Up, Why Am I Down (Understanding Bi-Polar, Roger and Elizabeth Granet, An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison.

Books that I have kept on my shelf are Full Catastrophe Living, and Wherever You Go, There you Are, both by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and both recommended by the psychotherapist in 2006. I also have Dr Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat and a simple guide to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Dr Stephen Briers.

A book I have often borrowed from the library but, for cost reasons, do not possess is Mind Over Mood, (changing how you feel by changing the way you think).  This is also a self-help guide based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. More on CBT in a later post.

If you are struggling with depression or debilitating mood swings which can take over your life, books mentioned on this post are all available through your local library. Take my advice and avoid Amazon purchases. Reserve your books online and get an email when they are ready for collection.

There is no need to be depressed AND poor!

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