A short rant about a paragraph about depression in a self help book

I’m a sucker for a self-help book.

I have a big stack of them at home and generally I find the messages really positive, if not exactly life-changing. I dip into them every so often as a reminder to do the basic stuff like think positive thoughts and let go of negative emotions. It’s a bit like having a session with a life coach, only cheaper. A lot of it is the same – love yourself, forgive others, embrace fear – nothing revolutionary, but nothing controversial either.

That’s what I thought at least, until I got to a particular paragraph in my latest read, a Christmas present that I put on my Amazon wish list because I do quite want to be a badass and live an awesome life. 

You are a badass

I was over half way through the book and I’d not come across anything I disagreed with, apart from the God references, but I just ignore those. I may not be a God fan but each to their own. There was one particular paragraph though that I couldn’t ignore.

It was a paragraph in a section about the stories we tell ourselves and how they hold us back. Some examples included seeing yourself as the sort of person who always fails at relationships, or who is bad with money. There aren’t really no decent men out there, but we kind of fool ourselves into believing it so we don’t have to blame ourselves when it goes wrong. 

Sure, I get that.

But then…

‘We pretty much don’t ever do anything that we don’t benefit from in some way…’ says Jen Sincero. ‘If you’re perpetuating something dismal in your life because of some dopey story, there’s definitely something about it that you’re getting off on.

‘Let’s say, for example, that your story is that you’re depressed. Chances are pretty good that even though it feels awful, when you feel awful you don’t have to work hard or do the laundry or go to the gym. It feels very familiar and cosy and comfortable. It gets you attention. People come in and check on you and sometimes bring you food. It allows you to not try too hard…’

Um, hello?!

Depression is not a spa Jen Sincero.

It’s not something you look forward to as an excuse not to have to do your own washing. If only you could concentrate long enough to work, then perhaps you wouldn’t also have the crippling guilt and anxiety that grows and grows the further you get behind with things.

As someone who has experienced depression, albeit in what I feel is a relatively mild form, (I cry a lot and feel terrified, but deep down I know it’s going to get better and that I’m a decent person), I can confirm that at no point does it feel ‘familiar and cosy and comfortable’.

Depression and anxiety are the most uncomfortable things I have ever experienced. You don’t feel right. Everything you thought you knew feels unfamiliar, pointless and flat. You can’t get physically or emotionally comfortable, no matter what you do. Depression is not some kind of favourite, comfy blanket that comes with the added benefit of free meals.

I’m wondering if the author would have dared to write a paragraph like this:

‘Let’s say, for example, that your story is that you have MS. Chances are pretty good that even though it feels awful, you kind of like that sometimes you get to sit in a wheelchair and not have to bother to walk around. You’re in pain, but that gets you off the gym. Your vision is poor, but that means you can away with not reading or working hard. It gets you attention. People come in and check on you and sometimes bring you food.’

No way.

No way would Jen Sincero have dared to say that about a physical health problem, and yet a mental health problem? Well that’s clearly just an excuse for laziness. Feeling depressed? Nah, that’s just attention seeking.

JEEZ. 

What is wrong with people?! She’s spent half a bloody book telling people to love themselves and then she casually swoops in with that. ‘Sure, you’re awesome, but cheer up yeah? Stop slobbing about.’

It made me so cross that I couldn’t read any more of the book, so it looks like I’m not going to be a badass after all. If being a badass means being ignorant and narrow minded though, I think I’d rather not anyway thanks.

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable to be so annoyed by this?

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19 Comments

  1. 17 January, 2017 / 11:30 am

    Yep. Mental health conditions are often ignored and poo-pooed. And it is just plain wrong.

  2. 17 January, 2017 / 11:55 am

    It’s so easy for people not to understand depression fully when they haven’t experienced it. I have never suffered from it, thankfully, but I have loved ones who do and I have learned it is no picnic for them. No one chooses to be depressed. The author is very naive.

  3. Paul
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2017 / 12:32 pm

    Personally speaking I have experienced people like this quite a lot. The “Pull yourself together,” idiots who have not got a clue what they are talking about. I am surprised that her publishers let it through. I guess people with mental health issues can still be offended and no one give a damn. The best way self help book is called a diary. Write down your own personal thoughts and feelings and soon you will learn a lot about yourself, your ups and downs and the patterns that emerge. Putting money into the pockets of idiots like this will not help anyone except her.

  4. 17 January, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    Ooh, I’m raging and I’ve never even heard of Jen (In)Sincero and her book! If I could live my life without depression, or the threat of its return, I’d happily swap that for sitting around slobbing out. Stupid comment!

  5. Chris Norman
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2017 / 1:51 pm

    You are absolutely justified in cutting loose at that point. She is putting across a completely callous, ignorant and stigmatic point of view.

  6. Alex
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2017 / 3:27 pm

    I’m slightly less horrified at the author – perhaps they’re getting off on being too lazy to learn something – than I am at the editors and publishers that let this fly without any thought as to how this might affect someone with depression who could be reading this to bolster a recovery or treatment process. It’s so horrendously irresponsible.

  7. 17 January, 2017 / 6:29 pm

    Some people are confused by what ‘depression’ actually is, and the plethora of people claiming to know how to ‘fix it’ just adds to the confusion.
    I’d bet the author has never had cause to look too deeply in to what depression is and the ways it can devastate people, though you think they would if they’re mentioning it a book they are selling…
    Even among people who *want* to understand, want to be as useful as they can in the lives of people they know with depression, there are many conflicting views on the best way to do this.
    And this is because (of course) depression affects each person differently.
    So yeah, I’m surprised the author is that ignorant and unhelpful, but then again I’m not, if you see what i mean…

  8. Judith Allen
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    Think you can use tthat book for lighting fires. At least that would be useful. Grr.

  9. 17 January, 2017 / 9:54 pm

    What a vile thing for someone to write, and perhaps even worse is that someone agreed to publish this drivel (possibly in a bid to create a negative hype, after all hype is hype).

    I’d write a review online and link this post xx

  10. 17 January, 2017 / 10:21 pm

    You’re a badass for understanding why this is such a disgusting paragraph. You are a badass because you have empathy for others. You are a badass for saying ‘not today Jen Sincero’ and your a badass for always looking to improve yourself, learn about yourself and acknowledging the challenging times you’ve had. From reading that paragraph Jen Sincero doesn’t get to say who’s a badass because actually, badass in her eyes just sounds selfish, narrow minded and extreme lacking in empathy for her fellow (wo)man. Xx

  11. Danielle Spencer
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2017 / 10:22 pm

    Disgusting! Unfortunately there are people out there that claim to be depressed for attention.
    BUT there are also lots of us that suffer daily, weekly and even longer periods of depression, depression is like a feeling like no other, it isn’t even always sadness, sometimes I am so numb. Getting up can be so exhausting, let along doing your washing or things that those that are no depressed can achieve with little effort. Depression is such a personal journey too, some people speak out and others suffer in silence, sometimes we do not know someone is depressed until it is too late – and no wonder with comments like these! Thanks for sharing, I know to avoid this book and author now.

  12. Fiona jk42
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2017 / 10:34 pm

    you’re absolutely right to be annoyed. This whole attitude that people with depression must enjoy wallowing in self-pity is unfortunately all too common. Sad that this book is a best seller, as that means a large number of readers have been exposed to this misinformation.

  13. A S,Edinburgh
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2017 / 11:48 pm

    That’s hilarious.

    “It gets you attention. People come in and check on you and sometimes bring you food.”

    Really? In my experience, having any health problems, physical or mental, beyond a brief cold, results in everyone but a tiny handful of people treating you like crap. I’m far from alone in that, too. If the author hasn’t had that experience I’d love to know what her secret is, because there are a lot of people out there who could really use it.

    No-one with so little idea of what the real world is like can be worth taking advice from. I’ll avoid this one.

  14. Angela Treadway
    Twitter:
    18 January, 2017 / 12:18 am

    No your not being unreasonable at all. As someone who has experienced depression and still has an anxiety disorder. Depression is not something you woke up with one morning and said ‘hey i feel like feeling depressed today’ its not something you want to feel and its not something you can just ‘snap out of’ either. Its an illness just like any illness, just because people cant see it doesnt mean it doesnt exist and it can be just as interfering, frustrating and life shattering as a physical disorder. Thankyou for writing this article not enough is written about mental health and there needs to be.

  15. Angela Kelly
    Twitter:
    18 January, 2017 / 8:29 am

    This is absolutely disgusting. What medical qualifications does this woman have that allow her to make this bloody ridiculous statement. I would never wish the awful hopelessness that comes with depression on anyone, but it would be great if the likes of this woman could experience the crippling symptoms for just a day. I can’t even articulate any more comments…I hope you leave a suitably arsey review on her Amazon page!

  16. Fiona Firth
    Twitter:
    18 January, 2017 / 9:41 am

    My immediate reaction to this was oh god that’s what I’m doing? I’m even more horrible than I thought. Thankfully I’m in a realatively good place right now. I read your response and agree with you wholeheartedly. I’m glad I haven’t got the book! That sort of thing could do some real damage!

  17. 18 January, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    I suffer from depression but that last sentence has made me laugh ( whilst being angry ) – nobody pops in to check on me or brings me food!
    Maybe I need to seek some more of this attention that she mentions!

  18. Emma
    18 January, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    I’m really glad you have not had to suffer any long term depression (I mean that sincerely as well, I know how comments can be misunderstood).
    I do suffer and sometimes it’s much worse than others. While I 100% agree I don’t think the author would have written anything like that over a physical condition, I have to admit she has a point. You see when I have been at rock bottom with depression in the past I have questioned every single thing about myself and felt so disgusted with myself for being so selfish with my thoughts and actions, and I remember discussing this particular point with a counsellor.
    He said
    ‘Imagine your brain is like a filing cabinet and it has stored every reaction to any significant events in your life. So when you experience anything with a negative emotion and all the thoughts of fear, self doubt, and anxiety appear, your brain will go to the ‘default’ reaction. It will pull that ‘file’ out and explore everything in it, obsessing over every detail.’
    Now I can relate to this and I honestly believe the longer this is allowed to go on with no positive intervention, the more this becomes learned behaviour. You can develop a morbid sense of familiarity with the negativity and it can become ‘safe’.
    I would never generalise depression, (we are all on our own journeys) but I understand why the author wrote what she did.

  19. LD
    Twitter:
    19 January, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    The woman is clearly an idiot (who has never experienced true depression). I am suffering from depression and anxiety and I would give anything to not to feel like a burden to my family, be able to function properly and to not feel like I am failing my children. Depression makes everything seem flat and pointless, it’s certainly not something that makes people feel comforted in any way!!! Should never have been published.

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