"Feeling Good", the handbook ... or something else?
July 23, 2013 9:01 AM   Subscribe

My sweet baby sister is struggling with some depression and self-esteem issues. She's not interested in therapy at this point but she's open to doing some self-help/at-home work. What book shoud I get her?

I'm considering sending her the AskMe favorite, "Feeling Good" but I've also wondered if the "Feeling Good Handbook" would encourage her to do more of the actual CBT exercises.

Bonus question: Is there a book that might be a better fit for a very artisitic (she is a working songwriter and small business owner), 30-year old introvert? She is also Christian so anything new-agey or Buddhist-leaning is not going to work for her. Thanks!
posted by nubianinthedesert to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
One thing I will say, is that your sister should visit her GP. She may end up with a small dose of a drug that may help her a LOT!

Depression is sneaky and it will lie. It will tell you that you can beat it if you just try hard enough. Sure, books are a good way to start, but a physical is a better way to start.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:06 AM on July 23, 2013

Response by poster: Promise not to threadsit but I should add: She is NOT open to medication at this point. I'm a lifelong dysthymic and I'm medicated. I've told my sister of the benefits but she's not having any of that yet. Baby steps. Thanks.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2013

I really like the book Against Depression. It's not a self-help book, but it makes a persuasive case that there is nothing whatsoever that is redeeming about depression, and that it should thought of in the same terms as any other disease. It might help her become more receptive to medication.

For more practical assistance, in addition to Feeling Good or the Handbook, I think Undoing Depression is good.
posted by Asparagus at 9:21 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Even if she were ready for therapy, a good counselor or therapist would want her to get a checkup first, in order to rule out physical problems. Thyroid is a frequent culprit. The book I'd recommend before therapy is Mind over Mood, which is based on Beck's cognitive therapy.

As she is a Christian, Henry Nouwen's The Inner Voice of Love may speak to her about depression, faith, and self-esteem.

I hope she'll feel better soon, or get appropriate help otherwise. Good luck to her and you.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 9:27 AM on July 23, 2013

I highly recommend 'The Happiness Trap' by Dr Russ Harris. Very practical and gives actual tools for managing depression and pervasive negative thoughts. It's a favourite of therapists around here.
posted by Salamander at 9:48 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I loved the Feeling Good Handbook. I genuinely felt that the Handbok encouraged me to actually perform the exercises. Multiple times, the author includes text commentary along the lines of, "you may not have completed the previous exercise yet. Why not? We know that by completing the exercises, you are more likely to get results." And having space in the book itself to keep my anxiety notes made me less nervous about writing down this crap.

Do consider buying her a book cover, because I personally found the book cover awkward and embarassing to the point that I didn't want to approach it until it was covered. I actually just used the dust jacket for "The Help," which amused me and made me feel comfortable enough to take the book to a local cafe to work through the exercises.
posted by samthemander at 9:57 AM on July 23, 2013

Since you mentioned she's a Christian, maybe something by Therese Borchard? She writes about being Catholic and about mental health issues and has two books out - one more memoir-ish, the other apparently more of a handbook.

There's also a beliefnet blog (not sure how regularly this is updated anymore) - Beyond Blue: A spiritual journey into mental health - and her own website, in case e-resources might be helpful.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 10:02 AM on July 23, 2013

I second the recommendation for Mind over Mood for a CBT-based self-help book. It contains good, concise explanations of the underlying principles, and clearly describes exercises to help put the ideas into practice. Crucially (for me, at least), right alongside the descriptions it has worksheets ready to fill in, and reminders to actually do them, with example responses from a couple of "case study" characters. I found it easier to read than Feeling Good, easy to stick with, and I think I benefited a great deal.
posted by metaBugs at 10:04 AM on July 23, 2013

What kind of self-esteem & depression issues? I think they can be very different and the approach really depends. Personally, I detested "Feeling Good" — I hated the attitude that worries I felt I held legitimately were dismissed as unreal and as things I should just "get over." (Maybe others didn't get that impression from the book but I really did and I don't think I am alone.) Something I really liked, though, was Baggage Reclaim, particularly the self-esteem class. The approach there is more about how one can sabotage oneself and get the esteem-undermining reactions that "Feeling Good" didn't really address.

(I also really like Headspace, which is meditation sans religion, but the guy *is* a Buddhist, so I am not sure if that is too much for her.)
posted by dame at 10:35 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Gifts of Imperfection is a really good book, especially if she has self-esteem issues. Its focus is on accepting and loving who you are, and not trying to be the person you think you should be.
posted by billiebee at 10:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is Nothing Wrong with You. (A book I discovered from AskMe.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:55 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I can't recommend this because I haven't tried it myself, but I have been planning to give the mood gym a closer look for a while.
posted by lemniskate at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2013

Women and the Blues: Passions That Hurt, Passions That Heal is more a general book about the many situations women can find themselves in that often trigger depressive issues. I like that it gives bite-sized advice, so this might be more of a gateway to other more in-depth stuff, but definitely worthwhile.
posted by eralclare at 11:30 AM on July 23, 2013

I read A Guide To Rational Living at a time in my life when I was feeling really down. It helped me think critically about the situation I was in and especially about how I viewed myself. It stressed the fact that we're all human and nothing we do makes us inherently better or worse than another human being.

I'm not sure if this would be relevant to your sister, but I found Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself a worthwile read as well. Especially re: the "start caring for yourself" part.
posted by sevenofspades at 7:04 PM on July 23, 2013

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