Challenging Depression & Despair: A Medication-Free, Self-Help Programme That Will Change Your Life

BOOK: Challenging Depression & Despair: A Medication-Free, Self-Help Programme That Will Change Your Life
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


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To my parents


Title Page






1. Drugs for Despair

‘Pull yourself together’

‘Out of the medicine chest into the mouth’

‘Sunshine pills’

Other SSRIs


And finally – how well do they work?



2. ‘Is It Just Me?’

The depression pandemic

To hell with that lot – what about me?

Emotions under new management

Are my feelings symptoms?

Nobody understands me


3. When Words Fail You

Scientists ‘discover’ literature

How literature ‘works’

The ‘blue devils’




4. The ‘Born Loser’

Mindsets of doom

Deaf to all entreaties

The ‘gloom and doom’ merchants

The Puritans and the ‘castaway’

Defying ‘fate’: Daniel Defoe



5. Mental Illness Labels

The ‘I need a syndrome’ syndrome

Wounding the mind

Problems with ‘PTSD’



6. The Harm of Calm

The ‘stress’ business

Sloppy science



7. Crises and Revelations

Escapist strategies

Revelations and epiphanies

‘Complexity science’

The brain’s battle stations

The light at the end of the tunnel



8. Stop ‘Giving Up the Ghost’

Resignation, not ‘stress’

The sting in the tail

The helpless profile

Helpless thinking

How NOT to be helpless

The need for pressure




9. Accepting Loss

Coming to terms with loss


Types of loss

Loss itself


Five little lifelines

Four-legged loss


10. Going for the ‘CC’

The arousal curve

Going for the golden feeling

CC pursuits



The arts

Go on – give yourself a thrill!


11. Getting Tough

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde revisited

Life skills

Mental strength and weakness


Now I’d like you to meet Esmeralda!

Brain training made easy

Inside the blackened room



12. Meet the Advisory Panel

The Team




13. One: The Unblocker Challenge

A sense of wonder

Why do people just sit there?


Rules for improvising

The unblocker

What panel members thought



14. Two: The Fitness Challenge

Nature and despair

The dirty word




Slowly does it

What panel members thought


15. Three: The Task Challenge

Problem-solving grids


‘Oh-no’ tasks

What panel members thought


16. Four: The Social Challenge


Being ‘shy’

Go up and talk

Doormats and divas

Assertiveness exercises

Taking the social challenge

What panel members thought


17. Five: The Mood Change Challenge

The ‘before and after’ face experiment

Emotional victims and emotional victors

Engaging with the arts

Classical music

Great works of fiction

Classics of the cinema

What panel members thought



18. Six: The Nature Challenge

Big open spaces

‘Barrier beliefs’

Record your experience

Getting involved with Nature


What panel members thought



19. Seven: The Performance Challenge

Nerves are good, boring is bad

On their hind legs

Presentation skills

Two kinds of presentation

Eleven tips for preparing talks

Flying by the seat of your pants

Keeping a record

What panel members thought


20. Eight: The Creative Challenge




Off with the fairies


The screen-staring society

How to ‘step aside’?

What panel members thought



21. Nine: The Fear Challenge

The scared dog puzzle

Phobias galore!

The mouse fear


Going towards fear

Pinning down your fears

Trouncing fear: the nature of the ninth challenge

Psychological dares

What panel members thought


22. Ten: The Life Challenge

The slow sedation of wants

Your own motivation

Dreams and goals

Taking the pledge





Congratulations on having the courage to choose this book.
Even if you were simply attracted by the title, this tells me that there is hope for you. You have the potential to benefit from the contents, because you haven’t yet gone belly-up on your condition, as so many in this nannying age have been lulled into doing. It also tells me that the ‘softly softly’ approach to depression, kind and sympathetic though it may appear, hasn’t cured you, and that you are looking for something different.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. This book is offered as a lifeline to people at the bottom of the bottomless pit of despair. It will explain the research and the thinking behind the ‘tough love’ approach, much of which may be new to you because it flies in the face of current trends, and it will culminate in a programme of ten challenges that will enable you to change your entire attitude to emotional health. Your self-empowerment will come from the knowledge of the first and the experience of the second.

When I was young, I suffered from suicidal despair, cried for days, sobbed in the street, lost all my self-respect, took an overdose, was dragged back to life and then floundered about for ages through research, training and academic degrees looking for a magic mindset that would make me happy and self-reliant.

I can tell you now that softly-softly therapies, however well intentioned, made me worse. ‘Stress management’ and avoidant strategies promising protection from serious problems made me helpless. Yet if someone had handed me this book when I was down, I could have been spared years of anguish. Let me save you the trouble I went through. If all else has failed, it’s worth a try.


There are many books that medicalise your mind. This will not be one of them. Human emotions are what make us tick. The negative ones may be unpleasant, but even these are not without purpose and they are part of our normal development. Cutting-edge science on the brain suggests they are also important to our creative life. Feelings should not be ‘pathologised’ – turned into a disease. You can learn to
your negative emotions by understanding and channelling them. But you do not need a lobotomy.

Books on mental health issues tend to mollycoddle the reader. Well, you won’t get any ‘tea and sympathy’ out of me. I am, to quote the
New Statesman,
‘widely regarded as a heartless bitch’.


My book on ‘stress’ caused a storm of controversy because it questioned the whole basis of current diagnosis and soothing treatment. Though it was shortlisted for the MIND Book of the Year Award, it did not offer to help manage anybody’s ‘stress’. What it recommended was removing the whole stress ideology from people’s heads like a rotting tooth, so that they could feel normal again, talk about their various feelings and experiences without recourse to a medical dictionary, and find new confidence and courage to face their problems head on.

BOOK: Challenging Depression & Despair: A Medication-Free, Self-Help Programme That Will Change Your Life
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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