Self-help books are such a huge industry that it’s hard to see them as anything but a money-making ploy. Partially because so many of them are bad. Really bad. To the point where buying self-help books always feels like taking a risk. Like there’s 90% chance I’m throwing my money away. Or higher.
But there are self-help books that are actually helpful. I’ve encountered one so far in my life, so I know it is technically possible. And since therapy is both expensive and extremely hard to get into (There’s nothing like being depressed, making the effort to call therapy offices, and being told time after time that the therapist isn’t accepting new patients.), I can understand why it’s such a big industry. So many people need help and don’t have anywhere else to turn.
While I’ve mostly given up on self-help books, lately I’ve found myself really tempted by one I keep seeing on Instagram. It’s a depression self-help book by The Depression Project.
I didn’t get pulled in by the book itself. Honestly, I’ve still yet to read the summary (or what I like to call the sales pitch for the book). What’s tempting me is their instagram: TheRealDepressionProject. It is truly the first messaging I’ve seen that really shows an understanding of what depression and anxiety are like.
Too much of the messaging on social media or anywhere that mentions depression is overly positive, sugary sayings that come across to me as empty platitudes. Especially when my depression is in full swing.
These… aren’t. They’re descriptions of what it feels like to have depression or anxiety. Or lists of symptoms. At heart, they’re explaining what these issues are like from the inside and in such a way that someone who’s never had depression or anxiety might understand. Or at least understand better – and know some of the responses to avoid.
As someone with both depression and anxiety, I’ve found myself really resonating with their posts. But that doesn’t mean that the book will be good. Buying it is still a risk or would be except for 1 thing: they offer a 60-day-money-back guarantee. That might just tip the balance.
I say “might” because there’s still a lot of built-up cynicism and depression-inspired doubt to get past before I buy anything. Taking a risk with self-help books gets harder and harder the more you’ve looked for a good one. Even if you didn’t buy most of them.
In truth, though, it’s the same with therapy, medication, and any other depression treatment. The more you’ve tried and failed, the more depression talks you out of trying again. But no matter how convincing depression can be (“You’d be throwing your money away!”), you can’t stop trying or depression wins for sure.
4 thoughts on “Taking a Risk with Self-Help Books: The Depression Project”
I used to be well into self-help books. I had about 4 or 5 on depression. The best depression book I remember was called A Mood Apart by Richard C Whybrow. I had thought it was a book on how not to be depressed, but it wasn’t. It went into “thymic temperaments” and what actually caused depression and also bipolar disorder, a really fascinating book, but not really “self-help” although it was in the self-help section of a wonderful independent bookshop called Compendium Books in Camden Town. This was in the mid-late 1990s but they went out of business at the end of the decade. Maybe Amazon had already overtaken them by then…
I’ve noticed that problem with a lot of self-help books. They’re really more food-for-thought when you’re looking for a manual or how-to guide. That’s one reason I’ve gotten skeptical about trying new ones.
I think I spent more money at independent bookstores than anywhere else during the pandemic. They’re some of my favorite places, but it’s really hard to keep them in business.
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I was really annoyed when that bookshop closed down. They specialized in new age, drugs and psychology (by drugs I mean books with titles like The Psychedelics Encyclopedia). It all seemed very forbidden. There was a more leftwing section downstairs with lesbian politics books and gender identity stuff, but I never went down there. I’ve heard bookshops are being “undercut” by Amazon/etc but for the most part Amazon isn’t any cheaper than a bookshop. I remember one secondhand bookstore complaining that on average it cost them £1 per book per year just for warehousing, so that’s approx $1.50. At first that seemed ridiculous, until you work out how many books you could store in a garage, say and how much would it cost to rent that garage for a year and it sounds about right… which is sad.
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Mostly Amazon is undercutting because of the perception that they’re cheaper and because you can order a specific book at any time and have it in a few days, which takes some motivation away from searching through a used bookstore for a hidden gem. On the plus side, though, many used bookstores are managing to stay in business by selling through amazon, so it’s a complicated situation. Still, a bookstore is such a special and treasured experience that I’m just happy when they can stay afloat.