Nobody gets through this life on their own. That’s particularly true when it comes to therapy. At its core, therapy is a bootstrapping experience, because nobody but you can make you change the way your brain works in any positive way. You also can’t do it on your own, though. I’ve become a big believer in having a therapist and taking doctor-prescribed medication. But along with having a therapist and taking my meds, I’ve found some books and websites that are helping me a lot in terms of dealing with my depression and anxiety and becoming the person I want to be, living the life I want to lead.
In the hopes that at least one other person can benefit, I’ve decided to share the books and websites that have been helping me lately. Keep in mind that all therapy is intensely personal and every person is a special snowflake, so no one will get the same effects from these as I’m getting. But there’s still a hell of a lot of good in sharing our sources and inspirations, our tools and toys, our allies and playmates. Because even if it often feels like you’re alone in this world, you’re not. None of us are alone, and we need each other.
So, here we go…
The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) — This was the book that sparked this journey off, in many ways. I was on meds and thinking seriously about therapy, but reading this book and doing the “charactercizes” made me realize just how much I needed to see a therapist while also making me realize I really could live the life I want. It’s fun, it’s flippant, it’s down to earth, and it’s really profound. Plus, Chris Hardwick is something of a hero of mine, since he basically does what I want to do (making a living by being my own geeky and doing the things I would do even if I weren’t getting paid).
The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living — A few people, including my therapist, recommended this to me, and it’s proving to be invaluable. This is basically therapy for people who think therapy is bunk. It’s based on ACT, which is what my therapist practices, the general principle being, “Life can often suck, and trying to get rid of your bad thoughts and feelings won’t really work, so it’s best to just accept the bad things without focusing on them and giving them power.” It’s a practical therapy that reminds me a lot of Taoism and Zen Buddhism in outlook and practice. The author, Russ Harris, frequently says, “Don’t take my word for this. Try these methods out for yourself. If they work, great! If they don’t, find something else that does.” This book is exactly what I needed.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and Do the Work! — For a long, long time, my biggest obstacle in writing has been my own fear, which usually manifests as “I want to be a writer, but first I have to do this, that, and some other thing,” procrastinating by creating a huge to-do list of imagined steps that must be completed before embarking on the journey I say I want to take. Author Steven Pressfield’s two books are a powerful kick in the ass to tell you to stop procrastinating and start doing. The fear ain’t going away, so face it down, punch it in the nose, and do what you say you want to do while your fear continues to scream and shout.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative — I’ve mentioned this book recently, and it’s similar to Pressfield’s in that it’s a short, sharp exhortation to stop fucking around and start doing what you really want to do. Austin Kleon rocks!
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want — Like The Happiness Trap, Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book says you can’t reach this mythical “my life is all happiness, everything is great” place, but you can do specific things to improve your overall happiness. This book is full of practical things you can do, based on lab research, to improve your base level of happiness and orient yourself towards the life you really want to be leading.
Lifehacker — I’ve been reading this site for years. Truthfully, I ignore at least half the posts, because they don’t have anything to do with things I’m interested in, but there’s such a nice assortment of posts on computers and other tech toys, DIY projects for the home, Getting Things Done ideas for work, yoga and meditation, writing, arts and crafts, and…well, there’s a assload of posts on a huge range of topics. It’s cliché to say, but it’s true, there’s something for everyone.
The Headologist — Ellie Di is a nerdy, punk rock psych major, inspired by the witches of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. So of course I think she’s fun and brilliant. She’s currently in the process of revamping her site and the way she practices her “headology,” but at the very least, going back and reading her older posts, as well as interacting with her online, has been very, very helpful to me.
Tiny Buddha — There’s a lot in Buddhism that appeals to me, and this site hits a lot of those on the head. I’ve read posts on this site that have both inspired me and given me some practical advice that I’ve worked on incorporating into my usual routine. Good stuff.
There you have it, the toys and tools, the allies and playmates that are primarily helping me these days. In general, I prefer specific exercises and practices over theory and philosophy. If any of these books and websites help you, I’d love to know about it. And if you have suggestions of books, websites, comics, movies, TV shows, or whatever that you think could also help, please drop me a line or leave a comment here.