Books · Uncategorized

On Raging in the Self-Help Aisle


For probably the first time in my entire life, I had a very frustrating experience at the bookstore last week. Typically, the bookstore (Barnes & Noble in particular) is my happy place. It’s the safe space I retreat to when I need to relax or get lost for a while. I can wander within the stacks of the bookstore for hours and feel nothing but complete contentment. My trip to B&N last week, however, was a different experience…

I have been open about the fact that I struggle with mental health issues. Thanks to medication, I can be somewhat stable for long periods and life feels more “normal.” Eventually my body gets used to the medication and it stops helping me, in which I then plummet straight into a dark black hole that I can’t claw my way out of. That dark pit of hopeless despair is where I have been for the past few months. It’s been awful and at the risk of majorly fucking up my life and every relationship I have, I’ve come to accept the fact that I need help.

This is where that ill-fated trip to the bookstore came in. On top of figuring out what to do about my medication, I decided to pick up some self-help books that might be useful. Have you ever been to the self-help section at Barnes & Noble? It’s pretty diverse. There are self-help books for practically every personal problem you can think of. As I stood there browsing through titles like “Finding the Path to Freedom” and “Change Your Mind, Change Your Life,” I found myself feeling anything but inspired. Instead, I felt frustrated, angry, resentful, and just plain dumb.

To state it plainly: I fucking hate self-help books. I’m not really sure why I dislike them so much. Judging by how many of them exist, it’s clear that there are people who benefit from them. Perhaps I just haven’t found the right ones yet. I’ve tried to read a few over the years, but I feel like I can never connect to what is on the page in front of me, even if the author is perfectly describing the feelings/experiences that I am having. Or perhaps the problem is that I don’t want to connect to the book. I mean, who wants to admit that something is “wrong” with them? Or perhaps it’s the fact that I always feel stupid when reading self-help books. Maybe it’s just me, but it always feels like the author is talking down to the reader. I’m not a child. I don’t need someone to hold my hand and explain the basics of depression to me. I already know what depression is, now help me cope with it.

I flipped through at least a dozen books before deciding on one. I read the reviews online and did my best to determine which book would suit my current needs. Since purchasing the book I’ve picked it up 3-4 times and, to be honest, each time I’ve put it down rather quickly. There is nothing inherently wrong with the book, but I just can’t get into it and the whole situation feels forced.

I’ve been finding some additional ways to help myself and have actually been feeling pretty good the past few days. I just haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to keep attempting to visit the self-help section at Barnes & Noble.


Have you ever used self-help books? Did you have a positive or negative experience with them? 

6 thoughts on “On Raging in the Self-Help Aisle

  1. First off, yes I ‘ve occasionally purchased a self-help book, and reading them always feels forced because it’s addressing something uncomfortable. The thing is it can’t help unless you read it, and usually I find myself muddling through. Sometimes I disagree with the strategies offered, but just knowing that my experience isn’t unique and that there is possibility in what feels like the impossible is sufficient to make me feel complete and at least semi-healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it makes sense to be uncomfortable when reading these things. I have the habit of putting down other (fiction) books when I am not super entertained, but I guess I can’t treat self-help books the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s only one book in my life that I DNFed and it’s because I don’t believe John Saul respected his readers enough to give us a plot, let alone a story. I will never again by a John Saul book. There are many books that I wish I didn’t, but I have sufficient respect for the craft to understand that a story may change for the better at any time. However,, once I’m burned by an author I won’t go back, unless I get a rave. A girlfriend​ once raved about Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. I, the dutiful boyfriend, bought all 4 books. As I read the first book, I felt a rush of estrogen and realized that I would only be reading one book. I guess that was a long-winded way of saying muddle through because there will be value in the end, even if it’s only to say I finished.

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      1. I’m so OCD that there was a part of me that wanted to but I have so many other books in physical and device form that I couldn’t resolve the waste of time. I have 3 kindle and other devices plus hardcover and/or paperback so I’m usually reading 5 books at a time.

        Liked by 1 person

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