My psychologist provided me with a handout when I saw her on Saturday for my appointment. It’s entitled ‘Pleasurable Activities Catalog.’ The title itself already sounds a bit dubious, and that’s ignoring that they’ve spelt ‘catalogue’ incorrectly. To be fair, R did warn me that some of them are a bit odd and will be irrelevant to me. Still, that doesn’t stop me from doing my second most favourite thing to do when I receive therapy handouts: tear them apart as I did Marsha Linehan’s Distress Tolerance handout back in February. Not in the literal sense- that would be my first most favourite thing to do.
There’s a list of 185 ‘pleasurable activitives’ suggested on this sheet. Included are;
24. Remembering beautiful scenery. And find myself all the more disappointed I’m stuck in this dull and drab place.
29. Thinking how it will be when I finish school. Well I’ve finished school, which was awful, and now that I’ve finished, it’s still awful. How disheartening.
32. Thinking about retirement. A bit early for that….
58. Losing weight. Yeah, that’s really helpful for someone who has a history of eating issues and is currently struggling with bingeing and purging.
60. Thinking I’m an OK person. Hmm, alright then. “I’m an okay person. I’m an okay person. I’m an okay person.” Nope…still don’t believe it.
62. Having class reunions. What, so I can come face to face with people who didn’t treat me very nice at all and come to the realisation that everyone else has turned out more successful than me?
98. Thinking I have a lot more going for me than most people. That’s a bit of an arrogant attitude to take on isn’t it? Not to mention it’s not all that true.
102. Thinking about sex. ?????….I’ve never even been on a date.
122. Flying a plane. That’s an accessible activity for the general public. Hands up how many of you are pilots?
127. Cleaning. That does not fit ANY definition I have of a ‘pleasurable activity.’
129. Taking children places. Seeing as I don’t have or know any, I’m picturing taking a random kid off the street and leading him/her somewhere. That would be rather creepy and I’d probably be charged with kidnapping.
149. Reflecting on how I’ve improved. HAHAHAHA.
153. Thinking religious thoughts. You mean think about God, Jesus, church and stuff?
162. Thinking about my good qualities. I have the ability to poke fun at handouts? That’ll get me far in life… Yay?
169. Fantasising about the future. The ‘future’ I imagine is one without me in it. Somehow I don’t think that’s the type of ‘fantasising’ the writers of this handout were suggesting.
174. Erotica (sex books, movies). Um yeah. Can’t say pornography is really my thing…
Okay, so there are ones less ridiculous. But what would be the fun in listing those down?!
I know I must seem like the most uncooperative and cynical client…but there are certain therapies and techniques I do not regard with dismay and derision. CBT and ‘distraction techniques’ just don’t happen to be included. For example. That same session with R, we touched on my difficulties with describing and expressing emotions and feelings. I was shown the ‘feelings chart’ she uses with children. It had happy, sad, mad etc written and the cartoon faces with the respective emotions depicted. I’ve been given the ‘adult’ sheet before, but this was used to go back to those basic feelings to talk about my experiences as a child. I was first asked to give an example of a time when I was happy as a child and then more recently. The feeling of being scared was discussed next, which led to a conversation about the intense terror I had as a child surrounding a situation I couldn’t escape. The very topic had arisen with Dr T whilst I was in hospital too. Though it stirs up some emotions, it’s a therapy type I do believe in- sorting through what caused the mental health issues in the first place.
Another one is art therapy, one of the classes I attended in hospital. Though I don’t believe it can cure anyone of mental illness, I do believe it can be useful for expressing what otherwise cannot be expressed with words. A girl I was inpatient with, she was extremely quiet. She kept her head down constantly, she rarely attended the group therapies, she barely spoke. When asked to contribute, she’d shake her head and stare at her shoes, even at something as simple as stating her name as an introduction. The art therapy though, she did attend. And unlike the more traditional talking groups, she participated. She made artworks. It allowed people like her and people like me, who struggle with verbalising what’s in our head, to start to express ourselves. Of all the groups I attended in hospital, art therapy was the most non-useless.