Pleasurable Activities

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.

13 thoughts on “Pleasurable Activities

  1. Btf. You just made my fucking day hun. The most pleasurable activity I’ve done all week is read you ripping the shit out of suggested pleasurable activities. I often do this with the self help manuals therapists/ dr’s etc give me. Posting yours was genius. I read it on my way to work and laughed so hard alone in the street that I almost stood on a small dog, I walked into a passer by and got several strange looks that I probably deserved. Thanks for the giggle BTF. Xxxxx

  2. Ditto Katie. I think you have discovered Pleasurable Activity 186. By 129 I’d burst out laughing. (Great now everyone in the library thinks I’m odd!)

  3. thankyou!
    “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.”
    awesome. Why the hell would they give you something clearly designed for an American audience…?

  4. What a load of old toss. Why do therapists and psychiatrists think that mentals are fucking stupid? Seriously, who could take this wank remotely seriously?

    I think you should validate your feelings about this whilst giving voice to your inner self. Rip the fucking thing up and hand it back 🙂

  5. i think ive had a version of that handout. i was once given a dbt manual with a list of 100 example activities and hobbies. ‘sex’, ‘woodwork’, and ‘stamp collecting’ were highly rated.

    like, i may be mental, but i aint STUPID!!!!


    i have a collection of these things. keep em, they goo dfor cheering yourself up. cant be that bad-i mean, id have to kill myself if it actually applied!

  6. LOL OMG the list. You’ve put me in stitches 🙂 I have to agree with you and rest, that it must be a joke!

    Can you imagine trying to distract with thoughts about sex? Hmm, hard therapy session….try focussing on a pleasurable activity…..client starts moaning on the couch, lmfao. It’s something out of a movie, I swear!

    I would have been sooo embarrassed if a therapist whipped out a tool used with children. WTF.

  7. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. my therapist showed me something similar. 50 ways to self soothe without using food.


    stay strong hun!

  8. LOL, sounds like something out of a DBT workbook.
    These lists always have weird things on it. I remember reading one and coming across “Make a list of ten celebrities you want to have sex with”

  9. I wonder if there comes a point where maybe you have to put aside your cynical views and dislike of what treatment and therapy has offered you so far, or is offering you and just try it – like, really try it (as opposed to half heartedly trying it so you can say you’ve tried it and then tear it apart) and see what happens. Things like CBT & DBT are some of the only evidence based therapies out there. They’ve been reliably proved, time and time again, to help people. I can truly appreciate how ridiculous a lot of the worksheets and suggestions seem (because I’ve been there – I’ve sat through countless variations of CBT, DBT, ACT & other smancy private psychiatric clinic based groups, I’ve read all the worksheets and scoffed at them too so I do get it.) But you keep asking where to next – seeing as you’ve ‘exhausted all options’ after spending a few weeks in a private psychiatric hospital. Maybe you don’t have many choices left but to whole heartedly embrace whatever potential help you’re offered and make the most of it. Just a thought, really…

    It’s interesting that you use the word ‘cure’ and talk about not being exceptionally ‘better’ after spending time in hospital. I’m curious as to what exactly your goal of treatment is? Because I don’t think there’s a ‘cure’ for most mental health problems in the way that there is a cure or a quick fix for a broken arm or an infection. You can’t take some pills or simply go to the hospital and ‘be treated’ for mental health problems in quite the same way as a lot of physical ailments. I think recovery from mental health issues is much more of a journey than it is an ultimate destination. & it takes a lot of effort on the part of the client to get that journey going. You actually have to do the hard work to move along the path, as opposed to someone with cancer who is gets chemo, which does the hard work. In this instance you really have to the hardest yards to get to a different place (whatever the place is that you want to get to.) Other people like your psychologist and your psychiatrist are, realistically, guides and tools to help you on your journey. They can’t ‘fix’ you for you.

  10. I know these things seem vacuous – but those of us closer to recovery are less quick to mock because we know actually it is bloody hard work to do any of the steps you listed- successfully.

    What do you expect from your therapist or treatment team – a silver bullet? No – it is hard work and sucking up your cynicism that is going to make it in the end.

    All this energy and antagonism towards services – services you sought out or you wouldn’t have broadcast your OD online – you could spend that trying to get better… no one is going to save you and no one is ever going to appreciate truely how bad you feel – recovery starts when you stop thinking you can prove it and start thinking you want to leave it behind.

    • No I don’t expect my treatment team to serve it up on a silver platter. I did say there are certain therapy types I am more willing to engage in such as psychotherapy and schema therapy which I haven’t mocked.

      In ‘broadcasting’ my OD online- On tumblr I posted an offhand, sarcastic comment saying that I would feel ill after taking some pills. People who are familiar with tumblr will know that many posts come up on the dashboard and I expected the one post amongst many to be ignored. I certainly didn’t do it so that people would send emergency services my way- there is nobody I know personally who follows me on tumblr.

  11. I definitely agree that when I was given that handout, I was like… wtheck… for a lot of them.. Also, some activities that were essentially the same thing were listed twice (slight variation in what it was called). However, I DO think forming a list of good distracting activities is useful.

    I think with any kind of treatment you have to be open to it… maybe a little bit moreso with DBT, but trying can’t really leave you any worse off.

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