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When I was depressed, I read a lot of books and didn’t write reviews of them and now there is Too Much Backlog and I won’t ever get around to it. So you guys are just going to have to imagine what I thought of Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-Of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life. (Not a big fan.)

Damaged Goods: New Perspectives On Christian Purity: I am a terrible audience for this book because I am very interested in both purity culture and sex-positive feminism and thus nothing she has to say is new to me. “Saving your first kiss until your wedding day is bad! Instead, you should try to figure out when you’re emotionally ready for kissing. It is bad when social pressure makes people ashamed of their decisions to kiss people or not to kiss people.” I mean, I agree and I suspect it will make a lot of people’s lives better if they believed this book, but I don’t feel like I got any new or interesting insight.

Mal’s Spell Book 2: This is the first piece of Descendants expanded universe material that I enjoyed as much as I enjoyed the original movie. (If this sentence doesn’t thrill and excite you, skip to the next review.) The premise is that the villain kids use Mal’s spellbook to write notes to each other, presumably in class. I was particularly charmed by Jay and Evie’s attempts to give Carlos romantic advice (at one point Jay is like “ASK. HER. OUT” which to be honest is also what I feel when I am giving romantic advice). I also enjoyed the excerpts from Auradon etiquette books which Mal pasted into the book and commented on (“apparently you are supposed to eat bananas with a fork? is that a thing?” “how would I know, I only just found out what comes in the peels”). Unfortunately, the second half of the book takes place during the plot of the movie, which both is kind of boring and makes the conceit of the book somewhat implausible. (Why are they passing notes in Mal’s apartment? Surely they can just talk.)

Fuck Love: One Shrink’s Sensible Advice for Lasting Relationships: I actually gave up on this book half of the way through. I bought it because it had a truly amazing title. I had vaguely hoped the content would be about debunking the myth of the soulmate and encouraging people to marry people they’re compatible with even if that person isn’t their One True Love. Sadly, this is not the case. The actual content doesn’t seem to be bad, it is just targeted at a very different group of people than me. All of the first four chapters are different ways of saying “don’t meet someone hot and charming and let that blind you to the fact that they’re kind of a terrible person.” I, who have never dated a charming person in my life unless you could “charmingly awkward,” feel I am not the target audience for this advice. Also, at one point it advised that men cut their hair which I feel is a crime against male beauty.

Note that it does include a brief passage bashing people with borderline personality disorder. And the author’s a shrink? This is why it’s so hard to find a good therapist.

Postpartum depression and anxiety: a self-help guide for mothers: Did you know that postpartum depression is very common and not your fault or a sign that you’re a bad mother? Did you know that mild cases of depression can be treated with self-care, exercise, eating good food, getting enough sleep, and talking to your support system, but in severe cases you may need therapy and medication? Did you know that to help depressed people it is best to be supportive and nonjudgmental and to encourage them to develop a routine and to take care of themselves physically and mentally? If any of these facts sound novel to you, maybe you should pick up this book. Otherwise, skip it.

This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression: This book might be useful to read if you expect to have postpartum depression, even if you’ve been depressed before. It addresses a lot of postpartum-depression-specific concerns, such as coping with common postpartum stressors, dealing with your grief that parenthood isn’t what you expected and resolving your concerns about turning into your mother. There are a variety of helpful CBTish worksheets. I expect to be referring to this often when I have postpartum depression. While it says it is intended for postpartum depression, in reality it covers a variety of postpartum conditions, such as postpartum OCD, postpartum anxiety, postpartum trauma, and postpartum stress syndrome. Sadly, postpartum psychosis is mostly addressed in terms of “you probably don’t have it” and “if you do you should go to the hospital.”

Honestly, this book made me feel like I have so much of a handle on postpartum depression. They devoted pages and pages to no-fucking-shit stuff like “you cannot take care of a baby while depressed on your own” and “it is important to be able to talk to people about your depression” and “you need to have lower standards for yourself while depressed.” But when I think about it if it’s someone’s first time being depressed then they might not know this stuff! I am clearly an expert depressed person and going to do great.

Origins: How The Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives: A combination memoir and pop science book, the author discusses her pregnancy while reviewing fetal origins research. As always, much of this research probably won’t replicate and should be taken with a grain of salt; the author has a little bit of a tendency to write about salacious rat research without providing the caveat that rats are not human beings and many such studies fail to generalize. Nevertheless, much of the advice– about weight gain, stress, alcohol consumption, exercise, and so on and so forth– seems reasonable and solid, and she more-or-less manages to write about the actually important things without going into “well no one can PROVE hair dye doesn’t hurt your baby!” nonsense.

[The next two reviews discuss dieting.]

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works: I actually have a very healthy relationship with food (I got almost a perfect score on their intuitive eater quiz, and the one thing I got dinged on was something they explicitly said later in the book is okay.) So I enjoyed this book a lot because it was full of neuroses I don’t have. For once I get to feel like the sane person who doesn’t crave chocolate cake, eat sixteen different things because chocolate cake is Forbidden and Not Allowed, continue to want chocolate cake, and then finally end up eating it anyway.

I have practiced intuitive eating for most of my adult life, although it is only in the past few years I knew to call it “intuitive eating” rather than “common sense.” My weight is consistently in the normal range, and over the course of my pregnancy I’ve gained the recommended number of pounds without tracking calories. (Only a third of pregnant people gain within the recommended weight range.) On the other hand, I might simply be the sort of person whose weight regulation happens to function properly, in which case I’d maintain a weight set point no matter what I did and no one should listen to me.

The ten principles of intuitive eating are as follows:

  1. Reject the diet mentality (commit to never dieting again, and refuse to allow others to comment on what, when, or how much you eat or what your body looks like)
  2. Honor your hunger (notice when you are becoming peckish and eat)
  3. Make peace with food (allow yourself to eat anything that sounds appealing, without guilt)
  4. Challenge the food police (replace negative self-talk about food, your body, or your diet with positive self-talk)
  5. Feel your fullness (notice when you are moderately full, and stop eating; don’t feel like you have to finish everything on your plate)
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor (eat pleasurable food; if you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you do love it, savor it)
  7. Cope with your emotions without food (develop ways of self-soothing and distraction that don’t involve eating)
  8. Respect your body (don’t insult your appearance; accept your body; stop weighing yourself; buy flattering clothes; allow yourself to be touched)
  9. Exercise (find a way to exercise that is fun and feels good; build opportunities for activity into your everyday life; include strength training and stretching)
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition (practice variety, moderation, and balance in your eating; eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy; eat protein, carbohydrates, and fat; drink enough water; incorporate play foods into your eating, allowing some of your eating to be for health and some for physical pleasure)

Raising A Healthy, Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide To Setting Your Child On The Path To Adventurous Eating: Basically the same thing as Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine, and I honestly recommend that book instead. However, the authors do provide some interesting advice about causes of pickiness. Some toddler picky eating is caused by the child being incorrectly positioned in a high chair. Really look at how your child is sitting and imagine how much your muscles would be straining, and if it looks at all uncomfortable change it. Some picky eating is caused by poor development of gross, fine, and oral motor skills or of the sensory systems. To fix it, offer opportunities to develop those skills.

[The next review is about the Red Pill.]

Saving a Low Sex Marriage: A Man’s Guide To Dread, Seduction, and the Long Game: I spent six dollars on this book and honestly I think it was the most entertained I’ve ever been for six dollars.

This book can be roughly summarized as Horrible Rapey Misogynist Gives Reasonable Marriage Advice. It honestly gives me whiplash. There’s actually a lot of good stuff here! One page explains that you should accept “nos” gracefully and if you whine about how your partner won’t fuck you then they’re unlikely to want to fuck you. The next page declares that men get literally nothing out of marriage unless they are allowed to fuck their wives regardless of their wives’ opinion on the matter, and that it is evil man-hating feminism that men are no longer allowed to rape their wives. One page informs you of the startling redpill truth that your wife is more likely to want to fuck you senseless if you lift weights, dress well, and have your shit together socially, financially, and parentally. The next page explains that this is because you are scaring your wife into thinking you might leave her, because literally the only reason a well-dressed fit man who has his shit together is sexy is that someone else might fuck him. Also, preselection only works on women, because they are Mysterious Incomprehensible Woman Creatures. Please ignore the entire industry of advertising.

It is correctly pointed out that if you have set a boundary, and your partner continues to ignore your boundary, then the next step is to spend more time away from them and pay less attention to them, while continuing to be affectionate and interested in their lives. Then the author says that literally the only boundary you should bother to do this for is a “hard no” for sex (basically, a “no” that means your wife doesn’t want to have sex with you, rather than a “no” which means that she does but the circumstances aren’t right). You should not do that for things like your wife yelling at you, insulting you, or being disrespectful. (“My wife has to want to have sex with me” is not even a real boundary. You can’t set boundaries about other people’s sexual desires! Aaaaagh.)

One thing which is actually a useful concept from this book is the idea of covert contracts. Basically, a covert contract is when you make up a contract with another person inside your head: “if I do the dishes then you’ll fuck me,” “if I help you move then you’ll help me move,” “if I do something that makes me miserable then you’ll be proud of me,” “if I never disagree with you then you won’t ever be mad at me.” The other person only fulfills their end of these contracts by chance, because (a) they have no fucking idea that this contract even exists and (b) you gave them no chance to say “hey, wait, I don’t agree to this deal.” Instead, you should only do nice things you actually want to do for their own sake, and if you doing something is conditional on other people doing something you should make that clear to them. I think this is a super-useful idea which should be rescued from Misogynyland.

I do think it is probably true that many cases of someone’s partner no longer fucking them without any sort of explanation are caused by that partner becoming unattractive, and that marriage counselling is uniquely awful at addressing this situation, because it’s considered rude to admit you kind of find your husband ugly. Not sure what a good solution is.