Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

My Self-Esteem File

I tell the story of the poinsettia because it describes what has happened to me with “Beyond Blue.”

At the low point of my depression, I was convinced that I had absolutely nothing to offer the world: that my husband deserved a wife who could load the dishwasher in under an hour and drive herself (and the kids) to the grocery store–one that carried half the weight, not added more weight–and that my kids needed a mom who could cheer them on from the sidelines of their soccer games, not one who rushed to hide behind a tree because she couldn’t stop sobbing and shaking like a person with severe Parkinson’s.

Like Maria in the story, everything I attempted flopped, in my professional as well as personal life. I would compose a sentence on the computer, read it, and delete it. After a few months of this torture, I stopped writing altogether. I canceled my column on young adult spirituality (Catholic News Service), declined invitations to speak, and rejected opportunities to write for magazines I had been trying to break into for years.


One day, my therapist assigned me the task of listing ten positive qualities about myself. I came up with two: I had a well-proportioned nose and thick fingernails. Because I was incapable of finding anything of value in my DNA, she told me to ask four friends to make a list of my strengths.

Thankfully they identified more attributes than my nose and fingernails.

I printed out those e-mails, and filed them a manila folder I labeled as my “Self-Esteem File.” Every time a person complimented me or said anything remotely positive (“You don’t smell today”), I added it my SEF.

Dear readers, your comments are in my SEF now. They inspire me to put myself out there another day and see what comes back. Because, believe it or not, I still struggle with admitting to the world (or at least to Beliefnet’s three million readers) that I am a certified whackjob–albeit a holy one.

When I first started recording my experience with depression, I considered my words to be a bunch of weeds that should be yanked out and disposed of with the other recyclables on Tuesday mornings. But your notes of encouragement make me believe that those words might be flowers to some people, as your words are to me.

Thank you!

  • http://HASH(0xcef29bc) DELORES SCARPULLA

    Please keep writing. It is a precious gift from God to you and to us who read your inspirting words. None of us asked to be depressed; either earlier in life or to have it impact us later and knock us off our feet. The truth is none of us can be that “perfect woman” for long without breaking in some way. Medicines change their affect on us as we age. The truth of God’s Love for us and spreading that Love for You to others thru your writing is a wondrous inspirtation for your readers. It is your precious mission you accomplish in your special way. I love the story of the poinsettias. It has helped me this evening to see God’s love in a new way, and this is what I seek every day. Thank you so much.

  • http://HASH(0xcef3d1c) AW

    You may not even realize it, but there is hope and strength, and yes, even joy, in what you write, and it means the world to me to know that life shines even through depression. I am on my way to a counseling session right now and I feel stronger having read this blog first. Thank you.

  • http://Yahoo Vickie

    Just to let you know that I appreciate your witty words of wisdom, but at my age (56), without a clue as to how to not be alone in the future, assuming my teenage boys get out on their own, I find myself continuously depressed and hopeless. It is not as easy as a dietary change, or exercising, to cope with lifelong patterns of failure. I am already on an antidepressant and we are in therapy as a family. But I do appreciate your words and intend to follow them from time to time, although I am an atheist because I believe that spirituality comes from within, not from without. Anyway, thanks for your time and hoping for a merrier 2007! Vickie

  • Lauri

    The SEF is a great idea and I will pass it on to my daughter in case she hasn’t found it on your blog. I just passed your blog on to her a little while ago, as she has been combatting depression for quite awhile. So glad you are here.

  • Brenda Elizabeth Falkins

    Your words have made me feel like I am not alone. Sometimes it seems the only ones who understand are on the computer. I have been told for 50 years that I do not know how to cook, clean, do laundry or any other household chores. I have been told I am a lousy mother my own mother called the children’s aid on me because I would not let my 15yr. old have his friends in while I was sick with the stomach flu. He was also grounded because he would not stop argueing with me. She came over let him out while I was sleeping and reported me – this was not the first time. The rest of the family follows in her footsteps. I come from a family of 6 but never get company. I have decided to move away from here with my son. She tells him not to listen to me. She said fine go just leave your son. She gives him money all the time and tells him he should not have to do chores or help in any way. I have major health problem and am deaf and live on Disability. I did not want him to worship the $$$$$$ but she has turned him into a person whose “LOYALITIES CAN BE BOUGHT”.

  • Elle

    I think that this SEF is a great idea. I have fought depression, as weird as this sounds, since the age of 3 and my anxiety has gotten worse in the past few months. When I go to the library or even the grocery store I began to panic. I feel as if people are judging me on ALL my faults and I really do believe that something like the SEF will benefit me tremendously. You do good. Keep on keeping on!

  • Kathryn Hodge

    I was invited about 40 pounds ago to write down some things that were of value to me and to set a goal for weight loss. Now I saw a glimpse
    of a goal last month and actually lost 10 pounds. Since then however,
    I have regained my confidence in my inablility to say no to food and
    am on my way up.

  • Pam

    I love to read your stories, inspirations, ideas, etc. I’ve been suffering from depression for 25 years now (of course Im on antidepressents) and have gone through 3 major chages in the past few months. I was engaged for 2 yrs (to whom I though was an awsome man), he broke up with me…I then had to move (I was living in his house), and because of the major melt down I had, I lost my job of 5 years. I then understood how someone could commit suicide. It was the worse of the worse. I am still a LONG way from being better, but I have a new job, a new house, and a new outlook on life. I eat right, exercise everyday, and have an awsome project started. I still cry almost every day on my way home from work and when I go to bed, but at least I GO to work…and I sleep at night again. Thank you so much for sharing and allowing the rest of us to share. It truly helps to express how we feel.

  • Linda

    Today was my first time reading what you had wrote. Most of the time I just delete it. Because I know there is nothing that can help me..But holy cow,everything you wrote was me. Except my nose isn’t any better then any other part of me. My depression is so bad I don’t have friends. what friends I had have all moved on. my family don’t understand what I go through on a daily basis..I am a 57 year old woman who hides from the world. I can’t think of one thing that is good about me. I seem to cry every day. my family now just ignores me. They get together and forget I am alive. I know that is my fault. what do you do if you don’t have any friends to ask about 10 good things about me?

  • Jackie

    This post is in response to Linda. If you don’t have any friends to say 10 good things about you then you do it. I can think of some good things about you right now and I don’t even know you. 1. You are a wonderful 57 years old, imagine the things you’ve experienced in your life because you are 57 not 27 or 17. 2. You are the only you there is in the whole world and that alone is special and beautiful. 3. You are a woman which brings with it a wonderfulness all of it’s own. 4. You have family which some people don’t anymore due to them dying. 5. You have a computer and can read. Some people don’t and can’t read. I knew a man that could never read his entire life and he was 70 years old when he died.
    Basically what I’m trying to say is focus on the things you have that other people don’t, things that are unique to only you and things we all seem to take for granted until they are gone. Look in the mirror and see the beautiful woman hiding behind the tears!

  • Grandma Lois

    This is for Linda…Linda, I had a bout with clinical depression and I know a little about how you feel. Don’t give up! I had to overcome a lot of negativity in order to finally force myself to reach out for professional help. You didn’t say if you were receiving any kind of help, but if you aren’t you should…and if you are, and it isn’t helping, keep looking. There are a lot of people who can help you to feel less alone. Another suggestion is to search for spiritual support through your church…the pastor can either counsel you or hook you up with a spiritual counselor. Even better, join a small group at church, such as a Bible study, Sunday School or discussion group. These are people who are ready, willing and able to offer friendship, advice and help. Never forget that God loves you; all you have to do is believe and trust. This is the most important thing to remember: God made you and he doesn’t mess up! Maybe by reaching out for help, you will be a blessing to someone else. Hang in there and don’t ever forget that even if people disappoint you, God’s got your back!

  • anita roland

    This is for Linda, I know how you feel I am 52 a widow for a years and have no friends and no life… I don’t work am living with daugter and family. I feel all I am good for is a babysitter and housekeeper.
    My daughter is controling my life and I have no friends.

  • Robin Parris

    I have had excuse me I do have and have had depression since I was a teenager. I have tried medication and that does not work. Or at least nothing that I have tried has worked. I ended up marrying someone who tried me like I thought I was. That it is dirt,or maybe lower than dirt. I have prayed and prayed but I feel so hopeless. My faith is so weak when it comes to this area. I can’t let God take it away. I am afraid I guess. I wont to try what you said about the self-esteem file but I only have one friend ( I think), I will have to send the rest to family. What do you do when they can’t think of anything either? I guess I will have confirmation that I am useless. Thank you for having the strenght to help others with what is hurting you. God bless you.

  • Antida

    This is for Linda.
    I am a widow after 48years of marriages. He passed away 3months ago.SInce hhe passed I went to hospital twice last year. I ask God and make a resolution to HIM to help me as HE helped me before and HE gave me strenght and courage to vist my hubby for 3years of his creul desease of Dementia. He is helping me cause I am not crying any more.
    SO Linda pray to God to help you and try to make some friends. Have a good attidue with JESUS help and always let go of the past.You are good cause you can find friends even on the computer as I did.When I feel lonely I always give the loneliness to JESUS and He will help me right away and sometimes too I feel sad. SO JESUS is my wisdom, courage and strenght and hope HE be to you too and find friends and happiness for you
    God bless you my friend

  • connie copple

    Well Londa,
    I have been living with chronic to sever depression for at least 10 years. I have mutilated most of my body trying to get the pain to stop or at least subside. About 4 years ago I met this wonderful LCSW who helped me turn my life around. When I met her I was disabled, at home and never left my bed. Todat I work a full time job running a Dr. office I am able to parent my kids and help others. my self esteem has gotten 100% better and I am no longer on anti depressant medication, I was on it for 10 years. I not only try to work on myself esteemissues but I also keep a gratitiude list. 10 things I am greatful for everyday. I have struggled through being widowed at 22 (my Fault) I have survived a substance abuse problem, divorced 17 years ago and raised 2 boys on my own for 20 years. i am catholic and just returned to the church 6 months ago and my life is coming together! Thank you for sharing it really helps me!

  • winniethephoo

    Definetly I´ll do that SEF I think it is a great idea. I´m low now because several frindships ended and tend to think again and again about the hurt and dissapointment of that. I might record them and repet them as a mantra for the whole day. It is good to know that others have issues as one has. When the world we live in constatly says we are not worth; we star to belive thats true.So it is good to do the opossite for a while, at least till we have some equilibrium.
    thanks for the idea!

  • Dreamgirl

    Does this self esteem file really work? I am divorced military member (just over a year)with 2 children, and a part time student. Around them I am fine. When they go to sleep, that’s when i hit bottom. I keep up a good front for them. I haven’t been diagnosed with depression, because i’m afraid this will add a stigma to me as a active duty military member and possibly have my kids taken away. I too believe in God but with this divorce and moving to a new city, and things from my past, i believe he does not hear my prayers. I am sad and lonely. I don’t sleep much. My work is not affected by this because i put on a front there too. My ex has moved on to include getting remarried 8 months after our divorce. I feel like he threw me away like trash and that our almost 10 year marriage meant nothing. He is saved after years of me praying for that while we were married. this may sound selfish, but now someone else is reaping the benefits of my prayers. yes, God answered that prayer, but now i truly feel as if He has turned his back on me. my faith has dwindled to almost nothing. i try to read my Bible, but sometimes that doesn’t help. How do i get out of this “dark place”? Thanks in advance for your help.

  • belinda Resto

    I feel i have depression with all that is going on in my life. Right now i should be happy because finished school and will be receiving a degree just with that said i’am not. My husband has terminal Cancer and i have depression and on top of that i am not happy, sad, lonely, feelings of being afraid of losing my husband. Can you help me?

  • belinda Resto

    please may i have someone pray for my husband and me,I’am trying to be strong for him ( he has Terminal Cancer) i’am terrified of losing him please can someone help me.

  • Floretta Fields

    Well, after reading these comments, I feel rather bad writing. I am a functional depressed person. I take medication for anxiety depression, however, it does not seem to help. I have low self-esteem and I am so shy. My question is, can another person lower your self-esteem so much that it affects you for the rest of your life. I was married for 20 years to a man that enjoyed putting me down every single day. I was raising six children virtually alone, volunteered at their schools, accompanied them on trips the school took, involved them in extracurriculum actvities, kept an immaculate home, cooked a nourishing dinner everyday, but still he complained.
    Finally, after 15 years I went to see a therapist because I wanted to save my marriage. After the third session, the therapist said, I am not trying to be mean, but exactly what are you trying to save? That question stuck with me and I think it was the turning point in my life.
    I am now divorced, my children are all grown, but after all these years, I still feel worthless. I can still hear his voice in my ear, telling me I am nothing. Whenever I have to get up in front of the class to present, I am a nervous wreck. Is there any help for me, or can you pray something like this away? I use to feel so confident.

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