I am a self admitted book worm. I love to read and always have. When I was in elementary school, I struggled with reading and they sent me to a special reading class to help me. The issue was that I couldn’t see, not that I couldn’t read and once I had glasses I was off like a shot. I still had to go to the reading class and my reading teacher who was very kind and soft spoken put me off to the side at a desk of my own so I could read and then do what I wanted because, you guessed it, I didn’t need any help reading. Instead I would read the story that I was given and then draw pictures of what I had read, illustrated a world that not the one I in. Big bright colored pictures of the characters and landscapes of a world that a dream, a fantasy, whatever I wanted to be. Very different from plain old me. I read everything: babysitters club, CS Lewis, Amelia Bedelia, and of course: the last unicorn. Shel silverstein characters and I were great friends. Anything I could read I did. Reading gave me a way to escape. The harder things got in elementary school, the more I read. Like swinging, it gave me an escape. I didn’t have any real connection to my peers but these pretend characters I grew to love.
As time went on I read bigger book. Everything from The Canterbary Tales to Stephen King. I had a phase where I read trashy romance novels. I averaged about 6 books a week. I was a fast reader and a lot of mental energy to burn. I wouldn’t just read a story once, I would re-read until book covers fell off. My favorite book for a bit was The Shinning by Stephen King and both the front and back covers fell off. I drew pictures of their world and imaged I was there with them on every adventure. I had books everywhere piled in my bed, under my bed, around my bed. They were a comfort, an escape. I started to write: short stories, poetry. I had poetry published and in middle school won a state award for the best short story. I loved the library, how it seemed to suck out all the noise in my head and make it quiet. I felt like you could feel the hum of the stories behind the spines of the books on the shelves. I always read and I always wrote.
Until I didn’t.
I got sick at 36 and it seems like my brain has stopped me from one of my few pleasures. I was in graduate school at the time and struggled to finish my program. I only had one semester left and passed by the grace of God. I could no longer read. I would stare at the pages and read the same paragraph 10 times before I gave up. I simply couldn’t comprehend what I was reading. It felt like all of the color was drained out of that world and a monochromatic palate replaced it. I continues to buy books. I ordered them with every intention to read them, books for my job and books for fun. Nothing worked. I have always loved the weight of a book in my hand and the smell of a books pages, it meant possibilities. So I was a bit of a snob about reading e-books but I said screw and downloaded them. Still nothing. I gave up and have only read 1 book so far this year.
Then, my brother, also an avid reader (we all are in my family), told me about audio books. I was again, a book snob and thought ‘that’s not really reading’ but I decided to try it. I started my first audio book a few days ago and just finished it. It was a little weird at first to not have written words in front of me but holy crap, the story was good! I have been having a really hard time getting out of bed and before would just lay there with my thoughts spinning but now my brain had something to grab onto. I had some relief from the ever demanding, pounding thoughts that relentlessly beat at me. I am really glad that I gave it a try and I encourage you to try it if you have the same trouble. I came across a good article that I think better explains why people with PTSD or other mental illness have trouble reading, it’s listed below. So please know if you struggle with this, you’re not alone and there are other options. Don’t be a book snob like me and deny yourself something that could make you feel better and take you someplace different for just a little while.
Here’s the link to the article: