how my mental health affects my reading

Posted May 21, 2019 by cottoncandybookwitch in books, personal / 10 Comments

I feel like two thirds of what I talk about on this blog is books and witchy stuff and the remaining third is me being too open about my mental health struggles. Honestly, sometimes it feels like two thirds of what I talk about is books/witchy stuff and half of what I talk about is mental health, even though that math obviously does not add up.

Sometimes I do worry that I am too open about my struggles with mental health on this blog, because I do put it on my resume, so if you came to this post via that, hi, I struggle with mental illness, but I am fully capable of any job I set out to do and always do my best. Anyway. I think it’s important to be open about one’s mental health struggles if you can because there are lots of other people going through the same thing who might benefit from reading about it, and I think talking about it can ultimately help start removing the stigma from it. So that’s why I do it.

Moving on.

While I was writing my post on my reflections about my reading for 2019, I started realizing a lot of my reading habits and feelings about reading are being strongly influenced by my mental health right now, so today I’ll be sharing how my anxiety and depression is affecting my reading habits.

 

it affects what i read

For a while now, I’ve been mainly interested in reading fantasy books and contemporary fluffy books. I used to read really gritty contemporaries that would crush my soul, but also, I read books like that because I wanted to read about my struggles and feel validated and not so alone. For the past few years though, I’ve gotten to a stage in my mental health where I don’t want to be thinking about it all the time in everything I do, and I’ve started using reading as much more of an escape from my problems. I find I don’t want to read a hard-hitting serious book with lots of tough feelings, because I am already feeling a lot of tough feelings and just need a break from them when I read.

 

i’m more appreciative of content warnings

I have always understood the importance of content and trigger warnings, but up until a couple years ago never really utilized them for myself when reading other bloggers’ reviews. I’d skip past the trigger warnings because I thought I could handle serious and upsetting stuff and be fine, but lately, I’ve just wanted to avoid reading books that upset me or trigger emotions relating to past traumas. Therefore, I find any trigger warnings, especially about topics like suicide, grief, death, and sexual assault really helpful. That way, I don’t have to put myself in a situation where I can be set back emotionally by what I read.

 

my concentration really sucks

…which drastically affects how much and how fast I read. I learned recently that trouble concentrating or focusing can be a symptom of anxiety and also persistent depression or dysthimia, which I have. I find it a lot harder to sit down and read a book for a few hours, and can no longer binge read a whole book in a couple hours like I used to be able to. I also can’t read and watch a movie at the same time like I used to always do. This means I read a lot less during the year because I can’t focus on reading a book fast. I used to be able to read upwards of 100 books a year, and now I’m lucky to get to 50.

 

i feel really guilty about my reading

Having super low self-esteem is one of the symptoms of my depression, and that makes me beat myself up about things a lot more than probably someone without it might. I don’t know what to do about it, but I feel super guilty about how slow my reading has gotten, and also how little I read compared to how I used to read. I know I still read faster than the average person, but that does not comfort me very much. Reading has unfortunately somewhat become another thing I use to beat myself up and bring myself down, and I’m not sure what to do to fix that.

 

it affects my investment in the story/characters

I don’t want people to think that all depressed people have this problem, but for me, I’ve noticed that as my depression has gotten more consistent that I’ve had more trouble feeling fully invested in and connected to stories and characters. I used to feel super passionately hinged on characters in a story, and now I feel like there’s a wall between me and characters I read about. I think its because I’m trying so hard in other aspects of my life to feel disconnected from what I’m feeling, but I really miss feeling deeply connected and emotionally invested in a character or story.

 

In short, being a book lover with mental health issues has been a TASK lately. I’m not trying to say that all people with mental health struggles have these issues when reading or that I even have them all the time, but as of now, this is how being depressed is affecting my reading. If anyone has similar struggles or has any tips on dealing with these things, please feel free to sound off in the comments!

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10 responses to “how my mental health affects my reading

  1. I appreciate this post and the fact you are open with your mental health. I agree and think the more we talk about it the more the stigma will go away. I struggle with anxiety and it has definitely affected what i read, how much i read and how i feel about my reading as well.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this!! I feel like mental health in regard to how it affects reading is such a rarely discussed topic, but SUCH an important one <3

  3. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this post, Mel, I feel like these kind of things are so, so, so important to state. I also feel like my mental health can affect my reading and, if I appreciated the trigger warnings always ever since they’ve became commonly used, I appreciate them even more when I’m feeling, well, not really in a great place mentally, because they allow me to pick up the books I know I can handle reading at the moment. <3

  4. I am so glad that you talk so openly about your mental health. Honestly, seeing other people writing about their reality helps me to have the courage to write about my struggles. The more we all talk about it, the easier it becomes. I have to think that each time I talk about my depression, some stranger reads it and maybe doesn’t feel so alone that day, even just for a few moments.

    Until I read this post, I’d never really thought about how my depression affects my reading. I mean, sure, I seek out books with mental health rep because I’m passionate about that, but I didn’t realize that being depressed changes HOW I read. I’ve definitely been struggling lately to feel really invested in the stories I’m reading, with a few notable exceptions, but I’d never really attributed that to depression. So thanks for pointing that out – I feel less bad about myself now, knowing that I’m not heartless, I’m just…depressed.

    • cottoncandybookwitch

      I’m glad my post resonated with you at least a little. I always worry I’m being too personal when I write about mental health issues, but I just have this hope that it will help at least one person not feel so alone in their struggles.

      Honestly I hadn’t attributed my struggle to invest in characters to depression until recently either, but I think for me it’s just part of the pervasive feeling of “blah”ness that I have because of my persistent depression that just makes it hard for me to get excited about pretty much anything.

      thank you for your thoughtful comment <3

      • Honestly, it’s easy to worry about being “too personal” when writing about mental health, but I think that’s just a testament to the fact that mental health is still so stigmatized in our culture. It’s not really too personal, it’s honest and true, and in talking about what we’re going through, we’re doing our part in breaking down those walls.

        The persistent “blah”ness that you describe is SO REAL and it’s the most difficult thing to describe to people who haven’t experienced it. It’s my most frequent symptom, whether I’m on or off anti-depressants. It sucks so much. But sometimes it helps when you can recognize it and give it a name and know that it’s not you, it’s the depression talking.

        I hope things improve for you soon <3

  5. ugh yes yes yes yes yes!!! All of this is so true, especially the content warnings. I don’t think people realize that sometimes you want to read things that you have experienced so you aren’t alone and other times you can’t have anything to do with them. I am so grateful you are so open about your mental health and hope that you continue to be so in the future.

    • cottoncandybookwitch

      thank you <3 sometimes I worry I'm too open, but I think it's important for people to talk about mental health issues so others know they are not alone.

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