No Clickbait Was Involved in the Making of the Post
You probably read the title of this post and thought, ‘Clickbait here we come’. I hate clickbait. I avoid it like the plague. When I tell you that reading has saved my life I mean it both in the most literal of meanings along with the metaphorical.
Reading has seen me through some hard times in my life, right from the moment I was old enough to pick up a book and start stringing the words together.
The Child Who Refused To Remove Her Nose from a Book
I have a vivid memory of being bullied for reading openly. I was about seven years old and was reading in school break time. I loved reading aloud. I used to read to my teddy bears at home. I didn’t see why there would be a problem doing this in the company of people.
I was merrily trotting around the playground, putting on the voices of the characters when I boomed, ‘’I am the king of the castle.’’ Cue two dickhead kids from a few years above me who ripped the book out of my hands, stamped on it, and kept aping my voice.
For weeks every time they saw me they would shout at me in a stupid girly voice that was most certainly not like my own, ‘’I am the king of the castle’’.
I got upset. I dreaded break times. I hated bumping into them and being teased. I stopped reading my book in break time openly and hid in corners with it instead.
Then one day I decided enough was enough. I may have been a shy and introverted child but I was the sister of boys and a tomboy to boot. I loved reading and I was miserable not being able to share that aloud with the world. It was time to kick some bullying arse.
I took my book out to the playground. I read that flipping line that had been used as bullying fodder as I saw them approach. Bullies are thick shits. This is probably why they bully. I put the book in their hands and asked them to try to read it.
Oh what a marvellous feeling it was watching two kids who were two years older than me barely able to read the book. It was even more satisfactory that my reading age was at least three years above where I was and my book reflected that.
Funnily enough they shut their gobs after that and I continued to read with pride, possibly just a little bit louder every time they walked by.
Reading showed me that I can be proud of being a bookworm and that books can save the day.
The Refuge of Growing Up Within Books
Growing up is hard. So much happens in such a short space of time. As adults we often laugh at what we perceive to be such minor stresses for kids but all worries are relative to us.
It wasn’t always easy growing up in a family of five children. It was sometimes loud, claustrophobic, and we fought as kids will do. On the occasions when it all got too much for my little introverted brain I would hide with a book.
I even took to sitting in the airing cupboard next to the boiler if I really wanted to hide. Don’t do this at home kids, it’ll make you sweat like a pig.
I’m not saying family life was dreadful but like any family, we had our downs as well as our ups. When the rows were kicking off, or my siblings were getting too much, I retreated to a more quiet space with my book. I needed both the time out and to escape into another world.
Bloody hell, I think I was Harry Potter before he was Harry Potter!
The Healing Power of Books
Since my twenties I have had episodes of depression; some middling, others far more severe.
Depression renders you incapable of doing much. Even having a shower feels like the equivalent of running a marathon. This is why I am so grateful that with every depressive episode, bar one, I never lost the ability to read.
My last episode was strange. For a few weeks I just couldn’t focus on a book. My concentration went out the window and I found myself reading the same line over and over again.
I cried. That may sound dramatic but for me it was a genuine loss. I could not contemplate a world without books. They have been my companions throughout my life. What do you do when your best friend leaves you? My answer was to feel even more suicidal.
As if in response to my compulsion to end my life, reading trickled back in. I chose ‘easy’ books to begin with. I read small pieces.
Reading saved my life. It saw me there, on the precipice of giving up because what partially defined me; being a reader, looked like it had been lost, and it scooped me back up.
That episode was alarming because whenever I had been previously depressed books kept me going. I would even face the anxiety-ridden jaunts to the library because I was so desperate to read.
As I laid on my bed for hours, unable to communicate with the outside world, I immersed myself into many books. My mind would be taken to places other than the darkness in which it was shrouded.
I could read of how others lived, loved, grieved, and experienced life. Suddenly the world inside my room didn’t seem so small. I was taking part in life outside, albeit within the pages of a book.
Reading whilst in the grips of depression has literally saved my life over and over again.
Losses and Gains
We all have been through losses in our lives. Often we cannot see how we can possibly gain from them. I wrote a post about this previously: Loss: The Thief of Hope, Happiness and Stability
When I have been going through losses I have found each time that reading is my gain. Through the death of my brother, my mum’s cancer diagnosis, her recent death, and a miscarriage, reading has never left me. I have had to let go of a sibling, my mum, and a child, but books and reading have held on to me tightly.
Of course I’d rather have all those other things than a book any day. However life does not work on a barter system. I cannot make a deal to give up books to get those people and opportunities back. I can immerse myself in my love of books to see me through the traumas of loss though.
There have been times when I thought that my heart would literally break for the pain of loss. I barely believed that the next breath would come. How can a grieved heart keep on beating?
Reading gives me something to transport me temporarily to another place. It offers the refuge that it has always been. It bestows the familiar upon me when the world seems changed and alien.
I would love to be able to contact all the authors who saved me through these trying times. They will never know how the formation of their words and amalgamation of their ideas have kept me going. What a privilege it must be as a writer to know that your words have the power to do that.
A Reason to Keep Going
As long as there are books I know I can keep on keeping on.
I’m not stupid. Books alone aren’t going to solve my problems or fix a troubled mind. They do offer me reprieve, hope, anticipation, and comfort though. How many things in our life, outside our loved ones, can we say do that?
I have no issue in stating that books have saved my life many times. I know that with the pages nestling between my fingers, that I will be able to grip on for dear life in future trials too.