I read a lot. I can manage a book a day. And I enjoy every turn of the page. I love shopping for books, libraries, seeing what’s new, finding old favourites. I love the way books smell and the feel of a solid block of paper in my hands. I love looking at their covers and relating what I see there to what I’ve read inside. Books might actually be better than chocolate!
But reading has a serious side for me. I have mental health issues (Atypical Bipolar, if you really want to know) and reading has become my best non-medicinal way of managing the symptoms, especially anxiety. I find a book, find a cat, find a comfy seat and dig in to the words until the ‘bad feelings’ go away. Sometimes it takes days – every time I stop reading those feelings come back until I start again. Actually, I’m just coming out of such a phase now.
At these times, it’s the way I read rather than what I read that’s important. It doesn’t matter if I retain the author’s message or not. What matters is my eyes travelling over the words, my mind making sense of them and my hands turning the pages. When I start getting all caught-up in those feelings, I bring my attention back to the printed page. I guess it’s a bit like meditation when you keep gently returning your focus to your breath (or other object of meditation).
Of course, I don’t just read to ‘medicate’ myself. I read because I love it. I have done since before I could read. Well, I loved books and pictures and being read to. I knew Cinderella by heart. I learned to read when I was four and never looked back. My home is full of books. They’re on shelves, in bookcases, in piles. Yes, I know I have too many. But (most of the time) I read the book once and send it on to another via BookMooch. Unfortunately, I also make new acquisitions through that site!
I think most people have something they turn to in times of stress. They smoke, they eat, they watch endless soap-operas. I’m happy with my method of coping. What’s yours?