Good evening, friends. As 2018 comes to its end, I have been reflecting on some of the positive things that have arisen, or that I have come to realise during this year, which honestly was one hell of a fucking year for me. Since I am first and foremost a book blogger, I thought it would be neat to talk about how books have helped my mental health through the various struggles that the year has brought my way.
One of the things that I have come to appreciate about life are the small things and the unexpected treasures that can make someone’s life a little bit brighter. Reading, and literature in general, has been a big passion in my life for a very long time, to the point where I am aspiring to become an author one day. My recognition of how books are a wonderful companion to life’s shitty occurrences may have happened in 2018, but in hindsight, I believe that they have been supporting me and offering me companionship since I was a wee brat.
Before I dive in, I’d like to offer a brief heads-up that a couple of these may become a tad bit emotional, so you may want to grab a tissue.
The first one is rather basic and probably an aspect that many people will relate to: escapism. In my worst days of depression when nothing would help me get out of my own head, reading provided me with the solace of escaping. Depending on the narrative, it would transport me out of my hurtful and harmful brain, and deep into the pages of the stories I’d be holding. That time spent within the forests, or walls, or vast expanses of fictional worlds was time spent without the burden of depression on my shoulders. Escapism is quite a profound method of coping with depression, if used in a healthy way, and is something that I have grown to cherish with the dawn of each new day. My favourite genres to read for situations such as these include horror, thrillers, and science-fiction.
Another typical one, but a vital one nonetheless: inspiration. Whenever I felt like giving up, whether it was on passions, projects, or even my own life, I would pick up a very specific book series that I knew would help inspire me. It’s my favourite trilogy of all-time and I have read it and re-read repeatedly and will do so probably until the day that I die. It is jam-packed with representation of PTSD and loss, genuine, heart-warming friendships—some of them unlikely—and people who must face adversity unlike any other in unexpected ways. I also greatly enjoy the rich world-building, fantastical creatures, and amazing action. I also like to read this series when I’m falling into a writer’s rut. My heart is always left feeling motivated and refreshed and warm upon finishing it. The trilogy I’m talking about is The Blade of the Flame Trilogy by Tim Waggoner via the Eberron universe.
I feel this one may come as a bit of a surprise for some folks as I’m not going to talk about it in its emblematic form. Like many bibliophiles, sometimes the best way to deal with stress is to buy mountains of books. I’m very much an individual who has emotional impulses that are triggered when I’m under significant amounts of mental and emotional strain, impulses like shopping. About a year ago, when my insomnia was at its absolute worst, I lay in bed at 3am and spent roughly $400 on books on a whim. Afterwards, I had felt so utterly terrible with myself and it only exasperated the things that were causing my insomnia. So, in March 2018, when I had another irresistible urge to shop on such a grand scale, I went out and got a library card instead. Since then, I have read 75 library books, and I’ve checked out far more (but never got around to them). This has greatly decreased my out-of-control bookish spending, which then helped us out a lot when we had to pay for my cat’s surgery later in the year. Libraries are true magic in the world. I hope to dive into this experience in a future Self-Care Sunday segment.
I don’t like to talk about this one too much because I’m sensitive about my OCD condition. I will occasionally make jokes about it, but in all honesty, my OCD, mysophobia, and my incessant need to have everything around me be neat and clean is a result of some traumatic living conditions I experienced for about ten years. Nevertheless, here we are. When my anxiety is severely horrid, particularly after a PTSD episode or a terrible panic attack, I tend to clean, no matter how clean everything is around me already is. I will clean it and re-clean it. Same thing with organising stuff. These inclinations are further heightened during bouts of anxiety and paranoia. By being able to physically participate in an act that is wholly under my control, it helps me to feel calm and grounded. So, in these instances, I will take an unorganised stack of books (I have a few of them laying around the house specifically for this occasion, which I must force myself to keep around) and I will organise them on a designated bookshelf. They’ll be organised by colour, author, genre, etc.; it really depends on what I’m feeling in that moment. I’ll leave the books like that for a week or sometimes even a month, before I take them down and shelf them properly, leaving the bookcase empty for the next time that I need it. This entire ritual, as it were, is remarkably therapeutic! Please, let me know if you’d be interested in a self-care post that goes into more intimate detail about how it helps me on a mental and emotional level, and how I came about doing this.
The last thing I struggle with is insurmountable grief from losing my brother many years ago. When my mourning and sorrow become so bloody overwhelming so as to completely incapacitate me, I think about the extraordinary passions that we shared: music (pianoforte) and literature. I have a few precious books that he gave to me that I cherish with every fibre of my being. When I start to miss him so dearly and in agonising ways, I will pick one of those books up and hold it close, smelling the pages, and just taking comfort in one of the finest gifts he has ever given to me: my love of reading. Most of them smell of old ink and aged wood, sometimes from the shelves where they were housed before they found their way to me. A couple of them have lingering essences of his cologne or hints of his favourite cigar. These fragrances bring me an unfathomable amount of comfort and really work to alleviate the sadness that tends to sweep me away into oblivion.
Those are five different ways that books have helped me cope with mental health illnesses in 2018 (though I’d argue as I did above, that it’s been far longer than this year; I just finally felt it). These are some of the reasons why I treasure reading and how it will always be something very near and dear to my heart. Yes, I go through ruts and slumps, and books can annoy me at times, but that is rather representative of things you love the most, isn’t it? Such as your closest family members, friends, and/or companions in life?
Please, come chat with me in the comments! Do books help you in anyway? If yes, then how so? I’d love to see the positivity that books instil into others!