There’s one thing that I do every single day and it’s not drinking coffee (yes, thats right, somedays I don’t drink coffee).
I fell into this habit in my early teens. It started with age appropriate material but when I was twelve and put on anti-depressants, I picked up Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurzel, because if I was going to be a part of this, I should know about it.
I read my required reading during my classes but as soon as I found my seat on the bus, my book came out of my bag, and kept me company during the ride home. Any time to myself was time to read. And when I developed insomnia at the precious age of thirteen — I was given the gift of time — more time to read.
“A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.” — David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
I stayed up all hours of the night reading. Plowing through books faster than I could keep up with. Of course, I was a zombie the next morning with red eyes and stiff arms, but at least I had read. My life turned into a cycle of school, reading, book buying, school, reading, and book buying. I asked for books for my birthday one year but by the time I received them, I had already read them all.
When I was seventeen, I finally got a job at a bookstore, and god, that was heaven. Because for me, I’ve found my most sympathetic friends in novels, memoirs, and short stories. I’ve found hope in the pages of my favorite novels. Some of the times that I feel the loneliest were the times after I’ve finished a great novel, when I read the last words, closed the cover and came back to the chilling reality that I was living in.
Books took me far away from the place I was and anywhere it took me — for me — was better than where I was. And if it took me somewhere worse, well then the ride back to where I had come from wasn’t that bad.
I knew then, that I could do it.
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates
Reading is something I still do now. Every night, like clockwork, I slip into bed, pull out my Kindle, and return to where I was the night before. Now it is something I use to help with my insomnia — it works better than Ambien ever worked —it takes my mind off the worries of the day, flushes out the anxiety. There has become something magical to my routine, my routine of reading every night — something private, the intimacy between me and the page — something sacred that I respect.
It was books that showed me that human suffering was universal and diverse. That depression and addiction existed outside of the walls of my own home. That the mind can betray you, convince you, even fail you. It showed me the intricacies of relationships — family, friends, strangers. Books taught me how to be aware of those around me — that stories come from truths and that I was surrounded by an infinite number of them — all I had to do was open my eyes and listen.
Books showed me how to connect to the world around me and how the world connects to me. I had always thought I was unrooted, unconnected, a single balloon floating aimlessly in the sky, but it was through these texts that I found myself standing on the same earth that everyone else in the world is standing on.
That I, that we, are all connected — in our lives, ideas, our dreams, and most of all, in our pain.
A few of those books:
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
- Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wutrzel
- Dry, Augusten Burroughs
- An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison
- Fun Home, Allison Bechdal