While I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first started reading, I do know it was at an early age. I had collections of Dr. Seuss books, fairy tales, you name it, I probably had it – and still do. I recall reading by the light of the hallway outside my bedroom when I was supposed to be asleep.
One summer, maybe after second grade, we were given sheets of paper on which to record our summer reading progress. When I turned in my paper that fall, I had filled it front and back; I don’t think any of my classmates did this. I can still see the look on my teacher’s face when I handed in my paper.
I was all about reading all through elementary school – I couldn’t go without having a book to read and would immediately choose new books to check out of the school library after taking an accelerated reading test on whatever I’d just finished reading. I remember a particular shelf in the school library that was filled with such books by Judy Blume, Beverley Cleary, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, to name a few. That was my favorite shelf and I probably read every book contained within the bookcase to which the shelf belonged.
I loved challenging myself to read ‘big’ books as a kid. I read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in fifth grade and adored it. I felt like a big shot reading it during class breaks! I even won the first place trophy for having earned the most accelerated reading points from the time I was able to take tests, maybe in third grade, through eighth grade – it was always a competition between a few of my classmates and I and I would do my best to read fat books offering at least twenty points a pop.
By the time I hit high school, however, I stopped reading independently. While I had the opportunity to read a bunch of awesome books for classes, I had begun getting to the point of being unable to concentrate enough to read at all. I would reread paragraphs and entire pages due to my inability to really absorb myself in stories.
Many years later I figured out my reading habits had drastically changed as a result of being hit by intense anxiety and depression and other things happening in my brain. I was a junior in college and experiencing severe depression. I remember trying to do readings for classes and not being able to retain anything I had just read. Everything was daunting and I missed reading so much.
I feel like I’ve missed out on so many books because of my mental illness. Fortunately, I am now able to concentrate on reading. Being able to actually focus on words now has shown me just how deep my depression ran before I sought help.
I’m proud to say that I’m once again obsessed with reading and have a TBR list at least a mile long! Once again I absolutely must have a book or my Kindle with me anytime I know I’ll be sitting in a waiting room. If I don’t have a book on my Goodreads currently reading shelf, I feel lost!
I’m so grateful that there is aid for those suffering with mental illness and that it is so widely available, even if the quality of care isn’t totally up to par. I’m lucky to have found an excellent psychiatrist whom has helped me return to my old self through a mix of medications and therapy.
I guess this post serves as a pseudo public service announcement: if you adore books but are unable to concentrate on words and retain plot points, you may be depressed, like I was. I was so glad to find out what had caused my years-long reading slump. I’m even more glad to be able to say that chapter is over.