Hi, guys! It’s a new day and a new weekend and all that jazz. It’s also Freedom Weekend: aka that time of the year when we celebrate the creation of an imaginary idea based on arbitrary lines drawn in the mud by a couple of men who’ve done terrible things to each other (some more than others). What fun!
Anyway, I thought, given the theme of this weekend, we could talk about one of the most essential freedoms of all: the one that comes from finally feeling like you’re getting a handle on your issues.For me, that would be anxiety and depression, mostly the former at the moment, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to get a semblance of control over them! I’m feeling better, I’m being more productive, I’m completing things on time, and I haven’t felt this good and this hopeful in a while.
And one of the things that happened as a side-effect is that I’m reading again.
If you follow me on Twitter (@rushmukh) or Instagram (@rushmukh. I’m not imaginative with usernames), you’ll have noticed that I’ve been posting a lot about all the books I’m reading right now. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this urge to just devour a book on a daily basis and be mind-numbingly bored if I don’t have one. And it feels good. One of the most disturbing things about depression is the way that it tends to stop you from doing all the things you love, and the fact that I can now go back to reading is a definite sign that I’m coming back to myself again. So I thought I’d put together a list of things that I think could help you do the same.
Let’s get started.
1. Don’t feel guilty about not reading as much as before.
Like we pointed out earlier, depression can stop you from enjoying what you once loved. Different people experience it differently, but generally you start to feel tired and sad and angry all the time. It’s exhausting for your mind to be tackling so many things at once, so it makes perfect sense that it would want to shut down and not deal with any more fatigue than it already is. When this happens, it’s very tough for even a book-lover to concentrate.
So what’s the solution?
Firstly, know that it’s okay. It’s okay to let your mind rest, it’s okay to not do all the things you used to enjoy, it’s okay to just be for a while. Guilt and shame might come calling, as they did for me, but as far as you are able, try and kick them out the door.
2. Let your mind lie fallow for a while.
Being depressed can be a weird whirlwind-in-stasis kind of an experience. You either don’t think about all the things bogging you down at all or you think about them continuously and are not able to stop. It’s often this strange pull of opposites that produces the paralysis and inertia often mistaken for laziness in depression patients.
You know those sustainable agricultural practices we used to read about, when you would leave the land uncultivated for a season, just to let it replenish itself?
They called it the ‘fallow season’, and that’s what I’m talking about. An overworked mind needs to rest, so just let it recuperate for a while. This also applies to those days when you feel like you really want to read a book, but the physical barriers seem impenetrable: getting up, going to the library, downloading a book and so on. Tell yourself it’s okay to let these overwhelm you for a little bit, then lie back until you can breathe again.
3. Start small, with something you know for sure you’ll enjoy.
One of the things we tend to do during depression is push ourselves too far: set expectations too high and then be consistently disappointed when we can’t meet them, because duh. They were impossible in the first place. I think we do this to overcome the self-esteem issues that accompany depression sometimes: we think we’re not good enough and then we follow them up with actions that confirm this. It’s a very scary cycle, but it is one that can be broken, and this always starts with small steps.
So what do you do? In the case of reading, it’s probably best to stick to things that you know you enjoyed earlier.
When you’re this upset yourself, reading Camus or Sartre or Kafka or other Literature with a capital ‘L’ that deals with humankind’s problems and why humans tend to be upset in general probably isn’t a very good idea. So why not start with whatever you liked before the Doom Monster swallowed it all up? For me, this meant going back to Harry Potter, then the fantasy genre in general, then other things that I wanted to experiment with. For you, it might be Tintin comics or Enid Blyton stories. Hey, whatever works.
4. Give yourself a little pat in the back for every complete book you read.
Depression can often convince you that your mind is your enemy. That seems to make sense at the time, because it’s the mind that’s getting all worked up and making you feel terrible all the time. What we don’t remember is that though your depression isn’t all you are, your mind does encompass every part of your personality. So there is a part of your mind that is trying hard to stay afloat, that isn’t whispering horrible things to you, that’s fighting back and starved of love. This part needs affection and a lot of care. Think of it as a small baby, and the only person who can truly love it and take care of it is you.
So every time this part helps you to do something you love, like stepping out into the fresh air, cooking your favourite meal or reading a book, give it a hug.
Tell it that everything’s going to be alright. Celebrate the act that you managed to get this far and do so much. Congratulate yourself, and believe: if you’ve made it this far, you can do more. Of course, the ugly, angry, sad part of your mind needs even more love and care, but dealing with that takes a lot of energy and we can get to it later. For now, let the healthy, struggling part of you breathe. Then gently go about approaching this other monster, and say, “Look, all the things you believe about yourself? That isn’t true. See, we managed to read a book today. We managed to do something we loved. Isn’t that great?” And maybe, just maybe, that other monster will start to believe you. Then the healing can begin.
And that’s it!
I hope you liked this list and I hope that it can be of use to you. These are all the things that helped me personally, right, and I can’t say with any authority that they will for others as well. But if they do allow even one person to find their reading mojo again, it’ll be a win. And even if they don’t- hey, at least you know that you’re not alone, and that we’ll get through this together. *hug emoji*
Don’t forget to share this post with your friends if you like it and it could help them.
That’s all for today and I’ll see you tomorrow with some more ways to get your writing mojo back!