Not reading books has changed me. Once a championship speller, my speling is now terribole. My grammar has deteriorated. Sometimes I’ll mumble a word if I’m not sure about it, or recast a sentence in a different tense. That used to be one of my favorite things to do with words, only now, well, I’m not so sure my new sentence would be correct.
But grammar and spelling are mechanics. Not reading books has cut me off from Book people. I miss talking about books. I miss browsing in bookstores. Hanging out in libraries. Meeting the author. The world of books was always my home. I feel diminished. I feel cast out.
What I’ve learned from all of this is that reading has profound, positive effects on us. This isn’t news, of course, but it’s been a strangely reaffirming experience, seeing the truths about reading proven true firsthand. When you stop for a while, things start to fade away and the world seems a lot more ordinary, the mind, less sharp. Perhaps more than anything, I miss my escape.
Some of you have suggested I try Books on Tape. It’s a good idea. It feels a little too passive for me, but I’m giving it a try with Go Set A Watchman.
As a result of medication, depression, ennui, or all-of-the-above, I haven’t read a book in about eight years. I read the Harry Potter books, Twilight, ten pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, and The Road. Other than that, I have not read a fucking thing.
I didn’t decide to stop reading books. I loved reading. Even when I work full-time, I read at least two or three books a week. Since I was small, books have been my refuge and my delight. etc. You know the drill. In the my more recent years of what I call “bad reality,” I think books did save my life. A lot.
I stopped reading because I had a Seizure. Medication-related, I’m convinced. I was in my backyard. I was on the ground. I was in the ER. No diagnosis. After that I took to my bed for six weeks and watched every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on videotape. My personal collection. When I finally emerged, the printed word no longer interested me.
Not just books. Newspapers, magazines, The New Yorker, Yes. The New Yorker..
I received my first Purim basket as a “single” person this week. Rather than fall into “woe-is-me” mode, I focused on the fact that for the first time in 16 years, I didn’t have to share the bag of goodies. I could have the tangerine and the Clif Bar. This year there was a package of Red Vines and you know what? I could keep that, too. I felt a little selfish, thinking along those lines. The initial shock of receiving the basket in the first place could have plunged me into a depression, but I didn’t let it. I forced myself to feel better by focusing on the basket. So I think sometimes it’s okay to be a little selfish.
Earlier today, I thought it might be a good idea to read the papers I signed last week at the hospital. I sat down with a cold glass of Gatorade, and readied myself for some serious legal obfuscation. Just as my eyelids started to blink their way to slumberland, my eye caught on the word “provocative.” That woke me. Was there something unusual about my treatment? I read the whole sentence and discovered that we were being asked not to wear provocative clothing at the hospital.
Given that we’re going to be traipsing in and out of the hallways of a mental hospital, this is probably very good advice. This hospital treats some tragically ill people. Some of them are ambulatory. As sick as I am, I don’t live in the same universe as these residents, thank goodness. I’m “just depressed.” I’ve seen enough of severe illness firsthand to know enough to leave my Donna Karan shiny, black mini-skirt and fishnets at home. Because you never know who’s going to join you for lunch in the cafeteria.
So, I haven’t written in this blog for two months. I have a good reason. I was depressed. I am depressed. I hope that soon I will not be depressed.
I’ve been on temporary disability since June. You’d think I’d be writing about this experience “as it happens,” but I haven’t been interested chronicling anything. There are still a few things I can force myself to write. That’s another blog entry for another day. I have not been writing, I have not been reading books. It’s been summer, and I wasn’t even eating peaches.
More than one doctor has told me that I’m not getting better. More than one doctor has advised me to enter a day program for adults with severe depression. My only other option is ECT (electro-convulsive therapy.) I reject ECT. I choose hard work and therapy, neither of which is a favorite.
I had my intake at the hospital today. I start the program on Monday. I’ll be writing about it here. I’m ready to talk about depression.