Reading with Depression

While we at the Riot are taking this lovely summer week off to rest (translation: read by the pool/ocean/on our couches), we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Wednesday, July 8th.

This post originally ran Jan. 29, 2015.
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I can’t read. I mean, I can read, but I can’t seem to read right now. The words don’t register lately and I often find myself tossing my book/reading device onto my blankets in a huff.

Many people find solace in reading, often turning to favorites in order to recapture good feelings. I have several friends who binge read the Harry Potter series when they need a quick pick me up or go through a stack of children’s lit. But for me, I’m the opposite when it comes to reading with depression.

Depression is a facet of my life that doesn’t go away. Temporarily, yes, but certainly not permanently. It pops up when it wants to, even when everything in my life seems to be going right. However, the nature of the disease tends to rob me of the things I enjoy and all I can seem to do is sleep during my free time.

It’s not for lack of trying. Reading while depressed often leads to me going over the same paragraph with nothing sinking in whatsoever. My inability to soak up details or become fully invested in the story produces great frustration because I know how much of a voracious reader I used to be. Add in the growing stack of books I hope to review for other outlets and the email notifications from my local library, announcing that a book I had on hold is finally available, and my trouble with reading becomes a constant reminder.

It’s a cycle. I’m depressed so I can’t find any enjoyment in reading, let alone anything else, but being reminded that I currently have no interest in cracking open a book just tends to exacerbate my depression or add to the list of things that make me worse.

I have yet to find a way to combat my issue. Reading in very small stints is something that works. Twenty minutes during my commute. Fifteen minutes between a break in class. Just enough to quickly shock my system, so to speak, before the ennui can catch up and fully set in. And the Kindle app on my phone makes me feel great about myself when it counts down how much time I have left in the book, if I keep up my current reading speed.

There are countless reading slump remedies, but this is no ordinary reading slump. It’s a reading slump brought about by a condition I can’t quite help, which makes it harder to find a solution. In the meantime, I keep amassing books whether through publishers, libraries, or impulse buys at bookstores. The sheer weight of my TBR pile is stagger and I’ve resigned myself to never reaching the bottom of it. I don’t want to put a freeze on reading entirely, if I can help it.

Perhaps I’m putting undue pressure on myself and should let my lust for reading return naturally, but reading is technically a part of my job. I can’t just deal with it when I feel better.

But what can I do? No, seriously. Should I stick to smaller works like novellas and short stories? Things that are short can certainly boost my sense of accomplishment if I manage to finish them. Or stick to the tried and true, just read what I want and whenever I want? Exercising while reading is also a no go because I can’t focus on the page while I’m moving and I tend to zone out with audiobooks.

So friends, Romans, Rioters…lend me your reading suggestions. How do you break through such complete and utter disinterest? What reignites that reading passion for you?

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