I used to love reading when I was younger. While I wasn’t the biggest bookworm in my class, I definitely saw the appeal. I could read an entire book in a day, and on occasion had stayed up way past my bedtime because I had to know what happened next.
Then, without knowing how or why, I just stopped. I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I couldn’t find a book that really resonated with me, the words didn’t captivate me like they used to. Reading suddenly became boring, and I stopped making time for it. I was still in school, the books assigned to us for exams were the only ones I read.
Maybe that had something to do with it, but it was also around this time I first started showing signs of major anxiety and depression; I just didn’t know it yet. I lost interest in a lot of things, but when I stopped reading, I felt like I’d lost a big part of my personality.
Reading was also an act of self care for me, and by not allowing myself that quiet time and escapism, I was making my mental health worse.
When I was sixteen, I left school. My friends and I were going our separate ways and I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. I lost touch with a few friends during this time. It was summer, and I was lonely. On one of my better mental health days, I decided going outside might be a good idea.
I wandered into Waterstones, but it had been a while since I’d last been here. Feeling overwhelmed by all the new titles on the shelves I didn’t recognise, I headed to the back of the store; to the comic book section.
I didn’t read many comics when I was a child, but I did enjoy watching DC and Marvel cartoons. That familiarity and the fact that comics were more visual than walls of text, made me feel like this might be a good way to ease back into reading. I thought this visit would only be a one off, to pass the time.
But I kept coming back. Almost every day, with hardly any social commitments and no more school, it was a long summer. I sat at the back of Waterstones, pouring over the comics. And like a child staying up way past her bedtime, I had to know what happened next. With no money to buy them, I had to read them in the store. Some of the staff looked at me with pity, but nobody said anything.
Summer was coming to an end. On one of my regular visits to Waterstones, I found the displays had moved around; the comic book section was about a quarter of it’s original size. I panicked, but I’d already walked in – I couldn’t just spin around and walk out again. So I braved the front of the store, with the new titles and best sellers, not really knowing what I was looking for.
Nestled in amongst the staff recommendations was a book that caught my eye. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The title was familiar as the film was coming out soon, but other than that I didn’t know too much about it. I had some money with me today, so instead of plonking down on the floor for a day of reading – I decided to buy it.
I walked out of Waterstones feeling elated, I hadn’t bought a book in years. Was my old hobby coming back?
It was. I finished the book in three days.
I don’t know what I had expected, but the characters, namely Charlie, really resonated with me. Unknowingly suffering from anxiety and depression, I found a place within their story. By the end of the book, I felt like I’d learned about a whole new side of myself.
But now I didn’t know where to go next. Had I peaked too early? I found a book that spoke to me so deeply, I was worried everything I read after that would pale in comparison. I didn’t read another book for almost a year. When I did, I picked up a book from one of the most recognisable authors on the planet; Stephen King.
Salem’s Lot turned me to adventure stories, mystery, suspense, and horror. It opened me up to so many new genres. I soon realised, a book didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to be enjoyable. I still hold Perks and Salem’s Lot very close to my heart, these were the books that brought my love for reading back, and allowed me to escape again. And now, eight years after that long summer, I read around 1-3 books a month. I can’t get enough of them. In fact, I’m currently writing this post from my local library.
If you have a hobby or interest you’ve strayed away from recently, don’t despair. We go through peaks and troughs with the things that spark our interest; and sometimes life gets in the way of our hobbies too. Trust that you’ll find your way back eventually. And sometimes you just need a different approach, to remind yourself why you loved it so much to begin with.