in personal

After the Love Has Gone

I’m Cecily, I’m a librarian, and I’ve come to hate reading.

That’s not exactly true — my (barely) managed depression and (increased) anxiety have robbed me of the ability to process anything more than tweets, Facebook posts from the Hobonichi group, and texts from loved ones. Losing myself in novels and non-fiction is where I found comfort for so many years, but now it only adds to my already out-of-control anxiety and self-doubt.

I’ve found other pursuits in the meantime, like drawing and writing in my journal, but I miss the immersive experience of floating within a well-crafted story. Has this ever happened to you? What did you do to get back to reading?

  1. I kick-start things by listening to short podcasts – 10-20 minutes is all I can do when I’m feeling really off. Story Collider and Story Corps fit my bill there. Once I’ve found I can listen to those with focus and attention, then I start dipping into books – and give myself permission to nope out of any that don’t engage me quickly. Sometimes reading a graphic novel instead of a text-only book can do the same thing as a podcast. Good luck figuring out something that works.

  2. Hey. This totally happened to me. Its actually how I got into audiobooks because my inability to focus and concentrate made reading impossible. The great thing about audiobooks, imo, is that it slows you down. I read very fast. But audio is like…. much much slower, so at the worst of my depression it was a lot more manageable and easier to process at that slower pace.

    I’ve only recently been able to actually sit and read for any period of time longer than 15min. I got here mainly through finally finding a med cocktail that is controlling my depression/anxiety symptoms.

  3. Yes, that’s happened to me, after burning myself out in certain ways. (The fact that I’ve known multiple flavors of burnout is … maybe worth reflecting upon.) I once went several years without really reading much at all; I just didn’t want to and had trouble concentrating when I tried. For me, the best answer was to wait it out. Do other things, until the desire to read comes back. It did come back, for me, and I read voraciously for several years after that.

    I’ve spent the last couple of years unable to read non-fiction, or even particularly “literary” fiction, but I can feel that beginning to wear off, now. Which is good–there’s a lot of non-fiction I ought to be reading.

    I don’t know if “wait it out” will be the best solution for you, but, either way, I’d still encourage you to do the things you find enjoyable and fulfilling–and not to feel bad about choosing activities other than reading books, if that’s what you do. Guilt about not reading won’t be helpful. Full enjoyment of what you are doing, on the other hand, helps a lot, with a lot of things, including fighting burnout.

    <3

  4. I had the same experience and quit reading novels for about a year. I found it too challenging to immerse myself in a different world and would usually give up after a chapter or two. I read magazines (particularly trashy gossipy ones like Us and InTouch) and tried to stop judging myself for my reading tastes – although characterizing titles as ‘trashy’ means I obviously haven’t quite won that battle 😉

    I absolutely stopped buying books – but I did borrow many from libraries. And didn’t read most of them. I borrowed lots of e-books that I never even started and took the same things out multiple times (I still haven’t read Nocturnes by Ishiguro and I think I’ve had it out eight times!).

    The internal pressure I felt to read contributed to me not wanting to read. And I think when I was able to give that up, I got more interested in reading.

    Oddly enough, I found YA fantasy series (like the Goddess Test ones) got me hooked back into fiction reading. Although I still borrow more books than I read and I delight in the weekly surge of celebrity gossip!

  5. I’ve read a lot of YA over the last few years but I’ve even lost the taste for that it seems. Last year basically consisted of reading lesbian romance/science fiction and N.K. Jemisin’s second book in her new series.

  6. I think a large part of my frustration is that my depression/anxiety is making it hard for me to enjoy the things I used to. That, plus physical limitations that continue to plague me are making finding joy difficult indeed.

  7. The drug I was taking for depression/anxiety was working, but that was before the circus peanut was elected. I don’t know if it’s situational or evidence of something deeper/more worrying.

    Thanks for the audiobooks suggestion. I’ll try that.

  8. I should try that. There are a couple of podcasts I really enjoy (Another Round and You Must Remember This are my current favourites). Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. My comfort reads are favorite authors, graphic novels, and children’s books. I also just started an Anthony Trollope novel. Classics and nonfiction give my brain some exercise at a time when I absolutely do not have the emotional energy for serious contemporary fiction.

Comments are closed.