As someone who suffers from both reader depression and depression depression (sometimes together, sometimes separately) the difference between the two can seem acute. Reader depression really only affects my reader life. Depression, in the original sense of the word, affects every aspect of my life, including my reader life.
Reader depression is funny in that sense that it seems familiar if you’ve dealt with regular depression before, but at the same time it seems so trivial in comparison that you almost write it off.
As someone who deals with both from time to time, I wouldn’t be so quick to write it off.
When I finish a really good book I can sink into a reader depression until I find a book that has the same level of “goodness”.
When I lay aside a number of books I pick up to read half-finished, one after the other, reader depression can hit.
When I’m in an actual depression, and reading is too much or too little, depending how the depression is presenting itself this time, this can set off reader depression, which rides regular depression like a duck on a pony’s back – ridiculous, in a slightly funny way, but also sad because the duck can’t fly and the pony is its only transportation right now.
Alright, maybe I went a little too far on that one. My point is, that for the avid reader – that person who reads like they breath, who craves words and story, whose family accuses them of being sick if they don’t see you reading as often – reader depression can sometimes go hand in hand and, at worse, even trigger regular depression.
I find reading depression a dangerous thing for my mental health. No. Seriously.
I was the kid whose Mom would ask if I was alright if she didn’t see me reading on a random day because she was used to seeing me read everyday. I used to struggle to read in the car, even though I got motion sickness, and still do now, even when I try to text (I’ve stopped trying to read in the car; it makes me sad I can’t).
I’m the adult who craves story, and if story isn’t working for me, or if I can’t find a story that interests me, or if depression has brought me down so low that story can’t interest me, then that is usually a sign that I’m in a very bad way.
I’m not saying this is healthy. I’m not saying that every reader experiences this to the degree I described. I honestly hope every reader doesn’t. But for those who do, I offer these words of encouragement.
If you’re struggling with simple reader depression, hear this: there’s always another story waiting for you. Something that’s going to capture your interest, and take you on a ride, break your heart and put it back together again for you, just before it takes it whole as its own. The stories are there, I promise.
For those struggling with regular depression and escaping into books (or story in any other medium) because you can: fly high, learn from the characters, listen to what they have to tell you, and take that encouragement as your own.
To those fighting regular depression that has effected your reading life to the point where reading depression is now riding the pony like that damn duck . . . when I am able to figure out how to get through those times (days, weeks, once a few months) without just getting through them I will run to this blog to tell you. Until then . . . I’m here because I got through those days. I got through them. You’re going through them. Eventually, you’ll get through them. And when story comes crooning to you again, like a wayward lover begging you to take them back, say yes. There’s a reason why you love it, isn’t there?
So, as reader depression hovers around my periphery, in a time when regular depression has retreated to a distance (not out of sight, mind, a distance) I search for that new story, that next book, that brand new world – and, I have to say, that sometimes the search is half the fun. But the best part is living in it.
For those interested, the book that has tipped me close to that reader depression is Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon – so thanks for that, Diana. But, really, thank you Diana. (Review forthcoming)