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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reading Helps Me Deal with Life. (This Post is All Over the Place. And Long.)

(This post started as a simple anxiety update and turned into something else. Something really long.)

Do you ever look at your life, at how far you’ve come over whatever hurdles you’ve had to jump, and feel completely baffled that you’ve made it? Maybe I’m still feeling emotional after reading Left Drowning by Jessica Park (if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?), but it hit me today.

I’m starting my third semester of college.

I made it through my first one, even though I missed a week due to my psych ward visit.

I made it through my second one, even though I had to take the spring semester off and start back in the fall.

And now I’m starting my third semester of college. Not only that, but I haven’t had a lick of anxiety. None. Okay, that’s sort of a lie. The only hint of anxiety I’ve had is the first day of class, I was nauseated as I drove there. Once I was on campus, it disappeared. And then there was a flare today because I was going to have to get up and speak in front of the class, but it was gone as soon as I realized it was there. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t had any anxiety because I haven’t had to consciously put forth extra effort to manage it.

I really hope I don’t sound like a broken record every time I do these anxiety updates, but I need them. This is therapeutic for me. But if I do, feel free to ignore me. I won’t blame you.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I feel baffled by this realization. It almost seems impossible to think that I’m here after being where I started. Or impossible that I was ever that way to begin with. I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately. I don’t know why. Maybe I need to tell my therapist about this.

But I’m happy with life. I’m me again.

Things that used to seem so elusive and hundreds of thousands of miles out of reach. I want to say that I now hold those things in the palms of my hands, but that feels inaccurate. Those things are coursing through my veins again, touching every part of me. I don’t think I could be anything but happy right now. How could I?

One thing, that I think is really getting to me, is that I’m reading again. Not just a book here and there, barely making it to my goal of 50 last year. I mean that craving I had before, that need to constantly have a book around and immersing myself in another reality hasn’t been as strong as it used to be.

When I started spiraling with my anxiety, the magic of reading left me. No comfort could be found between the pages of a book. I had never been without that before and it was devastating for me to lose that. My therapist has said numerous times that reading is just like me attending my appointments with her every two weeks.

The ability to get lost in someone else’s story, someone else’s joys and heartache, to escape my reality, was therapy for me. Always had been to some extent. 

When my life got to be too much, I read. 

When I needed something to make it through the day, I read. 

When I just wanted to enjoy a taste of happiness, I read.

So I was out of sorts when reading no longer did that for me. When I no longer had to always carry a book with me. When I didn’t get excited about going to the bookstore. When I couldn’t fathom sitting down for any period of time to read a book. And I know this sounds crazy, considering I write books and would still read here and there. But it wasn’t the same.

It’s been an uphill battle as I’ve slowly gotten it back. A couple weeks ago, my therapist told me something along the lines of how I need to read. I need that magic as part of my therapy.

It helps me deal.

With anxiety.
With bad days.
With good days.
With life.

Reading helps me deal with life.

Just like writing does.

But writing and reading aren’t exactly the same for me.

Writing helps me be in control. I can escape reality, but I’m in complete control of this other reality in which I’m immersing myself. It helps me cope, heal, and get to a better place.

Reading lets me hand those reins to another person, to that author, and they let me relax, cope, heal, and get lost in another world.

Sometimes, I need to be in control. Sometimes, someone else needs to be. I’m thrilled that both keep me grounded.

Books truly are amazing, magical, wonderful things. I get to enjoy reading, just like I used to. More than that, life is so much better when reading is part of my "therapy". (My therapist doesn't force me to read or anything. It helps me deal, and that's what I mean by therapy.)

I feel like the reader I used to be and I couldn’t be happier.

I'm happy. 
I'm anxiety-free. 
I'm writing.
I'm reading. 
Life is good.

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