Since I was a little girl, and even before I started school, I have read. Every night of my life. We had set bed times when I was a kid and I always had a extra reading time added to my bed time as there was no way I could ever go to bed without a book in hand. Before I could read for myself, my mum read to me every night, a tradition I carried on with my own boys.
I’ve always loved nothing more than reading a good book until that precious moment that it falls out of your hands as you drift off into blissful slumber. Many nights I’d wake hours later, book on my chest, with the light still on after falling asleep this way.
Books, words and stories have been a source of so much joy, comfort, knowledge and laughter, along with tears, discomfort and sadness in my life. One day when my oldest son was angry with me for something, the only insult he could muster up was “you, you, you – READER!”.
All of this changed in 2012.
I found myself simply unable to read.
Why and how could this happen to me?
I was in a job that I should have loved, it really was a dream job in an incredible humanitarian organisation with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people and I loved many aspects of it, however the stress levels I experienced were unlike anything I had encountered previously.
I wasn’t taking care of myself in any way. I didn’t have the chance to stop for lunch or do anything along the lines of self care and every time I grabbed a cup of tea, I also grabbed a couple of biscuits or maybe four. As anyone who knows me will attest, I drink a LOT of tea – hence many biscuits were consumed all day every day. This went on for months. My lack of self care and abominable dietary choices actually started to affect my physical health to the point that I was misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia due to the aches, pains and depression I began to experience.
When I went to bed at night, my brain was so overly full that I found myself unable to take in any information. I would pick up whatever book I was reading at the time and all I could see was “bla bla bla” and I would read the same paragraph over and over. I think it took me almost 9 months to read one novel and even then my recall of the book would have been minimal. It was easier to give up.
Clearly I was highly stressed and my body and brain were in overwhelm and overload.
In addition to this, at this time I also bought my first iPad. I started using it at night, it was so easy and I got those lovely little dopamine releases that social media posts give us, and everything I was reading was short and shiny and easy to absorb. This was the only reading I could manage.
I also couldn’t write – I was dry, but perhaps that’s a story for another day. I wrote just two posts in that whole almost two year period, this was one and really sums up my state of mind at that time.
I eventually left the job and started doing my own thing but the dopamine release seeking habit stayed for quite some time. I always had a book on my bedside table but my lifelong habit of bedtime reading was still a distant memory. (I should add here that my book buying habits never changed, so I have several year’s worth of books on my bookshelf waiting for me to love them.)
This all changed last year. After a couple of years of rest and recovery and the joy and freedom of self employment, combined with a lot of travel, I decided it was time to reclaim my brain and my passion. My books. My beloved, beautiful books. Letting go of the screen based entertainment was a little bit of a challenge to begin with, and given the pleasure my brain was receiving from the experience, it is not surprising. However I’m back and I am loving it. I’m ploughing through books at a rate not unlike I did previously and it feels so good.
At night, once dinner is over, I find myself thinking about going to bed with my book. Sometimes I ask myself if it is too early, but most of the time I remember that I can go to bed whenever I want and in winter when the electric blanket warms my lovely sheets, there is no place I’d rather be.
Oh the joys, the adventures and the fun I’ve been enjoying. I’m so glad I’m reunited with my oldest and dearest friends and I promise never to let anything get in between us again.