Please welcome Malka @ Paper Procrastinators to the blog today! She is going to share a very relatable post today: all about when college and anxiety rob you of your reading mojo. And guys, I have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. I used to be a voracious reader, and that fell by the wayside in college completely. Mine too was because of anxiety and depression (not so much with the stress of college, because I was too much of a mess to care about that sort of thing ha). My point is, this is something that so many people struggle with, and I am so excited for you to read Malka’s post!
When I began college a few years ago, it was a rough period for me. I had lots of difficult classes to contend with, and all of my friends were in a different country taking a gap year. It was pretty bad. I was overwhelmed with all my classes and the difficult commute I had to manage. I had a much smaller support system and couldn’t speak to my friends when I was having a bad day because of a difference in time zones, or conflicting schedules. But arguably the worst outcome of my freshman year of college was that I lost my ability to read for pleasure.
I was so focused on reading my textbooks and making sure that I was up to date on schoolwork, that whenever I picked up a book to read for pleasure, my brain would not accommodate. I couldn’t make sense of the words. It would take me 15 minutes to comprehend a single paragraph. I had no problems reading my textbooks, but the second I picked up a book to relax, I suddenly lost my ability to focus. My anxiety would get in the way, telling me that I could be reading a textbook now, that in fact I should. There was this constant alarm ringing in my brain telling me that I could not read this book and should give up.
And for the most part, I did. If you look at my Goodreads 2018 Challenge you can see that I only read 68 books, which is about half of the amount of books that I read in 2017. But if that wasn’t startling enough, I didn’t finish a single book in January, even when I was on vacation from school. Most of the books I read in 2018 were graphic novels, rereads, or books that had really simple writing that I could fly through.
Now, my brain in all its anxious glory, operates very logically. It doesn’t matter if the logic is flawed, 99% of the time there are rules that my brain decides to spring on me and I need to figure out how best to either tackle them or manage them. Since my brain created a “no reading for pleasure” rule, I needed to find some loophole, since I didn’t see an easy way around this. I couldn’t push pass this on my own, since I cannot control whether or not I comprehend what I read. But thankfully a solution presented itself in a slightly unusual way. I started a blog.
That might not seem like a good fix, but for my brain it was enough. See, now reading wasn’t just for pleasure, but it was an obligation as well. I needed to read in order to have content for my blog, the same way I needed to read my textbooks to be prepared for class. It wasn’t immediate, but I slowly have been able to read whatever, whenever. Now my lack of reading stems from not having the time to read, or not having a book I’m interested in on hand, rather than an inability to read.
I still have anxiety, I still have rough patches where my brain will change the rules on me. I know that blogging wasn’t a fix to all my issues with mental health, but it made a huge impact on my life and gave me back my ability to read. And for that I will forever be grateful.