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How books have helped me through tough times

Mental health is complicated; so, improving your mental health can sometimes seem like the most impossible and elusive thing in the world. In my life I have spent a lot of time searching for things that would help me in my own personal battle. Not many things have helped, but books have. Books, really, really help. Wait- allow me to develop that statement before you take to tumblr. I opened by saying that mental health is complicated. That means that a day spent in the company of a book in hand is not going to solve anything, but it can sometimes help. Yes, when mental health problems hit we need therapists and medication, but we also need a motivation to carry through with these things. For me that motivation has always come from books.

There are days for me, and for many people, when getting out of bed feels pointless. I remember last year, lying in bed in the cocoon of my moth eaten and frayed blankets and just…. staying there. I would look through the gap in the curtains I hadn’t bothered to open and watch the colour of the sky change at whim as time moved with the slow methodical plodding of the indifferent. In those moments, I would reach out a lethargic hand and take a book from the cluttered bedside locker.

In books I found friends, beyond those I found in real life because in books I was accepted rather than judged. I remember reading the Lord of the Rings when I was 14, when things weren’t great. For the first time I felt a part of something. Sam Gamgee became someone I would have told anything to. Finding out what happened next gave me something to waken up in the morning for and the messages about the dangers of power gave me some things to think about that weren’t the tumultuous tides of my own thoughts. Then there was The Line, that I still think of all these years later. “There’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” I know, it’s annoyingly cliché that this line makes me feel better, but sometimes life is annoyingly cliché. That big brick of a book became my own personal journey, as Frodo learned how to cope

Sometimes it’s not even the content of the actual book that helps me through my worst days, sometimes it’s the pure and simple fact that the best way to leave behind the problems you face in this world is to enter a new one. It doesn’t have to be fantasy. It can just bethat the world of the book is so real and so enthralling that reading it is like wearing a blindfold -you can’t see the world anymore. All you can see are Katniss winning the Hunger Games (that is not a spoiler, the book has been out for ages) and Dorian Grey staring and apainted, ugly version of himself. Reading is escapism in its most magical form.

I’ve spent many hours, sleepless hours, telling myself that I am okay because there are fictional characters that have faced worse than what life throws at me. If Mirah from Daniel Deronda can power through then so can I. If Tess from Tess of the D’Ubervilles can carry on then so can I. When I lay in bed these empowering figures slip into my head, my breathing slows and a sliver of calm comes towards me. Oftentimes it isn’t even a character, it could be a simile or the way something is phrased. Oscar Wilde has a line in his poem “Harlot’s House”, “the sun with silver sandaled feet…” Yesterday, as I was walking home from college I felt like crying. Then I saw the sun set and that line fell into my mind- and I didn’t cry. I’m not saying I leapt for joy. I’m not saying that reading makes every problem go away; but it helps. It helps. It helps. Or at least it helps me.

So, if you have read this far, I want to remind you that there are little line of poetry and inspiring fictional characters out there. Let them help you, or let something help you because maybe the big things in your life seem like they’re falling apart but I bet you that there’s a little thing out there that will make you smile.