Saturday, June 12, 2010

Learning to Read

I just finished reading a book. You might think, "so what". However, to me it was one of my most important achievements. I have not been able to read a book for years.

I do not know what happened to cause me to lose my ability to read a book. It may be that I was so sick I could not read. Whatever the case, I went from someone who had 5 or 6 books going at a time, to someone who could not follow a storyline. After trying many, many times and failing I simply gave up.

A few months ago, a friend of mine recently rediscovered her love of reading. I marvelled at all she read and what she was reading. I felt an intense longing to read again. It was like a fire was lit beneath me. I saw possibility.

Then a couple weeks ago my boyfriend and I were talking about my difficulty reading and he said, "Just start to read and keep reading even if you aren't following what is happening. Read the same sentence over and over if you have to, but keep going. Get into the habit of reading"

So I chose a simple book, a kids book, and I started to read. At first it was such a struggle. Even once I got going I kept mixing up the characters and the plot lines. I would suddenly be reminded of a character I had forgotten all about, or become confused by why something was happening the way it was.

Despite a bit of frustration at how much trouble I was having, I kept trying. Eventually I started to remember, to enjoy, what I was reading.

I think a few things were key to my succeeding this time:

  • My depression is not as bad as it has been and my medication has slowed the constant barrage of bad thoughts so I have room left in my brain to focus and think about something else,
  • I purposefully chose a very simple book. In fact, I choose a book geared towards adolescents,
  • I choose a book with a subject that interested me,
  • I made reading a priority, so it trumped my housework, or other duties in terms of importance,
  • I ensured I set time up to read right before I went to bed,
  • The times I started procrastinating I told myself to just go pick up the book and read for 5 minutes. Usually I would intend to read for 5 and still be reading 1/2 hr later.

I feel so encouraged by my ability to read this book. I feel like it is possible to read books again. Honestly, I was so discouraged before that I thought I would never be able to read books again.

Next, I am going to read my favorite book from when I was in grade 3 or 4 next. I figure it will be manageable, and it will bring back some good memories...and we all need more of those.


Donda said...

I have the focus problems too and it comes in waves. Sometimes I can read a 300 page paperback in less than 8 hours and sometimes it takes years or eternity. I have one book that is still waiting for me to come back to it, yellowing pages and all. CONGRATS on your huge feat...I totally get it!!

Anonymous said...

I get it too. :)

I used to such a bookworm. I love to read. But the last couple of years it has been hard. I can't concentrate. I don't have energy enough to hold a book or turn pages. I can't remember anything I read.

But in the last few months I have been reading again, all kinds of stuff. Magazines, science fiction, poetry...

It's wonderful to be back.

Valerie said...

That is exciting! Good job!

Kimelah said...

It must be something in the air.
After more than a few years of not being "able" to read (like yourself), I finally started the seventh book of Harry Potter less than a week ago. I finished it today. That was after reading about four of my daughter's books (she's fourteen) to try and get myself back in the groove of reading, similar to what you did.
Now, I'm re-reading Pet Sematary.
I feel like I'm slowly healing.

Jen Daisybee said...

I just discovered your blog, and I can completely relate to your trouble with reading. I have the same problem. For a number of years now, I have been barely ever able to read a book. I was a book lover all my life and an English major struggling through the first two years of college for fifteen years, until I decided to switch my major to something that would require less reading of fiction. I have more trouble with fiction than with nonfiction. What you said about losing track of the characters and getting things mixed up is probably the same reason I have trouble. I have to reread sentences all the time to grasp them. It makes me feel badly about myself, as if I were a stupid person, which I'm not, or someone who didn't care about reading, which I'm also not. Thanks for sharing your experience with this problem, and, more importantly your points on what has helped you to be able to read a book again. You have good advice. I will link to your blog from my blog, which is at


Ethereal Highway said...

I haven't been able to read for a while again, either. I've started listening to audio books.

Rach said...

The first book I read in the hospital, after 2 1/2 months, was Alice in Wonderland. I felt slightly more sane reading it ;)

I agree with you though, I'm trying to relearn how to read and focus my attention on other stuff (like driving! reading blogs!).

Keep at it Aqua. And email me anytime.

AtOneWithHim said...

I had no idea that I wasn't the only one who couldn't concentrate enough to read. Its pure exhaustion. I can hardly watch new movies because I lose interest. The old standbys I can watch over and over... I already know whats going to happen and I dont have to "think".Forget Bible studies, books, phone calls and quite honestly sometimes reading blogs... its hit and miss for me.
All 3 of my kids read like crazy.. devouring books. That will have to do for now.
At least I know I am not alone. Thanks Aquie

Friend of the Bear said...

Hi Aqua. Great that you're reading again! I have had long periods of time in my life where I was unable to read. I just started reading again too. I read Kay Refield Jamison - An Unquiet Mind practically in one sitting. And now I'm devouring Donald Harstad - The Big Thaw. Just discovered him. I'm so enjoying the ability to read again!

I've also just got back into creativity with my pottery (see last post for my first creation!) and now lacemaking. It's five years since I last picked up my bobbins. A whole 5 years. And now I'm loving it so much.

It WILL happen for you Aqua.

Bearfriend xx

tracy said...

Just want to say, it is wonderful to see you posting again.


Annie said...

Aqua, Reading was a problem for me as a child so I struggled with it being a chore in school. I am glad you can return to something you enjoy. I wish i enjoyed it as much as others.
I do understand your problems with focus. I like the format of blogging but when I am depressed focus is an issue.
I am impressed with how hard you work on being well! Peace Annie

Gina Lind said...

I too just read a book for the first time in a LONG time. It used to be my favorite thing to do but my mind just wouldn't let me. I sure did enjoy it!

Schizoaffective and Sober said...

I just discovered your blog and felt most gratified about your reading post. Currently I get to about page four and my mind goes "la-la-la" and the concentration goes. I will take on board your advice as to reading content and interest. Thanks, you've given me hope :)

Nicole said...

Congratulations! This is very cool :)