Happy Friday, friends! I can’t believe this is almost the last post in the Shattering Stigmas event??? In case you missed it, Shattering Stigmas is an event that will take place from October 6th to October 20th here on Drizzle & Hurricane Books.
Three years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.
You can also enter our INTERNATIONAL (Book Depository) giveaway! TWO winners will be able to win the Mental Health book of their choice at the end of this event. Don’t forget to ENTER HERE!
Today, I am honored to welcome the incredible May on the blog, sharing their beautiful story with books and how reading helped them cope with their own mental health struggles. It’s a beautiful blog post and I really hope you will love it as much as I do. Feel free to share your thoughts in comments and share some love for May!
Trigger warnings: depression.
For me, reading has always been a form of escape.
Whether it was because I wanted to explore a new fantasy world with magic and mystery, or to just take a break from reality and all my problems, books were always there for me. And for a large part of my life, I never really needed or used books as anything other than a source of entertainment. It was there for me to enjoy, there for me as a hobby, there for me to fall in love with new people and worlds and stories.
But now, it’s different. Reading still gives me enjoyment and entertainment, but, much more than that, it gives me a place where I feel okay—when I don’t in real life.
As this year has gone by, I’ve continually struggled with my mental health. It’s kept deteriorating, over and over again, and the only way I know how to fix it is to 1) practice self-care, and 2) distract myself. Reading is how I do both of those.
I think the special thing about books is that the good ones can immerse you in them completely, and the rest of the world falls away. Whether it’s an exciting fantasy like Six of Crows or a heartbreaking contemporary like Girl Made of Stars, they keep me engaged and focused with my full attention. I don’t think about whatever’s going on in my life; I’m completely consumed by the words I’m reading on the pages.
That’s why reading really helps me distract myself from whatever mental health issue I’ve been dealing with. And for me, distraction is key to ensuring I don’t have a breakdown every hour. (It’s not the best coping method, but it’s one that works for me really well, at least temporarily!)
There’s one day in particular that I remember, when I was having so many breakdowns and crying so much that I couldn’t calm down. I walked over to my bookshelf, picked out Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (which is a favorite of mine), and read for 20 minutes. It took some time, but then I was smiling and laughing and feeling okay again. It’s that kind of thing that helps me take myself out of a bad place and put myself into a safe, happy one.
And for me, reading is also often a form of companionship. I’m very private about my mental health in real life and I rarely talk about it to anyone, or if I do, I do it in a joking manner and/or only mention the surface levels of it. (Also!! I do not recommend closing yourself off from support like this!!! Very unhealthy!!) Mental illness can make you think all sorts of things, like thinking that no one cares about how you feel or would want to listen to you.
Even though it’s not true, and there are more things than just that preventing me from trying to reach out to get the support I need, it’s still so comforting to just read about other people, who may or may not facing the same problems as me, but are facing problems nonetheless. It’s comforting to be in a world with other people and feel for them and care for them and not feel alone.
I also think that representation has a lot to do with how reading has affected my mental health as well. I’m of a lot of marginalized identities. I love reading books with Asian protagonists like me. I love reading books with queer protagonists like me. But I think what helps me most with my mental health is reading about mentally ill protagonists like me, facing similar problems I face, but getting over them.
Two books I really love that show this are Nice Try, Jane Sinner, and Darius the Great is Not Okay. NTJS captures my experience with depression so extremely well that it made me tear up. Darius doesn’t perfectly represent my experience, but other parts of it and its messages really made my heart ache. It’s these kinds of books and characters that I have a fondness towards, because I’m able to truly not feel alone facing the mental issues I do.
Of course, reading isn’t a permanent solution. It’s not going to “cure” or “heal” me—nothing will. But it’s something that makes me feel happy when I’m sad. It’s something that makes me feel relaxed when I’m stressed. It’s something that makes me feel loved when I’m lonely. And it’s something that, no matter what, has always been a source of support for me and a place to feel okay. And for that, I will always be grateful.