How Reading Helped My Mental Health


It's not always easy to rest and look after yourself. After my Dad died I had a sort of a breakdown.  I was signed off work for eight months which I found really difficult as my brain just wouldn't shut up. It's hard to be kind to yourself when your brain is telling you that everything is always going to be feel this bad. 

My husband suggested that I read to distract myself. At first I just couldn't. I didn't really have the energy to be honest. All I really wanted to do was to sleep and to hide from it all. I'd always loved reading; I studied English Literature at University and had always been a keen reader, but at this point in my life I just couldn't face anything, not even books. However, in time, I began to feel bored (I now realise this was probably a sign I was getting better) so I began to read. At first it was women's magazines- the types that actually contains more advert than reading. It worked though. It got me out of my own head and distracted me for long enough that I had a break from the despair that I'd been entrenched in.

I started using audiobooks as a soundtrack to my day.  Listening to the stories meant that I couldn't dwell on my own problems and instead I was able to spend time with my friends at 28 Barbary Lane or help "Fat Charlie" Nancy with his issues.  I didn't need to worry about the physical tiredness from reading because the words just washed over me.  

In time, my need for stories drove me back to the physical act of reading.  I started with mysteries as working out who solved the crime was a great way to keep my mind occupied.  At first I read Agatha Christie novels and other older (and more gentle works) but then moved onto edgier thrillers and crime novels.  It was around this time that I began reading horror stories.  I had never been particularly interested in being scared but bereavement became my shield- if I could deal with my father dying I could take on the Cenobites.  

I began book-blogging and (not coincidentally) began to feel so much better.  Reading and writing about what I'd read gave me a reason to get up in the morning.  This drove me to keep going and, in time, I recovered and was able to get back into the classroom.  

I'm not saying that reading is a "magic cure".  I had CBT and bereavement counselling which were so helpful.  I also had a very strong support network of friends and family and the understanding of my Headteacher.  What I would say to anyone in a similar situation is find what works for you- running, sewing, reading, baking... find it and do it.  Look after yourself.   

Author Profile

Jennifer Holder

Jennifer Holder

Primary Teacher for 13 years. Now Reading Coordinator for Learning Partnership.

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