Thursday 4 February 2016

On Not Feeling Guilty For Not Reading (Or Whatever You're Feeling Guilty About Not Doing)

I am a reader. If I had to define myself, it's likely that's what I'd go with above person, female or living with a chronic condition. I *may* pick Slytherin instead but that would confuse people not very familiar with me who don't understand that I identify everyone by their Hogwarts house and judge them if they don't know it.

I am a reader. I read books. When I was little and I wasn't allowed books at the breakfast table, I used to read cereal packets. I used to read during registration at high school. I wish I could read on buses but it makes me sick.

But since I got ill, I've struggled to read. Sometimes my hands hurt too much to hold a book. My friends got me a Kindle as a leaving London present which was incredibly thoughtful of them and solves that particular problem. Most of the time though, I'm actually just too tired to read. I tried combatting this with audiobooks, selecting some of my favourite reads to listen to. But sometimes I'm too tired to even listen. I spend hours staring mindlessly at TV shows, or playing 1010! on public transport, because that is all I'm capable of.

It feels a little like losing a part of my identity, being a reader who does not read. I have all these delicious looking books waiting for me to read them, and I can't do it. The guilt is expounded by the fact that I follow a lot of people on Twitter, and am friends with a lot of people, who are also huge readers; some of whom have read 20 books already this year. I have read 3 and a bit. It makes me feel like a reading failure. Like I need to hand my library card back in, or something.

One of the hardest, but most important things to learn when living with a chronic condition is to stop comparing yourself to other people. Just because they can read 20 books in one month and you can't doesn't make you a failure. Just because they can swim for an hour and you only 20 minutes doesn't make you a failure. And not feeling like a failure also stops you from feeling guilty.

So I'm trying not to feel guilty for not reading. These books will all be here when I feel well enough to read them. They aren't going to expire, or get taken away, or eaten. In the meantime, I'm going to take a few practical steps to get myself back reading more:

1. Make a list of all the books I really want to read: I have LOADS of unread books and thinking about them all, sat there with their unbroken spines, is a bit panic-inducing. So I'm going to make a list of the ones I am really excited about and work my way through these so I can be a little bit more focused, a little bit more in control.

2. Try reading more at night: I used to read a lot in bed but lately I've taken to watching TV instead. Usually rewatches of RuPaul's Drag Race. From now on I'm going to try reading first. If I really can't get into it, TV it is, but at least I will have tried!

3. Have more baths: I used to love reading in the bath in London, but we've had a problem with our hot tap at home which has made filling a bath impossible. Now that's fixed, I'm going to try and have more baths. These have the double benefit of being pain-relieving and soothing sore muscles as well as giving me time to read.

I guess only time will tell on whether these measures work!


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