Right after I got back from vacation a couple of weeks ago, I got hit hard with several days of depression. It feels a little weird to admit that because who gets depressed after a 2.5 week vacation? But that's the thing about depression––it doesn't answer to logic. It comes out of nowhere and totally sideswipes you.
And it can affect your reading life. I had days where all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a book, yet when I'd try to do that, I just didn't feel like reading. (Considering how much I love reading, if I ever don't feel like reading, it's a sure sign something is wrong with me.) My depression affects my focus, so it's hard to find satisfaction in anything, including reading, when I'm in the midst of an episode.
During this most recent bout, I went through a period where I hated everything I picked up. I'd find a character annoying or whiny (my empathy goes out the window, right behind my focus, when I'm depressed). The narrator's voice would piss me off. The plot wouldn't grab my interest fast enough. I'd find something wrong with the book, usually within the first 30 minutes of reading it and set it aside.
Eventually, I got tired of hating every book I picked up, so here are a couple of the things I did to get myself out of the reading slump while still being mindful of my depression:
Read something fast-paced
As much as I normally love literary fiction, I couldn't bear the thought of slogging through anything that required me to think too much. I wanted something fast-paced that would grab my interest and hold it tight. I chose Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. It's a thriller about an active shooter situation at a zoo where a mom has to save herself and her four-year-old son. The whole story takes place in about three hours, which makes for a well-timed, fast-paced read.
Read something with an element of nostalgia
The "warm fuzzies" tends to accompany feelings of nostalgia, so I thought that'd be just what I needed to help combat the depression. Although I don't normally read mysteries, when I heard about a new novel that was purportedly was a Scooby Doo spinoff, except reimagined with adults, I couldn't resist. So I read Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. It wasn't the best thing I've ever read, but there were some delightful parts that made me reminisce about all those old Scooby cartoons I watched as a kid, which was nice.
Read a comic
I really like comics for reading slumps of any kind because they're engaging, fast-paced, and short. So you get a quick hit of an addictive story that has a good sense of adventure. And since you can read them pretty quickly, you get the dopamine boost of feeling accomplished for having read a book lightning fast. I read the second volume in the Bitch Planet series because it's AMAZING.
Re-read an old favorite
My go-to books for the "old favorite" category tend to be the first Harry Potter book or the comic series Saga, but of course, it'll vary for everyone. Pick a book that evokes a sense of home in your heart. A book you could read a hundred times and never get tired of. A book that came to you at just the right time in your life and you want to revisit every so often like an old friend. Maybe it's a book from your childhood or young adulthood. Maybe it's a series you just discovered last year.
Whatever it is, all that matters is if it brings you joy.
Read something completely random
I know this sounds like the antithesis of what I said in the paragraph above, but sometimes it's freeing to break ranks with the pile of books on your nightstand and read something completely at random. I chose the anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. I've always entertained fanciful notions of being a writer in New York, but the reality is that NYC is unkind to writers far more successful than me and I couldn't afford to be a writer there. This wasn't a book I was necessarily planning to read. It just struck me as one I'd enjoy, so I temporarily ditched my TBR pile and trusted my whims.
(If you're ever feeling tempted to pack up and run away to NYC, I'd highly suggest reading Goodbye to All That. The book singlehandedly cured me of my NYC dreams, all while making me feel good about my choice to live somewhere more affordable. I can afford to write in Ohio and now I know NYC isn't the end-all, be-all for writers.)
And this is the part where I tell you that if you're severely depressed, please seek a doctor, a therapist, medication, or whatever resources are available to you to help. And this is the part where I tell you depression isn't a permanent state of being––it gets better and the world needs you.