How to Work Through a Reading Slump When You're Depressed
Right after I got back from vacation a couple of weeks ago, I got hit 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 on the audiobook 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, 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 needs while having 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" tend 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 a Scooby Doo spinoff, except reimagined with adults, I couldn't resist. So I read Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. There were definitely some delightful parts that made me reminisce about all those old Scooby cartoons I watched as a kid.
Read a comic
I really like comics for reading slumps because they're engaging, fast-paced, and short. So from the beginning, 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 chose to 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 that it brings you joy.
Read something completely random
I know this sounds like the antithesis of what I just said, but sometimes it's freeing to break from the pile of books on your nightstand and read something completely 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. I can't afford to be a writer there and after reading Goodbye to All That, I'm okay with it.
I can finally stop guilting myself for never having run away to NYC. Reading it was almost like being given permission to accept that I made the right decision to live and write in an affordable Midwestern city. While that isn't enough to cure depression, it certainly lifted a weight off my shoulders. Goodbye to All That wasn't a book I was planning to read––it just struck me, so I temporarily ditched my TBR pile and trusted my whims.
And this is the part where I tell you that if you're severely depressed, please seek a doctor, a therapist, medication, the suicide helpline, the crisis text line, 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.