Monday, October 9, 2017

Anxiety and Reading

Today I've got the lovely Kara on the blog talking about her anxiety and how it relates to blogging and reading. So please give her a warm welcome! :)

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As a longtime sufferer of anxiety, there’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. Anxiety has affected my reading and blogging in so many ways, but before I get into that, you have to know my mental health history.

I didn’t know I had anxiety (and a form of depression, for that matter) until around 2005. I didn’t start to get it treated until around 2008. My poor family that had to deal with me during that time when I was too afraid and unwilling to admit that I had a problem. I feel like I’m still paying them back for putting them through that.

The other thing that’s important to know is that I still have not seen a therapist or psychiatrist for my anxiety. And it’s not by choice. I don’t have health insurance because I live in Florida and I don’t get enough of a subsidy because Florida does not have its own state exchange and the federal exchange does not give me a decent option or rate. So this is not me saying that the ACA doesn’t work, but it currently doesn’t work for me, and it’s probably Florida’s fault, but I am still optimistic that things will improve over the years.

I feel like I should mention, to the teens possibly reading this, that if I looked back on the years when I was in high school and afterwards into my twenties, I had a mild form of anxiety even then. I didn’t recognize it then, but I obsessed over things I shouldn’t have been obsessing over, my paranoia affected my relationships, I became attached or detached easily to people and things, I got and still get angry super easily and jump to conclusions, and I also had issues with antisocial behavior. It’s not as bad as it is now, of course. Now the thought of leaving the house leads me to go into a mental panic, and I have to focus my mental energy elsewhere so I can leave without freaking the heck out. But most of the time, I just stay home because it’s where I would rather be anyway.

Okay, but this post is supposed to be about anxiety and how it has affected my reading and blogging in so many ways. So let’s get to that.

1. The first, and MAJOR thing, affected by my anxiety disorder is my attention span. I am easily distracted. I get antsy. It’s hard for me to sit still with a book and stay that way for more than a few minutes. Other bookish friends read so much faster than I do because I cannot focus. That said, if I find a REALLY great book, it’s not an issue, but I have an attention span that is hard to hold. The only books that really kept my attention this year so far were Warcross and The Song Rising. So those have probably been my favorite books of 2017 so far because of that. This is also why I’m really into science fiction and fantasy right now. Expansive worlds hold my attention better than fiction set in this world.

2. I also read a LOT slower than I used to. In 2014 I read 142 books. In 2015 and 2016 I only read 112 books. This year I have only read 97 books so far. I used to be able to read a book a day back when I joined Goodreads in 2010. I could have easily completed the book a day yearly challenge if I had wanted to. And I’m really sad that it takes me that long to read a book now, but because of the fact that I get easily distracted, I have to reread passages a lot. I have to make sure I understood what I read because sometimes it does not completely get through in my brain.

3. My memory is super fucked. If I don’t write a book review within 48 hours of finishing a book, I may as well forget it. We are talking, I will forget character names THAT fast, major plot points, how a book ends, etc. It is ridiculous. Not up until I started taking anxiety medication, I had a wonderful long-term and short-term memory, so I blame my medication for this, but it still is super hard for me to deal with. If I step away from a book for a couple days, I have to flip way back in the book to refresh my memory on what I have forgotten. Ideally, I should write my reviews immediately upon finishing a book, but that brings up my next problem.

4. Motivation. And guys, this is a big one. Now I’m not sure if this is due to anxiety or depression or both, but it’s a major problem for me. My best book reviews come if I write them immediately after I finish a book. But I can never do this, because lack of motivation. If I took extensive notes while I was reading I would be able to write great reviews too, but again, motivation. People think this is a thing that is easy to get over too, if they don’t understand mental illnesses. Just do it anyway, they say. Yeah, if I could do that, I wouldn’t be writing about it. I’m lucky I can take care of myself and my four animals daily without having a mental breakdown.

That brings me to some positives, though, as I close this out. All the things medication has helped me with. Because if you are suffering with anxiety and depression, you need to get help. I don’t want you to go on living like this because there is a better way. Medication won’t cure everything and it’s not the answer for everybody, but what it has done for me is worth the side effects.

1. I have less anger and I don’t lash out at my family and friends anymore.

2. I am able to walk away from triggers without obsessing over them. Twitter is a really big trigger for me sometimes. I can close it down and do something else without dwelling on it too much. I couldn’t do that before.

2. I have less emotional meltdowns. I don’t freak out over the littlest things, and I’m not paranoid people are out to get me anymore. And I know that sounds super dramatic, but it was a major issue I had. I don’t dwell on what people think about me so much anymore.

Things it has not helped?

1. My sleeping pattern still really sucks and I can’t wake up on a schedule and as a result I can’t work a regular job like everyone else. I’m lucky I get to edit for some great authors though so I am still able to contribute to our household.

2. I still deal with social anxiety and I don’t like talking to strangers. Most of the time I need Dan to go places with me because he’s like my traveling “comfort zone.” I’m antisocial and I prefer hermiting so I don’t have to deal with those stressors.

3. Lack of motivation is still a problem. I make myself a daily list and I get through that, and it’s usually: take care of the pets, do a load of dishes, shower, get some work done or do something else around the house, and then that’s basically all I can get done in a day. But I feel really accomplished if I get a lot done, and it’s really a mood booster.

If you have any questions about anything in this post, feel free to contact me on Twitter @NamasteRead, or you can visit my blog at great-imaginations.com, and other contact info is there.