Why books are bad for you

When I was 12 I used to use them to escape from friendless classrooms and if I didn’t have one in my hand, I would stare out of the window with fierce concentration thinking of all the stories stored in my head and the many imaginary lives I lived through them. If the background chatter ever drew my attention, I didn’t let it on. I think most of my classmates (if they ever thought to look my way) usually saw me sleeping with my head down on my desk or staring out of the window. Books were a better alternative. They made me seem less lonely; they made me less lonely.

Today those books still shield me from life. They wrap me in protective folds that keep the world away from me and me away from the world. They are the gatekeepers to my dreams, who are fiercely determined to keep reality away. I am untested and don’t know the strength of my own will, because I have never pitted it against anything not inside the pages of a good story. My hopes and aspirations have birthed and grown in the soft, edgeless world of no competition, no obstacles. Today I don’t know if I am worth as much as I think I am.

I have run back into their arms so many times. I have turned away from life so many times. If I give them up, I give up my best friends. If I put them away, I put away a part of me that was born so many years ago in that classroom, at that desk by the window.

I’m afraid too much of me is formed by the insubstantial constructs of other people’s imagination. I’m afraid if I step away from them, the pillars holding my character firm atop a foundation of lessons learned through fictional rigours would crumble. I would stand unprepared and weak before a world that cannot be closed and put back on the shelf when I see no happy ending in sight.

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11 comments

  1. I took a sabbatical from life in college when things got too hard. I stepped into a book that took over my thoughts and feelings. I won’t admit what book it was. It was difficult to migrate back to reality after living in such a wonderful place in my mind. It only helped that my best friend had read the books as well and she knew what I was going through. It took time to find my way back to the here and now but I make a special place and time for when I can run away to my “happy place”. This way I can keep my friends and life without losing the wonderful escape hatch for my imagination. 🙂

    1. That sounds wonderful! =) I’m trying to train myself not to keep running back to hide behind books, but it’s almost like an addiction. You have something that makes you feel good, that understands and empathises with you and has no expectations from you. Not surprisingly it’s hard to give up. For me, over the years it’s become my crutch. I keep looking for ways not to give them up, even for a few months. I would like to make it my happy place too, where I go sometimes to relax and unwind instead of living cooped up in it forever.

      1. It gets worse before it gets better…doesn’t sound too hopeful but it’s true. Obsession Vs Addiction- I was addicted to my book series…badly. Then i paid $100 to meet the author and then flew across country to the actual place where the book takes place. The last part was the obsession. I’m still dealing with this specific addiction to the series…I love to reread it over and over however I have made it a point to start reading other books out of my comfort zone. Instead of romance, murder mystery or historical nonfiction. I’m proud to admit I haven’t read the series in over a year. Little steps help for the big stride of letting go. Does that help at all?

        1. Yes. =) I like non-fiction, especially on history and economics. I’m trying to read more of these, but I can’t quite give up my fictional worlds. But It’s the little steps, like you said.

  2. There were times in my life where reading a good or favourite book was the only way to get me out of stress attacks (or anxiety attacks, either or). So I relate to the idea of using books as a crutch but I’m not sure if I agree with the danger of them. I suppose too much of anything is a bad thing, but perhaps the solution to this is merely to find a balance. You don’t need to give up a book, perhaps just alter it’s use or purpose in your life.

    1. Perhaps, it’s because of the kind of person I am. Escapism is the easy way, so I take it. Books are my sand and I’m the proverbial ostrich.
      But yeah, too many books and too many times when I chose them over a conversation with my family or acquaintances who were trying to be friends. I found them more interesting, more absorbing. Disappointments were always there for a reason. Dislike for someone was either the beginning of a redemption arc or a big hint for later villainy. Every scene, every dialogue had a purpose. They demanded my undivided attention.
      It’s awesome, the world of stories. So myriad, so diverse and complex. But it’s not real life, and no matter how much real life paled in comparison most of the time, I was/am missing the passage of my own years and not even looking to improve things for myself.
      First step is acknowledging you have a problem, right? =)

      1. If it is beginning to impair your ability to enjoy life then yes, I agree that you are taking positive steps. It’s unfortunate though, I agree, sometimes there’s nothing better than wrapping yourself up in blankets with a great book, forgetting absolutely everything around you. Perhaps if you shared your love of books with others this could be a way for you to find a balance?

        1. That’s good advice. Some months ago I did find a group of people who love books as much as I do but are better adjusted in the real world. One of them is the commenter below. =) It’s talking and discussing books with them that’s helping me get a bit of distance and perspective, and will hopefully someday help me to stop using books as a “security blanket”. But I never want to give them up completely. As you said, nothing better than a book to cuddle up with when you need to get away. =)

  3. I think it very, very brave of you to admit this, even to yourself. I have a similar obsession (making up stories of my own) that I chose over real life thousands of times. Count any little steps and little moments that you’re communicating with friends (ahem, crybabies) or family as part of your journey. It all matters.

    1. Crybabies was one of the things that made me realise how overly dependent I was on books to work as an escape hatch whenever reality showed me that I was lacking in some way, that I could fail, that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. I’m so scared of losing, of not succeeding that I ran away from the race completely. As if my running away would stop the race from happening. So now instead of failing, I’m letting myself be left behind.
      And thus this post- to admit that I have a problem and I’m trying to deal with it. =)

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