Every reader knows that books are an escape. You can leave your own world behind in a way that movies or podcasts don’t quite succeed in. Your hands are needed to hold the book. Your mind is given to the story. You lose your own self and fall into the head’s of people who make you see that there is more to the world than just you.
Reading has saved me, again and again. Books were friends when I had none. Books taught me that I was not alone. Books are where I run to when my mind is too full…when my head is too dark and dangerous of a place to stay in. Some comfort and sooth. Some break me apart to let me feel again. Some let me exercise the terror in my mind. Some remind me that there are still magnificent places I need to see…even if those places only exist in the mind of the author and their readers.
I read more when I’m depressed or anxious. I can tell the level of my mental health by looking at the stacks of books I’ve finished. When I’m in my deepest depressions I can’t read at all, but mostly I find myself sitting to close to the edge of that dark place…knowing that the darkness is coming and wanting to ward it off with stories I bring into my backyard so that I can feel the sun and remind myself that this will pass.
Today I saw the stacks of books beside my door. I always catalogue them because my mind is too forgetful and I want to remember where I’ve been and what I should reread. I look at the books that I’ve read since January.
It’s a lot. Even for a reader.
And I know this is a sign.
It’s a sign that I’m too near the edge. It’s a sign that I need to be careful.
But it’s also a map of the wonderful places I’ve visited even during the dark times. And a reminder that even when I am stuck in my own terrible mind, I can still find joy inside the minds of others.
And it’s a thank you as well. To all the writers in the world who rescue us over and over by letting us run free in strange lands. To the librarians and booksellers and friends who cherish these same books and see them through the wilderness into the hands of people who need them.
There is darkness. There is light. There are words. And the words save me from myself again and again.