This is probably the most personal post I’ve written yet but I’ve been struggling for a couple of years to balance work and leisure time and it’s mainly down to having depression and anxiety. Balancing different areas of my life is something I’ve been working on lately, and have been for a while, as I find it very difficult. I know very few people who can balance quite naturally their hobbies and work and other aspects of life and I just kind of wanted to have a chat about how my reading and writing specifically is affected by my own mental health.
Reading is something I have always loved, ever since being a child. It opened new worlds for me, I was interested in reading lots of different kinds of books just so I could learn and feed my imagination. Just as with films, which are my other passion, I used to create characters for myself within my favourites so I could imagine myself as a part of it.
When I got older and began to struggle with depression, I had a massive dip in the amount of books I read. When I did read, I wasn’t fully into the stories, even if I would have loved them usually. Like many others, when I’m in a very down state, I can’t find any interest in things. When I am this bad, I don’t see the point in picking up a book, even a familiar favourite one. It’s a horrible thing!
This also affects my writing – blog posts, short scripts and stories. I have zero motivation, especially for things that I can do in my own space. For example, I can go to work and go outside and meet up with friends because I do that for other people. However, when I need or want to do something in my own house or hobbies that are for myself, I can’t bring myself to do them. It’s a very hard thing to work on as you feel like you’re losing a sense of yourself.
I also have anxiety which reading sometimes helps with. I sometimes use it as a distraction, to get me out of my own head and into someone else’s. It’s a massive cliche, but depending on how I’m feeling and the type of book I’m reading, I really am just taken to another place. And even if the character is feeling similarly to me or some situations are close to home, it’s still detached from my life and I like that. I like not having to focus on how I feel about my own life and instead focus on a fictional character’s life. Even with non-fiction, I’m still thinking about something or someone different.
I’ve gotten back into reading lately and I’m planning my days out so even on bad days I have little tasks written in my diary to try and motivate myself (easier said than done, I know) and these do help. Even if those tasks are to finish my book, go to an appointment or write an email I need to send. I’m planning in leisure time so I can hopefully start to enjoy my interests again and actually give time to them, and myself, that I need.
Does anyone have any tips on reading, writing and other hobbies when struggling with depression/anxiety? Or do you have a mental health issue which also affects your personal life/interests? If you feel up to talking about it, I’m always happy to chat about these things. I think it’s important to talk and know that you’re not alone in these feelings.