Sunday, June 04, 2006

Books - my drug of choice

Books have always been my drug of choice. They numbed me, allowed me to escape into their stories, become part of their lives, without affecting me too much. I relied on them anytime I became too overwhelmed, relished their easy friendship, their welcoming words, knowing that I can become any of the characters by simply opening the cover. They helped me survive.

The years following college were tough for me.

I think I did a really good job faking it, but oh, the uncertainty of my life was so unsettling, so unnerving, I had trouble remembering to breathe in and out sometimes.

I remember my final semester of college, student teaching done, weeks away from graduation, and no job lined up for September. I remember lying in bed on my left side, facing the door, sobbing. Not being able to function. Not being able to get up enough energy to get out of bed. By most accounts, I should have been on top of the world. I was getting married the following year. I was finishing college magna cum laude, having worked numerous jobs in order to pay for, but I had done it. But for once in my life, I had no idea what I was going to do in September. I applied to district after district, but none were hiring. I would need to be a day to day sub to make money and gain experience, and the nonpermanance of that was almost more than I could bear.

But I survived. I sucked it up, pushed those feelings deep inside, and moved on.

The next year I got married and we moved into our first apartment. A small, one bedroom apartment. I also started my first year teaching, working with a classroom of gifted fifth graders (or fifth graders whose parents insisted they were gifted), figuring out how to write lesson plans, grade papers, stay one step ahead of my very gifted math students, write IEPs, deal with very demanding parents, all while learning how to live with a man, make dinners, and take care of our home. It was a challenging year. And those feelings, still pushed deep down, kept threatening to explode. They would bubble out of me in arguements I would have with DH over the stupidest things, ooze out of me by making it near impossible to remember each child as an individual without my copious notes since the anxiety I was living with made my memory mush, even encompass me in a great fog when all I wanted to do was play solitaire on the computer and read romance books.

I don't play solitaire much anymore, but my idea of heaven is still a stack of books that I haven't read yet and uninterrupted time to read them. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with reading, with diving into a book and losing yourself in the characters completely, barely coming up for air until the book is done. I remember one summer before we had kids when DH was working all day. I had gotten a job at a summer writing camp, working in the afternoons, and had plans for how to use each morning: rewriting unit plans, coming up with fabulous activities for my classroom, reorganizing closets and cabinets. And yet I never did any of it. Every morning, no matter what my intention was, I would escape all of my responsiblities by reading. Book after book, one after the other, no breaks in between. I would try to set limits, to set a timer for half an hour to ensure I would get up and accomplish something before I had to leave for camp. The timer that I would end up pushing for another chunk of time, and another chunk of time, until it was the last possible minute that I had to leave to arrive at camp on time. And so it went, day after day, all summer long.

Some time the next year I was diagnosed with depression brought on by Post-traumatic-stress disorder, brought on from growing up with my brother, a story for another time. So many things began making sense to me, my inability to function in social situations, my need for control, my detattchment from my feelings. My need to escape. I saw how my reading was one method I had been using to escape from my real feelings, from my real life.

I've written before how something changed for me when I got pregnant with the boys. Maybe it was something chemical, maybe just the fact that I had an instant conversation starter, that people remembered me because I was the one with the twins, I don't know, but life changed. I guess it's really my ability to cope with life changed, but things seemed different. And then I discovered FLYlady, which gave me an approach to dealing with things around the house when they got too overwhelming.

I don't really know where I'm going with all of this, why I felt the need to write about it today. I guess it's because I've been reading a lot recently. I think I needed to remember how I used to use my books because I see myself moving in that direction the past few days, or at least skating dangerously close. I've wasted so much of this weekend in reading. I've read some really great books, but didn't get to do any of the things I was planning to do, things I was really looking forward to getting accomplished. I'm feeling really down on myself because of it. This last week was a blur for me because I was so sick and felt so crappy. I guess everyone needs a weekend off once in a while. Even moms. But I have to remember that reading is my drug of choice to numb myself from all I feel, and clearly it's a slippery slope for me. I just finished a book (In Her Shoes was a lot better than I expected it to be) so I think I need to take a break from reading for a little, lift up my head again, take a deep breath, and continue to plod through this life of mine once again. Here goes.


Anjali said...

Books are my drug of choice as well. And just like druggies, I can not stop when I want to, nor can I afford my habit (thank goodness for libraries).

Lucy T said...

Did you see the movie (In Her Shoes)? There was an interview with the author on the DVD. The author said the screenwriter did a better job of telling her story than she did. Weird, huh?
Well, don't know where I am going with this, but that doesn't stop us does it? LOL (Lot's of Love)

Heather said...

Rachel - I could have written this post soooooo easily.

MommyWithAttitude said...

Books are definitely my drug of choice too, along with some chocolate to eat while I'm reading them. Now I feel like I hardly ever have time to read books, because reading on the internet takes so much of my time.

Tish said...

Wow its scary how much of what you wrote I can relate to. I never really thought of it that way..but I definitely used books as a means to escape my childhood. Thanks for sharing this.

Chaotic Mom said...

This was one of my favorite posts of yours. I too choose books. ;)