The Bad Part About Reading Too Much That Nobody Talks About

Paolo Raeli
Paolo Raeli

Let me begin by emphasizing that this is a personal journey of realization. I am not condemning reading. I just wanted to put into words my experiences, in hopes of finding betterment. Anyway, here goes.

Ever since I can remember, my life have been entangled with stories and books. From childhood bedtime readings with my mom of princesses and evil witches; to discovering Wonderland with pretty pictures of Alice, Tweedledee and Tweedledum; to soaring into the sky to find Neverland with Peter and Wendy; to finally traipsing on my own, with a dictionary in hand, as I explore pictureless books about the Wizarding World and Narnia, and to the present, wading through different lives through different eyes inside different books.

Indeed, I have found comfort and solace in reading fiction: the ultimate escapism. But I guess in time, my reasons for reading took quite a dark turn. Before, in my innocent youth, I would read because of utter fascination and curiosity, wanting to learn new things. I would read because the experience felt magical and I would bask in amazement and awe. Reading introduced me to hundreds of alternate realities that made me see the world I live in in a different light, made me understand the truths and falsehoods. It filled my mind with insurmountable treasures, I hope to keep forever.

As I grow older, I feel pretty much the same about reading. But in addition, it became my refuge from the harsh realities of life. Reading became a sort of anchor, that keeps me in place whenever the tides of life threaten to sweep me away and when it all feels too much. Whenever I want to forget, I read. Whenever I want to avoid my problems, I read. Whenever I feel stressed, I read.

For quite a time, it works. I become quickly uplifted and could go on about life refreshed and born anew. It was also through reading that I developed my love for writing — expressing myself through string of words that builds universes around me. I became addicted. But it can only go so far.

I realized that reading was actually toxic for me. I get so lost in this dream-like state that I refuse to be settled back in my own true world. The moment I close a book, everything would come crashing in. Every problem I avoided, every darkness I try to push back using pages of a book, lash out to me by tenfold. Reading is not a catharsis, as I believed it to be. I became so dependent on these fictional characters, thinking of them as friends, fooling myself to be a part of their fantasy, not knowing that I’ve been neglecting my reality.

And I know that this must a slap-in-the-face to my fellow readers, and for that I apologize. But the longer I read, the better I see what it has become for me. It’s not reading per se that is the problem. It’s how I use it to put up walls and prevent people, emotions, life, and reality to come in, instead of using it to connect with the world around me. It’s how I use it as a cage to trap me in, instead of how I intended it to be my wings. I didn’t know exactly when reading for me changed from momentary escapism to complete seclusion and avoidance. It’s unhealthy, I know.

And it hurts. It’s painful to know that I somehow turned this great wonder of life into a weapon that stab myself in the back, leaving me at a loss of direction.

But in life, we need to go forward. And so, I am learning—slowly learning to love reading again, in its purest form, untainted by my personal hoard of demons and unhindered by my yearning to float away in the abyss. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog