Monday, August 27, 2012

My Embarrassing Secret

Okay...almost nobody knows this about me. So it feels kind of odd writing about it where several hundred people will see it.

I'm a librarian, and I can't read a book.

I used to love reading, especially teen novels and adult non-fiction. I would usually read a book a day.

About ten years ago, I noticed that I was having some difficulty following narratives. About two years later I found myself having to re-read paragraphs a few times to get the gist of what they were saying. Today, a book is a major challenge for me that I rarely take on.

I forced myself through the Hunger Games trilogy, with great effort and a lot of time. I bring books home from work, but they sit by my bed until I give up and bring them back. I do this regularly, out of habit and a strong hope that one day the curse will be broken and I will return to the library triumphant, having finished the small stack of items.

I love reading. I have since I was six years old. When this started, I assumed that I had become mentally lazy, or burned out.

I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2000, after being diagnosed with mild depression by my family doctor in 1999. There was no reason for that diagnosis to impair my ability to read.

It just keeps getting worse and worse, and it's embarrassing. I can read small sections of reports, but anything of any length is a huge issue.

Now, I have a proper diagnosis. It turns out that in 2000 the only time doctors had seen me was when I was depressed. I recently had a full work-up done by a psychiatrist, and to my surprise (but not to my wife or friends), I'm bipolar with an anxiety disorder. (On average, it takes fifteen years to get a proper diagnosis for type II bipolar disorder. I beat that by three. Booyah! Take that, average diagnosis time!).

I managed to find an excerpt of a paper published at that talks about racing thoughts (which I have with hypomania) and anxiety:

When this is severe, people who enjoy books can find themselves completely unable to read: they just go over and over the same paragraph and it doesn't "sink in."

I told my doctor about this. We think that when I'm depressed, I'm not motivated to read. When I'm hypomanic, my thoughts are racing. Once we get my bipolar and anxiety under control, we both are hoping that my reading will improve.

The silver lining? Now that I've been a non-reader for eight years, I have great respect (and a better understanding) for people with reading difficulties who have the courage to visit the library.

They don't come in the door and see limitless opportunities for learning.

The come for a CD. DVD, newsaper or magazine; or a simply a place to sit, in spite of being surrounded by shelves and shelves of what to many of them are reminders of their failings.

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