Eighth grade was not a good year for me. Along with the usual teenage angst and social awkwardness, I was deeply depressed and anorexic. I spent a week at the Teenage Psychiatric Ward at the Keene State Hospital two-and-a-half hours from home. This was a harrowing experience and deterred me from seeking mental health care for years. I felt hopelessly alone. I read a lot.

Reading had always offered me solace. I’d experienced depression and anxiety from a very young age and didn’t know how to process my emotions. I would finally be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in my late twenties, but, back then, help was still a long ways away. My parents didn’t know what to do with me and my emotions. But, reading gave me a positive outlet, a safe place to go, a way to escape my troubles. When I was lonely, I turned to books. That year, I spent many days lying in bed, reading.

About a month after my release from the hospital, my mother and I started reading together. We hadn’t done that in years, pretty much since I’d learned to read. Without discussing it, one night my mom crawled into my bed next to me with her leatherbound copy of Wuthering Heights. We settled under three or four blankets (I was always cold, due to poor circulation caused by the anorexia). We snuggled up close and took turns reading aloud. This became a nightly habit.

Reading gave my mom and me a place to connect, something to share. It offered peace in a tumultuous time. It made us closer again. Reading helped me destress when I really, really needed to. It took me away from my overwhelming emotions and self-doubt. It made me want to live again. Reading with my mom saved me.

5 responses to “How Reading with My Mom Saved My Life

  1. What a personal and powerful account. Thank you for sharing. One should never underestimate the power of reading and books… in addition to having someone to read with regardless of age. May this bring solace and empowerment to others who also live your story.

  2. My son and I read together until he was 16 and thought he was too old for it. The last book we properly read together was “Marvels” written by Brian Selznick. (I would still sometimes read to him some of his school work reading, but that doesn’t count!) It was the last in his ‘trilogy’ which began with “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” With these two and the ‘middle’ book, “Wonder Struck” we spent a single day, JUST reading each book when they came out. We stopped for bio breaks and meals only! These are just three of the books we have read together, a few others were by Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Odd and the Frost Giant, The Graveyard), numerous folk and fairy tales which I also read or told my daughter, books by Kevin Crossley-Holland (the Arthur series amongst others by him), and Leon Garfield, Michael Morpurgo and Chris Mould, especially the Spindlewood series. Reading together made a bond that made it possible for us to talk about anything. Even when he got into trouble!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story with us ! How brave and inspiring are you for other young people ! Since my love of reading started as a child, I try to inspire it among my students and family members. If there are certain authors and titles that touched you, I would love to know. I hope that you still find time to read and that you are happy and safe.

    1. Thank you so much, Vivica. Yes, it’s so important. As for titles, as a younger person, I loved “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, the Narnia series, and “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents” by Julia Alvarez. I’ve also always loved Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing! And yes, reading will always be a big part of my life. Thanks for your kind words.

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