Too S.A.D. to Read: When Winter Hits Your Shelf

As someone who has no kids and no television, I read a lot — during my lunch hour, after work with a beer, at a coffee shop, waiting in line. In fact, my boss and I have a segment on our podcast called “We can’t always be reading” and I always have trouble coming up with content for this section. Like Rory Gilmore, I basically always have a book with me (at least one.)

All of this is not to bookbrag, but rather to put what I say next into context: Winter is horrible for my reading. I’ve been treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as “S.A.D.,” the most ridiculous acronym available) for a decade now, and winter hits me hardest when it comes to books. I find that I just… can’t read. I don’t want to read. I want to want to, but I can’t muster up the energy. It’s typically the first sign for me that – to steal a phrase from Game of Thrones – Winter is Coming. It’s confusing and frustrating, and for a long time I didn’t even have words for explaining myself to myself, much less to others. Ironically, it was something I read during a non-depressed time that helped.

In the book Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh talks about her own struggles with depression. The book – like her beloved blog of the same title – combines Brosh’s hilarious and often self-deprecating wit with MS-Paint-inspired drawings (like the one above), making even her serious and vulnerable essays somewhat amusing. In one of her essays on depression, Brosh offers an extremely useful metaphor; she talks about her favorite childhood toys and the daring feats and perilous journeys they would embark upon during her play times. As years passed, however, things changed:

[As] I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren’t the same.

I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse’s Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled.  I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience.

Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything. (Emphasis mine)

I remember reading this passage on her blog a few years ago and feeling like Brosh COMPLETELY NAILED IT. This! This is how I feel about reading when winter hits – like I suddenly can’t connect anymore, and feel foolish for even trying to enjoy it. The rest of Brosh’s essay on depression is an incredibly worthwhile read for anyone who has similar seasonal struggles or knows/loves someone else who does.

The reminder that other people have these feelings (or lack-thereof) is one of the reasons LPL has decided to launch a Winter Reading program this year. The goal of Winter Reading for adults is to read three books in two months (Dec. 1 through Jan 31st) as well as to potentially connect with one another and our community. We want to give ourselves something to strive for and look forward to during what is often a difficult time of year.

Another program we’re offering features “S.A.D. lamps” available for use in the library. You’ll be able to come into the auditorium, lounge in a comfy chair, and read or relax while soaking up some helpful light therapy. Information will be provided on other ways for combating seasonal depression as well, thanks to our Info Services department and folks from Bert Nash. Stay tuned for the December calendar, but if you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact me.

At this point, while autumn is still on my heels, I’m eager for this Winter Reading program, and I hope people will utilize resources that can help – whether that’s doctor appointments or medications or SAD lamps or book clubs or just repeatedly reading Hyperbole and a Half.

Yes, Winter is Coming, but maybe we can still play Horse’s Big Space Adventure and get our read on.

Hyperbole and A Half

-Kate Gramlich is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.