Home CommentaryOpinions Note to Shelf: Reading ruts and mental health

Note to Shelf: Reading ruts and mental health

by Youmna El Halabi March 10, 2020
Note to Shelf: Reading ruts and mental health

Rut: a habit or pattern of behaviour that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change” – Merriam Webster.

Yeah, no kidding. It also always seems to come at an inconvenient time—like writing ruts when you need this article done by tomorrow at the latest, and inspiration doesn’t come to you until 5 a.m. the day of. Ruts that prevent you from getting your life together and organizing yourself, ending with you having a mental breakdown because the one thing preventing you from doing so is your own damn self.

All of these are manageable to me (HAH). Mostly because after the mental breakdown, a flow of uncontrollable tears and constant sobs, I actually get stuff done. But, if there is one thing I never seem to shake off for long periods of time, it’s reading ruts.

Every bookworm has them. Reading ruts can last from one month to an entire year. Some have them for years because life gets too tiring to trouble yourself with words on paper, and Netflix gets too exciting. Some just stop reading like they used to altogether, and boast about how they once hoarded arrays of novels, but now feel okay with just reading their morning newspaper and taking it easy. I don’t like those people. Yes, mum, I’m talking about you.

I personally loathe, and yes I’m using a strong here, loathe reading ruts simply because my life is hell when they happen. Now some might think I’m being too dramatic when I say this, but hear me out. Or read me out, in this case. Heh. 

Ever since I was a kid, while averse to novels mostly because my attention span was too short, I found solace in reading. From the ages of seven to 11, I would devour any French comic book I could get my hands on. From W.I.T.C.H mag (yes, I read it in French), to Titeuf, to Tom-Tom et Nana, I would eat up every word, and plead my mother to buy me the following volumes as soon as she could. It wasn’t much, but I was still reading.

When I was the same age as Harry was when he got his letter to Hogwarts, my sister dropped the first book of the Harry Potter series into my lap and told me to read it. That it would be a life-changing experience. And so began my love for books. Not just reading anymore, but books.

I was so accustomed to reading so much so fast that I didn’t understand why people were amazed by it. It was so natural to me. It was home, it was happiness, it was serenity. No movie, TV series or cartoon ever made me feel as whole as a good book.

This is why whenever I am in a reading rut, which has been happening quite often, my mental health begins to take a beating. I become irritated, sad and cranky. Because I feel like there is something I am supposed to be doing, but I can’t do it. I pick up a book, and the words mean nothing to me. I am unable to get past two chapters without throwing the novel across the room, and wishing I could just focus for one damn minute. The ruts get so dark, I find myself inclined to stop reading altogether.

That is until a good friend recommends a novel that gets you right back to it. That offers you the greatest of all gifts and makes you feel alive again—a novel you find yourself unable to put down, reading it over and over and over again. Back in the saddle, as they say, engrossed in a fictional world— where you always belonged. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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