Learning To Read Again

Dear Audy,

I’ve made some pretty big strides towards coping with my mediocre thinking powers in the past twelve months. I am trying to keep focusing on the achievements so that my current situation doesn’t drive me into nuttykookooville. One accomplishment, that has led to many more lessons and revelations, is my return to reading.

My pile of books to read…some for learning and some just for fun!

When thinking gets hard, I feel more disconnected than when dealing with only the isolation. Engaging with books is more challenging than usual and even the talking heads on the television are harder to follow. I also tend to catch myself spending ridiculous amounts of time staring into plain air and ferociously thinking about nothing at all.

Reading was a joy that was completely lost to me during my first couple of years with CRPS. During that time I was trialling a lot of mind sucking medication and trying to cope with the crazy turn that my life had taken, which pretty much filled up all of my time.

In order to be able to read (and learn) again, I had to lower my expectations of myself. I am no longer that nine year old girl who could get lost in books all day without a care in the world. However, I did start reading the sorts of things she would have liked…

Like Twilight. Yep, I read them all (I’m also not likely to forget this fact as it was an important step in this journey back to books).The best thing about reading The Twilight Saga is that it really doesn’t matter if your brain checks out for a page or two.

I wanted more than Twilight though, I wanted to read interesting things and to absorb and understand them. Getting to that point took a little bit more work.

I had to take my reading level backward before it could go forward again. I had to not get annoyed or frustrated when my brain checked out for a bit, I just had to go back to what I remembered and read it again. When coming across a word that I couldn’t quite remember the meaning of, I simply had to stop and look it up.

In the beginning of learning to read with chronic pain, I had to treat text as though I needed to memorise it for a test. Overly attending to the words was the only way to make any of them stick. I also practised expanding how I visualise what I’m reading so that there are further associations to strengthen the memories.

Thankfully, this was a task that time and effort could improve. I have read a lot since those early days, some books slowly, others all at once. Some books scientifically orientated, some books fictionally orientated. Some books that I have enjoyed and some that I haven’t made it all the way through due to boringness.

I am a reader again. It takes more effort than it used to but, hey, that’s OK. My current read is undertaken with a grey lead in hand so that I can deface the book with underlining and notes to keep my head in the game (unfortunately it’s not a library book, defacing one of those is way more fun).

When I look back to being that girl that was crippled by pain (pain that was, notably, not anywhere near as widespread as it is now), who couldn’t read, couldn’t learn and couldn’t understand what on Earth to do with her pain or her life, I am proud of how far I have come.

Taking some time out of this aching day to remember that makes me smile. My life might not be very exciting right now, but I’m still learning and developing. I’m still living.

Love & Literature,

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  • 6 thoughts on “Learning To Read Again

    1. Denise

      I don’t often comment on your posts, but this time it really felt as if you reached into my mind and typed out verbatim the section “Why I Don’t Read Much AnyMore”! I thought that it was just me that lost focus and couldn’t remember the last paragraph that I read 5x already! The words existed I read them but they had absolutely no meaning to me. I would get so frustrated, and felt so stupid that each episode of reading would end
      in tears. It is ok to put things aside that you just can’t handle right now but when you realize that finishing the book or task honestly gave you a sense of accomplishment you will pick it up again and you will succeed. Who cares if it took 6 months, you did it and cross that one off the list! Thanks for always making fellow RSDers not feel so isolated and crazy we all experience times when we feel we fail when in reality we should celebrate how far we have come!

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thanks so much for commenting, Denise! It can still get frustrating if I’ve had to go over paragraphs several times, but I’m getting better at concentrating and taking more in. When I start to get a bit more foggy headed, I tend to go back toward the easy reads again and then work my way back into the more advanced ones. I haven’t completely gotten rid of the sense of failure all the time, but it’s mostly down to a dull roar and I can keep squashing it until it disappears completely…now, to find something to celebrate today! 😉 xx

    2. Sarah Bellany

      I’m at the beginning of the learning to read again (again) process and a lovely nurse has just lent me the first of the Twilight series…so here goes.

      When I can’t read, I listen (sometimes over and over again) to ABC Radio National programmes. Another relatively painless, no pun intended, way to learn.

      Keep up the blogging


      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Hehe, they are a great jumping back in point! I actually quite love that YA fiction is currently popular, I don’t think that my inner teen ever really had enough of it ;P I have started listening to one podcast in recent months (Latest in Paleo) that I’ve managed to stick with, there are so many more educational type ones that interest me and yet I don’t ever seem to actually find the time and motivation to get into them. I have to work harder to take in knowledge through my ears than my eyes, which is definitely something that I’d like to improve! Thanks for the reminder and best of luck getting back into reading! :) xx

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