I was lying in bed, my covers clung to my body; I was their prisoner. Three hours had passed since my alarm clock went off and I still wasn’t able to will my body to get up and be productive. My list of things to do became longer every day and I was stressed out beyond belief, but I could not move from that bed.
Have you heard of Bibliotherapy? I’m pretty sure many of us haven’t, I’ve recently only found out about it. Bibliotherapy is a different type of therapy, an expressive therapy that encourages the use of literature to promote good mental health.
Good Therapy states, “Storytelling, creative writing, and reading have long been recognized for their therapeutic potential. The use of literature as a healing method dates back to ancient Greece, when Grecian libraries were seen as sacred places with curative powers.” If this solution has been around for centuries, why is it that so many of us have never even heard of the term Bibliotherapy? Why is this not a more common prescription from our doctors?
This doesn’t mean that you should just pick up any old book that you see and read a few pages. According to Zipora Shechtman, “Affective bibliotherapy uses fiction and other high-quality literature to help the reader connect to emotional experiences and human situations through the process of identification.” Through reading certain books, we’re able to identify certain emotions and maybe even figure out how to handle them. It’s like feeling better after having a long cry, like the weight of the world has been lifted from our shoulders. It’s almost as if we have to deal with our emotions instead of just suppressing them with medication.
I know some of us may be skeptical to allow a stranger, or even your therapist, to choose our literature for us. Ceridwen Dovey from The New Yorker decided to give it a try, and said, “I worked my way through the books on the list over the next couple of years, at my own pace—interspersed with my own 'discoveries'—and while I am fortunate enough to have my ability to withstand terrible grief untested, thus far, some of the insights I gleaned from these books helped me through something entirely different, when, over several months, I endured acute physical pain. The insights themselves are still nebulous, as learning gained through reading fiction often is—but therein lies its power.”
Maybe I should have picked up a book in the library instead of letting guilt overpower me. We all have other responsibilities to attend to, but shouldn’t our mental health be at the top of our to-do lists? Punishing yourself by taking away what you love to do won't help. Go to your local library. Get lost amongst the stack of books. Most importantly, read until you feel better.