Reading and illness

I’m going to write more about being sick, for which I’ll apologize right now — I don’t like dwelling on this, really, except that it’s hard to dwell on anything else. It’s not a plea for sympathy, at any rate; it’s just me thinking about how being sick affects me, and specifically how it affects my reading. Most of my life I’ve been extraordinarily healthy, so being sick for longer than a couple days is new to me.

At first I was excited about the possibility of having lots of time to read — disappointed that I couldn’t ride, of course, but glad to have reading to fill up the extra time. But now I’m seeing that I don’t really want all that extra time for reading, that the time I had for reading before was a pretty good amount, and that now that I have more time I’m not really interested in using it. I find myself wasting time — I’m not even sure how. I stare at the wall, spend more time surfing the web, that sort of thing. I’ve speculated before that there might be a limit to the amount of time I can happily read, and this illness has confirmed it. I really do need something like riding to give me a break from reading — the physical exertion makes me happy to come home and be still for a while, and being still for a while makes me ready to go out and work hard. I need a balance.

This is a reminder of how much a calm and happy mind depends on having a comfortable, healthy body. Sometimes when I try to read I find myself getting restless, and I wonder if it’s because of my hyperthyroidism, one of the side effects of which is nervousness and restlessness. Last night at times I felt my stomach knotting up, and I couldn’t sit still in one position for more than a few minutes. I’ve sometimes felt this way before getting sick (and have felt other symptoms of hyperthyroidism too), and I wonder if I’ve had a mild form of this condition for a while and didn’t know it. If I didn’t understand what was wrong, I might think my inability to sit still for long periods was simply a personality trait of mine. It’s interesting — and relieving, in a way — to know that it’s because of an illness.

I’m curious to see if the medication I will soon be on will make me feel just the same as I used to feel, in the time immediately before this illness, or if there will be changes.  If I’ve been suffering a mild form of this disorder for a while, perhaps the new, medicated me will be different.

This past week I’ve experienced something I haven’t experienced before: I sat so long in my reading chair that my butt started to hurt. Surely that’s a sign I need to be up and about more! I go to visit the endocrinologist this Tuesday, and will be on the way to feeling better. And then I’ll stop writing about my health, I promise.

I finished Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind recently and want to write about it, and I also want to write at some point about the experience of reading David Markson’s novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress, something very different from the last few things I’ve read, to say the least.


Filed under Life, Reading

14 responses to “Reading and illness

  1. I always believe there is some kind of balance we need in our activities – a good amount of quiet and solitude balanced against a good amount of socialisation. Same for reading and exercise. There’s a quota for doing them.

    I always tell people I just need to quit my job to find the time to read all my books, but on the occasions when I take mental health breaks from work, I find that I don’t actually end up doing more yoga or reading either.

    “This is a reminder of how much a calm and happy mind depends on having a comfortable, healthy body” – you’re right. I think I take too much for granted with my body.

    Maybe it’s too early to tell, but with the medication and treatment, will you be able to ride again?

    Take care.


  2. I’m sorry that you’re feeling ill and restless. 😦 I wish there was something we could do to help!

    And yes, I think we need a balance too. Even I, sedentary as I am by nature, have been missing my walk to and from work while I’ve been on holiday these past too weeks. Somehow, my reading and other activities don’t seem so enjoyable without the context of physical effort – I suppose it’s just the unvarying confinement of sitting, sitting and reading, reading. Like you say, it’s necessary to have everything in the right measure.

    How limited does your exercise have to be? Will a gentle stroll hurt?


  3. I absolutely believe in a good balance between rest and physical exertion, and I, too, have had the experience of “reading too much.” Like anything else in life, too much of a good thing is, well, too much. I guess that means balance in all things (except maybe excrutiatingly hideous tasks like vacuuming) is good.


  4. So sorry to hear you are still not feeling well. Hopefully they will get a medication for you that will make you feel better! I don’t blame you a bit for thinking about this and wanting to talk about it–it would weigh heavily on my mind if it were me as well. Once you are taking some sort of medication and are feeling better hopefully you can concentrate on other things, but I am sure this is very natural. I think a lot of people have had to deal with some sort of health issues (I’ve had my share–blah)and it is definitely a disruption of normalcy. Like everyone else has said I am not sure I would be happy not working and having quite so much free time. I would just waste more time than not, and I do much better with a structured schedule. Maybe you could get out a little and at least take a walk–get a change of scenery? Hopefully Tuesday will give you some answers you need! Take care!


  5. Ah, the joys of chronic illness. Welcome to the new normal–which will soon be replaced by the next new normal, and so on. Life is change. Enjoy every moment.


  6. Oh Dorothy, I have just caught up with your news and am so sorry that you are having to deal with this (although glad in a way that you do know what it is and will shortly have a solution for it). It’s true that when you’re ill it’s hard to really enjoy things, even what would normally be the treat of unlimited reading time. What you can look forward to is, as soon as you start to feel a little better, the sheer delight that is the returning vigour and enthusiasm for life that comes with good health. Life really sparkles after a period of enforced down time.


  7. Having extra time for a short time feels like a treat, a luxury, an indulgence, like you are getting away with something. But when it morphs into too long it is no longer fun. I agree with you and the others, a balance between rest and activity is important. You’re out of balance now but you’ll find it again soon.


  8. So sorry to hear that you are not feeling well. Hope you are feeling better soon!


  9. I have the opposite thyroid problem–hypothyroid. It took
    a year or more for me to get a diagnosis, so I was
    more relieved than anything else when I got it. Yes, it’s
    a chronic disease, but the good news is that thyroid
    problems are so treatable.


  10. SFP

    The meds are going to make you feel so much better, Dorothy. Hang in there.


  11. Oh, I just wrote everybody a response and then lost it! Shoot, and I’m sorry! I do like to respond to people individually. But I’ll sum up — thanks everyone for being so supportive; I really do appreciate it. I’ve taken short walks for diversion, and they help a lot, although they leave me tired. But it’s so nice to get out for a walk. I look for things to do that let me sit — going to see a movie, eating out for dinner.

    Thanks again!!


  12. hepzibah

    Hi Dorothy! I’m sorry that you are still feeling sick, and I know what you mean about feeling restless, and some days I find that I can’t sit and read for more than an hour — and the extra time is always seems like good thing, right? — but I too, never seem to make use of it, and I don’t know why, I always find other, less important, I guess, things to do — but keep taking those daily walks, and I’m sure you’ll feel better soon!!


  13. I totally agree with the need for balance. Physical activity makes my brain more active, and I can better appreciate my reading as a result. Although I love brief periods like a rainy Saturday when you have a good book and just read the day away, that wouldn’t be much fun or very good for you every day. The doctor called in my medication the day the blood tests came back, so I started feeling better pretty quickly–but I think there is a big difference between hypo- and hyper- thyroidism, and you have been much sicker than I was.

    Here’s to balance and medication, Dorothy!


  14. Hepzibah — I’m glad to know you feel the same way about too much reading time! I’m not alone 🙂

    Jenclair — I’m glad to hear you improved very quickly; for myself, I’m suspecting it won’t be too many days before I’m on the medication and feeling better.


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