I have always been a voracious reader, as I am sure most of you were as well. Bookish came naturally to me. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a book on me at all times, whether it was Junie B. Jones, Harry Potter, or Jane Austen. I have a serious love of books – and nothing but the real paper kind will do.
Until I got sick.
I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012. My main symptom that led to the diagnosis was severe vertigo. Since then, I have been through several treatments, countless doctors, and still deal with symptoms on a regular basis. Even with limited mobility and other physical symptoms, the vertigo has been the worst to manage – it has kept me from reading.
When I am having a bad flare, I’m not able to read at all. The vertigo makes focusing so nauseating that it takes hours for me to get through one chapter. I eventually had to give up, even having to take a semester off. I was vocal about my frustration and boredom with not being able to read, which is when a friend suggested audiobooks.
But isn’t that cheating?
I was unable to get over my preconceived notion that I was somehow cheating myself as a reader if I listened to audiobooks. Wasn’t it the same as watching the movie instead of reading the book? I spent years fighting through my symptoms to get through as many books as I can. Even on a good day I’m still not as fast of a reader as I used to be.
After five years, I finally gave in and decided to try audiobooks. Rebecca Schinsky in the All the Books podcast recommended listening to nonfiction on audio, so that’s where I started. My wife and I were planning a weekend away, which involved 3 hours of driving each way. We downloaded Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? as a test run.
I loved it. I moved on to a fiction book and loved that, too. I loved the voice and being able to use the time in the car to read, even though I am usually the driver. I loved the narrator using different voices for each character. I almost wanted to cry. Even on days when I am not able to focus on a single page, I can still read. I can still be a part of the story.
Lyme disease has taken a lot of things from me: mobility, social life, financial stability. Now that my eyes (or rather, ears) have been opened to audiobooks, reading is one part of my life that I can reclaim.