I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian – even apocalyptic – literature lately. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I take comfort in this dystopian literature. I used to read a great deal of science fiction as a kid and in my 20s but in the past decade, I’ve avoided genres with too much gravity. I’m not sure what changed – or when – but I’m sure it was a side effect of becoming a wife, mother, homeowner, baker, suburbanite, news-junkie, and a couple dozen additional roles or personalities.
One must wonder, though, if there’s more to it. After all, most people grow up and take on crushing amounts of responsibility and they don’t stop enjoying uplifting titles like The Road or Breitbart News.
And why has it pivoted recently?
Mental Health is Weird
I suffer from a great deal of generalized anxiety. I never realized how much it affected me until I began working with a doctor.
Sometimes, my anxiety goes into overdrive and invites my imagination over and the two spin in an echo chamber, making each other stronger, and I’m dragged along for the ride. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does this type of shit takes place.
Let them bring out our old pal depression, and the party quickly looks like The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The instant relief provided by certain medications can be a real eye-opener. For example, a beta-blocker or benzodiazepine like Klonopin – when taken at the appropriate therapeutic dose – doesn’t really seem to do anything (aside from being a bit lazy or sleepy at first). It isn’t like medications or drugs that get you high or have undeniable effects.
Compared to things like PCP, crack, and magnesium citrate, the power of anti-anxiety medications for people with chronic, generalized anxiety is that those substances remove symptoms you may not have even noticed.
Imagine taking a pill and, an hour later, you realize not only that you’ve had fire ants biting you constantly for the past three decades but that they’re gone. The discomfort you’d gotten so used to as a baseline is zapped and suddenly, feeling neutral is much better than even the best high.
It reminds me of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and the shock their bodies must feel when they go from a hot tub to the icy Atlantic.
Meds can be useful (especially in early therapy), while learning cognitive behavioral therapy (changing thought patterns), new coping skills, and mindfulness.
Because of Three Mile Island and 9/11, there is a section of my brain that believes it’s only a matter of time before the human race suffers from something colossal and terrifying. Part of me believes a plague could knock out a large chunk of mankind. I believe a nuclear mishap could take down entire continents. I believe climate change and extreme weather patterns will eventually wipe out cities and towns. I am better now that I’m being treated for anxiety and depression in the sense that I can now stop my brain from going to insane levels of delusions and worry. (Like the time I was CONVINCED we had a meth lab next-door to our apartment in Brooklyn? I had the maintenance come out twice, and begged Toby to come home from his business trip early. I moved the kids into the far end of the apartment. We all slept in one huddled mass in Emory’s room for two nights. And I posted all sorts of shit on twitter about it.)
It’s not that bad anymore, but it’s still there. And I suppose I read these books because it’s nice to sit with likeminded weirdoes at the book table. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. It’s also kind of nice to be prepared should the apocalyptic shit hit the fan.
There is something beautiful about science fiction and the amazingly intricate worlds people create. This form of escapism appeals to me. When it’s done well. it’s truly remarkable, like hallucinogenics (not that I know a THING about that). Anyway, it’s good to be back here, to be able to thoroughly enjoy it again and not enter some other delusional dimension.
All that said, I think I’m going to start doing some short book reviews about all the books I’ve been reading lately. I was trying to read a book a week, but I’m finding that rather difficult given some of these books are 700 pages long and I have a family to care for. But I’m doing pretty ok!
SINCE JANUARY 1, 2017
Books I’ve Read:
The Library at Mount Char
Man In The High Castle
On The Beach
The Wolf Road
The Girl With all the Gifts
The Last Tribe (Didn’t finish.)
What Alice Forgot (Vacation Book)
I am trying to stick with dystopian and science fiction, but I’m finding that I’ve needed a few vacations here and there. What Alice Forgot was a vacation, for example. A much needed, and quite enjoyable one, I might add.
Currently Reading: Next To My Bed:
Homo Dues: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Nonfiction)
Before the Fall
Upcoming: On My Shelf:
The Handmade’s Tale
So, I will start tomorrow. It’s going to be a bit difficult as I haven’t made any notes on the books I read months ago, but they are still there. And down the road, I will write reviews and thoughts right as I finish, perhaps even while I’m still reading. I hope you will stick by and help me out. I would love to get your point of view. I will desperately try and avoid spoilers in the body of a post but may add them in the comments. If I do add any spoilers, you will be warned at the start.
I think this may help me to focus some of my misplaced energy lately. (Also: I still can’t run so this seems like a decent/healthy enough pastime.)
Thanks for reading, friends. Please feel free to drop me some suggestions. I love suggestions.
I can’t do dystopian because it’s too stressful for me. I have nightmares. However I LOVED “What Alice Forgot.” As far as vacation books go, I highly recommend anything else by Liane Moriarty. She’s good.
Thought provoking without being too disturbing.
And thank you for sharing your mental health stuff. Just thanks.
Beth! I loved that book too! LOVED it. It has me very contemplative about how my life has gone over the last ten years and how marriage can change and things that aren’t really important sneak up and somehow become important. YES. Such a good book. Thank you!
Yes it made me think a lot. It also was the impetus for quitting my book club (which was silly and stressful for other reasons). They didn’t really get it or like it and I was so confused by that.
Ha! Good for you. I wonder how they didn’t like it? What’s not to like? Man, good for you. :]
Well I didn’t quit immediately but that’s what I always went back to in my head. Honestly they claimed to find Alice whiny but I’m pretty sure they were just awful people. ;)
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My husband and just read The Girl With All The Gifts after you mentioned it before. Entertaining. The movie sucked so hard.
Have you read The Gunslinger series by S.King?
I’m tellin’ ya: Swan Song by Robert McCammon. Won’t hurt my feelings at all if you don’t like it; it’s my most favorite. Maybe check it out from the library (free) and see if it’s your thing? Just a thought. :-)
OK! I will check it out for sure. You are awesome. Thank you!
Drop everything else and read The Handmaid’s Tale. Then, the Oryx and Crake series. Also, California by Edan Lepucki. Me and a coworker have a dystopian fiction reading club going. We’re reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy next, but I won’t recommend it until we’ve finished. Also will check out books from your list!
The Handmaid’s Tale is coming up. (Read it YEARS ago, don’t remember a thing, excited). Read Cronin’s Passage Trilogy. Will definitely check out Oryx and Crake as so many have suggested it.
I loved the World Without Us. All about imagining what would happen if humans just up and disappeared. Gave me great hope, actually.
Which one? There seem to be two. The one with the kick ass cover of the city reflected to trees?