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Periaktoi Writing Post

Volume 56
Issue 1

Single Visual Art Post

  • Essay
I Believe in the Power of Books
Benjamin Daniel
Depression is a lot like a riptide; you don’t know what you’re fighting against until you’re losing. In winter of 2020, I realized something was fundamentally wrong. I felt hollow, like I was only going through the motions of life without truly being alive. I was adrift with nothing to anchor me. Every morning, I struggled to find the motivation to keep living. Then, I read The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green and was instantly transported back to a childhood of musty libraries and afternoon sun. These words connected to me when I needed them most. I believe that books have the power to save lives.
My relationship with reading started early. From the time I was four, I would start each week with a visit to the library on Tuesday and end each night with my parents reading me to sleep. Throughout grade school, books provided a constant companion when I was lonely or in need of escape.
When I was told to shelter in place because of the oncoming pandemic, I could never fathom the sheer gnawing loneliness that would follow. To cope, I threw myself into my work. Over time, reading fell by the wayside. Then, once back in class, I found myself overwhelmed and unable to cope.
It was then that the issue of self-harm entered the discussion. It started small. When nervous I would bite my nails, often to the point of bleeding. Then, I began to cut. Cutting grounded me at first, but it is never healthy. After an episode, the underlying melancholy never changed. I was only left with nausea. If you have never experienced a depressive episode, it feels like drowning in quicksand. Melancholy coils tightly around, preventing any effort to change one’s state.
On a whim, I decided to pick up a book by one of my personal favorite authors. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a collection of essays that reviews aspects of the modern world on a five-star scale. The book touched me on a deep level. There is one line above all else that spoke to my very soul. Green writes, “You can’t see the future coming—not the terrors, for sure, but you also can’t see the wonders that are coming, the moments of light-soaked joy that await each of us.” There is so much suffering in the world, but, through books, we can preserve the joy to look forward to a brighter day. There is a certain magic to books. The fact that mere lines on a page can move one to tears is enough to inspire awe.
I realized then that I could not face this alone. I took the difficult step to reach out and talk to those I loved. I speak today after a year of intentional therapy. The road to healing is not straight or easy, but I am in a much better place now then I was a year ago today. If not for books, I would not have the strength to come to you. This is the power of books. Books can give voices to those who have none, connect people across continents, and even provide us with the fortitude to keep persevering. I believe that words carry great meaning. Now, the work falls to you. How will you use yours?