“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.”
Welcome to the second post in the Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) series of blog posts. Today, I want to talk about how reading can be an act of kindness towards yourself and in connection with that, I thought I’d share with you my favourite books which cover kindness…
I’ve always enjoyed reading – to the point where my teacher at First School wouldn’t give me reading books for a long time so that the other pupils could catch up to my level! When I was little, I really loved the Sheltie book series because I was absolutely obsessed with horses, so I saw reading as a way to indulge in my hobby and passion. Seeing reading as a brilliant and enjoyable way to learn about something I was interested in, really motivated me to continue to read when I was younger.
I also loved that it allowed me to use my vivid imagination! I liked that I could read about the ponies and horses and pretend that I was the one in the saddle riding them across the hills and through the fields. My imagination was probably why, as I got older, and discovered the Harry Potter series, I began to see reading as a method of escapism. The Harry Potter storylines were so far from reality that it was like taking a break from the real world and enjoying a completely fake one where the problems were of no real concern to me!
This escapism became particularly helpful when the abuse began and in the aftermath of it too; though some might argue that I used it a little too much because I spent two years pretending that the abuse hadn’t even happened. At the time, though, I thought that I had to do that in order to survive – I believed that if I allowed myself to accept what had happened to me then I wouldn’t be able to cope with it. With the memories.
I did also use it in a much healthier way though, when my mental health took a turn for the worst in 2012, and I was sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act, reading became a hugely positive way to spend my time whilst in the psychiatric hospital. During the day I was in therapy groups and having psychology sessions which put so much concentration on the abuse and my mental instability, so reading was a relief from all of that. It gave me the opportunity to detach from the difficult environment and the dramas it brought.
Books aren’t just about building on hobbies or escaping from trauma and sadness, though; they can also be inspirational and encouraging, and this is where the following books come in… They each include some words on kindness, consideration, and generosity that I thought made them worth mentioning in this post for Mental Health Awareness Week:
(May contain spoilers!)
The Harry Potter Series by J K Rowling
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
With this series being what helped me to discover the escapism quality of reading, how could I not mention it for its big focus on kindness?! I guess that kindness might not be the first subject you think that Harry Potter books are shedding attention on because magic is the key theme; but there were so many quotes from the series about kindness that I could pick from for this piece!
I think that the Harry Potter series highlights kindness and the power it can have over bad… From the very beginning, when Lily Potter gives her life in protecting Harry, it is illustrated that love and kindness can go a long way in overcoming evil. Throughout the entirety of the series, there are examples of characters showing selfless acts of kindness toward one another – even towards those who were previously considered to be enemies!
I think that this was an important lesson for me because since the day the abuse began in 2006, I’ve held a huge amount of anger toward my abuser. Initially, it was unmanageable, and it felt as though it completely consumed my entire head and body. I had to learn that whilst anger toward him was completely understandable – and maybe even ‘normal’ – it wasn’t a healthy thing for me to live with because I used it as motivation to self-harm.
Through therapy, though, I’ve learnt to use that hatred and anger as motivation to ensure no one else develops those kinds of feelings by treating everyone with kindness and consideration at all times.
The Dark Side of The Mind by Kerry Daynes
“Sometimes you have to just sit with a person, validate what they are feeling, and not be afraid of their pain and grief.”
Kerry’s book (which you can read my review on here) about her life as a Forensic Psychologist really illustrates the benefits a small act of kindness can have on a person’s attitude, behaviour, and general mental health. Kerry consistently shows a lack of judgement and a great deal of empathy for the people she works with and this has a hugely positive impact on those people who begin to feel listened to.
I found this sort of kindness from professionals really helpful with my mental health because it felt validating. Having staff treat me kindly and with compassion reassured me that they did actually care whether I lived or died.
Hide Tide Low Tide by Martin Baker and Fran Houston
“Despite living on opposite sides of the Atlantic, we spend a considerable amount of time in each other’s company. This has naturally built trust and respect…”
Martin Baker and Fran Houston
Martin and Fran are huge inspirations to me and my relationships with others because seeing the support they receive from one another across such a huge distance is honestly astounding!
It really makes me think about my friendships with my best-friends and how distance (two of my best-friends have moved to Scotland!) should be no excuse for us to drift apart. Reading about Martin and Fran’s maintenance of communication really motivates me to do the same with my friends.
Their relationship also highlights the importance of having someone you can trust and who supports you in all that you do and with all that you are.
I hope that this little post has motivated you to read some of the books I’ve mentioned or to find some for yourself and to benefit from them as much as I have from these!
You can buy the books mentioned here: