Sunday Coffee – Sick-Reading

IMG_3830When I was young, I discovered that repetitive action carried on too long was often followed by illness. I don’t mean that I would get tired or nauseous or simply not feel well. I mean full-blown, immune-system compromised drawn-out illness. Of course, I can’t say whether the repetitive action caused the illness, or if the upcoming illness caused my brain to tend toward repetitive action. I can only say that over and over, repetitive action came right before strep throat, ear infections, influenza, bronchitis, and the like.

Example: A 14-year-old Manda spends Thanksgiving at her grandmother’s house, playing Mario Brothers with her cousins for hours. By the time she goes to bed, her thumbs are overworked and painful, her dreams are repetitive black-and-white versions of video game clips, and she wakes up with strep throat and fever aches all over. Example: A 15-year-old Manda borrows U2’s Zooropa from a friend and listens to it four times in a row, until her throat is swelling up (no, she wasn’t singing at all, just listening) and her ears are painful (no, it wasn’t turned on loud, or on headphones) and her lungs are congested. She goes to the doctor, where she’s diagnosed with double ear infections, strep throat, and bronchitis. Example: A 21-year-old Manda spends all day studying different models of computer, trying to decide which to buy, only to go to bed that evening and wake up with the flu after black-and-white repetitive dreams of computer specs.

Example: A 36-year-old Manda spends five days listening to a 49-hour audiobook, getting just a little sicker and more congested and more run down each day, until she can barely get out of bed. (And is subsequently diagnosed with bronchitis.)

This, my friends, is what I refer to as sick-reading: the act of reading so fast, so long, and/or so frequently that it consumes you and your body breaks down completely.

Does this happen to anyone else? I don’t have a clue. All I know is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much better about reading my body-cues and not getting to the point of full-blown illness during repetitive actions, whether that’s reading or listening to music or crocheting. I’ve also gotten much better at pushing myself just far enough that I only get a little sick (yay Manda!). I allow this with certain books – in particular, with those unputdownable, can’t-stop-reading sorts of books. Sometimes, the sick-reading turns the book(s) sour for me, like when I read/hated The Knife of Never Letting Go. If I barrel my way through a book, it has to be really excellent (or really short) to escape falling prey to sick-reading. Even then, I often wish I’d forced myself to go more slowly by the time I close the book/end the audio.

Really, though – does anyone else experience this, with reading or otherwise?? I’d be interested to know…

About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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4 Responses to Sunday Coffee – Sick-Reading

  1. Hm. Can’t say I’ve had this problem, though I do get sick immediately at the start of any semester break, almost without fail. So if we consider teaching for 16 weeks repetitive action, then yes, me too!


  2. Michelle says:

    I don’t notice this but I do notice I tend to get sick at the end of extremely stressful periods at work. For example, if I take a vacation from work at the end of December, which is always one of my busiest months at work, I will always get sick – mostly colds – after a few days of not working. Like clockwork. My body does not handle the release of stress very well!


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