Why I won’t read books about abuse

There are few things I will agree I “will not” do, considering the misunderstanding/miscalculation regarding the difference between/use of “will not” and “cannot” for myself as an Aspie.

For example, it’s not that I will not drive, it’s that I cannot even think about driving without working up a load of anxiety.

It’s not that I cannot read books that may be tremendously triggering, it is that I will not read them.

Yet, for some extremely odd reason, I am expected to do so. It’s supposed to “heal” me, help me “cope”, and all the other things people who have never experienced abuse for themselves think reading such triggering stories are supposed to do.

Because these people “got over it”.

I really hate books written by adults who were abused who bettered their lives, because they make themselves out to be one of the “lucky ones”.

They got out of an abusive relationship/environment, and now they’re a news reporter, married and have kids. Yay! They have overcome what happened to them.

For people around me to think I will be “healed” by reading such a book—and to continuously encourage me to read it, only to grow angry and upset with me when I simply will not—feels so patronising.

I can watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit like there’s no tomorrow, but only because it gives me the small amount of relief I need to understand that I am safe and that law officials are good, despite a select few having wronged me in the past; however, after every binge of the series, there is a tiny wound that is open, and I am vulnerable for a select amount of time.

Books about abuse come with no warnings, however. I don’t know what will happen, I don’t have the ability to shake the words out of my head. I can forget scenes, or my lovely PTSD brain can reshape them into something else… or scenes are merely different. With books about abuse, I have no access to detailed summaries regarding their happenings. I have no idea how detailed the writer has dove, and I cannot be finished with it in however many hours. The text on the page will start to blur, and the lines will intercept, and before I know it, the words will be engraved in my head and on my skin.

Books are simply different.

Or maybe, and this is a long shot, I’m appalled by the lack of empathy for me and unwillingness those suggesting I read a damn book have in regards to hearing my story. Why/How can they read something about someone else and assume it is the same thing?

It’s worse when the book is in regards to one’s faith, because the idea that, had I had enough faith, I would be able to overcome this and “move on already” is one I can’t fathom alone. I don’t understand it.

It’s just not the same.

Once I complete and publish my memoir, I don’t expect others who have had to endure abuse to read it. I would be surprised if someone who had been abused read it, honestly. Maybe that’s a double standard, but…

Even my old therapist agreed watching a television series/movie about abuse is not the same as reading a book about it.

Needless to say, I did not read it.

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Comments on this post

Georgie’s gravatar

This stuck out to me:

Or maybe, and this is a long shot, I’m appalled by the lack of empathy for me and unwillingness those suggesting I read a damn book have in regards to hearing my story. Why/How can they read something about someone else and assume it is the same thing?

It stuck out to me because that was what I was thinking while reading your post up to that point. I don’t think it’s a long shot. It sounds ignorant and rude that someone would continue to suggest you read a book based on something you have experienced. I know people like to suggest reading certain articles related to abuse or other such things, but not everyone wants to.

I’ve sort of learned that from someone who is very close to me (you can easily guess, I suppose, but I won’t name that person). We’ve gone through our own share of struggles but we have both noticed that the other has triggers and sometimes reading things like this don’t help. There are some things I can read but there are some things I won’t read because I know how they will make me feel afterwards.

Everyone has a choice and you don’t have to read these things. I feel like books can inflict that kind of feeling a lot harsher compared to an episode of a show. Books burn a little bit. Watching something like Law and Order (which I love, too!) at least gives me some kind of resolution. But books have a different kind of sticking power… which isn’t always a good thing. We are accustomed to seeing things on screen and knowing that most of the time they are staged, meaning that we don’t really make any correlation to what we have experienced. But books… yes, I feel that they are different, and I think I also struggle to really explain why. I think it is because most of us picture things as we read, and the fact that we have to picture these things to understand the words makes it all the more difficult. No one has presented a scene to us, instead we are forced to relive it or create it, which can be triggering.

Liz’s gravatar

Yes, exactly.

The worst part of their ignorance is that they don’t know exactly what I have experienced, because every time I try to talk about it, they tell me they don’t want to hear it… Why is it that they want to read a stupid book about someone else, but they don’t want to hear my story? I just don’t understand.

Christine’s gravatar

“But books have a different kind of sticking power… which isn’t always a good thing.”

This x 1000! I completely agree with you on the staying power of books. With TV, we don’t really have to add anything with our imagination. With books, all we have to complement the text is our imagination, and sometimes that can be a pretty dark place.

Liv’s gravatar

I can understand where you’re coming from – you seem to feel that there’s a stigma that pressures you to read those books so you can learn to cope and heal, and then it annoys you that the people who wrote those books got over abuse and there’s pressure that you should too. It’s hard when the situations are so different and then you would feel kind of alone. I think we can think about it this way – the reason those books exist is to the author can pour themselves out which HELPS whether or not they are identified with by others. But definitely, if they are not making you feel comfortable then don’t read them. I think healing is a personal process and we all have our own ways to do so, we just need to find it and you are still searching. 🙂