I’m not a rabid John Green fan. I like his books, but I wasn’t waiting with bated breath for his next novel.
Until I heard it was about mental illness.
After reading a short interview with the author, I opened up Amazon and pre-ordered myself a copy of Turtles All the Way Down.
The package came right on the day of release. The dust jacket was colorful and coated in something soft that made it impossible not to pet. I eagerly anticipated cracking it open.
The next day I did. I was immediately sucked into the story, into the journey of Aza and Daisy and Davis. But after reading about a third of the book, I had to put it down.
You see, reading this book was hard. Not because it was boring or pretentious, but because it was real.
I not only read but FELT Aza’s pain. My stomach twisted in knots as she worried away at the callous on her finger until it bled, feeling the pain of myself picking at hangnails and my lips in such a similar way. My eyes filled with tears as she isolated herself, both literally and figuratively, from her family and friends.
My fears are not Aza’s fears. But intrusive thoughts? I’m no stranger to them. I know what it’s like to have your brain take one passing thought and send it down a twisted path so fast you get mental whiplash. I know what it’s like to yell at yourself but be unable to listen to your own good advice. I know what it’s like to be so involved in what’s going on in your own brain that you can barely see what’s going on around you.
John Green has stated that he also suffers from Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He clearly poured himself into this book. He took his own fears and thoughts and applied them to Aza in a way that explains them better than any other book I’ve come across.
Turtles All the Way Down was an amazing book, beautiful and touching and honest.
But it was really hard for me to read.
Have you read Turtles All the Way Down? Do you intend to? Did you like it? Have you read other books about characters with mental illness that were difficult to read? I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether or not you suffer from mental illness also.
Why I Medicate My Mental Illness*
Every morning I take four pills. Three for Anxiety and one for Depression. I’ve been taking the first three for nearly a decade. I have no plans to stop.
Medication for mental illness is a hot button subject. Everyone has an opinion, including people who have no experience with which to form said opinion. Some are for it, some against it, and some think it only should be used in the direst situations.
I, for one, am pro-medication. That doesn’t mean I’m a pill pusher, or that I think it’s the answer for everyone. It just means it’s worked well for me and I would never advise someone to avoid it.
A year or so before my seventeenth birthday I had finally hit bottom. The anxiety disorder I didn’t know I had had been stalking me for over a year, manifesting in near constant nausea and the inability to focus on anything but the unpleasant physical sensations that were plaguing me. I followed my mother around the house, terrified to be alone. At that point, it was obvious something needed to change.
My doctor prescribed Paxil. It was new to the market, the new miracle anti-depressant. I was so convinced there was something physically wrong with me that I agreed to medication without even realizing what it was for. It wasn’t until I left that I realized she had prescribed me something for my anxiety.
Paxil was like a miracle to me. Within a month not only had I been pulled out of the deep hole I’d been living in, but I felt better than I ever had in my life.
Suddenly, my whole life made sense. All those little eccentricities I had as a kid? Anxiety. The strange fears that cropped up? Anxiety. The way I’d never been able to handle anyone being angry at me? Anxiety.
I remained happily on Paxil for a few years until the side effects prompted me to find an alternative. On the second try, we found one that worked for me nearly as well as Paxil had.
I take that medication to this day, along with the two others that were added over the years (if you’re looking back at the first paragraph and wondering if one of the side effects is losing the ability to do basic math, I take four pills but only three medications. Two pills are the same drug.).
I am one of the lucky ones, someone who responds well to most medications. They don’t cure me, they don’t change me, they just give me the ability to get up in the morning and be me, not Anxiety.
I will take these pills for the rest of my life if I need to, the same way my father will likely take heart medication for the rest of his life.
And I will never be ashamed.
*in addition to therapy, which is an integral part of treating mental illness. I’m very lucky to have found a great one. (Hi Julie!)
Welcome to An Anxious Author. I am said anxious author, Lydia Elizabeth Winters. I thought I’d take a few minutes with this first post to give you a little background information and a mission statement of sorts for this blog.
I was born and raised in Southern New Hampshire. I currently reside in a small town on the Vermont border (I can see Vermont from my window!). I have an upstairs apartment in a house I share with my parents and the memories of my tempermental kitty, Mr. Muggles.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. An avid reader from a young age with a big imagination, it was a natural transition. As a teenager I began writing fanfiction, something I’ve continued to this day. I ran a website for many years where I posted all my writings and where I made a lot of good friends I still keep in touch with.
I’ve never been bored a day in my life. My current hobbies include knitting, spinning (as in yarn, not on a bike), memorizing the Nations of the World song from Animaniacs, reading, and of course, writing.
I’m a thirty-something proud aunt of five and great-aunt of three who is trying not to feel ancient when I remember those things. My mom is my best friend in the world and we are freakishly close.
My apartment is full of geeky memorabilia, including my large Funko Pop collection. My bookshelves are overloaded.
1. I admit, starting this blog is at least partially in the hope that a little accountability will help me keep in a good writing routine. After all, if I don’t write anything, I won’t have anything to post!
2. Making some new friends. You can never have enough writing friends. People who understands having a search history that could probably get yourself on a terror watch list.
3. Share what it’s like to live with chronic mental illness and how that impacts my daily life, including how it impacts my writing.
4. Generally be an outlet for myself to talk about life and whatever else is on my mind.
If you made it this far, I’d like to say thank you in advance for giving my little blog a chance. Please forgive me while I figure out what the heck I’m doing.