I recently had a chance to see YA author, John Green, at an event for his new book Turtles All The Way Down. Hearing John Green speaking about his own anxiety disorder and how it impacts his life was heart-wrenching. Green shared that somehow we as a society have immortalized creative people as having to be a bit crazy in order to be imaginative and create. He said, when his disease is in full bloom, he can’t work and he can’t think straight. He urged anyone suffering from mental illness to get help.
The story of Turtles All The Way Down gives us some insight into the mind of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Aza Holmes is a 16-year-old girl who wrestles with anxiety and obsessive thought spirals. Aza struggles to with dating, fretting about college, calming her overbearing mother, and appeasing her demanding best friend. She is frequently overcome by extreme dread and certain that she’s contracted a fatal intestinal bacteria. She picks at a sore on her hand & constantly checks and rechecks it for infection. Aza begins spiraling and starts drinking hand sanitizer. She thinks to herself: If she can’t direct her own thoughts, who is really in control?
The story is well written with smart dialogue between the characters. You ache for Aza as you witness her disease progress. I think many teens will relate to Aza and the turmoil of her inner thoughts.
Seeing Green as funny and crazy on his Crash Course videos and then seeing him share something so personal to a crowd of strangers makes me realize — we have no idea the hurt some people carry from day to day.
Treat each person with kindness — maybe your friendly smile is the best thing that happened to them that day.