10 Quotes from ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ That Humanize Mental Illness

In Turtles All The Way Down John Green explores the cycle of internalized anxiety, doubt, and fear associated with mental illness.  Green introduces audiences to sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes, a high-school student who struggles with OCD, a trait shared with the author. Through the polarizing depiction of what it means to experience the daily struggles of mental illness, Turtles All The Way Down humanizes the hard-to-describe experience of living with a mental illness. 


Here are ten quotes from the book that humanize mental illness:



Worrying is the correct worldview. Life is worrisome.


True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice on the matter.


Nobody gets anybody else, not really. We’re all stuck inside ourselves.

One of the challenges with pain – physical or psychic – is that we can really only approach it through metaphor. It can’t be represented the way table or a body can. In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.


I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.


It’s so weird, to know you’re crazy and not be able to do anything about it, you know? It’s not like you believe yourself to be normal. You know there is a problem. But you can’t figure a way through to fixing it. Because you can’t be sure, you know?


People always talk like there’s a bright line between imagination and memory, but there isn’t, at least not for me. I remember what I’ve imagined and imagine what I remember.


The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.


You are as real as anyone, and your doubts make you more real, not less.


There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.




Featured Image Via Marina Waters/Amazon