“Your now is not your forever”. – Aza, Turtles All The Way Down.
I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I had no inkling of what was wrong with me. I was down the rabbit hole and it seemed like nothing ever would change. I stayed in the rabbit hole for a very long time. No sign of light. All I could feel was a coldness around me while I lay stark naked. Some days I still find comfort there. In complete darkness. There are nights where I feel like I’m the only person in the world. When I was drowning in my emotions, the only thing that kept me afloat was John Green.
John Green is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me, he is the light at the end of the tunnel. When I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed, his books were what kept me awake. When I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I found solace in his writing that illuminated my life with the answers I needed.
I remember the first time I read his book The Fault In Our Stars. My mom got me a copy and I devoured it in 4 hours. I laughed, I cried, and the book was like the best friend I never had. The therapist that reminded me “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” And the realisation that “Oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have.” It was a love story. But to me, it was what gave my life a new perspective.
I quickly looked him up and other books by him. This time, I decided to read him chronologically.
His very first book, Looking for Alaska is really underrated. It’s the one that pulled me out of my void. It’s the book that I keep going back to every time I spiral my way into oblivion. “You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” But at the same time, it gives you the strength to know that, “We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken.” If I weren’t scared of needles, I would have this tattooed on me.
The best part about reading John Green books is that the characters are flawed just like we are. Just like his flawed characters are worth loving, it’s a constant reminder that we are too. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being worth loving despite the flaws. We are what we are, and in that we are whole. And chances are that when you are feeling what you do, you’re never alone. Somewhere out there is thinking and feeling the same. Even if they are just characters in a book.
Whether it is his first novel Looking for Alaska or his latest one Turtles All The Way Down, Green’s books teach you what it means to be human. How you can live your life in the best way possible. That your mental illness is just a small part of you and no matter what you’re going through right now, it’s not going to last forever. “Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.”
I wish I had read books by him growing up, as I came across them much later in my life. I love how all of his books have an element of normalising mental health. When I first read Turtles All The Way Down, I made a point to give a copy to everyone who was close to me so they could understand what anxiety feels like. Of course, mental illnesses show differently on different people but I finally had the right words for what I felt. “The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”
But wait. What’s a 20-something doing reading coming-of-age novels? Aren’t these books meant for teens? NO! These books are meant for anyone and everyone who has ever struggled with any mental health issues. They transport you to a time where these issues are normalised. They make you believe that there isn’t anything wrong in feeling what you feel. And that’s exactly what you need sometimes. He saved my life. If you haven’t dug into John Green’s books, there’s no better time than now to start reading!
Featured Image: The New York Times