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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

John Green

John Green Reveals His Personal Struggles With OCD in Youtube Video

John Green is often recognized as the author of popular young adult literary works such as “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns,” which have both received film adaptations. He is also known as a contributor to Vlogbrothers, a YouTube channel that produces random, insightful, and entertaining videos to a following of over three million Youtubers.


Although Green uses a light and humorous tone in many of his videos, he uploaded a more serious one two days ago with “What OCD Is Like (For Me).”



In his incredibly vulnerable video, Green goes in depth about his own experience struggling with OCD, describing “obsessive thought spirals” that hinder his focus and thought patterns. 


For me, these obsessive thought spirals happen all the time and they can take over for says or weeks or months. Like, I might worry out of nowhere that my food is contaminated or somehow poisoned and then, suddenly, that will be the only thought I am able to think.


John Green

Image Courtesy of Trending All Day

These obsessive thoughts become overwhelming to the point where Green cannot focus on activities such as watching a television episode or reading a book. Comparing the intrusion to the plot of a horror film, Green emphasizes the obsessive fear and lack of control over his thoughts he experiences. “When I’m stuck inside a thought spiral,” he says, “I find it very difficult to observe, like, anything outside of myself.”


Though his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder brings many challenges, Green has found a silver lining, using his personal experiences as inspiration for his new novel, “Turtles All the Way Down.” By portraying his struggle through the characterization of the story’s protagonist, Green both finds a way to persevere through his OCD, and allow readers to get an understanding of those affected by OCD.


Cover of "Turtles All the Way Down"

via Amazon


“Turtles All the Way Down” will be published on October 10, 2017.


Featured image courtesy of Story Chick