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  • -Emily

What's Buried Within Pages

For my English class this year we were asked to write essays in the style of "This I Believe." Below is the belief that I decided to express. Thank you so much to John Green for creating the masterpiece that is Turtles All the Way Down.


I’ve always known that I’m crazy.

I live with anxiety and intrusive thoughts, and I’ve always felt at least a little insane because of some of the things I do. I’ve only met a select few people who think in the same way as me. I like to describe it as having two separate beings inside of my head: my ‘brain’ and my ‘mind.’ My ‘brain’ is what thinks logically, and is the part of me that I wish would remain there all the time. However, sometimes my ‘mind’ takes over and yells horrible things. I can almost always hear it, but I’ve learned over time, with great struggle, ways to overcome it.

That hasn’t stopped me from frequently feeling like something is wrong with me. No ‘normal person’ has screaming fits inside their head throughout the day, I tell myself. No ‘normal person’ has to waste countless minutes rearranging their possessions in order to calm their mind.

I have felt this way for a large portion of my life, and the place where I found solace from this sentiment was the place I least expected: within fiction. In the absolute darkest times of my life, whenever I have felt like there was no one to whom I could express my feelings, no one who could understand what it feels like to be inside my head, I have turned to books and their characters instead.

When I picked up Turtles All the Way Down by John Green in November of 2017, I nearly started sobbing from the first page. The main character Aza deals with many of the same mental illnesses that I do, and reading about her and some of the things her ‘mind’ forces her to do made me finally feel like I wasn’t alone. Aza expresses feelings that I never knew anyone else besides me dealt with.

Many people try to rationalize anxiety and intrusive thoughts in order to calm me, or anyone else with the disorder. However, anxiety with intrusive thoughts thrives on transcending rationality itself. It feels like a constant state of sheer panic as the ‘mind’ takes over. There is no switch, no choice involved, and that is something that I had never been able to express to anyone. But then, I flipped a page in Turtles All the Way Down, and read this sentence: “True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice on the matter.”

I believe that books have the power to heal. Books have the power to let us escape into a world where we are understood and appreciated. It is hard to feel recognized in a world of constant motion. As cars drive by and people push and shove, it is easy to feel as though you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s too easy to feel like no one cares enough to understand what you’re going through.

With books, I know that even if there is a time in which I feel this way, a time when I have no one to turn to or lean on, I don’t have to be alone.

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