Turtles All The Way Down, Mental Health Trigger Warnings, & Anxiety Update

Detailed lowers against the sky
Do you ever have these days weeks where everything just seems to gather in your mind like a soup of thoughts. Whenever you try to grab one thought, you end up grabbing ten so you never can make a true conclusion to any of them. I've been feeling like that recently - especially since the new year - and it has felt quite bad. I've had to keep so many things in mind and make so many decisions. Then so many emotional things seem to happen and my brain just can't keep up with it all. So I've decided to just write all of those thoughts out to (hopefully) clear my mind and give you a little life update at the same time.

Turtles All The Way Down

As I've completely failed my reading challenge last year (I read a mere 3 books) I've started this year by reading the new John Green: Turtles All The Way Down. And bloody hell, I finished it within three days. I'm trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible (if you want a spoiler-full discussion just message me somewhere!).

First off, I absolutely loved reading this book and just couldn't stop reading it (as indicated by me reading it within just a few days). Aza, the main character, suffers from anxiety and OCD and this story explores how she experiences high school, adventures, first love and friendships. Honestly, the story isn't necessarily what completely drew me into this book; it was Aza herself. As someone who suffers with anxiety and "has a tendency vor obsessional behaviour" (as my therapist has told me) she exactly embodies how I'm feeling. Knowing that John Green himself has suffered from these disorders too only makes the character seem so much more special and shows the real insight into those illnesses.

Flowers on a metal fence against the sky

This is one book I´d definitely recommend if you want to know how someone with anxiety and/or OCD feels on a daily basis. John Green has captured the thought spirals so perfectly that I ended up crying for most of the book. It was heartbreaking for me to see how much Aza was suffering (because I'm doing okay right now & I just so badly wanted to help her and tell her that she can beat this). But it was also absolutely heartbreaking to get an insight into how the people around Aza see her and her mental illnesses. I know from personal experience how people reacted to me having to deal with my anxiety but those people were mostly psychology students themselves and had some sort of insight into it. But it´s true that many people have no idea and might see you as self-centered and egotistical because you´re constantly lost in your own thoughts and can't explain what's going on. But those people also feel helpless because they don't know how to help you despite wanting to so badly!

I really have to tip my hat to John Green for creating a book that feels so real and taken out of real life. It wonderfully explores how to explain anxiety and OCD to other people (& he completely succeeds in painting pictures that anyone could understand). It also does a great job of seeing the reality of mental health issues - how you drive yourself deeper into the spiral of your illness and how it seem impossible to get out of, how desperate and helpless and hopeless you can become. I especially love the ending as well [spoiler ahead!]. Instead of  a super nice happy ending - Aza is healed and gets the boy - it has such a real ending. Yes, she survives and learns to live with her illnesses but there's no cure and it´s likely that she meets people in her life that don't know how to deal with this or can't just adjust to meet her needs despite how much they love her. It´s also very likely that she'll suffer again in her life because mental illnesses (even when "cured") are always in the back of your brain and might just break out of that cell you've built around them.

Pink flowers against the sky

Mental Health Issues & Trigger Warnings

Talking about mental health feels just so appropriate right now as it´s blowing up everywhere on the internet. I really don't want to say much about the Logan Paul situation right now as I feel like ignoring it would be the best way to handle it - any press is good press aft real. But how can I - someone who is really passionate about mental health - not talk about it?! Overall there is just one word to describe it all: Disgusting.

Ever since I heard about this I cannot stop thinking about it. What was going on in his mind? Why did he do this? He's old enough to realise how bad suicide is and that he acted disrespectful! Does he have no self-reflection? Or was the money just worth it?! I can maybe (at most) see using humour and jokes as a defence mechanism when faced with a dead body (because that's terrifying!) but he had to edit that video and watch it back and surely realise how disgusting and immature he acted. This is so hurtful to all the poor souls who took their lives in that forest and in general, disrespectful to the Japanese culture! Isn't he rich already? Did he need money that badly?! He acted so immature and really, if you´re talking about mental health you should really talk about it seriously and maturely and respect the people who are suffering!

I do really want to remind everyone that it´s okay to struggle with your mental health and no matter how you´re feeling you´re never alone with this! There's definitely a way out of this - mental health issues never disappear but all of them are manageable! No matter how bad the situation seems or feels like there is a way out - you just haven't found it yet. I really encourage you to seek help if you feel like you need it at all (no matter how little you might feel you suffer in comparison to others!). Here's a super helpful website with International Helplines for every mental health problem! If you are having mental health problems but are not in an emergency situation you can also check out BetterHelp. They are a specialised in online counseling and therapy but also have a lot of resources on their website. All of these people are there to help you, so never be afraid or ashamed to call them if you´re struggling!

Colourful lightbulbs against branches in the sky

In light of all these mental health issues and reading Turtles All The Way Down I've also realised another thing: Mental health trigger warnings need to be more of a thing! I know that many understanding Youtubers are already putting trigger warnings on their videos and that's great. But there are so many Youtubers (and other media like films and books) that just don't - like Logan Paul. I've never seen the original video (or any video of his) but from what I've heard the dead body was in the title card and it probably had some disturbing-yet-intriguing title as well. From personal experience I know how little it takes to trigger you're mental illnesses or general mental health issues. I just can't stop imagining how people with suicidal thoughts or tendencies must've felt seeing just the title card pop up on Youtube. Or even worse the people who were intrigued enough to click on the video and were triggered.

But it´s not just on Youtube with shitty people like him it´s everything in the media. I do have anxiety disorders but mine are very small considering how bad other people have it - still I get triggered by scenes in films, books, or news stories. Reading the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down almost gave me a full-on panic attack and it made me feel uneasy a lot of other times. Which is great as a stylistic medium to show how Aza is actually feeling and how uncomfortable her thoughts are. But as a whole there's so much to work on with trigger warnings because I'm not the only one that has to deal with this!

We're already putting labels as to suitable ages on almost everything - it really wouldn't be too hard to add just one little label next to that! It really doesn't hurt anyone - if anything it helps people suffering with mental health issues to not fall back into the spiral of it but instead fight against it until they feel comfortable enough to consume the media. But it´s hard work and work that nobody seems eager to do - it could, after all, result in less sales of a certain film/book/etc. if it has a trigger warning. I don't really think that's a great, fair or even justified argument though: Mental health should always be more important than money!

Red berries on dark branches against the sky

Anxiety Update

I've mentioned it before in this post but I'm doing so much better with my anxiety right now. The last year has been quite hard for my mental health as I've been fighting back so much which has left me terrified in so many situations. But I'm also super proud of myself because it has actually made me feel so much better - confrontation truly works! You can read my highlights from 2017 and see all of the things I've accomplished last year.

Forcing myself into situations that I've been terrified of has helped me so much! After going to Croatia I now feel much more at ease with the thought of traveling somewhere (as long as I'm traveling with someone). I've mostly eased up with train rides and car rides as I've done so many of them. I also finally got out of what was a very toxic environment for my mental health now that I look back on it. I didn't get along with my flatmate which made me hate my own safe-space aka my home. I never felt like I had someone I could just talk to and that I just instantly clicked with near me. Plus, I lived far away from home, not able to visit my family as often as I´d like to and my family is truly my rock when it comes to mental health!

Ever since moving I've felt so much better and barely had to deal with my anxiety. I've gotten rid of many of my reassuring rituals. I'm not even doing my relaxation training anymore as I don't need it currently. I look forward to big events without being terrified weeks in advance. My ementophobia and hypochondria have gotten so much better. Now, that's not to say that I'm all there yet. As I'm writing this I've had a weekend where I felt quite anxious but compared to anxious days I had before this weekend was very, very mild! That's just the way live is - sometimes you get worse days but it´s the number of good days that counts!

Life has maybe gotten easier with my anxiety being better but surely, it hasn't become boring because of it. I know I'm still an over thinker and sometimes I just get thoughts like all of these stuck in my head and then can't focus on anything really. I'm really glad I've written them out now as my head immediately feels so much lighter. I think a personal post like this was long overdue anyway - I've been doing an awful lot of How-Tos/Tips lately - so I'm glad to have captures this moment in my life to look back on. Future Lisa, you should be damn proud of yourself for achieving all these things, for being aware enough to think critically about everything in this post, and for just fighting your anxiety and getting stronger by the minute!

1 comment

  1. Well done for confronting your anxiety, that takes a lot of courage! I'm glad to hear that you're doing better and I hope 2018 will be a bit easier for you. I love the metaphor 'soup of thoughts', that's exactly what I felt like when writing my New Year's resolutions post and you worded it better than I ever could. I also loved reading 'Turtles all the way down', it was so raw and real and like you said, the ending was very realistic. Yes, mental illness doesn't suddenly disappear but it can be managed. Such a good message he portrayed in his book xx



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