Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron

I rated this book two stars. While it was therapeutic to read about William Styron’s (author of “Sophie’s Choice”) experience with depression, I would have wished for more on his recovery. Instead, the focus was on his illness and suicidal thoughts. Depression is dark enough. I think the reader could benefit from a more positive outlook with more description on overcoming it.

Turtles all the Way Down, by John Green

In Aza, the protagonist, I found a character I could relate to. She shed light on the struggles of living with a mental illness and gave me hope I am not alone and will persevere, maybe even stronger.

Aza is a teenager that deals with OCD and anxiety. I can appreciate her initial lack of respect, for lack of a better word, for her illness, and the need of her doctor to remind her “medication only works if you take it.” She cautions her that she’s giving her thoughts too much power, something I think so many of us can relate to. “Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.” That is something I have to remind myself of, because similar to Aza, I try to “find something solid to hold on to in this rolling sea of thought.”

It’s helpful to remember “an unwanted thought was like a car driving past you when you’re standing on the side of the road.” Aza tells herself she doesn’t have to “get into that car, that my moment of choice was not whether to have the thought, but whether to be carried away by it.”

It’s clear to me John Green, the author, has dealt with this on a personal level by the way he has Aza describe her condition to her friend: “It’s so weird, to know you’re crazy and not be able to do anything about it. 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.”

Green has her friend express so much insight in her description of life: “The point of the story is they built the city anyway. You work with what you have. They had this shit river, and they managed to build an okay city around it. Not a great city, maybe. But not bad.” Aza is doing the best she can with what she’s got, and that should be everyone’s focus.

I appreciate Green’s last acknowledgement, as yet another way to let the reader know they are not alone:
“Lastly, Dr. Joellen Hosler and Dr. Sunil Patel have made my life immeasurably better by providing the kind of high-quality mental health care that unfortunately remains out of reach for too many. My family and I are grateful. If you need mental health services in the United States, please call the SAMHSA treatment referral helpline: 1-877-SAMHSA7. It can be a long and difficult road, but mental illness is treatable. There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”

partly cloudy

I find it strange and interesting that I can feel so different from one day to the next, for no obvious reason.

Yesterday was Saturday.  I woke up with my heart fluttering and my chest tight.  I was nervous until midday when I exercised.

Today is Sunday.  And while I had a similar night to Friday last night, and I have a similar day ahead of me today, I feel very different.

I am calm.

I even drank a second cup of coffee.  Watched a movie.  And don’t feel anxious about what I need to do today, or the thought of going to work tomorrow.

You never know how you’re going to feel.  Just remember nothing is permanent.  The clouds may drift away and there is only sunshine.

Each day is fluid and new, so never lose hope.