“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down
Dear John Green,
Thank you. For the book. For depicting the pain, the confusion, the helplessness. For the word pictures. It is difficult to form into words the swirl of thoughts, the tight grip of feelings.
I am obsessive, and I have compulsions, not as much as Aza, but I do.
“Your fears are not logical”, they say. But Aza knows how hard it is to escape your thoughts because they are trapped in your skull, and you are trapped in your skull. You engage in a futile fight with the powerful inner force that pulls you down, and you hope for the bottom, but it never comes, because it is turtles all the way down.
There is no top either, I don’t know when it started. Maybe there is no start.
It might have been when I got my first tooth filling. From that day on, I brushed my teeth vigorously after every tiny piece of food, I couldn’t leave the house without my toothbrush and floss. I read over and over articles about dental hygiene. I shivered and sweat whenever I went to the dentist, biting the inside of my cheek, hoping he would say they all look good.
Maybe it was when I was little, so little that I don’t remember how old I was, and my dad picked me up while he lay on his back, pulled his legs up and put me on the on the back of his feet, holding me horizontally. It was a game we used to play, the airplane. I was an airplane balancing on his feet, arms open flying.
During one flight, I looked down at his face, and I imagined it writhed and wrinkly, like a timelapse of his features through the next 50 years. I realized: he will die one day.
The thought never left my skull. It stayed there and got bigger and bigger every year, feeding on my anxiety.
It made me do things: never let him drive alone, get crushed when he was diagnosed with diabetes, count his pills. The thought in my skull give me the urge to yell at him when he ate sweets, made me suppress my angry yell and push it back inside of my stomach, the yell bubbled into my chest, I ran to my room and slammed the door, the hot burning ball of fury escaped from my eyes in a watery mess. [A few tears fight their way out as I am writing this.]
This was my family dinner nights.
I couldn’t be near him, I couldn’t look at him, I couldn’t talk to him, all I wanted to say was” did you take your medication? Did you do a blood test? Are your toes tingling? ”
The thought trapped in my skull made me read Wiki and WebMD articles on diabetes, diets, going blind, losing feet…breathe…breathe… losing other limbs, ultimately dying…breathe… breathe…
“Face your fears and confront your thoughts, imagine the worst case scenario, don’t give your thoughts power”, said a psychologist whom I paid with my allowance.
So I did.
I locked my door and let my skull get flooded with images of all kinds of horrible things happening to my dad. Guard down, I let the thoughts stab me all over; my heart, my arms, my legs and anywhere else that had a nerve.
Cut yourself you will feel better…But!…Just do it…
So I did.
The blood came out, and it felt like a part of the demonic force came out with it. But the beast knows how to feed itself, and it came back stronger.
This is one instance of one thought, of one person who has mild obsessions and compulsions.
Everyday there are a few new thoughts, and if I do my best to dislodge them, still they come back when I am asleep, attacking my defenceless consciousness. They haunt my dreams. They dance in my skull in horrifying colours and whisper awful songs.
My brain feels squeezed, my thinking goes numb, and I am lost somewhere in the spiral of the turtles that go all the way down.