Turtles All the Way Down: Review

Turtles All the Way Down centres on 16 year old Aza Holmes who suffers from multiple anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder. The plot covers friendship, loss, living with mental health issues and a bunch of other random bits that make the book great.

Turtles all the way down

As I don’t suffer with obsessive compulsive disorder, I found the look into the mind of someone who is living with the disorder insightful. The way I have always obsessed over a event feels more like a dark cloud coming over me, which is then all I can loop back to for that day. The next day though a lot of the time the feelings are gone. Sometimes, it can only be for 5 minutes, like every time I see a new email subscriber (I’ve seen a lot recently for some odd reason) and for some reason I’ve decided that instead of it being a totally normal thing, it’s some sort of conspiracy where people laugh at my blog (even though that makes like zero sense). So basically if you’re an email subscriber please comment below and reassure me that’s not that case! I can’t imagine what it would be like being constantly trapped in that kind of thought cycle.

I loved the characters in this novel, particularly the fan-fiction loving, hilarious Daisy who reminds me both of me and a few of my friends at times, which is probably why I love her. There is though refreshingly not too many characters to stress over, as most of the plot is centred around a core group of characters- I’ll admit I’m awful at remembering names if there starts to be too many characters in something.

Maybe the small ‘cast’ is linked to the fact that John Green has described this novel, as his most personal:

“This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood, so while the story is fictional, it is also quite personal.”
Source: Penguin.co.uk 

I think this really shows. I feel much more like I am in Aza’s mind then I have felt with characters in other John Green novels though maybe that is also because Aza’s experiences in life are a lot more close to home for me than say Hazel’s experience in The Fault in Our Stars.

Image: The postcard that came along with my copy of the novel.

The novel however is not without faults. Like, all John Green books the characters are a little bit too philosophical for their own good. I’m not saying people that age can’t have those sort of debates because they most certainly can (and I think social media has brought an immense amount of pressure to have everything all figured out even younger nowadays) but in my experience this was something largely internalised or restricted to things like blogs (which, one of the characters does have).

I think this is probably my only criticism of John Green novels- I remember talking about  the topics that are discussed but always in a roundabout way. Everyone does not also always have amazing vocabulary. But as an English Literature graduate I’ll admit I don’t hate it though I can understand why people might think it might come across as pretentious.

My other not really a criticism because I loved the book regardless, but perhaps instead then a little quibble, is that the mystery that makes up the plot, for me (it’s on the blurb so I really don’t think this is a spoiler!) is a bit anti-climatic. It felt like it was there to tie characters together but this could have been done in another way- the bit where everything was revealed was also just a little bit rushed as well.

There are though elements of this book that are specular. As mentioned the novel does an amazing job at demonstrating what it’s like in Aza’s mind. At the same time though the novel is able to show and explain what it’s like for both the people who suffer from mental health and their friends and family. There is a scene in the book (which, I am going to try my best not to spoil) in which the lead character, Aza has to confront the effect her mental illness has had on her friends and family. Of course, the book stresses this is not something that Aza has deliberately maliciously done but I think it is refreshing to see the effect that mental health issues do have on someone’s family and friends. Without making the person at the centre feel incredibly guilty or selfish- just making them realise what is going around them and come out of the bubble that their mental illness has on them.

What is important to me is that we also get to see Aza’s mum and friend’s opinions- we see the importance of having an open dialogue, as it helps stop a cycle of both parties acting in a certain way because they don’t know how to do anything else.

In fact, for me one of the most powerful scenes of the novel (mild spoiler alert, maybe?) is when Aza demonstrates exactly what it feels like to think like she does. Sometimes, it does take a metaphor to help people to understand.

I’ll admit I thought one of the characters was being overly harsh at first but after a lot of thinking about it (mostly on my bus to work) I realised that it was a totally justifiable reaction. Yes, they could have brought it up beforehand but I’m not immune from letting such feelings bubble up myself and then all come tumbling out.

It also leads to some truly beautiful scenes between the two characters afterwards (and demonstrates something I’m trying to do more and more, take the time to see what your friends are doing and show some love towards it- especially in terms of things they create). In one of the scenes one of the characters says it feels like they are actually in the moment and not “watching a movie of our conversation”- something that I can definitely relate to (the feeling like I’m not quite ‘there’ in a particular moment).

Another amazing point about this book is that it talks about fanfiction. And it’s not making fun of it but celebrating it and from what I know about John Green I would only expect as much (though to be honest that is not a whole lot- I really need to go on a binge of his content). Most importantly, fanfiction is praised as being something that should have fans and does showcase really great writers and to be honest it reminded me of how I need to read more fanfiction again!

Before reading this novel my favourite John Green novel was Looking for Alaska. Since, this is the book I’ve read the most recently it is now Turtles All The Way Down but I think if I read Looking for Alaska again there might be a bit of a war going on there.

This also counts as reviewing a Youtuber’s book (though I don’t think a lot of people counts John Green’s novel as ‘Youtuber books’ even though he is very well known on Youtube) so I’ve put it under that tab. I’m hoping to try to have different tabs on my blog soon where you can click for book reviews, fashion stuff, etc. but my theme is making it a bit difficult.

I think the phrase ‘Life goes on’ has perhaps been used too much so maybe instead what you can take from the novel is ‘Life happens’. Your mental health problems are not something to be magically fixed, sometimes there will be bad, sometimes good but amongst all that life just goes on- so capture the good moments whenever you can.

April

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Year in review: The highlights and fails of my 2017

I chose this picture of green tea because I’m ‘spilling all my tea’ about the year (yeah, the expression doesn’t sound as good when I say it) and the only tea I like is green tea. 

Is this post a bit too late? Yes, but I’m going to do it anyway. Plus, I wanted to reflect a little on my 2017 (and decided a whole 13 days was enough time for that) and not write something in a rush. My 2017 was overall a good year, but then I kind of count 2016 as the worst year of my life for me both mentally and consequently physically so in one way it just kind of couldn’t get any worse! However, I did manage to do some pretty cool stuff in 2017 and the year was what I would class an as ok year, though I’m hoping 2018 will be a great one.

Highlights 

Completing my Masters 

I’ve done a few blog posts on this but I made it through another year of higher education (woo!) and got my Masters in Journalism and Media Communications. It feels strangely distant now but I met some really great people on the course and it made me feel a bit more confident in my academic abilities again, which is always a plus.

Graduation with mother

I got my first (professional) job 

First of all, I want to make it clear I don’t think retail is not a professional job or any minimum wage job for that matter- what I mean here is I got my first job that was actually related to what I studied at University. Also, having paid holiday and not panicking about money if I am ill is such an amazing feeling.

My first day
The picture Martin took to commemorate my first day.

Mental health 

In 2017 I really tried to work through a lot of my mental health issues, and like to think I went from decidedly off track to kind of strolling along the tracks. It’s never something that will come easy to me, but sharing on this blog helped a lot, as did trying to better look after myself physically.

Dodie 3

I started this blog 

For a long period of my life I have wanted a blog. What can I say I love to write and rant about the world and a blog seemed a brilliant place to do that. Although, of course it is nice if people read your blog, like your posts or comment (which, let’s face it I’ll be honest a part of me craved); I personally just like writing and getting things off my chest. So here’s to 2017 for being the year I didn’t just post one blog post to a blog, not promote it and then delete it a week later because I felt too exposed to the world.

Year in Review post

Martin and I got our first flat 

Since Martin and I have been living together in some capacity for so long I forget sometimes that is our first ever flat together where it’s just the two of us. And the flat is cold (single glazing is not our friend), expensive (though not for the area- we got a good deal!) and still bare because we haven’t got a lot of furniture but it’s ours, it’s not tiny and is a lot better than a lot of other people’s first flats. Sure, ‘adulting’ and paying the bills sucks, but at least I have someone else to whine about it with.

Martin flat

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

2017 was also the year I got my love for reading back and I’m so happy about this. I forgot what it felt like to be so inspired. I forgot what it felt like to delay finishing a book because you loved it so much. Or to be able to stop yourself reading it all in one sitting. I forgot how much I truly was a bookworm. Basically, I love reading, it’s in every part of me from the fact that I prefer to read something rather than have someone tell me instructions (hence why audio books unfortunately aren’t for me) to the fact that I can spend longer in a book shop than most other shops.

The Power
My favourite image I took of a book last year (and one of my favourite books I read).

Fails 

Money 

Living anywhere remotely close to London/ in the South is expensive. Consequently, despite earning a good wage we are perpetually broke. This is looking up this year however as Martin has started a better paying job, and I will be shortly booking my trip to Japan (and trying not to spend all my money on clothes in order to afford it). Also, a lot of the problem last year was that Martin and I were fed up so we spent money to fill that hole and so consequently never had any money either. We’ve finally managed to claw our way out of that cycle and once again learn the value of tins of kidney beans and sweetcorn, as well as meal prep- so much meal prep!

Mental health 

So although I put this in my highlights this was also a ‘fail’ as well. Working through things it turns out is kind of hard and I am still running away from a lot of things. As we speak I am letting those familiar nagging thoughts worm their way back in again. While 2017 was the most I’ve actually analysed my mental health (which was a positive thing overall); the journey that came with that was not exactly pleasant.

Hair/ how I felt/ feel about my appearance 

For a large part of last year I let myself get very upset over my appearance whether it be that my hair was not the colour I wanted (it still isn’t) to the fact that I no longer felt comfortable with myself generally. My body in 2016 changed a lot in a short period of time and I still have not quite got over that. This year I am determined to just dress how I want no matter what and let myself be healthy. Also, to have really great hair (any suggestions are appreciated).

I also want to give a big shout out to all my amazing friends and family. I hope your 2017 was great, and if it wasn’t I hope this year will be better. Thank you for putting up with my rants, bossiness and general weirdo nature for another full year.

April

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Faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust: doing things that scare me

Image: A screen capture from Peter Pan/ Walt Disney 

The other week I did something I’ve never done before. I swapped an item with someone on the internet. In fact, we swapped a hat for a hat. My Lazy Oaf x Marie baseball cap for her Lazy Oaf Red Faux Fur Heart beret both of which are not easily able to find, and generally sold out everywhere on ine.

Now, first of all I want to say that I am in no way saying go send people you don’t know your items and that you can trust anyone. This was a risk. Don’t mistake that. A calculated risk yes because they showed me pictures of their item and had very good positive feedback on Depop. But it was a risk nonetheless. For both us.

I’m happy to say that in this case we were both people who genuinely wanted the other person to have an item I loved, and I have received the beret (really fast actually!) and their Marie baseball cap has made it’s way to its new owner!

Lazy Oaf April Beret

An awkward picture of me wearing the beret.

The point of this story is not that you should trust strangers, but that this was a risk for me. Something, that would usually result in lots of panicking, and worrying about posting the item before they did. Worry that for some reason the item wouldn’t get to them, or vice versa. And while I did still worry a little bit. It was a lot less than usual, which I have to count as a small victory.

When people say do things that scare you, so often people think you automatically have to go to massive gestures, like skydiving, but I think gradually building up to bigger, and bigger things that make you nervous is probably the best route. Sure, I do a lot of things that scare me daily, as even something as little as sending an email to a colleague, no matter the content, is something I pause about in my head a little. I think though having to do this daily has drilled the fear of emailing out of me a lot, which I’m grateful for.

Yes, I put myself out there a lot in a few aspects of my life. But that doesn’t mean I don’t agonise other it or worry about it each time. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you are like me and the things you think of before bed are usually your worries for the day, and if you’re someone that if something goes wrong you will agonise and obsess over it to the point that it feels like the end of the world, and you can never get out of this mess you’ve created, then I understand.

I don’t think this is something that will ever be fully out of my life. And getting rejected does suck (trust me I know). But every once in a while you’ll get a piece of good news. An article you wrote will get a like (that’s literally enough to make my day, ha, ha). Unfortunately, you have to fight through a lot of panic inducing moments to get those little points. So start small. Take a little risk. Distract yourself from it. See what happens. If it went well, great, try a slightly bigger one. If it goes bad, try to breathe. Try not to push everyone away. Easier said than done, I know I’m incredibly guilty of this. Sit down absorb yourself in something to calm down, and start over. Try again with something small.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the big risks in life. I genuinely cannot ever see myself skydiving for example, or riding one of those ridiculous, over the top rollercoasters (don’t even get me started how panicky rollercoasters make me) but maybe I’ll have the courage to tweet someone important an article I’ve written, and be unashamedly proud of my work.

Though I’m not going to lie I could use a little pixie dust every now and again.

🍂April🍂

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How Kiki’s Delivery Service helped my mental health

Main Image: Kiki’s Delivery Service/ Studio Ghibli 

I am currently trying to pretend that Halloween is not over. Although, I am very much excited for the Christmas drinks at Costa; I can never fully get into the Christmas spirit until the December ‘I need to buy presents now’ panic hits in. Therefore, I thought it would be better to look back and reflect on my Halloween costume, and why I chose that particular costume, rather than get myself into a funk.

If you know me at least moderately well, you’ll know I like to dress up. While I have not done more than a smattering of cosplays (because I build the expectations I have for a costume up too high in my head); I love cosplay. I love dressing up and becoming a character. Recently, anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I have been making my way through the Studio Ghibli canon, and one film really stood out to me the most, and if you haven’t guessed it already that film was Kiki’s Delivery Service.

For those of you who don’t know Kiki’s Delivery Service is about a young witch who has come of age, and decides to leave home for a year (a witch tradition) to decide what magic/ what kind of witch she wants to be.

The film then is about growing up, and transforming from one stage of your life to another. What the film also talks about (which I’m not the only one to notice) is depression. During the film (spoiler alert) Kiki loses her magical powers and doesn’t understand why. No matter what she does things are just not working like they used to.

Kiki

Image: Kiki’s Delivery Service/ Studio Ghibli 

She talks to her artist friend Ursula (who is totally cool and lives in a cottage in the woods that I would totally frequent minus the crows) who tells her that she went through the same thing with her art. One of the pieces of advice she gives is:

“Stop trying. Take long walks. Look at scenery. Doze off at noon. Don’t even think about flying. And then, pretty soon, you’ll be flying again.”

Which for me basically translates to take some time and look after you. Beating yourself up because you’ve lost inspiration or are going for a depressive episode is not going to help. All you can do is try to look after you.

Kiki and Ursula

Image: Kiki’s Delivery Service/ Studio Ghibli 

The film also discusses friendship for those who struggle at. In the film Kiki laments:

“I think something’s wrong with me. I make friends, then suddenly I can’t bear to be with any of them. Seems like that other me, the cheerful and honest one, went away somewhere.”

Kiki Mardy

Image: Kiki’s Delivery Service/ Studio Ghibli 

I love, love my friends but very often I get myself into a rut and I just don’t want to be anywhere near anyone. I’ve missed several events because of that (don’t even get me started on building up expectations for events) and so can truly relate.

So, you can see why Kiki definitely has a special place in my heart. I did however hesitate with the costume, because it was never made clear what ethnicity Kiki is. I think cosplaying a character if you are not the race of the character (i.e. if you are not a minority) should always be treated carefully and with respect. I personally don’t feel comfortable cosplaying a character of another ethnicity to me, usually because that character is a minority in film/ tv/ literature or whatever the medium is- it feels like I am taking the character away from someone.

In the end I decided to cosplay as Kiki because Kiki’s ethnicity was never absolutely defined. In Spirited Away for example the film is set in Japan, and the lead’s character’s name (Chihiro Ogino) and appearance is Japanese.

However, I think personally as long as you don’t try to match your skin tone to that character (i.e. blackface) I don’t have an issue. In an ideal world there would not be an issue at all but to ignore the aspect ethnicity plays in our society today would be wrong. I am not though a person of colour so really you shouldn’t be paying attention to what I say in this debate, but actually asking people affected.

Kiki, as a character though means a lot to me. Not only has she become someone I can relate to, but the film and its beauty inspired a new burst of creativity in me that I have not felt for so long. For that reason Kiki’s Delivery Service is always going to have a special place in my heart.

Kiki's Delivery Service

🍂April🍂

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I’ve officially finished my Masters degree

Image: Pexels (A representation of a students life if they are way more hip than I was/ somehow have enough time to use a type writer, and like coffee). 

A short(ish) and slightly personal post ahead. This is just a warning so you know for what you’re getting yourself in for, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!!! Anyway, to the point. The other day, I got my dissertation results and I’m proud to say that my calculations come to the conclusion that I got a distinction overall for my Masters (I really hope this doesn’t come to haunt me lol and it turns out I worked it out wrong).

People who know me personally will know how much this meant to me, not least because I’m a perfectionist but also because I didn’t get the grade I wanted in my undergraduate degree. While blame can of course be blamed on me (and the demon that is procrastination- mostly fear of failing procrastination); a lot of the reason for my result was because of events in my third year of university that essentially meant I was feeling the lowest with my mental health I have ever felt in my life. Although, it has been hard; I’ve finally started to feel like there is a way out of that black hole (though I am by no means magically ‘better’) thanks to the support of my friends and Martin. And due to a whole lot of fighting on my own part. However, at that point in my life I’m not surprised now I didn’t get the result I wanted- I can barely even recognised myself in the person I was that year. I basically should have asked for help and said I was not coping. But I was too stubborn/ afraid to. So what I am saying is, if you’re struggling, ask for the help, confide in someone, I know it’s scary and feels more challenging than whatever you are going through, but it will help so much more in the long run. I honestly wish I had and should have done.

And for those like me who didn’t quite get what they wanted the first time round, I just wanted to let you know you can do it. And basically you’re going to go through a lot of things that suck, and make you feel like there is no way out. But there is, you can do it, and if you need someone to talk to message me. Alternatively, please check out the helplines just below.

Mind (mental health charity)

0300 123 3393

info@mind.org.uk
Text: 86463

https://www.mind.org.uk

The Samaritans (free support for anyone who needs it) 

116 123 (UK) (24/7 every day)

jo@samaritans.org

https://www.samaritans.org

I also want to say a big congratulations to Callie and a thank you for all your support. Ciara- you did amazing, I’m so proud even though you’re older than me lol but I’m definitely the middle aged one of the group. Mitchell- I know you’re going to do amazing. Holly, well done on your Masters, and 4 years putting up with me-we did it (again)!!!

There’s so many more people I could mention and want to but it would make this post far longer than it already is. But everyone else on my Masters course (you know who you are if you’re reading this- well done you’re all amazing).

I also want to say a longer big thank you to the long suffering individual that is Martin, thank you for actually attempting to read my dissertation- it was much appreciated. A big thank you to my mum too for always believing in me.

To anyone else reading, it’s never too late to change your path, whether it be job wise, grade wise, mental health wise. And don’t worry I’m going to stop pretending I’m a life coach now (though let’s face it you’d all buy my motivational DVD because it’d be hilarious).

🍂April🍂

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