Indianapolis author John Green and his friend Chris Waters will launch a health and fitness YouTube series titled “100 Days” on Jan. 1.
David Lindquist / IndyStar
Three years after publishing “The Fault in Our Stars,” Indianapolis-based author John Green started and abandoned novel after novel. His anxiety grew. Would he ever write another book?
He went off the medications that help him manage his anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. He hoped it would help him write. It didn’t.
“I can’t think straight — I can only think in swirls and scribbles,” he wrote at the time. Sometimes, his anxiety was so strong, he couldn’t read off a menu.
John Green opened up about living and writing with mental illness in an interview with the New York Times Tuesday, the day his new novel, “Turtles All the Way Down,” hits shelves.
Read more: John Green’s book tour is coming to Indy
Read more: Hear John Green read a chapter from “Turtles”
Yes, he did manage to write another book. And it gives readers a glimpse into life when you can’t control your own mind — or an affirmation that they aren’t alone.
“Turtles,” set in Indianapolis, follows 16-year-old Aza Holmes, the Times reports. She has all the normal struggles of a teen — parents, college, dating. But she also has thoughts that overwhelm her, becomes convinced minor illnesses will kill her, begins drinking hand sanitizer.
“I want to talk about (mental illness), and not feel any embarrassment or shame, because I think it’s important for people to hear from adults who have good fulfilling lives and manage chronic mental illness as part of those good fulfilling lives,” Green told the Times.
Green has dealt with mental illness for as long as he can remember, he told the Times. In 1998, he churned with obsessive thoughts about stabbing himself with a hunting knife.
“I don’t want to do this — I am not, thank God, suicidal — but I literally cannot stop thinking about it,” he wrote.
Years later, while living in Chicago, he spent his time lying on the floor of his apartment, drinking only two-liters of Sprite (“which is the approximate right number of calories to eat but still not an ideal nutrition strategy”), unable to even read the books he was supposed to be reviewing.
But mostly now, Green’s anxiety and OCD are controlled with medication and therapy.
“So I want to say that, yes, I am mentally ill,” Green wrote. “I’m not embarrassed about it. And I have written my best work not when flirting with the brink, but when treating my chronic health problem with consistency and care.”
If you need help with a mental illness, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration referral line at 1‑877‑726‑4727. If you are considering self-harm please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Allison Carter is social media editor at IndyStar and is buying this book as soon as she gets home. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonLCarter.