How 'The Fault in Our Stars' Helped Me Recognize My Depression
“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” – John Green
I realized my mental health was affected by my medical condition after reading “The Fault in Our Stars.” I read it in one day and immediately loved it. I saw myself in both of the main characters: Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters.
I tend to be happy (like Augustus) and focus on the here and now. As a kid, I never really thought about the dark side of the future. Which makes sense. Kids are so resilient. I remember thinking about it a little in high school when my health was shaky. But it seems like once I graduated with my master’s in social work in May 2013, everything changed. All of a sudden I began having more and more days of not feeling well. Between things like muscle pain, daily overheating episodes and extreme fatigue, I was miserable. My emotions were all over the place too. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I would say there was some depression as well. As weird as it sounds, I was suddenly more aware of how my health was affecting what I wanted to do, and could do, both day-to-day and in terms of my life in general.
I’m in a weird state of transition. Other people around my age are dating, getting engaged/married, working full time, traveling the world, starting their families and so much more. In the beginning of the movie, Hazel talks about how she takes medicines, has doctor appointments and watches reality TV. I stay busy with my different projects, but I can definitely relate on some level. She doesn’t want it to be like this, but her illness has forced her to become more isolated. It limits what she can and can’t do. That’s the part I can relate to. Like I said, I stay busy, but I can’t help but wonder what things would be like if I could drive. If I could work a full-time job. Things like that. I have spent more time at home the past few years than ever before. I was in school from the time I was about 3 years old until I graduated with my MSW at age 23. Now what? Instead of rereading “An Imperial Affliction” multiple times, I watch the entire “Harry Potter” series. But for the most part, Hazel accepts her situation as I do mine.
Another reason I love “The Fault in Our Stars” is because Hazel says things I thought I couldn’t.
“I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, OK?”
Is it bad that I honestly thought something very similar? I don’t remember if I first thought this before or after reading the book. But every once in a while, this kind of thought will creep in.
“You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” And, “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
This might seem a bit dramatic for my particular situation, and in all honesty, sometimes I feel like I have absolutely no right to love these quotes so much. I’m not in the same situation as Hazel. But still, I can’t help but to think that it’s applicable. No one knows when they’re going to pass away. It would be naive of me to think that I am going to live until I’m 80. I don’t think of it often, but I feel like every illness takes a toll. I am so thankful for the medical care and equipment we have. It seems like every winter I get pneumonia, but we are able to manage most of my care at home. The hard thing about knowing other families affected by my syndrome is when someone passes away. For example, around the time that I first read “The Fault In Our Stars,” a woman with my syndrome passed away. She was 39. Her scoliosis wasn’t nearly as severe as mine. Therefore, I think it’s understandable to wonder about the future. I want to treasure each day because you never know what tomorrow may bring. I want a love like Hazel has with Augustus Waters. I want my own little infinity.
“…and I just don’t want my particular life, and also the sky is depressing me…”
This quote allows me to acknowledge my sadness, frustration and all those kinds of emotions related to living with my disability.
So there you have it. Reading “The Fault in Our Stars” helped me recognize that for a time, I was depressed. My spirits are higher now, likely because I am staying busier at work and my health issues are stabilizing (somewhat). But this doesn’t mean there aren’t any days where I feel down. I think these feelings will always come and go now. Understanding and accepting this is the biggest thing I can do to manage my mental health.
Follow this journey here.
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Lead image via The Fault In Our Stars Facebook