Jordan Taylor

@jordan-taylor-4 | contributor
I write to understand myself, so I write to help understand life dealing with mental illness on the daily. It's the only way any of this makes sense.
Jordan Taylor

'Turtles All the Way Down' Actualized My Deepest Fear With Depression

Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green, save this article for later. One of the biggest lies my depression tells me is that I’m a burden. No one wants to be around me when I’m spiraling further down into despair. No one cares about my sadness or numbness. So I isolate myself, fearing that if I ask for help or want to spend time with people, I’ll be a burden to them. My heart knows the opposite of this is true, but my brain doesn’t. And in a scene from “Turtles All the Way Down,” I see this fear realized through the eyes of Aza, Green’s main character who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In one particular scene, Aza is reading fan fiction written by her best friend Daisy, a sassy, determined girl who is obsessed with Star Wars. As she’s reading Daisy’s latest Star Wars based fan fiction, Aza becomes keenly aware of something: one of the characters in the fan fiction, Ayala, is based on her. And Ayala isn’t the best character in the story — far from it. Daisy describes Ayala as “my best friend and greatest burden.” The story depicts Ayala as an obsessive, worrisome and unwanted person in Rey and Wookie’s life, always messing up their plans and getting in the way with her uncertainty. “I rolled my eyes. Ayala couldn’t get anything right. And the more she worried, the worse she made everything.” “Ayala’s morals were all convenience because easy living was the only kind of living she’d ever known.” Daisy even incorporated Aza’s OCD-induced ritualism into the story, when she points out that she pulls strands of hair out and twirls them on her fingers as a nervous habit, “though all her habits were nervous.” It was also at this point that Green made a subtle switch in the language of the story — instead of Aza referring to Ayala as just a character in the story, she referred to Ayala as “I” — confirming that Daisy’s Ayala was based off Aza. “The only time I’d ever done anything worthwhile was when, overcome by anxiety, I threw up on a Hutt named Yantuh, creating a momentary distraction that allowed Chewie to grab a blaster and save us from certain death.” Notice the distinction? Aza knows she’s Ayala at this point. Despite Daisy being her best friend for many years, Aza realized that this is how she saw her: a burden, a nag, a worrier. Someone that hurt more than she helped. It was here in the chapter where Aza breaks my heart. Because she starts to believe the words Daisy wrote in those stories about her. “I woke up the next morning feeling wretched — not just tired, but terrified. I now saw myself as Daisy saw me — clueless, helpless, useless. Less.” I read that last line and cried. No longer did Aza see any of her good qualities in their friendship; she now sees herself as the unwanted tag-along friend Daisy keeps around for writing fodder. What Aza experienced here is my greatest fear as someone living with mental illness: that I’m a burden to the people around me, that I’m seen as less than because of my struggles. I’m scared that I’m someone that isn’t worth being around, that me and my illnesses are a barrier to true friendship and community. I’m scared that I’ll find out people say things about me like Daisy said about Aza behind closed doors, and that people are just my friend out of pity. Every time someone doesn’t text back or doesn’t reach out to talk to me, I worry. What did I do to hurt/upset them? Every time I say “I love you” and don’t get it back, I feel sad. Why don’t people love me like I love them? Every time plans are canceled, I freak out. They don’t like me and don’t want to spend time with me. Every time I’m super thoughtful toward a person and they don’t even respond, I get upset. I’m just not worth being seen or noticed, am I? The list goes on. I’ve always worried about what people think, but dealing with mental illness has taken that struggle to a whole new level. I’m always afraid the people around me actually believe these things — that I’m a burden, useless, helpless, or a bother. Aza lived it. She saw my fear come to life in her best friend’s stories. And Aza’s reaction is the thing that hurt me the worst: she believed it. Depression has made me believe these things too, and I’m scared I’d believe them if a friend said them about me too. I’m forever grateful to John Green for this scene in the book. Even though reading it hurt — it hurt to see that pain and sadness Aza was feeling, but it also helped me to see that I wasn’t the only one with those feelings and worries swirling around in their head. I just hate that Aza had to have my fear actually realized in her life. Seeing this play out in “Turtles All the Way Down” made me realize that I’m not alone in my fears. And I’m not alone in believing them, either. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead image via John Green’s Instagram

Jordan Taylor

How the Seasons and the Weather Affect My Depression

I used to love rainy weather. I loved how rain broke my usual rhythm of going and doing and working, and forced me to be still. I loved how it became a soundtrack to my writing and my working, back door open to hear the full effect of the rain pouring down. Growing up, I especially loved storms– I’d sit with my Papa on the front porch, counting the time between the lightning strikes and the thunder rolls, to see when the storm would hit us fully. It brought such peace to my life, this normal rhythm of rain and storms. It isn’t bringing peace to my life anymore. At least, not right now. My depression has ebbed and flowed since a few major life transitions in June, but if I’m honest, it’s mostly been a very low time for me. The worse it’s gotten, the more the little things seem to bring me further down… like the weather. We’re starting to finally get some cool fall-like weather, which had me perking up… until the rain. The remnants of this busy hurricane season slowly make their way through my state — and with it, my depression goes spiraling. Now it’s dark outside in the middle of the day. It’s rainy and dreary and muddy and clouded over, no sun or light in sight. The rain mirrors how my depression feels right now. It drains me of all my energy; my desire to get things done goes kaput. Nothing feels worth doing; nothing is giving me joy. Even the things I love, like writing or reading or cooking, feel like impossible tasks. I feel constantly cold from the lack of sunlight and human interaction, and this sense of dread follows me like a cloud hanging over my head. I drag my feet as though walking through mud, begrudgingly going about my day despite feeling this dark pit of despair in my soul. I stand out in the rain with the dog, feeling like the puddles of rain forming will swallow me whole. This weather used to be a balm when my depression got like this. It’s now causing me to feel lower, with the darkness from the clouds enveloping me in body and mind. I need sunshine; I need autumnal breezes and brightly-colored leaves falling from the trees. I need the weather to change so I can start coming out from this dark spell I’m in. But mostly, I need the weather to not dictate my depression — I want the weather to just be weather again. Follow this journal on the author’s blog and Facebook page. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via carlacastagno

Jordan Taylor

Why Love Can't Save Me From Depression and Anxiety

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. I’m loved and adored — of this, I’m sure — by my family, my friends, mentors, teachers… they remind me of this fact daily. I’m beloved by God, and I’m dearly loved even when I don’t feel like I am. But knowing I’m loved is not enough to make my depression go away. Love is not enough to make me not anxious about the future, the past or the present. As much as I would like for love to be enough to cure me of all my ailments — mental, physical and emotional — it’s just not. Love was not enough when panic attacks kept me up every night for three months. Love was not enough when I cried nightly in fear I wouldn’t wake up the next day — when I refused to sleep in fear I’d die before I woke up in the morning. Love wasn’t enough all the times I’ve thought the world would be better off without me. Love wasn’t enough when depression grabbed hold of me after quitting student teaching, or in middle school when I was drowning in fear and apathy and loneliness. Love wasn’t enough when I felt alone in a crowded room. Love wasn’t enough to save me from me. There are so many times I’ve wanted love to be enough. No need for counseling or medicine or vulnerability required when friends ask how I’m really doing. If the love of my friends and family was enough, I’d never struggle with this crap. But it’s not. Love isn’t enough for anything else; we can’t love physical illness or injury away. We can’t love mental illness away either – it’s not called illness for nothing. If love were enough, I wouldn’t be anxious about my next chapter, no matter how excited I am for it. If love were enough, I would not spend my nights terrified of having more panic attacks. I wouldn’t pray for God to wake me up the next morning because I’m unsure if I will or not, and it scares the living daylights out of me. If love were enough, I’d never have to worry about the feelings of hopelessness or loneliness or darkness that surface when I’m struggling. They’d never appear because love triumphs over those things — but not when your brain works against you. If love were enough, I’d never have to take medicine to fix the chemicals in my brain that try to convince me to self-destruct. Every. single. day. If love were enough, the voices in my head that tell me I’m not enough or forgotten or unworthy would never interfere with the voice of God’s, calling me beloved and welcomed and wanted. But love isn’t enough for me to overcome this hell on my own. I can’t love my broken brain into healing. Love helps. Love heals parts of me. But it doesn’t fix. It doesn’t cure. Love – and being loved – is an incredible thing, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not enough to save my life. I love that people love me – without it, I wouldn’t be me. But it’s not what makes me better. I have other things (like medicine and therapy and sharing my story) to fight for with me. I have strategies and plans for when my anxiety goes haywire and I don’t know where to turn. I have friends I can call or text when things get muddled by the darkness and I begin to feel lost. I have God to lean on and cry out to, even when that involves me screaming and crying about why this is what’s been given to me to struggle through. The last thing I need someone saying to me is: “oh, but you’re so loved, how can you be depressed? You have so much going for you, how can you be anxious? How can you be depressed when you’re so loved?” I am so loved. I do have a lot going for me right now. But that doesn’t mean anything to my mental illness. I could be in the happiest time of my life and it would still steal my joy (and it has). It doesn’t care about what’s going on or who I am or how loved I am. It’s a thief that steals and kills and destroys. It’s a liar that makes me believe what it says, no matter what other voices say. And it doesn’t care one bit about how loved I am because it will do everything in its power to make me feel as unloved and useless as possible. Love is not enough. It will never be enough for me to save myself. But I sure do wish it was. Follow this journey on the author’s blog. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “HOME” to 741-741 . Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via berdsigns