string theory: John Green and mentally ill metaphors


How do you explain your mental illness to strangers?

Good luck recently forced me to answer this question; I met someone funny and smart and wonderful and, in the interest of being honest with the person whose face I kiss and food I steal, I’ve spent the past few weeks introducing my medications and therapy schedule to someone new.

I wish my reading Paper Towns coincided exactly with my meeting my face-kisser, because how cool and convenient would that be? But no. I read Paper Towns maybe two or three months before I met the man who will henceforth be known as face-kisser. And I knew it was an important book for those of us who are particularly interested in mental health. I just couldn’t really appreciate why it was so important until I felt compelled to explain the consequences of my mind to someone else.

What is the right way to tell someone you are, you were, and you probably will be again, desperately, dangerously unhappy? How to you explain to someone you care about that sometimes you lose the will to move or eat or shower?

“Hello, new face-kissing¬†friend. I really, really like you and I think you should know that sometimes I hallucinate.”

I don’t know, man. I can’t think of a way that doesn’t sound flippant or desperate.

In Paper Towns Margo uses what I like to call The String Theory. “Maybe all the strings inside him broke,” a young Margo says after finding a corpse. Maybe all of Margo’s strings broke the morning she realized her parents were not trying to find her. Maybe all of Quentin’s strings broke the afternoon he finally found Margo.

This is a book about a boy trying to understand a girl who had given up hope of being understood. And, although I read it a bit earlier than I needed it, I did need this book. I think most of us with some explaining to do can relate to the Margo Roth Spielgelman.


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