An affecting memoir of coping with anxiety over a busy lifetime.
“I am anxious often,” writes Australian TV journalist Wilson (I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook, 2014). “But it’s kept in check if I don’t get anxious about being anxious.” In a pleasantly meandering narrative that mixes what the author characterizes as “polemic, didactic and memoir,” she ticks off a long list of the many afflictions that she’s suffered: depression, hypomania, bipolar disorder, bulimia, insomnia, and, ever since childhood, anxiety. In response to them, she writes, she’s tried about everything, from various chemical amelioratives to neurolinguistic programming, Freudian psychotherapy, and even “sand play.” All of those illnesses, she avers, were variations on the same theme: anxiety, pure and simple. And she’s not alone; even though anxiety wasn’t classified as a mental disorder until 1980, as many as 1 in 6 people in the First World suffer from it, and men in particular suffer from anxiety in greater numbers than from depression. The developed-world part is important, since Wilson later wonders whether anxiety may not be a bourgeois sort of problem. In whatever instance, she observes, the whole business is a mess: “Anxiety…it’s befuddling and clusterfucky for everyone involved.” Having sorted through what she can, the author then looks into various things that she’s tried to deploy in order to ward off anxiety, from taking a long walk to trying to declutter a mental lifestyle that, as she memorably puts it, requires us to “keep multiple tabs open in our brains, which sees us toggle back and forth between tasks and commitments and thoughts. And all of it competes. And it clusters. And down we go in a hyper-tabbed tangle.” Small wonder that she quietly hints that it may be time to try a few psychedelics.
Those who endure anxiety will find Wilson’s thoughtful, often funny self-analysis to be just the right companion and affirmation.