Tuesday, May 06, 2014

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

by Scott Stossel

I inhaled this book.  I'm not sure why.  It's not what I would typically call a page turner, and though I did read it during two sick days, I actually could have put the book down and gotten some more sleep (strep throat does that to you), but I didn't want to.  I wanted to power through and find out where Mr. Stossel figures out the secret to curing his own anxiety and the anxiety that has plagued so many good people throughout the centuries.

Except he isn't... cured, that is.

And I want to be mad at him, but really, I just feel for him.  We've all been there - no, not to the extremes he has, but to those moments when we wanted to do something really badly, we were totally excited, and then the moment came and you thought you were going to pass out.  We've all had that experience at some point.  If you've never experienced anything like that, then this probably isn't the book for you. (and neither is this review)

For me, the book has its high points when Mr. Stossel weaves his own story in with the extensive research that he's done.  He gives a real example, and then traces it through the history of the scientific study of anxiety.  He has definitely done his homework.  I'm less thrilled about the parts where there are a litany of acronyms:  CRH; C/C; C/T; CRHR1; SERT; COMT; etc.  However, Mr. Stossel, if you're reading this, please don't get anxious.  Other people, like my husband, eat that stuff up.  I'm just more into the touchy-feeling history of your vomit phobia.  More of that please.

Personally, I feel like I've come away from this book inspired to look at new ways to handle stress in my life.  I realize that could just be the antibiotics taking care of the strep bacteria - which, by the way, seems to have a lot of the same symptoms of severe anxiety - but I don't think it's just that.  I really don't know how to meditate, but I can dig the medicate when needed and effective and under treatment by a doctor.  I hope that Mr. Stossel can cut back on the amounts of medications he mixes with vodka and other alcohols, but I say if it all helps him to keep doing the great work he appears to be doing, maybe a little excess in moderation is all right.

Seriously, my main take away comes unexpectedly from the story about his great-grandfather, who couldn't seem to grasp that he had a pretty good thing going.  I want to take from that a lesson that we all tend to be our own worse critics.  I know that I often easily forget that I've done some good things when I'm working on one that may not be going so well.  We need to try to focus on the fact that we won't always be perfect, and that's ok.  

I'm not sure that these are the lessons that Mr. Stossel intended, but I have enjoyed finding them through reading his book.

Thanks for putting yourself out there.  I don't know if this makes it worth it, but the book means something to me.  Good job!


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