Thursday, May 14, 2009

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ANXIETY by Patricia Pearson

Mr Neff and I used to say that our mothers practiced the ministry of intercessory worry. Nowadays that's called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD!), and one of our descendants thinks she has it. She believes it was not handed down through the paternal line.

So I went to a web page at Helpguide.org, "How to Stop Worrying: Self-Help Strategies for Anxiety Relief," and read the six self-help tips, and then I clicked through to "Emotional Intelligence" and read about four core abilities and five key skills and three steps to stress busting, and then I decided to go to the library and check out The Feeling Good Handbook, which my descendant said was quite helpful.

But first I looked it up on amazon and discovered how to take the self-diagnosis quiz without actually buying the book. Hint: click "search inside this book," type in "Burns anxiety inventory," and click on the link for page 33. According to the inventory, I am mildly anxious. Given the questions, I believe that may indicate that I have a pulse.

Anyway, I headed off to the library, and by the time I got there, I could no longer remember the name of the book I had come to check out (did I mention that one of my worries is that some day I will develop Alzheimer's disease?). So I went to the new books display instead, and there I found Patricia Pearson's funny, wise, and informative little memoir, A Brief History of Anxiety: Yours and Mine. I was hooked when I read the last sentence of the author bio on the back jacket flap: "She lives in Toronto with her husband, her two children, and her dread."

The New York Times ran a good review and Salon.com ran an even better one, and rather than reviewing the book here I'll just refer you to those and let you know that I'm returning it in just a few minutes, so you can check it out if you hurry. And then I'll quote a paragraph from page 81 that I liked very much. It helps explain why "a person is four times more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder in the United States than in Mexico."
"In Mexico," Margaret muses, "it is said that people work in order to have holidays." By this, she means that they do not work for material gain or for personal status, so much as for the freedom to be with their families and friends. Imagine that, I think to myself, having just read an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail warning that "Family life interference at work can lead to a stalled career." In Toronto it is best not to have families. In Mexico it is best not to have careers."

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