Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Salon Scribe Learns How To Manage "Love's Greatest Killer"

Illustration for article titled emSalon/em Scribe Learns How To Manage Loves Greatest Killer

A story comes across the wires about an ill-fated 18-year-old girl who died on a snorkeling trip to Cancun. My thoughts in quick succession: Oh that poor girl and her poor family. Crap, I am never going snorkeling…Hmm, probably shouldn't go on boats again either… Oh gawd, don't even start with planes!… I should just stay in my house and never leave. And obviously, I am far from alone in my generalized, irrational anxiety. Meredith Maran writes in Salon today, "Forty million of us — that's 28.8 percent — suffer from the ailment that the National Institutes of Mental Health defines as 'an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations'; William James called 'a horrible dread at the pit of my stomach'; and Anaïs Nin called 'love's greatest killer.'" Maran's anxiety was crippling enough that it was harming her relationship (once, when her wife couldn't reach her, she assumed her wife was dead), so she sought many different kinds of treatment including, talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, drugs, and several combinations of the three. But what she found most effective was a class offered by her HMO called "Managing Your Anxiety."

Advertisement

The class was based on cognitive behavioral principles, and Maran and the other "stressed-out survivors plugged away, and after two months I was stunned to discover that I had less anxiety, and more tools in my psychological repertoire, than talk therapy had yielded in 20 years." She continues to use her "little yellow pills" to help her manage her anxiety in the rough spots, but Maran still can't shake the theory "that the popularity of the behavioral/pharmaceutical cocktail is driven more by what's good for Big Pharma than by what's good for semi-psychos like me."

Anxiety expert Jerilyn Ross listens to Maran's concerns and then tells her:"So what if it's a conspiracy? It works…The psychoanalysts say we're putting Band-Aids on our patient's problems. I say if it stops the bleeding, who cares?" Yeah, I know it's sort of Orwellian with all the mind control but I completely agree. Now where are my pills?

Advertisement

When Panic Attacks! [Salon]

Girl Dies After Cancun Senior Class Trip [CBS News]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

ASmallTurnip
A Small Turnip

@gherkinfiend: @ilikenoisytories: Oh, see, I've had really, really good results with cognitive behavioral therapy. Like, life-changing results. But I think the personality of the therapist counts a lot. I have a kickass therapist, but I had to go through five or six others before I found her. The discards would definitely not have improved me. Tip: don't trust a therapist who's got a fake potted plant in their office. It's a very bad sign, believe me.

Gherks, hearing about your head-banging frustrations with the NHS makes me clench my fists. I have a lot of rage on your behalf.

@gecko: I think you should come sit next to me. We can either talk about cool stuff, like turtles or penguins, or we can just sit and beam at each other in mutual awkwardness. It'll be awesome!

The day-to-day stuff keeps me up every night. And I'll confess to one of my dorkiest solutions. You have to promise you won't laugh too hard at me: When I start spinning into anxiety as I'm trying to fall asleep, I listen to my iPod. Specifically, Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter books. There, I said it. It's gentle and lulling and I know the ending so there are no surprises to worry about. And boom, snooze-time.

I think it's a kind of Pavlovian response, because my dad always read to me before I went to bed as a kid. I love being read to. Hey, it gets the job done.