Breaking Mad

Breaking Mad: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety by Anna Williamson with Dr. Reetta Newell, systematically explores anxiety in several forms. More importantly, Williamson openly describes her own struggles with anxiety, including stomachaches, anxiety, headaches and the like. Newell, a therapist, includes case studies of clients she has met and their challenges with anxiety.

Anxiety comes in a variety of flavors like foul-tasting ice cream. They range from unexpected panic attacks to social anxiety to PTSD. Maybe it’s bouts of insomnia or a queasy stomach. Unfortunately, physicians (with the best of intentions) often prescribe medications, without taking the time to address the root of the problem or suggest alternative treatments. I can’t blame them—these are the kinds of chronic symptoms that resist a clear diagnosis, let alone a cure.

Patrons like Lauren often stopped by the library on her way home from work. I didn’t know much about her, except she was always kind and had an office job nearby. When I asked recently how she was doing, the words spilled out. “We have a new manager, and nobody knows what he’s going to do next. Now there’s rumors of layoffs. I dread going to work, and I’m so nervous now.” Did we have books on dealing with anxiety?

While Williamson makes it clear you need to see your healthcare provider for a complete physical to rule out organic causes, she makes specific suggestions, such as giving your “generalized anxiety disorder” a different name that softens the threat. Explore what is going on when you experience anxiety. For insomnia, she reminds her readers not to have a “cuppa” of anything caffeinated before going to bed. Her recommendations for depression and “feeling low” include finding others to talk to and getting out instead of isolating yourself.

Written in a conversational style with suggestions, exercises and simple line drawings, I found it an engaging read, and suggested it to Lauren. We both agreed there were no quick fixes, but any simple actions that at least made you feel better would help. I haven’t seen Lauren for a couple of weeks, and I hope Williamson’s ideas eased her anxiety.

Do you struggle with anxiety? PTSD?

How do you cope?

Do you self-medicate with food, booze or drugs?

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