Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith
Release date: 2012 / 224 pages
Synopsis (from Amazon.com): Anxiety once paralyzed Daniel Smith over a roast beef sandwich, convincing him that a choice between ketchup and barbeque sauce was as dire as that between life and death. It has caused him to chew his cuticles until they bled, wear sweat pads in his armpits, and confess his sexual problems to his psychotherapist mother. It has dogged his days, threatened his sanity, and ruined his relationships. In Monkey Mind, Smith articulates what it is like to live with anxiety, defanging the disease with humor, traveling through its demonic layers, and evocatively expressing its self-destructive absurdities and painful internal coherence. With honesty and wit, he exposes anxiety as a pudgy, weak-willed wizard behind a curtain of dread and tames what has always seemed to him, and to the tens of millions of others who suffer from anxiety, a terrible affliction.
Review: Prior to the first chapter of Daniel Smith’s memoir of an anxious mind is a section titled “why I am qualified to write this book” which describes his walk to a therapist’s office: a mental flagellation that ends with the therapist asking if he can tape their session, presumably as a case study of just how bad anxiety can become.
Smith then explores what he believes may be the cause of his anxiety: the loss of his virginity involving a dysfunctional coworker and an unfortunate threesome. The images are startling and repugnant, but the reader, thoroughly disarmed by Smith’s humor in the first section, is reassured that even during his darkest moments, redemption is possible.
After the first chapter, the memoir is loosely chronologically, moving from hilarious moments from Smith’s childhood with his psychotherapist mother (It was not unusual, when I was young, for a procedure as routine and noninvasive as a strep culture to set me off like a pig in a barn fire) into his hard-earned successful present life as a writer, husband, and father who has learned to live with his anxiety as an amusing, if not entirely welcome houseguest (If this all sounds melodramatic, well that, too, isn’t a bad metaphor for anxiety – as a kind of drama queen of the mind).
Beyond the entertaining vignettes, Monkey Mind is a serious exploration of an affliction that affects most people to a certain extent and provides helpful insights as well as the reassurance that even the most neurotic are in good company.
Thank you to Shelf Awareness for asking me to read and review this! Interested in a winning a free copy — leave me a comment!