Anxiety-Ridden Author Keeps Sense of Humour

Article excerpt

Have you ever felt anxious? Have you ever felt so overwhelmingly anxious that you feared you might, at any given moment, "projectile weep" onto the person with whom you were conversing?

If you haven't, count yourself lucky. If you have, Daniel Smith is a kindred -- anxiety-ridden -- spirit. And what a spirit he has.

For all the gut-wrenching agony and hamster-wheel brain activity that the 30-something New York-based teacher and author's anxiety has burdened him with, he has not lost his sense of humour.

In this short but surprisingly comic account of his personal struggles, Smith describes scenes that elicit empathy and concern, but also audible laughs, thanks to the layers of unexpected, often self-deprecating accounts of torturous scenarios.

Smith's style is reminiscent of American humorist David Sedaris -- if Sedaris were suffering therapy-grade anxiety from the aftermath of a near-drowning experience, a scarring, uniquely unpleasant loss of his virginity, and all the burdens that accompany growing up Jewish on Long Island.

Smith borrows his title, Monkey Mind, from the Buddhist term used to describe a mind full of excess thoughts and emotions.

Broken into three "episodes" rather than parts, Monkey Mind weaves its way through Smith's three most intense bouts of anxiety. They occur in high school, college and adulthood, with ever increasing intensity.

When Smith's panic-attack prone, teacher-turned-therapist mother tries to help him pinpoint the origin of his anxiety, earlier anxious incidents from his childhood are also revealed. "There are many flavours of anxiety. My childhood was a taster's menu."

In truth, Smith hails from a family riddled with a spectrum of anxiety issues. …