NY Mag’s The Cut was kind enough to let me write about post-election anxiety,
These next few years are a long damned haul, and it’s hard to face that when you have an anxiety disorder. I do, and it’s knocked me flat from time to time over the past few weeks. I wake up in heart-knocking horror in the middle of the night, feel the sting of acid creeping up into my chest, or squirm at my desk with my back muscles twitching because I’ve been hunched down for hours, unconsciously waiting for impact. Several friends have ended up in the ER with panic attacks, convinced they were dying. They weren’t — just their hopes, dreams, and faith in the decency of their fellow man.
The worst happened. More will happen. All the magical thinking and proactive worrying in the world didn’t prevent the outcome of this election, and letting it attack me from the inside is not a viable solution, not if I want to spend the next few years anywhere other than under my increasingly pilling comforter. So I’ve come up with a coping plan. Maybe it’ll help you, too.
A parent‘s degenerative illness can make the holidays a lot less merry
I’m a 43-year-old teenager, sulking, silent in the passenger’s seat of my father’s Subaru, and he’s doing his level best to fill up the air—mostly by pointing out the local landmarks of Mauldin, South Carolina. There’s the corporate headquarters for Bi-Lo groceries in case I was wondering where all the trucks were coming from (I hadn’t noticed.), the Duke’s Mayonnaise plant, an intersection that’s tricky after dark, in case I was ever out this way again at night.
He’s trying to help and I love him for it, but I’m several clicks south of helpable at the moment and just trying to soldier through. That’s what decent people do. I suppose. I haven’t felt especially decent or much like a person since I landed yesterday. So I approximate what I hope is a neutral, perhaps even mildly pleasant expression and solder it onto my skull as we park the car and amble toward the low brick building with an armload of boxes. He’s limping noticeably and sports a massive, dusk-dark bruise on his forearm, exploding out from a pale, pinprick center. He’s tired, too, from the medication (“Better that than dead,” he says. “Yup,” I say.) but he’s still unmistakably my Pup.
There, just inside, is my mother—or at least what’s left of her. I never know quite what to expect from visit to visit. Parkinson’s Disease (which killed her brother a few years ago) and Lewy Body Dementia are an especially cruel roulette that way. In the two months since I’ve last seen her, they’ve knocked walking and swallowing solids out of play, replacing them with a full time wheelchair and a joyless slurry of pureed foods. But in a fit of whimsy, today they’ve given her back my name. It’s been years since I’ve heard it pass her lips. It comes out in a croak and knocks me off balance. Continue reading →
Kat Kinsman is the Editor of Tasting Table and the author of the upcoming book – Hi, Anxiety – that’s coming out in April. She shares her own history with overcoming anxiety as a New York food writer, and hosts Jacqueline and Ben chime in with how anxiety has affected their dating and dining lives on this episode of Love Bites.
I recently had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the TerraVita Food & Drink Festival in Chapel Hill, NC. Each member of the panel was asked to talk for a few minutes on how they use their culinary capital to benefit their community. Here’s roughly what I had to say.
I am delighted and I am lucky to have a chance to speak with you today about two subjects that are increasingly intersecting in my work, namely:
1. My crazy intense love of food.
2. And, well, being crazy.
I’ve been a writer for the past big chunk of my life and mentally ill for all of it — but it took getting a platform as a food journalist for people to listen to me.
At first, I was just caught up in the deliciousness of it all. The fabulousness and the sensual pleasures — Yay, bacon! Oooohhh…pimento cheese. Calloo callay for cake (and pie).
And what I found out pretty quickly was that if you can find this common ground of pleasure with people, you can also start to talk a little bit about the pain.
And this time, I wrote about it in a guest post for the American Psychological Association.
If you really want to know how I’m doing right now, look at my thumb. It always betrays me. My face will, from four decades of muscle memory, arrange itself in a way that will not cause you worry. My voice is calculated to extract any upset so it will not leach in and erode your wellbeing. But my thumb can’t lie.
More specifically, the skin to the right of my right thumbnail, and if things are especially dire, the left of the left one, too. If it’s smooth and un-pocked, I’ve been OK for at least a few days. Roughened, but not raw means there was a tough patch in the recent past but I’m on the upswing. Actively bleeding, I’m doing my damndest to keep it together in front of you, and bandaged—I’m trying to protect me from myself. And you from having to look at it. Or really look at me.
How I stole Christmas Getting through the holidays when you’re a misfit toy (and married)
I don’t want to screw up anyone’s holiday, so I’m mostly staying out of it. There is, so far as I’ve gleaned, right and proper placement for the ceramic Snoopy ornament from grade school, dishes which people are legally and medically required to consume on 12/25 and exact times at which particular singing, reading and unwrapping rituals of must be enacted. If any of these things are even vaguely askew, the section of the continent on which the offense occurs will crumble down into the Earth’s core and Christmas will be ruined. More specifically YOU will have ruined Christmas whether or not you wanted to participate.
Butbutbut, what sort of person (barring a religious or cultural disinclination) would want to opt out of Christmas? Some joy-loathing gorgon? Some Scrooge? Some Grinch? Sure, kick me and my ilk while we’re at the bottom of our seasonal ebb if it makes your yuletide brighter. I probably can’t actually feel worse, or I might even be numb at this point, so by all means, shovel it on, coal lumps and all. Continue reading →
“The blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re sad, that’s all. But the mean reds are horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is. … What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.” — “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Truman Capote
I am hunched in half on a blue chair on the third floor of the Tiffany & Co. flagship store, willing myself to calm down or simply disappear. At this moment, the latter seems a more likely possibility, but even so, it’s not working. A neatly suited young woman is dispatched to assess the state of my well-being, because so far as I can tell, most other ladies are pretty jazzed to be in the temple of sparkle and promise.
I, on the other hand, am a quivering storm cloud, desperately trying to contain the shocks and sog of my current upset so they don’t stain anyone else’s happy pre-holiday afternoon. She approaches, kind-eyed and discreet, “Soooo, how are you doing today, Miss?” Continue reading →
In these enlightened times, my condition would likely be swiftly identified as “school refusal behavior,” treated with care and skill and billed to my parents’ insurance under DSM-5 code 309.21: separation anxiety disorder. The root cause might be fear of academic failure, trauma associated with the location, worry over leaving a parent’s protective sphere or upset caused by unkind classmates, but the outcome is the same: It’s not that the child won’t go to school, it’s that they simply can’t. Continue reading →