Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

( 22 )

Overview


An uplifting and insightful memoir of living with anxiety—the most common psychiatric complaint in the United States—and one man’s unswerving quest to overcome it.

• The first of its kind: More than 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety, yet there has never been a memoir about it. Daniel Smith candidly recounts his own hilarious and heart-wrenching story: his first severe episode of anxiety at the age of sixteen; his first job, as a fact-checker at The Atlantic ...

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Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

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Overview


An uplifting and insightful memoir of living with anxiety—the most common psychiatric complaint in the United States—and one man’s unswerving quest to overcome it.

• The first of its kind: More than 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety, yet there has never been a memoir about it. Daniel Smith candidly recounts his own hilarious and heart-wrenching story: his first severe episode of anxiety at the age of sixteen; his first job, as a fact-checker at The Atlantic Monthly, which nearly drove him to distraction; and his romantic struggles to keep the love of his life. Through drugs, through psychoanalysis, through self-imposed isolation and cognitive therapy and Zen meditation, he finally learns to make peace with the workings of his restless mind and becomes the husband and father that he wants to be.

• Hope at last: Though Smith is unflinching in his description of anxiety’s toll—insomnia, headaches, nausea, constant emotional turmoil—this is far from a sob story. After all, he says, anxiety is first and foremost a disease of absurdity, the human mind’s wild imaginings of implausible ways things might go wrong. Through knowing humor and personal anecdotes delivered with a biting insight that calls to mind David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, Monkey Mind empowers readers to “declaw the experience” so they can learn to live with—and laugh at—their anxiety.

• Out in the open: What Darkness Visible did for depression and The Year of Magical Thinking did for grief, Monkey Mind will do for anxiety, giving readers a way to talk about, confront, and ultimately quell their demons.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

By the evidence of this memoir, Daniel Smith's intense anxiety has punctuated every arena of his life; from brushing his teeth to even the most casual social interaction; not to mention, college classes and sex. Under "normal" scrutiny, such behavior would elicit tragic overtones or analytical neutrality, but in the case of Smith's Monkey Mind, panic attacks are described with a verve that veers between rampant wit and naked confession. A.J. Jacobs praises this debut as "so bracingly honest, so hilarious, so sharp, it's clear there's one thing he doesn't have to be anxious about."

Publishers Weekly
Anxiety is no laughing matter, yet afflicted journalist and editor Smith uses humor (such as his use of maxi pads to stem his profuse armpit sweat) as he explains the excess of thought and emotion also known as “Monkey Mind” in Buddhism. He traces its roots to his psychotherapist mother, a woman whose life is riddled with attacks she actively works to overcome in her 40s. Smith’s attacks are exacerbated by the loss of his virginity in a ménage à trois with two predatory older women whose advances he’s too angst-ridden to rebuff. Smith also reflects on college, where the abundance of freedom and absence of personal space induces frequent tear-choked calls home. After graduation, he embarks on his first romance and lands a fact-checking job at the Atlantic. There, he writes his first article, which results in a libel lawsuit. When his two-year relationship falls apart, he steps out of his stress-addled head long enough to heed the advice of his therapist. Reading the harsh comments posted online about his article and tracking his thoughts and behavior for triggers helps him reroute his psychological circuitry and win his ex back. Smith does a skillful job of dissecting the mechanics of anxiety as well as placing the reader in his fitful shoes. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (July)
From the Publisher
“Superb writing [and] marvelous humor . . . If you're chronically anxious and want to better explain to a loved one what you're going through, hand them Monkey Mind.” Psychology Today

“You’ll laugh out loud many times during Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind. . . . In the time-honored tradition of leavening pathos with humor, Smith has managed to create a memoir that doesn’t entirely let him off the hook for bad behavior . . . but promotes understanding of the similarly afflicted.” —O Magazine

“The book is one man’s story, but at its core it’s about all of us.” Booklist

“[Smith] adroitly dissects his relentless mental and physical symptoms with intelligence and humor. . . . An intelligent, intimate and touching journey through one man’s angst-ridden life.” The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“A true treasure-trove of insight laced with humor and polished prose.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Monkey Mind is a perfect 10…. Hilarious, well-informed and intelligent, Smith conveys the seriousness of his situation without becoming pathetic or unrelatable, and what’s more, he offers useful information for both sufferers and non-sufferers…. He gives us a reason to stay with him on every page.”—Newsday

“Here's one less thing for Daniel Smith to worry about: He sure can write. In Monkey Mind, a memoir of his lifelong struggles with anxiety, he defangs the experience with a winning combination of humor and understanding.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR.org

“For fellow anxiety-sufferers, it’s like finding an Anne of Green Gables–style kindred spirit.” New York magazine’s Vulture.com

“[Monkey Mind] will be recognized in the years to come as the preeminent first-person narrative of the anxiously lived life.” Psychiatric Times

Kirkus Reviews
Intimate, compelling memoir exploring the boundaries of the author's severe anxiety. Raised in a neurotic family consisting of two anxious parents and a brother suffering from hypochondria, Smith's (Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination, 2007) anxiety began in childhood. By his mid-20s, he had suffered multiple serious anxiety attacks. On the surface, Smith's life seemed happy. He recently graduated from college with honors, had a great job, loyal friends, a nice place to live and a wonderful girlfriend. "Yet every day was torture," he writes. "I slept fitfully, with recurring nightmares--tsunamis, feral animals, the violent deaths of loved ones. I have intestinal cramps and nausea and headaches. A sense of impending catastrophe colored every waking moment." Combining a droll tone and a sharp eye for detail, Smith chronicles his consuming physical and mental symptoms. He unrelentingly gnawed his nails until they became a bloody mess. Sweat, "the great unspoken foe of the chronically anxious," receives its own chapter. During a temporary job, the author squashed wads of toilet paper into his armpits, hoping the trick would stem the tide of his sweat. During a chat with his supervisor, he leaned over her desk and "the wad dislodged, rolled down my shirt sleeve, and landed beside her keyboard with a sickening splat." In addition to his personal stories, Smith describes the character traits exhibited by the different types of anxiety sufferers. He compares homesickness to anxiety and explains the radical difference between anxiety and panic attacks. During college, Smith perused the library, using literature as a diagnostic tool; he found Philip Roth's writing especially helpful. The author eventually found solace in meditation and cognitive therapy. Smith's narrative smoothly juxtaposes clinical language with often-excruciating details of a life lived within the painful framework of severe anxiety. A true treasure-trove of insight laced with humor and polished prose.
The New York Times Book Review
…Smith's fleet, funny and productively exhausting new memoir, is an attempt to grapple with a lifetime of anxiety: to locate its causes, describe its effects and possibly identify a cure. Or, if not a cure, at least a temporary cessation of the worry that's been plaguing him since his youth…Why would a smart, comically capable young man be such a thoroughgoing mess? Monkey Mind approaches this central question essayistically, which means that it repeats itself without being repetitive, and that it digresses but remembers to leave a trail of bread crumbs.
—Ben Greenman
The New York Times Book Review
Monkey Mind is fleet, funny, and productively exhausting.
— Ben Greenman
People
“In this unforgettable, surprisingly hilarious memoir, journalist and professor Smith chronicles his head-clanging, flop-sweating battles with acute anxiety. . . . He’s clear-eyed and funny about his condition’s painful absurdities.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“This book will change the way you think about anxiety…. Daniel Smith's writing dazzled me….. Painful experiences are described with humor, and complex ideas are made accessible…. Monkey Mind is a rare gem.”
Psychology Today
“Superb writing [and] marvelous humor . . . If you're chronically anxious and want to better explain to a loved one what you're going through, hand them Monkey Mind.”
People (four stars)
“In this unforgettable, surprisingly hilarious memoir, journalist and professor Smith chronicles his head-clanging, flop-sweating battles with acute anxiety. . . . He’s clear-eyed and funny about his condition’s painful absurdities.”
The New York Times Book Review - Ben Greenman
Monkey Mind is fleet, funny, and productively exhausting.”
O Magazine
“You’ll laugh out loud many times during Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind. . . . In the time-honored tradition of leavening pathos with humor, Smith has managed to create a memoir that doesn’t entirely let him off the hook for bad behavior . . . but promotes understanding of the similarly afflicted.”
Booklist
“The book is one man’s story, but at its core it’s about all of us.”
The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“[Smith] adroitly dissects his relentless mental and physical symptoms with intelligence and humor. . . . An intelligent, intimate and touching journey through one man’s angst-ridden life.”
Newsday
Monkey Mind is a perfect 10…. Hilarious, well-informed and intelligent, Smith conveys the seriousness of his situation without becoming pathetic or unrelatable, and what’s more, he offers useful information for both sufferers and non-sufferers…. He gives us a reason to stay with him on every page.”
NPR.org - Heller McAlpin
“Here's one less thing for Daniel Smith to worry about: He sure can write. In Monkey Mind, a memoir of his lifelong struggles with anxiety, he defangs the experience with a winning combination of humor and understanding.”
New York magazine’s Vulture.com
“For fellow anxiety-sufferers, it’s like finding an Anne of Green Gables–style kindred spirit.”
Psychiatric Times
“[Monkey Mind] will be recognized in the years to come as the preeminent first-person narrative of the anxiously lived life.”
New York magazine’s Vulture.com
“For fellow anxiety-sufferers, it’s like finding an Anne of Green Gables–style kindred spirit.”
author of The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach
“You don't need a Jewish mother, or a profound sweating problem, to feel Daniel Smith's pain in Monkey Mind. His memoir treats what must be the essential ailment of our time—chronic anxiety—and it does so with wisdom, honesty, and the kind of belly laughs that can only come from troubles transformed.”
author of The Geography of Bliss - Eric Weiner
“Daniel Smith maps the jagged contours of anxiety with such insight, humor and compassion that the result is, oddly, calming. There are countless gems in these pages, including a fresh take on the psycho-pathology of chronic nail biting, an ill-fated ménage a trois—and the funniest perspiration scene since Albert Brooks’ sweaty performance in Broadcast News. Read this book. You have nothing to lose but your heart palpitations, and your Xanax habit.”
author of Drop Dead Healthy and The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs
“I don’t know Daniel Smith, but I do want to give him a hug. His book is so bracingly honest, so hilarious, so sharp, it’s clear there’s one thing he doesn’t have to be anxious about: Whether or not he’s a great writer.”
author of Home Land and The Ask - Sam Lipsyte
“Daniel Smith has a written a wise, funny book, a great mix of startling memoir and fascinating medical and literary history, all of it delivered with humor and a true generosity of spirit. I only got anxious in the last part, when I worried the book would end.”
bestselling author of The Mind’s Eye and Musicophilia - Oliver Sacks
“I read Monkey Mind with admiration for its bravery and clarity. Daniel Smith’s anxiety is matched by a wonderful sense of the comic, and it is this which makes Monkey Mind not only a dark, pain-filled book but a hilariously funny one, too. I broke out into explosive laughter again and again.”
Aaron T. Beck
Monkey Mind does for anxiety what William Styron’s Darkness Visible did for depression.”
People Magazine
“In this unforgettable, surprisingly hilarious memoir, journalist and professor Smith chronicles his head-clanging, flop-sweating battles with acute anxiety. . . . He’s clear-eyed and funny about his condition’s painful absurdities.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439177303
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/3/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 945,071
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author


Daniel Smith is the author of Muses, Madmen, and Prophets and a contributor to numerous publications, including The American Scholar, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and Slate.
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Read an Excerpt

Monkey Mind


  • The story begins with two women, naked, in a living room in upstate New York.

In the living room, the blinds have been drawn. The coffee table, which is stained and littered with ashtrays, empty bottles, and a tall blue bong, has been pushed against the far wall. The couch has been unfurled. It is a cheap couch, with no springs or gears or wooden endoskeleton; its cushions unfold flat onto the floor with a flat slapping sound: thwack. Also on the floor are several clear plastic bags containing dental dams, spermicidal lubricant, and latex gloves. There is everything, it seems to me, but an oxygen tank and a gurney.

I am hunched in an awkward squat behind a woman on all fours, a woman who is blond and overweight. Her buttocks are exposed and her knees are spread wide—“presenting,” they call it in most mammalian species. I am sixteen years old. I have never before seen a vagina up close, an in-person vagina. My prior experience has been limited to two-dimensional vaginas, usually with creases and binding staples marring the view. To mark the occasion, I would like to shake the vagina’s hand, talk to it for a while. How do you do, vagina? Would you like some herbal tea? But the vagina is businesslike and gruff. An impatient vagina, a waiting vagina. A real bureaucrat of a vagina.

I inch closer on the tips of my toes, knees bent, hands out, fingers splayed—portrait of the writer as a young lecher. The air in the room smells like a combination of a women’s locker room and an off-track betting parlor, all smoke and sweat and scented lotions. My condom, the first I’ve had occasion to wear in anything other than experimental conditions, pinches and dims sensation, so that my penis feels like what I imagine a phantom limb must feel like. The second woman has brown hair done up in curls, round hips, and dark, biscuit-wide nipples. She lies on the couch, waiting. As I proceed, foot by foot, struggling to keep my erection and my balance at the same time, her eyes coax me forward. She is touching herself.

Now the target vagina is only a foot away. Now I feel like a military plane, preparing for in-air refueling. I feel, also, like a symbol. This is why I am here, ultimately. This is why, when the invitation was extended (“Do you want to stay? I want you to stay”), I accepted, and waited who knows how long in the dark room for them to return. How could I have said no? What I had been offered was every boy’s dream. Two women. The dream.

Through a haze of cannabis and cheap beer, I bolster my courage with this: the dream. What I am about to do is not for myself. It is for my people, my tribe. Dear friends, this is not my achievement. This is your achievement. Your victory. A fulfillment of your desires. Oh poor, suffering, groin-sore boys of the eleventh grade, I hereby dedicate this vagina to—

It is then that the woman coughs. It is a rattling, hacking cough. A cough of nicotine and phlegm. And the vagina, which is connected to the cough’s apparatus by some internal musculature I could not possibly have imagined before this moment, winks at me. With its wild, bushy, thorny lashes, it winks. My heart flutters. My breathing quickens. I have been winked at by a vagina that looks like Andy Rooney. I feel a tightness in my chest and I think to myself, Oh dear lord, what have I gotten myself into?

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Table of Contents

why i am qualified to write this book 1

episode 1 9

1 genesis 11

2 hurricane marilyn 14

3 monkey mind 21

4 esther 38

5 the trip 53

6 the dagger 64

episode 2 81

7 freedom and its discontents 83

8 the diagnosis 99

9 an actor prepares 116

10 people of the book 133

episode 3 145

11 the facts 147

12 the pits 164

13 anxious love 179

14 brian 192

15 digging a trench 203

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    Life is so hard: Hear my complaint (continued)

    There are high-anxiety people like Woody Allen and David Sedaris who are able to describe their psychological difficulties with humor, but this author just drones on and on. I was hoping this would be a good book, but when I woke up with my Nook pressed to my face, I realized it wasn't holding my interest. I wouldn't recommend it unless you like to listen to friends ventilate their anxieties to you while you pretend to listen sympathetically and wish they would stop. This book is like that.

    16 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 6, 2012

    I suffer from a few different anxiety disorders. It"s very

    I suffer from a few different anxiety disorders. It"s very hard to put into words what it feels like to live with it, most people just assume you're lazy because you don't leave your apartment because you are too scared to do anything, your rude because you never smile or speak, and when you try and tell people how you actually feel they either think you are drama queen or crazy. Monkey Mind says everything I was never able to articulate, and Daniel Smith does it with intelligence and humor. Many, many laugh out loud moments. I recommend anyone who suffers from anxiety, diagnosed or not, should read this book immediately. We are not alone.

    12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Monkey Mind is a memoir written from a person who suffers terrib

    Monkey Mind is a memoir written from a person who suffers terrible anxiety. Although I'm not a really anxious person, I'm a physician who treats many anxious patients. Reading this book gave me some insight into how some people really suffer from anxiety. The inability to react calmly in situations that others might just blow off was eye-opening to me. Overall, a well-written book filled with self-deprecating humor.
    I enjoy reading books where people can poke fun at themselves. For this reason, "Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection" is a great companion to this book. "Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity" is another recent funny one. Stein, a writer for TIME, may be the best writer today at self-deprecating male humor.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2012

    Intimate and full of humor

    Monkey Mind is an honest, moving, and altogether hilarious memoir about the struggles of living with perpetual anxiety.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013

    WONDERFUL FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF ANXIETY

    I really was able to get inside of his mind and understand his anxiety myself.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I first saw this book when it popped up in my Goodreads feed. It

    I first saw this book when it popped up in my Goodreads feed. It’s a memoir about anxiety, and it was supposed to be hilarious. A friend of mine had just finished it and said that it was a great book that articulated her anxiety in a way that she was not able to do. Because I myself have a tendency to be quite anxious, I immediately scooped a copy and started reading.




    Maybe it was my high expectations, but the book wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It was funny and even clever at times, but I was expecting to feel the highs and lows of the anxiety-ridden author. Instead, I felt like I was reading a collection of awkward experiences (which was amusing) and stumbled right along with him. It was hard for me to really identify with the book, and that’s not necessarily the book’s fault. In the book, Smith says, “Anxiety is a narcissism machine. To have found a way to use it for good is unusual indeed,” and I get the feeling that this book was written as a way for the author to unload his burden.




    In all fairness, there were some really hilarious stories and I’m glad I read the book (overall). Smith is a good writer with a lot of insight into the mind of the anxious, and I think he could go quite far in the world of non-fiction. The book had a very self-helpish vibe, so maybe that’s a genre that Smith should consider. He has a way of breaking down anxiety’s complexities and placing them in nice and neat little sentences. They were so neat and nice that they sounded a lot like the daily affirmations that you would hang on your bathroom mirror.In summation, if you love memoirs or are extremely anxious, then you should read this book. If nothing else, you’ll learn some breathing techniques and take temporary comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Plus, your embarrassing moments are probably nothing compared to Smith’s, and you’ll get in a few good laughs.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2014

    Yay

    You Suck!!!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2012

    Author's monkey mind at work

    Wasn't funny. Wasn't insightful. Sufferer of chronic anxiety and panic attacks felt that author didn't express anguish adequately. I felt that author didn't ever decide on audience, too scattered, no bite. Couldn't finish.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2014

    Too many big words and very repetitive.

    If you don't like long sentences and nothing but BIG WORDS don't buy this book. One sentence was 40 words long, I kid you not. He droned on and on. By the time I quit reading at about the half way point he was still in his first semester of college! Definitely not worth the money.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2013

    Superficial

    I read the positive and negative reviews before purchasing this book. I found this book to be completely unrelatable as an anxiety sufferer. I really think the author held back on the reality of anxiety in order to make it light hearted. The result is scattered and nonsensical at times. Maybe a male anxiety sufferer would get more out of this book than I did.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2013

    Book

    This book is quite the naastyside but i am anxious to read ot

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2013

    Disappointed :-(

    This book is just everywhere all at once and not in a good way. I kept waiting for the so called funny parts but there werent any notable ones. Im convinced this guy is adhd the way he wrote this book. Alot of the book is him writing about writing this book. I honestly kept waiting for it to be over. I wanted to like it being someone who also deals with this issue but unfortunately it was one of those books I had to read a sentence over and over because it was boring and would not register in my mind.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    To Jebby

    OMG, YOU THINK SO TOO????? IM NOT THE ONLY ONE!!!!!!!! The monkey is creepy though.......

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2013

    Jebby

    That monkey is the same one on toy story 3!!!!!

    0 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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