Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxietyby Daniel Smith
Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind is the stunning articulation of what it is like to live with anxiety. As he travels through anxiety’s demonic layers, Smith defangs the disorder with great humor and evocatively expresses its self-destructive absurdities and painful internal coherence. Aaron Beck, the most influential doctor in modern psychotherapy, says/i>… See more details below
Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind is the stunning articulation of what it is like to live with anxiety. As he travels through anxiety’s demonic layers, Smith defangs the disorder with great humor and evocatively expresses its self-destructive absurdities and painful internal coherence. Aaron Beck, the most influential doctor in modern psychotherapy, says that “Monkey Mind does for anxiety what William Styron’s Darkness Visible did for depression.” Neurologist and bestselling writer Oliver Sacks says, “I read Monkey Mind with admiration for its bravery and clarity….I broke out into explosive laughter again and again.” Here, finally, comes relief and recognition to all those who want someone to put what they feel, or what their loved ones feel, into words.
“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
- Simon & Schuster
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Read an Excerpt
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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