How a successful editor worked through his (very big) anxieties

January 20
Phobias
You think you’ve got issues
‘Surviving Anxiety,’ the Atlantic magazine, Jan.-Feb. issue

Scott Stossel, 44, editor of the Atlantic, has been “a twitchy bunch of phobias” since the age of 2. At 10 he saw a psychiatrist for the first time. He is beset by a sense of existential dread, which frequently turns into panic attacks. He takes Xanax and vodka, together, if he has to make a speech. He stows barf bags around his house because of a fear of vomiting. He has tried individual therapy, group therapy, cognitive-behavior therapy, hypnosis, prayer, acupuncture, St. John’s wort, Thorazine, Zoloft and a dozen other drugs (and this is a very abbreviated list). Nothing has worked — although he admits, “some drugs have helped a little, for finite periods.”

But the man can certainly write well, as evidenced in the lengthy excerpt from his new book, “My Age of Anxiety,” in the Atlantic. Stossel discusses the role of nature vs. nurture, Freud’s anxiety issues, the current science on medications for the condition. But the best parts are his experiences — such as how he struggles with emetophobia, or fear of vomiting, though he has not actually vomited since March 7, 1977, when he was 7.

After trying everything else, he reluctantly agrees to exposure therapy: Under a doctor’s supervision he will take ipecac, which induces vomiting. What follows is a 1,000-word, painfully funny description of his body’s resolute refusal to give in and simply throw up; hours of retching and dry heaving ends with a panic attack so severe that he can’t leave his house for days. And the whole thing upsets his doctor so much that she spends the afternoon at home, throwing up.

It’s embarrassing to disclose all this in public, he writes — but he hopes some of the 40 million Americans who suffer an anxiety disorder “will find some solace in learning that they are not alone.”

Cooking
Health and ‘new’ ancient grains
‘Grain Power’ by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

The authors of this beautifully photographed health-conscious cookbook have written two popular books on cooking with quinoa. Now the writers, who are sisters, have expanded their scope to a broader range of “ancient grains” (though some are technically seeds). Some are familiar, such as oats and buckwheat, but others less so, including amaranth, chia and teff. These grains provide a variety of tastes, textures and nutritional benefits, along with impressive amounts of complete proteins, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

But they aren’t automatically appealing to many modern home cooks. The authors’ goal is to change that, often by incorporating them into some high-calorie, indulgent recipes (chocolate chip chia cookies, mushrooms stuffed with kaniwa and blue cheese). They also aim for convenience, as in this “mason jar” breakfast: Put four tablespoons of various whole grains into a glass jar, add a teaspoon of chia seeds and some raisins. Pour in three-fourths cup of boiling water, screw on the lid, and shake. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, reheat in the microwave, add a little milk and sweetener. Make up a few jars in advance, and you’d have several days’ worth of hot, hearty cereals, prepared as quickly as most instant cereals and — at 210 calories, seven grams of protein, six grams of fiber and no cholesterol — it’s probably better for you.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read National