Nov 29

“Hi, Anxiety”: Kat Kinsman’s “Nerves”

The author comes to the realization that there is no one method that works for everyone, and many can’t manage the fear well, but that these emotions come from an illness and shouldn’t be a source of shame. Kinsman encourages those suffering from the malady to acknowledge what is happening so that they can get the support they deserve. Terry Lamperski, Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, PA, regarding Kat Kinsman’s Hi, Anxiety

Writer and commentator Kat Kinsman has a new book called Hi, Anxiety: Life With a Bad Case of Nerves. From her publisher:

Taking us back to her adolescence, when she was diagnosed with depression at fourteen, Kat speaks eloquently with pathos and humor about her skin picking, hand flapping, ‘nervousness’ that made her the recipient of many a harsh taunt. With her mother also gripped by depression and health issues throughout her life, Kat came to live in a constant state of unease—that she would fail, that she would never find love . . . that she would end up just like her mother.

Kinsman’s public admission started in January of 2014 via a blog post ( that’s full of compelling quotes. A sampling:

Anxiety and panic have been my constant companions for as far back as my memory reaches.

Anxiety hurts. It’s the precise inverse of joy and blots out pleasure at its whim, leaving a dull, faded outline of the happiness that was supposed to happen. It’s also as sneaky as hell.

If depression is, as Winston Churchill famously described, a “black dog” that follows the sufferer around, anxiety is a feral cat that springs from nowhere, sinks its claws into skin and hisses invective until nothing else exists.

Anxiety is not easily explicable or rational — at least not to those who don’t suffer from it — and that only compounds the problem. If it were something concrete — a fear of clowns, birds, cheese or the music of Michael Bublé — there would no doubt be a definitive course of attack involving immersion therapy and a really weird party.

For me, it’s physically painful, from stomach, head and muscle aches to exhaustion from chronic insomnia to raw thumb skin that I’ve picked at until it bled — and kept picking some more.

It’s senseless and hurtful to people I love, and that more than anything is why I’ve been trying to get better.

Behavioral therapy has perhaps been my most effective weapon, but when panic bolts down and pins me, shivering to my bed in the wee, small hours, it’s hard to summon semi-steady breath, let alone any mantras or creative visualizations.

Unfortunately, as Kinsman explains in Hi, Anxiety, certain common remedies haven’t been particularly helpful:

Anti-anxiety medications work beautifully for millions of people. The withdrawal from a particularly wicked one nearly ended me, and the brain zaps (those are sharp, horrifying electrical currents you can physically feel inside your head) and metabolic sluggishness increasingly outweighed any benefits while I was on it. Perhaps I will change my mind someday, but for now that’s not an option.
The gym can be useful, but it’s on the other side of that damned door. So are the much-vaunted yoga and meditation classes that inevitably make me feel as if I’ve failed for being insufficiently zen and relaxed.

While therapy has been good for her overall, she’s also had the misfortune of having to deal with the unexpected loss of her long-term therapist (due to the latter’s health crisis). As reported in the blog piece, however, Kinsman eventually did find someone else to see.

Apr 23

Piscatorial Therapy: Fishing Clinically Supported

Many recognize the activity of fishing to be relaxing, but few seem to have written about it from a clinical point of view: piscatorial therapy.

Dr. Scott E. Moser‘s 2001 article on “piscatorial therapy” (The Journal of Family Practice) is one exception. He reports “…that fishing is a tremendous anxiolytic. This is presumed to be because the activity integrates low-impact physical exercise (as long as you’re not catching marlin) with mental relaxation and social camaraderie.”

Elsewhere online are other testaments to the ability of fishing to aid in the treatment of such conditions as PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.

Reportedly, in fact, two different mental hospitals in Scotland have employed fishing as a regular form of therapy. A spokesperson said that it “gives the patients a new skill, challenges them, and gives them a sense of personal achievement.”

On a tangential note, the recent and charming film Salmon Fishing in the Yemenwhich, let me be clear, is not about piscatorial therapy per se—just happens to pull some of the above-mentioned elements together. Scotland is involved, for example, as is the concept of fishing for relaxation.

Additionally, a main character routinely communes with fish as a way of finding aid for his troubled soul.

Dr. Jones (Ewan McGregor), socially awkward scientist: “When things get tricky in my life, I talk to my fish.”

Besides McGregor, actors Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas have major roles. A brief synopsis from IMDB: “A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.”

Here’s the trailer:

Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle: “Makes use of pink-fleshed vertebrates as the inspiration for sweet romantic musings on love and life, faith and patience – and the courage to go against the flow.”

A couple of other fishing-focused films for those viewers who also like interesting family issues are A River Runs Through It (1992) and On Golden Pond (1981).