Tag : anxiety

October 23, 2020 by

Cloroxing Away My Fear •

“You’re driving me crazy,” my mother says, after a walk around the neighborhood. I’ve just yelled at her for touching her insufficiently sanitized phone after washing her hands.

I know, I think. I’m driving me crazy too.

“Why can’t you trust that it’s clean?”

I want to trust—that would make everything so much easier. But my anxiety is not a switch I can simply turn off. And it isn’t unfounded, either. I have spent almost a quarter of my life fighting to regain the control over my body that Lyme Disease has taken from me. Now I am battling not only the invaders inside of me, but also the threat outside my door, and my only defense is the jumble of cleaning products in my kitchen cabinet. But unlike my Lyme treatments thus far, these chemical concoctions are real, foolproof germ-busters. If I use them enough, they will work.

I look at my mother. “I know it’s irrational,” I tell her. “But please—can you just humor me?”

She sighs, nods, and gives me a hug. She wore that shirt outside, my brain shouts. But I hug her back, gingerly, before changing my own clothes and lathering my hands with extra Mrs. Meyers.

ARIELLE SILVER-WILNER on the Lilith Blog

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April 6, 2020 by

Turning Days of Distancing into Days of Reflection

Progress is an American value. We are acculturated to propel—socially, professionally, economically—which makes sheltering in place excruciating. For me, not moving forward is as good as moving backwards. 

So, how can we navigate this temporary suspension of life as we know it? Some folks are turning this time into an opportunity to begin exercising, bond with family and pets, clean closets, or garden. Others are re-hanging holiday lights. I am reliving the Days of Awe.

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April 6, 2020 by

Food for Thought on Passover

In some ways, I have always been a gastronomic Jew, that is, my Jewish identity intertwined with eating and enjoying traditional Jewish foods, like chicken soup with knaidels, noodle kugel and mandelbread.  I knew in my heart that for some of us, these foods were our “madeleines,” the tastes, smells and memories that connect us with our past.  

Years ago, after my mother died, I would wander down the aisles of the supermarket at Passover, looking at the lovely stalks of fresh asparagus, the bags of tiny marshmallows, the chocolate covered orange peels and the matzah redolent of matzah brei and I would silently weep, missing her presence.

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April 22, 2019 by

Anxiety Nights II

Anxiety has been a familiar companion in my life. Starting in high school, I have used tv as an effective and addictive coping mechanism for anxiety. Bedtime is a particular battleground for my anxious mind. 

I have to learn how to self-soothe without TV.

(Previously: “”Hello, Anxiety, My Old Friend” and “Anxiety Nights I“)

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April 3, 2019 by

Comic: “Anxiety Nights”

Anxiety has been a familiar companion in my life. Starting in high school, I have used tv as an effective and addictive coping mechanism for anxiety. Bedtime is a particular battleground for my anxious mind.

I know mindful breathing, reading, and meditative tapes are the healthy way to transition into sleep. But watching “Bob’s Burgers” is so much easier. 

(Previously: “Hello, Anxiety, My Old Friend“)

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January 10, 2019 by

Synagogue Anxiety

I have noticed that the word “itchy” comes up a lot when I talk about my synagogue anxiety. I think it goes back to the excitement of buying a new “temple” outfit every year. I’m a 1980s kid, and in my mind I’m still sitting in a pew, dressed up in a brandnew Benetton sweater dress, purchased for a crisp fall morning that was still many, many weeks away.

There I am, packed into a pew with my similarly bored family, shvitzing like crazy, gawking at the garish makeup on the women around me, and counting the minutes until we would all be out of our misery.

I’m an adult now, so no one can make me wear a sweater before the first morning frost. There’s no reason I can’t go as far away as possible for the yomtoyvim. In 2016, for instance, I spent Kol Nidre in a London pub with one set of lefty Jewish friends and “broke the fast” at a North London Chinese buffet with a couple of the Jewdas folks (no, Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t there). In between these celebrations, I communed with the mummies at the British Museum and reveled in my extreme lack of angst. But did I really have to travel of thousands of miles away from friends and loved ones to escape my problem with Jewish worship?

In 2018 my feelings around Yom Kippur got notably angrier. I may have raised a few eyebrows when I tweeted before Kol Nidre that I would not be humbling myself before a god who would allow a childabusing monster into the most powerful office in the world. Hashem? F that dude, I tweeted, with my usual subtlety. I didn’t bother to move my therapy appointment so it wouldn’t overlap with pretending to care about synagogue. As I walked down the street in clothes far from itchy, I felt defiant: let the entire Upper West Side know I wouldn’t be groveling before any judge, Heavenly, District Court or Supreme.

And yet, I still missed something. Starting in the late 1880s, radical Jews started organizing Yom Kippur balls, epic parties meant to demonstrate the participants’ emancipation from what they saw as old fashioned and stultifying tradition. As Eddy Portnoy notes, what was essential to those balls was first, that they were communal affairs and second, those participating had something to rebel against.

So where does that leave the solo abstainer a hundred years later?

ROKHL KAFFRISSEN, “Caught Between Skepticism and Yearning on the Holidays,” The Lilith Blog, October 10, 2018.

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June 19, 2018 by

Dispatches From an Anxious Life

Little Panic CoverThe world never made any sense to Amanda Stern–how could she trust time to keep flowing, the sun to rise, gravity to hold her feet to the ground, or even her own body to work the way it was supposed to?

In her memoir Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life, Amanda describes this feeling. Deep down, she knows that there’s something horribly wrong with her, some defect that her siblings and friends don’t have to cope with.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s in New York, Amanda experiences the magic and madness of life through the filter of unrelenting panic. Plagued with fear that her friends and family will be taken from her if she’s not watching—that her mother will die, or forget she has children and just move away—Amanda treats every parting as her last. Shuttled between a barefoot bohemian life with her mother in Greenwich Village, and a sanitized, stricter world of affluence uptown with her father, Amanda has little she can depend on. And when Etan Patz, the six-year-old boy down the block from their MacDougal Street home disappears on the first day he walks to school alone, she can’t help but believe that all her worst fears are about to come true.

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