Archive for dissertation defense

This is your brain on anxiety.

Posted in Small Epiphanies with tags , on December 12, 2012 by chateaucone

Small Epiphanies: December 11

I have two brains.

One of them is uneducated and superstitious and would be better suited to someone living in the dark ages. It thinks I can control the world by appeasing the gods, by which I mean never assuming things will go well, never assuming good things are coming, never being overly confident, or, for that matter, even a little bit confident, without expecting swift and decisive punishment from the universe.

Annual mammogram? If I expect the worst, and have a panic attack while waiting for the results, I will surely be spared. If I go on with my life like a normal human being, happily ignorant of the radiologist reading my films, marking them with a red asterisk, rushing them to wherever they get rushed to for further consultation, I will surely have cancer.

Monthly breast self-exam? Always on a Monday morning at 9 am, so I can immediately call the gyn the very second I find a lump, and arrive, within minutes, at the office to be reassured. The idea that my breasts might one day betray me? Waiting for the betrayal, assuming it’s coming, keeps me safe.

My other brain, the intellectual one, the one that’s been in therapy for years–that one knows that it is impossible to control the universe with excessive anxiety and worrying. But that brain rarely wins. It hasn’t been tested, and the worry-brain has.

While the worry-brain is winning right now, here’s hoping it has nearly worn itself out, and the intellectual brain turns up tomorrow morning at 11.

And then clearly, it’s back to therapy.