February 2017 By Punya Srivastava Anxiety Rebalance by Carl Vernon Hachette India, Rs 399, 213 pages Reading Carl Vernon’s Anxiety Rebalance made me fervently wonder why I hadn’t picked it up earlier. This book traces his lifelong journey with anxiety and depression and eventual triumph over it, and would have helped me enormously in solacing a friend of mine on a similar journey. A step-by-step guide to dealing with anxiety and depression, it draws its light from the author’s own experience of them. Vernon starts by narrating instances from his childhood and youth which were marked by anxiety and panic attacks, and how by suppressing them for over 15 years, he finally had a breakdown – a feeling of utter panic brought on by the fear that he was going to die. This honest description of the way an anxiety or panic attack not only makes the reader empathise with those who go through such poignant suffering, but also gives them an acute understanding of the intensity of these afflictions. The book is divided into four chapters. In the first chapter, Vernon exposes ‘anxiety’ for what it is – mere projections of limiting self beliefs. In his own case, a trip to the supermarket would trigger a panic attack. But the more he refrained from going to the supermarket, the more powerfully did the correlation between supermarket and panic attack get entrenched in his brain, eventually causing him to fear stepping out of his home. “My extended abuse of the flight or fight system and constant ‘what-if…’ thoughts inevitably resulted in my being trapped in a fear cycle. I was living inside the fear cycle, and feared the fear,” he writes. Vernon outlines a ‘rebalance scale’ consisting of seven levels. Level one starts with sleep, when the victim has little energy for anything else, followed by low energy, and below normal energy. Balance is achieved at level four, which is a state of normal energy, followed by above normal energy, high anxiety and panic. He explains these levels in detail, citing corresponding instances from his life. For instance, during the 15 torturous years of his life, he was frantically paddling, as if underwater, to hold things together. From this, he plunged into the extreme level of depression, represented by almost 16 hours of sleep a day. “In the few hours I was awake, anxiety had a way of sucking any remaining bit of life out of me,” he writes. It was only when he sat down and rationalised that a panic attack was nothing more than thoughts projected into feelings, that he could begin to overcome his anxiety. The undercurrent of his thesis is that anxiety and depression can be overcome, if one is not continually trying to wish them away, but sits with them and tries to peel away the multiple layers of fears and debilitating thoughts. Written in a simple, conversational style, this book reaches out to fellow sufferers and instils hope.
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