A man flees through a rain forest. A condemned woman pounds a typewriter …
Six years in the writing, The True Story of Jude is nearing publication. This is my most ambitious novel to date – part coming of age story, part dystopian thriller, part future-gazing on the post-truth era.
One fateful day in 2011 my car radio accidentally found 2GB, home of Sydney shock jocks Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and associates.
With six months left of my academic career, I’d logged 18,000 hours of driving to and from university campuses all over Western Sydney. The ABC had been my constant companion, bathing me daily in rational argument, highbrow arts, and scrupulously balanced politics.
2GB was my guilty secret, like picking up a Mars Bar at the servo after a twelve-hour day of meetings.
After my retirement from commuting, I still got a guilty fix whenever I hopped in the car – for nine years.
I confessed everything to my incredulous friends. How could you, they asked? You, a Professor? The truth is (my truth at any rate) that my affair with Alan and Ray taught me things about populist media figures that I’d never have learned from the ABC: Not what they say, but the visceral feel of how they say it.
I knew we had to break up one day. It happened this week when Jones’s retirement was announced. Apparently Hadley isn’t to take over his spot, lost it to an upstart.
On Wednesday I jumped in the Forester to go to Bunnings. There was a nice woman called Deb on the radio. I checked. Yes, still 2GB. No snarling, no bombast, no outrage. No guilty pleasure. I switched to the ABC.
I’ll miss 2GB like I miss a late night Mars Bar.
Stuart Campbell writes novels. Check them out here.
Given the ubiquity of anxiety in our society,it’s hard to think of someone who wouldn’t benefit from this book by consultant psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross. Have a close friend who’s not coping? A close relative on medication? Or perhaps you’re slipping into a bad place yourself?
This book demystifies and strives to destigmatise a condition that the author tells us affects eleven percent of Australians and eighteen percent of Americans. In the new world of COVID-19, those figures are surely higher.
It’s a difficult book to classify. Self-help manual? Popular science manual? Personal revelation? It’s all of these and more, but the fact is that it’s a damn good read, with the author laying out the facts about anxiety while inviting you into his personal struggle with the condition.
I found valuable content in all nine chapters, but several stood out. I suspect that every reader will find their own landmarks according to their needs and interests.
Here are the standouts for me:
Medications: I know next to zilch about pharmacology, and I really valued Dr Cross’s carefully set out account of the categories and purposes of medications for treating anxiety. I’m embarrassed to admit that I knew there were pills called tranquillisers and anti-depressants, and that was about it. I can remember the names of the drugs taken by anxious and depressed members of my mother’s family but I haven’t a clue what they actually did.
Types of treatments: A fascinating historical procession through the treatment models from the couches of Freud and Jung through to the wide array of contemporary talking therapies that can be used to address specific anxiety conditions. This is the kind of information I could have done with when I sought help some years ago for an anxiety condition that hit me out of the blue (and was thankfully resolved with the help of a great therapist). Any of us are likely to face in our lifetime a relative or friend who needs treatment; this chapter could cut out a lot of legwork.
I got a lot out of the chapter on the anxious employee. My blockbuster introduction to employee mental health was a couple of decades ago when, on my first morning deputising for my boss, an employee took a hostage in his office. Around the same time I had to confront a student who thought it was a good idea to hand in an essay about shooting someone. There was no gun, as it turned out, just a sad and confused kid. Dr Cross’s chapter is essential reading for anybody with WHS responsibilities, more than ever at the moment when COVID-19 is triggering workplace anxiety in an unprecedented way. Don’t try learning on the job!
I was struck overall by the quality of the writing, and Dr Cross’s courage in blending his own story with the factual content. The case study vignettes were compelling and effective in bolstering the arguments.
On our legally sanctioned morning walk today, swerving to avoid potentially virus-shedding joggers, my companion and I were anxiously discussing the central thesis of Anxiety. Beneath the factual content, the book has an underlying theme of compassion and humanity, best summed up by the quote by Robin Williams on the last page: You never know what someone is going through, so be kind, always.
Stuart Campbell is a former Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Linguistics, and author of several novels.