Anxiety Diary: Theory of a Sunday Afternoon

There is an uncomfortable lusciousness to the event-ness of certain feelings: anxiety produces a spatiotemporal quality of spreading, thick.  After a certain point, no matter how fast you move, how much energy you invest (and you will be exhausting yourself before long), the thickness produces a positive feedback loop with your body; once you cross a certain threshold, you suddenly realize this is now panic and every action you take thickens the spread, thickens the spreading, until you are stuck, even while flailing.

Even if feeling, in distinction to affect, is only ever a retrospective assignment by language and consciousness of the former to the latter, anxiety stubbornly thwarts all attempts at genealogical inquiry into the present tense that it produces.  Today, it compounded itself over some time during the afternoon, so I had a sense of its approach, yet my attempts at warding it off through genealogical explanation (Did I drink too much coffee? Am I underslept? Am I a casualty of my lack of focus on a lazy Sunday afternoon?) became increasingly less effective in direct proportion to their complexity because of an intensive sense of building pressure, the contradiction of thinking my way out of feeling under mounting duress that exceeds both.

The speed of the event makes the feeling a question of intensive time, not extensive time.  This is partly why the longue durée of analysis or therapy feels hopeless in the face of actualizing anxiety.  This is also why pharmaceutical regularization through biochemicals absorbed, fast, through the bloodstream, is so alluring: it promises the right speed.  Xanax (a placeholder here for any number of pharmaceutical agents), for instance, is a partial evacuation from yourself, from a self.  A suspended escape from the event of anxiety precisely through suspension, the inducing of a very slow speed for the body.  It enhances bodily capacity, then, to decelerate; or, is it an induced debility, in the sense that the evacuation is always from the body, reducing its power? (Still in the realm of contradiction, then: what is being evacuated ‘from’ the body if not ‘the’ body?)

Feelings with somatic tendencies like anxiety are frustrating because they scramble the fantasy of the Cartesian subject—my psyche becomes a source of emotional radiation permeating my body, transforming one kind of feeling (abstracted, with a name: ‘anxiety’) into another (there can be no adequate words, just painful sensations: for me, jitters, muscle contractions, a quickened heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath, a numb finger, a tight chest).  So, something like Xanax is effective because it restores Cartesian dualism: I lose embodied sensation in favor of a fuzzy field of emptiness (body-as-container, empty of anxiety).  The psyche is then free to relax, cordoned-off from its prison.  For a time.

I didn’t have a Xanax this afternoon, though; I’m neither prescribed it nor in possession of it through alternate means.  It remains to be seen if this anxiety diary is a suitable substitute.


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