cover image Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life

Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life

Amanda Stern. Grand Central, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1192-7

Stern (The Long Haul) courageously lays open her excruciating experience with 25 years of untreated panic disorder in this brave memoir of mental illness. From the time she was a small child growing up in New York City, Stern found terrifying possibilities in everything—what would happen if she lost her mother or she herself was kidnapped, what if her family lost their house, what if the constant testing of her intelligence revealed what she suspects: that she is different from all other children. She is eight years old at the time her worst fears are made real in 1979, when six-year-old Etan Patz—who lived mere blocks from her family’s Greenwich Village rowhouse on MacDougal Street— disappears without a trace, and Stern’s close friend Melissa dies of a brain tumor. Before she found her considerable talents in the theater and in writing, Stern tried coping through unhealthy behaviors, including an increasing dependence on cocaine. Failed relationships further reinforced Stern’s feeling that there was something broken inside her, along with the heartbreaking belief that her constant worrying kept those she loved safe from harm. Readers who have had panic attacks or have experience with a similar disorder will instantly relate to Stern’s experiences; those who do not will come to understand the disease’s terrifying power—and the utter relief that comes when it is finally identified and treated. Honest and deeply felt, Stern’s story delivers a raw window into the terrifying world of panic disorders.[em] (June) [/em]