Reply All: #8 Anxiety Box
January 8, 2015 5:07 PM - Subscribe

Paul Ford likes to use the internet to solve his problems. He sets Google Calendar reminders for years, even decades, in the future. He buys domain names the way most people buy lattes at Starbucks. So when Paul realized that his anxiety was taking over his life, he did the only thing he knew how to do: he made a website.
posted by radioamy (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From was a website that sent you really mean emails. It simulated your anxiety. I took Anxietybox down because it was making me anxious.
posted by jazon at 7:20 PM on January 8, 2015

Well that's a letdown!
posted by radioamy at 10:33 PM on January 8, 2015

This podcast made me realize that I might have anxiety in a way that no other "this is what anxiety feels like" type thing has ever done.
posted by toe-up, afterthought heel at 6:44 AM on January 9, 2015

John and Merlin on Roderick on the Line often talk about the little critical voice in one's head, calling it a "Welsh Troll" , which I also have but didn't ever attribute to anxiety; Paul describing his anxiety as that voice kind of gave me a different perspective. I thought anxiety was an attitude of worry and pessimism permeating one's life, and the Welsh Troll was just a manifestation of Impostor Syndrome. Maybe they're all part of the same package?
posted by jazon at 8:56 AM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

As part of the process of making this episode, I wrote down everything that makes me feel anxious in the world, and wondered to myself if it would help me. It does not. It feels terrible. Things that work for Paul Ford do not work for me.
posted by Alex Goldman at 9:14 AM on January 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, listening to this, I was thinking about how awful the emails Paul's anxietybox sends, and they're really terrible sounding. Paul described this in his XOXO talk too, and then reads his response emails he'd send back to the bot, which are very awful and graphic, and in the end I think the whole project was a bit of a release for him, but dang, it would make my life so much worse if half a dozen times a day the darkest thoughts in my head were in my inbox.
posted by mathowie at 9:43 AM on January 9, 2015

I imagine it's like self-inflicted YouTube comments.
posted by jazon at 10:02 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't decided if i'm disappointed about the website being taken down. I wanted to try it but I was also terrified that it would make it worse. Then I'd get anxious about checking my email and avoid it altogether.

The thing that often helps me is the opposite, actually. I write down everything that makes me feel confident. I think it's called an "appreciation journal."
posted by radioamy at 12:03 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Paul Ford is such a gem. I just ordered his novel.

The 'personify your inner demon' thing is common advice - I've had it from a couple of shrinks, and Jen Lee's newsletter recently covered something similar (advising to create tangible reminders of how you're changing - see the original video here). If you saw Birdman, the toilet paper trick is a kind of extension of this; the brain's tendency is to constantly create meaning, often through narratives, and put ourselves in the centre of the story. I think the idea is to take that 'story' ("I'm a useless, ugly, itchy ball bag of a human being" is a story, sort of) and make something else the lead character. Then it's less real - the magic of perspective. Alex, maybe you only did half of the process, the next bit could be to take the list and imagine those things happening to, say, Stalin, or Daffy Duck, or a box of hair. You might feel better (you might not. Don't trust commentators on the internet for mental health advice).

That's my amateur hour psychology session over. I recommended this podcast to one of my smartest colleagues and am quietly willing him so hard to listen to it and be dazzled.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:40 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I realize this wasn't the point of the episode, but for some reason this compelled me to register an absurd URL... I will probably do nothing with it but I had made a joke about it enough times that I finally spent the $13. So in honor of my ridiculous dog I am now the owner of
posted by radioamy at 4:53 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Great ep. More and more RA seems like it's going to be Metafilter: the Podcast, and I couldn't be happier about that.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:11 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

but isn't the metafilter podcast Metafilter: the podcast?
posted by garlic at 1:36 PM on January 11, 2015

I'm going to get the website back up, I guess. I mean it basically works. I just need to give it like four or five hours and iron out some kinks.
posted by ftrain at 6:14 PM on January 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

This was utterly fascinating. I spent the first two-thirds of the episode thinking that it sounded terrible to be bombarded with these emails; only to totally flip my view in the last third when Paul described how externalizing his anxieties made it easier to recognize them and to talk back to them.

So not just an interesting topic; I think this also worked for me as a piece of storytelling.

I still don't think I'd want to receive those emails, though.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:57 AM on January 20, 2015 is now accepting signups (HT to PJ for the notice in Twitter).
posted by radioamy at 1:29 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

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