Okay Fine Whatever: The Year I Went from Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things by Courtenay Hameister, Little, Brown and Company, US $26.00, Pp 308, July 2018, ISBN 978-0316395700
In her 12-year long career as host and head writer for Live Wire, a nationally-syndicated public radio show, Courtenay Hameister interviewed more than 500 intimidating people and wrote 200 personal essays. For most of her life, she lived in a state of dread and anxiety. She suffered bursts of anxiety at midnight the night before each show. In other words, she was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Order (OCD). Then came a time when she decided to take control of her disease and treated her disease. She called her project ‘Ok Fine Whatever Project’ because okay fine, whatever are the words anxious people utter when embarking on adventures they are excited about, like being dragged to a concert. She not only considerably overcame her anxiety but also started treating others who suffer from OCD. In Okay Fine Whatever, she shares what it is like suffering from OCD and how she overcame it.
Courtenay Hameister says that she had full-on OCD attacks pretty rarely, but her daily level of anxiety about things like work, relationships, and finances was disproportionately high compared to that of other people. She writes, “I had a disease that not only made me afraid to take chances, but also turned me into an Eyesore in a world seemingly filled with Tigers.” Anxiety makes you think that nothing is going to go well. Eventually, it’s not just jumping out of a plane that might have disastrous consequences. It’s also talking to the checker at the grocery store or just leaving the house.
She hosted ‘Live Wire!’ A nationally syndicated public radio show wherein she interviewed fascinating and awe-inspiring people like Gus Van Sant, Tig Notaro, Mike Birbiglia, and Carrie Brownstein. She had to constantly make efforts to keep from fear-puking while on air. She writes, “I was lucky but I was also terrified. Every week I hosted the show, I looked like I was leaping, but I was still on that diving board and I had not moved an inch.” She says it wasn’t just her job that caused her anxiety. Everything did. Phone calls to strangers were miserable. Parties, where she didn’t know anyone were like the seventh circle of hell but with better snacks. And making an unprotected left turn triggered the same fight-or-flight response most people experience when running from small to medium size bear.
She says that Okay Fine Whatever is about her struggle to climb out of the ruts in her neural pathways that said everything was going to suck. To rewire that negative connection that quashed any effort to change. To try things that scared her in order to teach her brain that everything was going to be okay. She writes, “I did things that were frightening in more of a ‘Can embarrassment turn into a permanent condition?’ way than an ‘I’m going to end up as a heap of bones at the bottom of the Grand Canyon’ way.’” And that included things like taking a fellatio class. As she talks of oral sex, she says that she didn’t exempt dating from her project. She went on more dates in a year than she had been on in her entire life. She also spent an afternoon in a sensory deprivation tank, got legally high in the middle of a workday. She also had a session with a professional cuddler and braved twenty-eight first dates.
She has this observation about the people who are struggling with anxiety, “Anxious people are braver than the un-anxious, because we do it anyway, every single day. We’re faced with fear on a regular basis, and we push through it in order to simply live our lives. And that is something to be proud of. Also, we’re kind of lucky, we anxious few. Because when you’re scared of everything, everything is an adventure. So let the (sort of) adventure begin.”
Okay Fine Whatever is a bold, intimate, and hold-nothing-back story of Courtenay Hameister’s adventures to overcome her Obsessive Compulsive Order (OCD). Courtenay Hameister has brilliantly detailed how to fight back anxiety disorder by frankly writing about her own experience. It is a highly enjoyable read. If you suffer or have suffered from OCD, you will find it very relatable. Okay Fine Whatever will be helpful to everybody who suffers from anxiety disorder to any degree.