Friday, October 23, 2009

Panic at noon

I've never had a panic attack so I really don't know what one feels like. It, whatever it was, happened while driving around at lunchtime on Friday afternoon. I can't remember the exact catalyst for the event but I was shaking in my car seat and my heart was sent racing after one simple criticism fluttered through my mind and was gone again, leaving a terrible wake in its path.

“Why are you doing everything wrong?”

The moment was laced with urgency, like being jerked awake from a dream, and the micro-seconds of fuzzy reality where you look for clarity and input about your surroundings. Like the needle of a record player being scratched unexpectedly across the charm of a favorite song I was ripped into a place of squirmy judgment (self judgment) about the many and various facets of a grown man's life -- my life -- not quite measuring up, or blatantly falling short of the mark.

It was only stranger because of the unnerving side effect and panic inducing aftermath of being vulnerable to my own worst critic. While the content of suggestion was familiar to me -- an ongoing barrage of thoughts where I devalue every last inch of my existence -- my usual defenses of being numb and dumb to the criticism had failed to scuttle the inner critic, which had had finally landed a blow that sent me breathless and listless to the ground. Time was the enemy for the first time ever, like a ticking scoreboard clock winding down to fewer and fewer chances to wrestle victory from certain defeat.

“Why are you doing everything wrong?” Tick tock tick tock.

Having it happen while behind the wheel wasn't help much either. As one is used to the monotony of processing random thoughts while driving and still being able to signal, stop, turn, and otherwise maintain the safe operation of a moving vehicle, these unreconciled thoughts were much more pungent and precise, almost leaving me paralyzed in the face of oncoming traffic.