I had an anxiety attack last night. My first. I thought I had had them before but no way. This was the real deal and if I had gone through that madness before I would have remembered it.
My chest was tight and my throat was constricted. I kept thinking, “I am so uncomfortable, this is so uncomfortable.”
I tried to slow down my breathing but that made me panic more. My brain was whirling with all the stuff I have to do and all the stuff I haven’t done. “I suck, why do I bother. I am so ashamed, I want to die, this fucking sucks. I am such a loser, I suck, why do I even…”
You get the picture.
It felt like a really mean rat was angry dancing on my heart.
I did not sleep a wink all night.
I was glassy eyed and full of the adrenaline of self-loathing.
So in the morning Christie (I’m just going to call him that from now on because that is his name and he comes up enough in these essays so I may as well introduce him properly) is making me a coffee and breakfast and trying to help but annoying me more than anything and honestly for the first time I just can’t explain myself.
I cannot talk. It is just too dark inside.
“You know” he says “from the outside, it looks like you are on the right track. I have seen this before when you start a new creative project. There is a week somewhere near the beginning where you hate yourself. So you seem to be right on schedule.”
“I have NEVER felt this way. I want to die! I should quit the job. I am so embarrassed that I even suggested it in the first place. I cannot do it. I am so ashamed. I am going to call them and cancel the project. I cannot do this! It is too hard!”
“I have heard you say all those exact sentences before.”
“There is NO fucking way I have said any of that before. This is a HUGE deal and I am FREAKING out and I would REMEMBER something so horrible.”
“Honey, when we first got together you were working on a show and you were mean to me for about a week so I called Anita (the besty) and asked if you were crazy or what and she said this was part of your creative process and you won’t remember it later.”
I can’t help but laugh.
“She says it happens on all the projects you work on. You go really deep. You go to a very vulnerable place. You get scared and very, very dark and then you make something beautiful and I have seen it happen probably 6 times now and I just get out of your way till it passes because whatever is happening, it’s working quite well for you.”
“But I couldn’t rest. I was so tired and scared.”
It made me think of what I hear about childbirth. The minute it is over you forget how bad it was and you would do it all over again.
I guess if I remember how bad making things feel I would have quit a long time ago.
I felt like I was let into a secret world this morning. One of my friends tiptoeing around the temperamental artist while she rages and rips op her manuscript in the attic upstairs. I am shocked that I am so typical and consistent with my drama.
So I get up and go to work.
Because this is the only thing that helps.
I wonder though- why am I so consumed with dread and panic every time I take on something that is meaningful to me? Why do I let it consume?
As we leave for the day Christie says “I read that the closer you are to your most wounded self, that is where your genius lies. The closer you are to your darkness, that is where your greatest purpose is.”
So, we are on the right track.
It hurts so good.