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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Panic Attack

I use to have panic attacks.  I first started having them when I was in grade school.  I was about eleven years old.  The first one was when the English teacher called on me to read something in class.  Before that I always liked to read in class.  From first grade to sixth grade I thought I had a good voice for reading and was proud to show it.  But this time my heart began pounding in me chest like a sledge hammer, I couldn't get enough oxygen into my lungs, I was gasping for each word trying to get enough air for the next.  Looking at the words on the page was like looking through a straw.  I was sweating, heart pounding, gasping, couldn't read.  I thought, "What is happening to me?"  I thought I was going to die.

After that terrible momentous occasion I never, ever volunteered to read anything in class.  I would sit in the back of the room hoping the teacher wouldn't call on me.  In high school I avoided classes that might make me read aloud and I dreaded speech class.  For me speech class was a nightmare.  How I ever got though that class is a miracle.  I don't know how I did it but I made it through college and graduate school.  I gave required talks in many, many classes in panic attack mode.  I thought I would get better with time.  I thought the panic attacks would lessen the more I gave talks.  It didn't happen.

How I got into teaching is another story.  I swore up and down I would never teach.  My passion was research.  Doing research I could work in the field and in the laboratory by myself.  I didn't have to give speeches or talks.  But that's not what God had in mind for me.  Vietnam war happened, all research money went into the war, and I ended up teaching in order to survive.  To my surprise I didn't have panic attacks in front of students.  But if a supervisor walked in it would hit me.  I now know it was the direction of energy flow.  While I was teaching, the energy flowed from me to the students.  It was not about me, it was about them.  I wanted them to learn.  But when I knew someone was objectively observing me, the energy went from them to me and panic would set in.

As a faculty member in college I was comfortably sitting in a faculty meeting one afternoon when the vice president called on me to give a report.  I stood up.  I couldn't speak, my heart was pounding in my throat, my vision blurred with tunnel vision, my legs got weak and I had to sit down.  I put my head down on the desk and wanted to die.  I felt completely humiliated in front of all my peers.  I thought, "Why is this happening to me?  I can't take this anymore."

Continued on next post.

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