Panic Attack

by maddrunkgenius

It’s really weird how nervous I get when I am judged in any way. Today I had two tests that just nearly killed me, even though I knew most of the material backward and forward. But there was also something that made me nervous like I haven’t been since maybe track.

See, I played sports in junior high and high school. Before football games and cross country meets, I was always really nervous because of the pressure to perform. Once I got going, it wasn’t a big deal, but before it started, I was always greatly distressed.

Track was something different. I don’t know if I explain exactly what it was, but I think there being a stadium full of people and running heats was part of it. See, in football there’s a lot of people to watch on the field, not just you. In cross country, there’s not many people bothering to watch, and you know that the linemen forced to do it as part of offseason training will be way behind you regardless of what happens. But some track events are run in heats with some very fast people participating. It is entirely possible to come in dead last, and everyone to see it happen.

I had difficulty breathing before I would run an event. I would feel physically ill. When I got up on the line, I would shake, I was so frightened. But once the gun went off, I was usually too busy concerned with running as fast as I could so I wouldn’t be one of those guys who straggle in last.

The something today that reminded me of track was having my short story examined in Creative Fiction. Examined and criticized. I think I very nearly had a heart problem in the minutes before class. I could feel the blood pumping in my left arm and it was hard to breathe. Again, I felt physically ill. This was me, in a room with a dozen or so other people, having my self-worth graded. Because the story was a sincere act on the part of me to accomplish something. If it failed, I failed.

At least I think that’s what’s going on somewhere in my head. I’m not really sure what else could cause such an intense physical reaction. But I was terribly afraid they would “realize how much my story sucked”. When I read what I write in certain moods, I think it’s all just worthless. And of course being a perfectionist, all I can focus on are the flaws, not whatever merits might exist. I expect people to behave the same way.

It went over fairly well, so I am okay now. My confidence was boosted somewhat by a few comments after class so I guess I felt like I could live with myself, and then I started swinging the other way.

Unfortunately, I do what I most fear. When I criticize someone else’s work, I treat it like my own. That means all I can see and tell them about is what’s wrong with it, with very little mention given to the positives.

I think I made a mistake in how I criticized, even though I absolutely believe in the things that I said. I think the two other stories that were graded were not worthy of being published, one because it was in such a rough state, the other because it was too ordinary. Luckily, both other writers have a lot of talent and can turn what they have into really nice, publishable stories. I wish I spent more time in my comments talking about that, but I don’t and can’t think of that until it’s too late. I see flaws first, and I want desperately to see them become perfect. This is how I act with people too, to a much lesser degree, but with works of fiction or art, it’s almost compulsive. I wish I had shown more respect for the people who showed respect to my story, but it’s not that I hated what they wrote, I just didn’t like it, whatever the promise they had was.

I’m going to have to face them again, harsh as I was, and my panic attack will be worse then. But at least they’d already written down everything by the time they got to mine on this one.