I know something is wrong with me. I don’t know what it is, but something is broken and I need to fix it. I’m not looking for happy—I’d be happy with normal. A friend of a friend tells me about something life-changing called PSI Energetics, and I sign up to attend a seminar. I’m ready to change my life!
We pair up with strangers, hold hands and look into each other’s eyes for an extended period of time; we change partners and smile goofily at one another for another extended period of time; we fall backwards into yet another stranger’s arms and trust that we’ll be caught.
I drive downtown, park, and walk into an auditorium where I’m going to spend two intensive days behind closed doors—locked doors, as it turns out.
Soon there are a few hundred people seated around me, mostly “yuppie” types, casually fashionable, all hanging on every well-spoken word of the trim, good-looking man speaking at the dais.
Early on we’re instructed to get out of our seats and go up front to do some exercises. We pair up with strangers, hold hands and look into each other’s eyes for an extended period of time; we change partners and smile goofily at one another for another extended period of time; we fall backwards into yet another stranger’s arms and trust that we’ll be caught. People are already beginning to cry, already having breakthroughs. Not me. I feel self conscious and idiotic.
We go back to our seats and this time the speaker instructs us to close our eyes and to now take some deep cleansing breaths. We obey. “By visualizing each color I intone,” he smoothly assures us, “you will reach beyond yourself to connect with something greater, wider, and deeper.” He begins with red. Yes, I can see red, and I allow it to flood over my entire being. I breathe red, slowly, in and out. Then we go to orange, and so on, and then, without warning– whoa! — I’m getting sucked down into a whirlpool of terrifying darkness, and I am not going there! My eyes shoot wide open, I gasp, jump out of my seat and bump into knee after knee as I make my shaky way to the doors. I try to open them, not realizing they’d been locked to prevent unauthorized entry, and someone has to come open them to let me out. Let me out! I have disrupted everyone’s progress into the enlightened bliss they so desperately crave but I don’t care. I get out, and I don’t go back in.
The panic attacks have returned in full force, and I also have unrelenting depression. I get a cold or headache and think I’m dying and write letters to my daughter to guide her through the rest of her life without me, leaving them by my bed for her to find when I die, then shoving them in the back of a drawer when I don’t.
Another friend recommends a psychic and even though I sense it will be a waste of my time and my money, there I sit in the candlelit anteroom, tears dripping from beneath my closed lids as I wait to go in, desperate for an Answer. But once inside the inner sanctum, the sanctum sanctorum, nothing is revealed…other than my check register with a now substantially diminished balance.
I suffered from panic attacks for decades. I was not alone. Panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder, a medical condition diagnosed by a mental health professional, and panic attacks are symptoms. There was no easy or quick fix.
Other inexpensive “fix” suggestions included chanting, visualization, and of course learning The Secret. I didn’t bite; I’m not a sap. I’m all for inspiration and a positive attitude, but my thinking was, if it costs a lot, it must work. Because you get what you pay for, right?
Now I believe that the only people who actually benefit in the long term from the more expensive self-help scams—and I do call them scams—are the typically charismatic people offering them. To my mind, they’re at best a waste of money; at worst dangerous, because they encourage people to take chances they simply shouldn’t take, and to seek quick answers instead of a qualified professional for legal, financial, or mental health issues.
Yes, years later my panic attacks eventually subsided, but that’s a story for another day.
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.
I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.
As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.