Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Panic attacks at Barnes and Noble.

I'm posting this because I know I can't be the only one who gets these.

Last night I went out to run some errands and then stopped off at the Barnes and Noble on Rockville Pike. My goal was to research the current state of the short story and the general-interest magazine, so I gathered up an armload of magazines and headed for a chair. I spent a couple of hours there, flipping through those magazines, listening to crap music piped overhead and trying to filter out the droning-on of a children's sports book author who was giving a loud lecture to an array of noisy little weasels a few rows over.

I think it was some combination of this aural assault, the fact that most of the stuff I found was unreadable crap, and my own frustration with my recent creative output (or lack thereof) that triggered it, but I had a real, honest-to-God panic attack. Back in high school, I knew a girl who had panic attacks fairly regularly and I always secretly blew it off as a drama thing, but if what she suffered were anything like these, I owe her an apology. This was nausea, claustrophobia... Not cool. I bailed out of the store and had to go sit in the car for a good ten minutes to get my head to stop swirling.

Anybody else had experiences like this? Anybody have any suggestions as to how to prevent this kind of nonsense from happening?


I get those every now and then when I'm in a situation where there are just too many people that I don't know crowded into a small space. Ooh, or when I talk about the movie Event Horizon. I had my first honest-to-god panic attack in the theatre when I saw that, and it still has a nasty effect.

I think the operative thing here is what was going through your head at the moment related to your own creativity, and the combination of stimuli around you had a subconscious effect on those feelings, elevating them to a problematic physiological level. Basically, you were having self-doubts in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don't dwell on it, because it's honestly nothing worth worrying about, and if it ever happens again, remove yourself physically from the situation and then focus on things that you find calming, like a happy memory from childhood, or picture yourself lying on a tropical beach. Good luck!

Post a Comment