“I’m My Own Worst Enemy”
Going 60 on the freeway is not a good place for a full-blown panic attack, so I pull off at an exit, pull into a gas station, and begin yelling at myself — out loud.
After the first rehearsal of my solo ADHD show, I’m driving back to the friend’s house where I’m staying while I’m in L.A. During rehearsal, my memory kept shutting down, and I couldn’t remember my words or what I was supposed to be doing on stage physically. And now, in the car on the freeway, I’m beating down any self-worth to make room for a full-fledged panic attack.
“You don’t try hard enough – you’re lazy – you’re incompetent, immature, and untalented…” On and boring on, I’ve heard this all before but it’s still surprisingly effective and demoralizing.
Sari Solden, in a terrific self-help book that actually helps, Journeys Through ADDulthood, calls this kind of tape playing in your head, “Negative Expectations.” And although I know intellectually that these kinds of messages are echoes from the past and have no real weight, it’s too late. They’ve flattened my self-worth nicely leaving an open field for panic’s fires to roar in. Panic attack equals racing heartbeat and all that other junk on top of the fire burning through your self-respect screaming, “You’re worthless!”
Going sixty on the freeway is not a good place for this to be happening. So I cross lanes ignoring horns and interesting gestures from other cars and pull off at an exit and stop in the parking lot of a gas station/mini-mart. I’m breathing slowly with my eyes closed – too little, too late, but it helps anyway and I know I have to do what I’d always rather avoid, and face this debilitating self-destruction head-on.
This, of course, involves talking out loud to yourself in a parked car, which due to cell phones doesn’t look as weird as it could these days. But, then again, at this point, I’m yelling at myself. I am, if nothing else, dramatic. My luck holds, though, and aside from a couple of odd looks, no one interrupts me hollering, “Stop it!” and “Listen to yourself!” at the top of my lungs. A little later, a little calmer, I go into the mini-mart and get a can of double-shot mocha as a reward for 1) putting down the panic attack, 2) regaining enough self-regard to not give up, and 3) not crying.
I am lost, however. So I get a freeway map with my double-shot mocha, sit back in the car and try to figure out how to get home.