I discovered last Thursday night that these things do not alleviate the panic of a panic attack. The problem started with a couple of days of sleep deprivation. I agreed to accompany some student string players for their auditions in a week, really not thinking about how much a mother is needed by her breast-gorging baby and second grade daughter, and not taking into consideration how little time there is to practice (maybe 30 minutes in the morning if the baby takes his nap?) I used to wait until one or two days before a performance and binge practice eighteen hours, before having children, before having a more or less “real” job.
Soren screamed and cried under the piano while I tried to ignore him and get through a couple of concertos, (okay snobs, concerti then). He tried to pull my hands off the piano, he tried banging on the piano, he tried biting my feet. He laid his head on my bare feet and went to sleep. What the hell am I doing this for, I ask myself. A couple hundred bucks and the honor of playing for some kids who can’t count or play in tune? Is it worth my whole family suffering my absence, a week of dirty dishes, and giving my soul over to the nasty cross hag who takes my place in the morning?
Thursday just before midnight I realized that I could not play everything by the Saturday performances, I was too tired to practice, and I sketched out. I mean completely. Sitting at the piano with forty more pages I hadn’t even had a chance to look through, I felt a course of raw, burning dread and self-loathing come into my heart from my head. The head keeps pumping more of this adrenaline and panic into me–I shouldn’t say pumping, it’s really just a downpour, just buckets of panic–leaving not a chance of sneaking some sort of control or rational thought into the onslaught. This must be exactly how Marie Antoinette felt before having her head sliced off, is what I often think. Wouldn’t that be worse, I tell myself–what if I were going to be beheaded, wouldn’t that be worse? No, no, I wish I were going to be beheaded. I would stop feeling this way if I didn’t have my head. What about that idiot hiding in the boat? Did he feel this way? Really, really, do you really think it matters how you play the piano? Do you think anyone cares?
I started a bath and took the ipad with me to watch House of Cards. Maybe if this is as good as everyone says it will distract my mind from its misery. I inserted the earphone jack so that I wouldn’t bother Eddy but have you seen the first minute of the first episode of House of Cards with the dog being hit by the car and yelping? What happened is the sound was turned all the way up on the ipad, which isn’t loud on it’s own, but I forgot to adjust the sound so it blasted through the earphones directly into my brain, that screaming dog, and I tore the earphones out and let the ipad clatter to the bathroom floor.
I wrapped a moldy-smelling towel around me and went to the kitchen to scrounge around for some old Xanax or my last prescription of beta-blockers. Could find nada, drank a glass of wine instead. Went upstairs and put on some fleece pants and came back down to give my greyhound Fido a 1 am run. I ran up a hill, back down it, and then up and down again, as fast as I could to try to spend out some of the strange chemical that makes you feel this scared. I hoped that we might get hit by a car, thus providing me with a great excuse to miss the performance.
We came back in after about thirty minutes of this, and I poured myself two more glasses of wine thinking I could just impede the thinking somehow, just staunch the flow for a minute. Because I have been breastfeeding, I have had nothing to drink for two years now, so my body could not handle the combination of midnight running and alcohol, and I promptly threw up. I went back upstairs and collapsed on a pile of dirty laundry and moaned. Eddy, Eddy, I’m having an attack. Can you take me to the emergency room? He mumbled something about breathing exercises.
I think sometime around 4 am I finally calmed down enough to catch a wink of what can’t exactly be called sleep–it’s kind of like awake-dreaming–but I was in no state to be able to take Daisy to school in the morning, and instead justified letting her sleep in late by providing her with a full breakfast. I cut her boiled egg into flowers, gave her a grapefruit and crepes, and threw some mashed up avocados on Soren’s highchair which he then throws all on the ground just so that he can feed himself off the floor when he is released. Gems of the Floor is what I call this recipe, inspired by the evocative Frutti di Mare (Fruits of the Sea) I once has for reals in Amalfi.
Does it even need to be said that Saturday was fine, the students took everything at half tempo or even slower, and I could have played some of the notes with my nose and no one would have noticed? On the plus side, I have been gutted of seven or eight pounds and am back to the kind of skinnies most moms avoid by having the wherewithal to eat once in a while.