Anatomy of An Anxiety Attack*

*Today’s post sponsored by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, whether they’d like to or not.

It’s back to school time, so as I wrap up my daydreaming month, I’d like to take a moment to teach y’all about daydreaming’s ugly, black sheep cousin – the anxiety attack. If you’ve never experienced said attack, you’ll just have to trust me – it’s a doozy. This dirty dog has a way of hitting you the same way a good daydream can – out of the blue, inspired by nothing, makes you think that is THE ONLY WAY life will go on, and then it disappears.

As an example, let’s walk through a few minutes of a recent morning…

I was driving along on the freeway, already kind of grumbly. As a kid who heard “you look beautiful” everyday, I need compliments to think I’m doing right. Well, with the lack of attendance at my yoga classes and another less-than-perfect meeting with a client, I was doubting myself. But the Zac Brown Band was on the radio and it was a diet coke day, so all was not lost. Until I saw the sign.

The overhead sign said something to the effect of “Heavy Motorcycle Traffic, Watch for Bikes”. Good reminder seeing as it’s the 110th Harley anniversary this weekend and we are about to be besieged with out-of-towners on two wheels.

In the 30 seconds that followed driving under that overpass, my brain flipped through these thoughts:

Harley’s 100th was a great time for bad pants.

-The 100th anniversary really was fun. Hanging out on Brady St. Having random Canadians at our house (and being introduced to the other toonie!) Being at the big concert with roommate Nicki, a couple Turkish dudes and 100,000 other disappointed people.

-105th anniversary, driving on the back of dad’s bike, really not liking being on a motorcycle, but liking being with dad, so was dealing with it by hanging on for dear life and not looking up too often.

-Arriving at the Oconomowoc dealer, which was the destination at the end of that ride, seeing all of dad’s friends, buying a shirt, a brat, and a pop…driving on the freeway downtown to another event afterward.

-End of that Labor Day weekend when I drove to work and dad followed on his motorcycle. We parted ways on Capitol out on Hwy 16. I turned left to go to work, he kept straight heading back to Texas.

-Getting the phone call the next May in the middle of the night. Calling Nikki. Collapsing in the hallway. Getting on a plane with heavy feet and a heavier heart.

-Seeing him all banged up. Bandaged and bruised with tubes coming from everywhere, but no way to squeeze my hand or tell me no need to cry.

-The drive back and forth from the hospital to Kerrville. How quick it became routine to watch my dad “sleep” while I begged all the gods and the angels to make him wake up.

-Finding peace in the fact that he probably was watching a sunset with the wind on his back as his bike hit the gravel. “I’m flying” could have been his second-to-last thought.

-Praying that the last thought was about me and not about the pain. (Yes, I am selfish, but from what I’ve heard about his priorities, I don’t think I’m too far off the mark.)

After his accident, dad’s friends sent me pictures of him. Some I don’t think a daughter is supposed to see… I mean really, dad… What’s with those… glasses?!

-Realizing that I lost my dad because of a motorcycle. I should run campaigns as to why they are bad. Instead, I’m sure glad he had his hobby. Cancer doesn’t let you see beautiful views. Alzheimers would have made him forget me. Pneumonia and old age would have robbed him of his pride. This is how it was supposed to be.

-While I hope the Road Snorters are getting together for a few MGDs and laughs this weekend, I’m kind of glad I’m getting out of Dodge. Don’t think I could handle four more days of this. Whew.

And then as my stomach finally stops taking punches, the gut-wrenching, dog howl sobs slow down, and I see an obviously homeless guy walking along Capitol with all his worldly possessions and a limp that’s making his trip slow. I’m reminded we’ve all got problems and in the end, mine ain’t so bad.

So ends your lesson.

See? Anxiety attacks kinda suck nuts. But just like a good daydream, you’ve got to learn to bring yourself back to reality before you get a little too far off kilter. If only I would have learned this back in college…


  1. I’m not a cryer, Maggie, but you got me with this one. I’m sorry for your loss and the punch in the gut you had this week. Much love coming your way from this corner of the world.

    • You weren’t supposed to cry… That’s my job! 🙂 Thanks. I wish more people in my “grown-up life” could have met dad, but I like to think this writing keeps some of his personality out there.

  2. Sorry that you had to experience this anxiety episode!!!! I so wish I could have known your dad! I’m really happy that you do write about him because that gives me an insight into his special uniqueness!

  3. Catching up and having a cry for you at my desk. Glad you got out of town too, but I really, really like your perspective on dying doing something you love. Your dad did teach you well!

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