So i’m writing this from a comfy motel bed in Spokane, Washington (population 215,000).
I actually lived in Spokane for a little while, and although my time here wasn’t long, in the grand scheme of things for me, it’s kind of central to my life in some ways. I lived here for much of 2002/03 attending Gonzaga Law School. I spent much more time at the Post Falls, Idaho Greyhound OTB than I did the classroom, but I was doing alright. One day during my second semester there I was sitting in Civil Procedure class listening to the lecture. When I started feeling “not right.” I looked over at my classmate Susan and said “I’m going to step out for a second, watch my stuff please,” and I walked out. I wasn’t freaking out or anything, just kept thinking “I don’t feel right.”
So I walked to the campus medical building and asked to see the nurse. They asked if maybe I had blood sugar issues, and I assured them that in fact I had just an hour or so ago eaten a delicious western bacon cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr. with a tub of diet coke. They gave me some apple juice but they tested my sugar and everything was good. So I chalked it up to nothing and went home. Well that evening I was laying on my couch watching tv when I went to swallow and couldn’t. My throat locked up. It was a weird sensation. I sprang up from my couch and tried again. nothing. I called my aunt Brenda and told her I was having trouble breathing and felt really weird. She suggested I go turn on a hot shower and that it might be an asthma attack. I did that. Still was feeling really “off.” So I called a schoolmate from Gonzaga who was actually a friend from undergraduate school at U. of Washington. I asked him if he could take me to the hospital cause something was wrong. That whole ten minute drive I sat there positive I was dying or was going to die. We got there and I don’t remember much about it, but I remember they gave me an ativan and said I needed to relax and it was “stress.” They didn’t use the term panic attack but that’s what it was.
So the next day it happened again. I started feeling a little off and started worrying and next thing I knew I was panicking. Then it happened the next day… and the next day…and the….you get the idea. So I moved home. I quit law school. I left Spokane. And I haven’t been back since. Until today.
I decided to take a little weekend trip. I went to Rocky Rococo’s for dinner (favorite pizza place in spokane). I went and saw where old Playfair racetrack was (more on that below). I went to my old apartment where the big panic attack happened. I went to Gonzaga law school. I’ve found that when I have a panic attack somewhere that it’s always best to go right back or else i’ll make it into a phobia, which I do quite a bit. So, today was me coming back to the first place it happened, albeit 14 years later.
I certainly don’t think this visit was something I needed to do, or to move on from or anything like that. Part of me was just curious to see a place I called home for a bit. Just like i’d love to go see Cincinnati or Shreveport or Portland again. But what today did bring up was a lot of remorse over what those first few panic attacks have brought since. I often have viewed my life split into before my dad died and after he died, cause I always thought that was the big event for me. And it was major. But there was two years between dad dying and the panic attacks starting where I lived some of my best life. I was active and engaged with the world. I played music, traveled, lost weight, and was extremely social. I hung out with friends all the time. It was when the panic attacks started that all of that started to whittle slowly away. For me that’s when life turned the corner onto the road I’m on now and have been on. A road that frankly, is not great.
I’ve come to terms with some of this, which I think is a big part of adulthood. Things are never gonna be happy, exciting, good, like they were when I was younger. My late teens and early 20s were legitimately good. I was generally a happy person. I’ve accepted that is the past, even though I wish it was possible to get back to. Now instead of “happiness” (whatever the f that means) I shoot for fulfillment. I have a job where I get to be creative and I’ve found being creative is what gives me fulfillment. If I do a radio show, or an interview, or write something, or make a video, I feel like I’ve done something. Something tactile, even if just auditory.
I do still hold out hope that being social and active will again be part of my life, but since those days here in Spokane in 2003, that window has shrunk more and more. But I suppose the answer is just to keep getting up and working at it and hopefully a corner gets turned. I’m glad I came back here, and given a do over, and knowing what I know now, I wonder if I could have stuck it out over there. But seeing how things played out in Cincinnati and Louisiana, the answer to that is probably no. I think what frustrates me most about the anxiety issues is that even though they’re internal, I feel like it’s something out of my control that keeps me down. That has prevented me from living a better life. It’s almost like a sentence of some sort without committing a crime. Or maybe I did commit some crime to the universe that I’m not recalling? Eh, i’m just rambling now. Anyways, I’m glad I came to Spokane.