Tuesday, July 17, 2012

stage fright vs. panic attacks

I learned quite a bit Sunday, thanks to the Dramatists Guild panel in Philadelphia, about electronic and copyright issues for playwrights. And I did pretty well, considering this was my first panel discussion.

It helped that I've told the story of The Lawsuit a million times, but even so it surprised me to hear the gasps from the small but attentive audience when I mentioned that it cost my production partner over $300K to pay for the lawsuit.

What really surprised me though was how comfortable I felt at the table facing the audience. Considering that I have occasional panic attacks (although not nearly as often since I left my last job) and considering that the number one fear most people report having is public speaking - I would have thought that if I would have a panic anywhere it would be there.

I have taught computer classes both in corporate settings and colleges, and this was like a class in many respects, so I guess that helped. It also probably helped that my panic attacks have never been as extreme as Paul Vandevelder describes in Sunday's New York Times.  I've never taken medication for it, just suffered through it, but then again, my panic symptoms have never been as extreme as Vandevelder's, with actual sweating or heart-racing. Mine have always remained completely in my head, so although I am afraid I'm going to faint, I don't actually faint. I've had panic attacks right in the middle of talking to people and they had no idea I was having one.

Vandevelder even suggests that Heath Ledger died due to over-medicating himself for anxiety. Which is all the more reason to avoid drugs. But Vandevelder does a good deed here by publicizing the work of Claire Weekes, who is all about cognitive therapy as opposed to drugs.