A Panic Attack

By David Karp

The truth is, when I find myself in the heat of panic, I tend to walk down to the Pier. You get lost in the crowd of tourists (and yes, some locals. Maybe such as myself.), watch the ocean in the pitch black if it’s night and try to hear the waves gently crashing over the cackle of the boardwalk games and people screaming as they go on the rides that make them scream. And the music. Oh, there is so much music. Not just the music on the loudspeakers, but guitarists from all over. Singers on their way to becoming the next Sinatra. The occasional saxophone.

Yeah, it’s a great place to get lost if you are feeling as such.

But today, I woke up in a cold sweat and a racing mind.

And after thinking it through for a minute, I said “Fuck the Pier.”

Not that it isn’t still a go-to, but today. Today I woke up feeling REALLY alone.

I woke up and the white noise just started filtering through like a TV in an empty room. No purpose, only noise. No purpose, only thoughts. Thoughts that turned into anxiety that turned into fear that, by then, just picked me up and threw me into the abyss.

Was it a dream I had? I couldn’t recall anything in particular that frightened me.. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night. I didn’t feel anything lucid in my sleep, or sinister. 

What I felt was nothing. And nothing is a dangerous feeling to feel.

So I got myself into my car and sat there, thinking about what to do.

Thinking and thinking and thinking.

And then, I decided that I would just drive. Drive until I found somewhere that could bring a little comfort and redemption to me.

I thought about stopping somewhere around LAX as I drove past it. Find somewhere to sit and watch the planes fly by.

Like counting sheep.

Maybe even in  the In-And-Out parking lot. The view there…mmhmm.

But I think I wanted something more quieter; softer.

So I left LAX behind me.

I drove and I drove and I drove.

Thoughts in my head like sirens and fireworks. Undeserving on all accounts. Lost in the woods, and the path is disappearing right in front of me. As daytime rages on the outside, the sun sets in the raging ocean of my mind, and becomes darkness. Self hatred, self induced. Stupidly believing myself into the spiral of emotional masochism.

My breath draws short and I can feel the sweat on the steering wheel. Miles and miles of thoughts, the further I go. Did I think I could run from something inside of me? Silly, I know, I know. 

I am silly.

But I’ve been like this for 25 years. Well, at least since…well, I guess there is no pinpoint. Therapy has been a constant for me my entire life (at least since my parents flew the mortal coup.) I guess I was just unlucky. But as I got older, I learned to manage the dark days.

But every so often, I have a moment. A day. A dark day.

It gets this bad about once a year. That’s it. But the day it happens: it’s like that world is ending. Who knows, maybe it is.

I hit a roundabout and, as I looked around, I saw lush greenery on both sides of me. I looked to my right as I passed the sign “Welcome To Palos Verdes”. I then realized that I had actually driven to the tip of Orange County.


It had been awhile since I had been here, but as I drove out closer to the water, I could see cliffs lined up along the shoreline, the ocean below gently kissing the edges with a beautiful blue. An unusually beautiful blue.

It seemed like a place to try and rest my mind. Focus on the ocean. Count the waves like sheep until my thoughts could finally rest.

I parked my car and walked along the cliff. I suddenly got to a break in the water where there was a small inlet. You could hear the seals way down at the bottom, but you couldn’t see them from where I stood.

I looked out and, I swear, you could see the world so clearly from up there. It was like drifting into some form of heaven, the blue of both sky and ocean together perfectly. Whatever were your problems didn’t matter now, because everything around you was bigger than you. Brighter than you.

And even this picturesque little piece of the world all for myself seemed to beam a little light into the darkness that was floating around inside me. 

I felt like I could speak my mind to the world, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out my little notepad. It’s where I write ideas that pop into my head. Poetry, mostly.

I sit down on one of the rocks and open it. And I just write what comes:

It would be nice

To not think of what ifs

Or exits that only exist

In the deepest part of all this

The darkest night

The darkest thoughts

Show me something real

Something that won’t go away

Maybe, if I really believe

If I really let go

Maybe there is a way to let go

And find the sun, not shadows

No long goodbyes

This whole year has felt like a goodbye

I’m ready to take that leap

And fall and fall and fall

Until maybe something

Maybe something

Maybe, before I hit the ground

And the world is finally over.

I don’t know, maybe.

I always get through these days, and I’m sure today will be no different.

But nevertheless, that has been my day so far.

No purpose, just here.

I look out into the water and see how calm life can be.



Writing Exercise: “The Photograph” by Jill McCorkle

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