Panic in the Night


3:19 am –  “Why do I always get stuck with this?! Eff me.” Tossing over onto his back, he felt the fear rising up the back of his neck and yanked his blanket up over his legs. “Eff me.  Eff me. Eff me. I don’t wanna deal with this today. I don’t need this today. Why the hell can’t I sleep? Why is this happening to me? I don’t need this now. I don’t want to deal with this. Why is this happening to me? Eff me. Eff me. Eff me. Eff me.”


He went to his stomach, tucking his legs underneath himself, face buried in the couch. A 41-year-old fetal model.

“Why is this happening again? Why? Why can’t I control this? It’s happening again. It’s happening again! Why the hell can’t I stop? Why can’t I control myself?”

Growling at himself, he started rocking, face-first in the couch perfumed with his own sweaty musk from night after night like this one.

Thoughts raced so quickly, he physically braced himself against them, like they were real.


3:22 am – He thought he could hear himself screaming in his own head. He kept rocking, hoping that if he kept moving, he could somehow keep his thoughts at bay. Screaming incessantly in his own head.


3:28 am – “Ok, man, you can do this.” Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and closed them again quickly, softly. Hopefully. He stopped rocking. Time to check in on himself.

Entire body was rigid, jaw clenched. Arms, legs, hands and feet squeezed tight.

With a roar, the thoughts came back to his mind.

With a hiss, the panic set in.


“I can’t handle this. I can’t do this. I can’t. It keeps happening and I can’t do anything about it. What is wrong with me? I can’t handle this. I can’t do this. Why the hell can’t I figure this out? Why does this keep happening to me? What is wrong with me? What the hell is wrong with me? Why won’t this go away? I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.


“This keeps happening to me and I keep screwing it up. Screw me. How am I gonna go to work like this? What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I handle this? I’m a complete screw-up. What is wrong with me? Why does this keep happening to me? Gotta go to work. I can’t go to work. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t. Why can’t I do this? Why? Why? I’ve gotta figure this out.”


He let out an audible groan.

“I can’t handle this. It keeps coming back. Coming back. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this again. How many times am I gonna have to go through this? Why can’t I deal with this? Everybody else can. It’s not a problem for everybody else. What the hell is wrong with me?”


He pulls the pillow off his head and jams his face into it and lets out a silent scream.

“I can’t do this. I can not do this. Why do I have to keep trying to deal with this? I just can’t do it. I’m not capable of doing this. I can’t do it. Why does this keep happening to me? Just leave me alone. I didn’t ask for this. I can’t handle it. I’m not strong enough. Why don’t I just give up? Oh my god. I can’t handle this. Oh my god. What is wrong with me?”


3:31 am – Full blown panic.

“Why do I even bother? I can’t do this. Just worthless.”


He felt completely overwhelmed by panic, yet his mind was slowing down. Thoughts becoming more deliberate, more clear.


“Eff me. I can’t deal with one goddamn thing. Look at yourself, man. You’re no good to anybody. You hide from the kids. You can’t talk to your wife. When you go to work, you’re in a dead panic. But what’s it matter? You can’t deal with work. It’s like being in a fishbowl. Those people just keep coming at you and you can’t handle it. You’re just no good to anybody.


“What if I just took one of those big chef’s knives and dragged it across my wrist? It would probably only hurt for a little bit. I don’t want them to find me in the house though. It would be bad enough, but I don’t want them to find me in a puddle in the house. At least they’d get the life insurance. Could pay off our debt and buy the house. What if I changed my mind after I did it?


“I bet I’d chicken out. Too much of a wimp. What am I going to do? Why can’t I just run away? They can do better than me. They’d be happier in the long run. God, I need to stop this.”

He got up and went to the kitchen and poured three small white pills from the prescription container.


“I could take a bunch of these and drink a bunch of beer. Wonder if that would be enough?”


He popped the anxiety pills into his mouth and went back to the living room to grab his glass. Filled it with Coke, took a swig and swallowed the pills. He picked his blanket up off of the floor and rearranged the pillows on the couch.


“I need to friggin’ relax.”

He laid down on his back and felt down between the cushions to find the remote. Mentally and emotionally drained, he felt empty, “This is gonna kill me.” He flipped through the television channel guide aimlessly, switching to another show at the first sign of something slightly interesting. He watched, but nothing really registered.


3:53am – “I can’t keep this up, I’m not gonna make it.” He adjusted the pillows behind his head, folding one in half trying to make himself more comfortable.

“This is gonna kill me.”

He put his pillow over his face, feeling the pull of the pills drawing him close to sleep. “I can’t keep doing this.”


He rolled over onto his side, hugging the pillow tightly, “This is gonna kill me. I can’t handle this anymore…” Medicated sleep comes black and deep and quiet. Peace – for now.


Up until very recently, this was me. Waking up in the middle of the night straight into an all-out panic attack. Powerless against the never-ending torrent of thoughts and emotions that would come screaming at me, I often had restless nights such as this one. Filled with the most backwards logic and intense feeling, these nights happened more often than not.


Anxiety disorders take on many shapes and sizes and can affect us all differently. We often have habits that feed our anxieties, which can be debilitating and strongly interfere with our lives. Each person is different, so please speak to your doctor and a therapist if you need help dealing with anxiety issues.


If you look at what I was saying during this panic attack, you see someone full of self-hatred and self-doubt. With the correct medication and some good therapy sessions, I was able to slowly change my perspective about myself over a period of many months. Happily, I have found that I have value as a person and my confidence is growing. It is a process that continues to evolve.


Jason Large

Daily Zen

Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted at:

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