22. Panic Attack


It is not easy at all for an individual such as myself to admit there might be a times where I could not handle a particular moment in a way that I would expect I should. In all honesty, I must admit when I was very young attending elementary school, I would panic quite often when I was called on in class knowing that I would most likely fail to give a proper answer therefore making a fool out of myself. Though out elementary school and junior high and then into high school whenever I was requested to take a test I did so in a state of pure panic. The effect that this had on me was that even if I knew the correct answer to questions I could not perform properly and failed. It took much time, including the four years while attending the University of Vermont for me to come to terms with this emotional problem.

There were many times that perhaps I had a greater reason to panic, but one moment in time has lingered with me when I felt totally inadequate, full of fear and out-of-control. We were living as a family together on our play farm on Rockport Road within the very small village of Kirksville Indiana. Not too long before this time that I will speak of, I had realized that it was becoming more difficult for me to make a living as a salesman. Performing as a salesperson had been always a very easy thing for me to do and a very natural task to perform. Not very long before the moment that I speak of here I had been very successful selling for a company in Bloomington based in Indianapolis called Gibraltar Mausoleum. Each year while working for this company which had a large number of sales people selling for them, I was at the very top winning many awards for my sales production. I continue to produce for this company, although I found it more difficult for me each day to go out and perform to the standards that were common for me to perform at.

Thinking about this time in my life I have equated it with the Broadway play Death of a Salesman. Many years before the moment that I speak of here I had realized that there would come a time, which would be very much like what happened to the main character in this Broadway play. The lead character in the play over a time saw his abilities as a salesperson was slowly coming to a demise. In the play this character had reached a point where he was not able to sell not because he lost the know how but because he had run out of the emotions that were necessary for him to succeed at this profession. These feelings came on to me slowly over a number of years and finally much like this character there came a time where it became more and more difficult for me to get up each morning going into the field and selling. I still had the usual responsibilities bring home, the funds needed by my family, yet it was most apparent to me that the time was approaching rapidly that I could no longer perform at the level of salesmanship that had always been so natural for me to do. I left my job at Gibraltar Mausoleum. I had to quickly find another means of bringing home the monies needed for my family. I searched around the Bloomington area looking for a way to do this. I even went back again trying to sell for Gibraltar. This did not work out well at all.

I searched the newspapers for work yet was unable to locate any feasible means of supporting my family in the Bloomington area. On this particular day that I speak of here I had made an appointment with a company in Indianapolis. I did not know if this was where I wanted to be, yet it was a move that I thought I should give it at least a try. When I went to this company’s office in order to be considered for this job I was interviewed by their personnel department.

Over the many years that I had even worked before I started to make a living as a salesperson I never when applying for a position did it through the company’s personnel department. I was wise enough to realize that my personality and skills would not be best shown in interviews with most personnel departments. I realized that I would not fit in well with the standards that most personnel departments set as their standards when hiring an individual. This had never bothered me before, since I knew I did have much to offer and if I was able to speak with the owner or chief executive of a company I would be chosen to work for them. When working in the textile industry this is how it always worked for me to my advantage.

One of the reasons that I always had avoided being interviewed by personnel was that I was aware that in most cases, they would ask me to take a group of tests. These types of tests were very standard which would ask me typical questions also testing me in a manner having me do tasks like recognizing shapes, proportions and other sequences. These were the type of test that were given in schools which I always perform poorly at. I knew the reason that I was not able to do well on these tests which were the same reasons that I had found school difficult for me for so many years. Simply stated, they call it dyslexia.

These types of tests show little about abilities or intelligence, however, they do show that individuals when having different shapes placed before them that certain individuals have no idea how the shapes fit together. I took the test, knowing as I took it that I was failing at it terribly. During the test I had the same panicky feeling as I recall that I had while being tested in elementary school. They did not have to inform me that I had failed as I was well aware I had failed before the results were told to me by my interviewer. The individual that was interviewing me for the open position also asked me many standard types of question expecting me to give standard answers to them which is not the way that I function. How was this individual to know that the very reason that I was successful as a salesperson, as a manager and executive was the way that I functioned which were not the way that his graphs and other paper work showed that I was suppose to reason, think and act.

I drove back to Kirksville feeling very confused and inadequate. I informed my wife Mimsie just how bad my interview went and went upstairs to our bedroom. I can’t remember a time that I felt quite as frustrated and full of fear as I felt as I laid down on my bed. A feeling of panic came over me. I felt that I was letting my love ones down and at that moment was not sure at all of what my next actions should be. The world seemed to be spinning quickly around me. Of course I did not want my wife to see me in this state of mind so I just stayed in my bedroom until I was able to handle this very low feeling that had control of me. It was not that at this time that my family was wanting since I was still able to pay the note on my home as well as feed my family. This all took place shortly before to my surprise my wife told me that she wanted a separation from me. I did not know the reason for that request, however, perhaps what was happening at that time may have caused her more concern than I was aware of. What followed was I was able to find a means to keep the funds if only barely coming forth to meet our needs.

That day spent in Indianapolis and the time that I spent in a sweat and panic lying in my bedroom staring at the ceiling I believe was a bottom- out time for myself. Soon after, when my wife requested that we separate was the real bottom for me. As hard as the separation was I did not have quite the feeling of panic and frustration of the day I failed at Indianapolis. As was usual for me, I pulled myself together and found a way to go forward. Those were difficult times for me. During them and before them I had to face much more difficult situations than that day that I failed my family at that personnel department office in Indianapolis yet that day and evening that I speak of here, perhaps came as close as any other day in my life in putting me down causing me to become a bundle of mush unable to move ahead and solve the situation that I found myself in.


Life is full of lessons. I guess depending on the individual we handle our problems either in control or out of control. All of us at times will feel emotionally spent and to me it is where we go from there. All I have known to do is stay still allowing the emotions to pass and then act in a positive manner. It may take a couple of tries, but the answer is out there someplace as long as one stays in control of himself not allowing the momentary fear and panic to control him or her.


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