I’m on an airplane to Boston to look at some art. I’m still a terrible flyer. The first thirty minutes of every flight are spent in the thrall of a big-budget panic attack, my body pulling out all the stops. Pink-purple dots crowd my vision. My arms go numb and useless. My heart rate is jacked to an industrial techno bpm. This lasts from the moment the door closes and I realize I’m trapped until the plane has spent fifteen minutes at cruising altitude without falling out of the sky. When I look out the window, it’s a torment. I shouldn’t be up this high. But eventually, the screaming sense of I want to get down I want to get down subsides, and I accept my new reality. My vision clears. The tingles fade. My heart drags back to normal, and the scenery becomes a Burkean sublime: beauty twinned with reverent awe, a scale I cannot comprehend—the pink tops of clouds, the drift of tiny civilizations below.

I loathe these brutal nerves of mine. It’s like some alien organism has installed itself in my amygdala, utterly detached from truth or reason. Why does the brain torture itself? Perhaps these bouts of panic are a Jungian arrow pointing to an unsettled problem. Maybe my aura needs alignment. But my hunch is that it’s genetic and hardwired. My mother suffered terribly from agoraphobia. Lately I’ve been thinking about how she avoided the highway, even as a passenger, because this is happening to me too. It started last year in Vegas, and now I do not drive on the highway, although I still happily tear down surface streets and county roads, which makes no objective sense.

Quietly losing my mind in a window seat at 35,000 feet is fine. I can gut it out, even get to know it. But I should not explore my panic while seeing spots at 85 miles per hour between a semi-truck and some jackass flashing their high beams. To panic while driving on the interstate, of all things! I wrote a book about driving. I built a small personality around it. Looks like I’m finally going to have an adventure with therapy because this cannot stand. Now the call is coming from inside the house.