A Monthly Advice Column

This month: guest columnist Richard Herring

Dear Sedaratives,
I’ve been having a lot of anxiety attacks lately. Or a series of heart attacks, I’m not sure. How do you tell the difference, again?

Sioux Falls, S.Dak.

Dear Eric,
Oh god, me, too. Awful, isn’t it? Waking up in the middle of night with this pervading sense that your mind is on the verge of plummeting into the abyss, realizing that life is meaningless and you are mortal and that one day, hopefully not too soon, you will totally cease to exist. You try to imagine it, but realize that in your imagination you are still hovering in the corner of the nothingness, but when it comes you won’t actually be there at all. In the second of your demise you will realize that, from your perspective, everyone and everything in the world is about to be lost. Whilst everyone else will have to mourn only you, you are saying goodbye to everything you ever loved. After half an hour or so, everything gets back into some kind of perspective, and you feel sane and safe again. But what if those moments of utter terror and impotence are the only times in our lives that we are lucid and fully conscious, and the rest of the time we’re living in a self-deluding dream? Think about that next time it’s happening. I’m sure it will help.

I think the difference between a heart attack and a panic attack is that the former actually physically hurts like hell in your chest and arm, whilst the latter just kicks you in the soul.


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Richard Herring is a writer and a comedian. His one-man shows include Hitler Moustache and Christ on a Bike. He has written a blog for every single day since November 2002, and has produced hundreds of hours of podcasts, which you can listen to for free at the British Comedy Guide.

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