Facing Down the Demon

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Yesterday I experienced the longest-lasting anxiety attack I’ve ever experienced.

Regular readers of this blog, and the Facebook and Twitter pages that it links to, know that I’m an Internet radio DJ. I have two shows per week, one on Thursday evenings that I do on my own, and one on Saturday evenings that I co-host with my wife. I’ve been doing this off and on for almost five and a half years now.

The station was started about 12 years ago to support gamers on one particular server for one particular MMO. The game shut down in late 2012, and so the station went on to support other games for a while, finally becoming “game-agnostic” last year, meaning that we support gamers in general, regardless of their game of choice.

Several months ago our original game environment became available to us again as an XMPP chat client, and so many of the old gamers from our original home have been congregating there in order to continue their own personal storylines with the characters they spent eight years playing. (It’s important to note that while the game environment exists, the game itself does not. There are no enemies to fight, no quest givers to talk to, no NPCs adding local flavor to the game. It simply exists as a physical environment to chat and roleplay within.)

Through the years, the station has sponsored dozens of events in conjunction with the games we’ve supported. These have always been fun and entertaining, usually with costume contests and trivia contests and scavenger hunts alongside the music we supply.

It is important to tell you all of this background, because last night the station provided music and promotion for an event, and I DJed part of the event.

In the five and a half years I’ve been DJing, this is the first event that I’ve participated in as a DJ.

The event was to celebrate the unofficial 12th anniversary of the launch of our original game, and it was requested to be on a night that I normally had a show, so I was requested to be part of the DJ team. (The event lasted eight hours and three DJs provided music for it during that time.)

Now, at this point it’s important to tell you about my Thursday show. It’s an homage to the history of popular music in the rock and roll era. I have a very specific requirement of an artist before I’ll play them on Thursdays: they must be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a result, my usual library is very limited, with about 4,000 songs to pull from. (In comparison, the library that we use on Saturday nights on another computer altogether is many, many times the size of my Hall of Fame collection.) In addition, I have several features that I do during my show every week, one of which is a trivia contest that’s run in cycles four months long. Last night was the final week for the cycle; next Thursday I draw a name from all the weekly winners over the previous four months and that person gets a very special prize. So heading into event planning, I let the event organizers know I’d need to at least do my contest, and I’d likely be playing my usual music as well. They were fine with that, thankfully, so I waited until the day of the event to put together my playlist.

Programming a show is not that difficult, but it does require attention to detail. The software that I use has a feature that will queue up to 20 songs in the playlist at random. I start programming from there, weeding out songs that I’d rather not play (usually due to excessive profanity, as my show runs during prime time on the East Coast and starts during the workday in the Pacific time zone). From that initial group of 20 songs, I start putting in station IDs, ads, talk beds (the music that plays at low volume during talk breaks), and disclaimers (for those occasions that I play a song with explicit content), spacing an ad or other station file and a talk bed every 20 minutes, moving songs around in order to more precisely time talk breaks. I continue adding random songs manually, as well as talk breaks, until the full three hour show is complete. Once I’ve done that, I go to a website that gives daily bits of history in music and edit the day’s list to only feature Hall of Famers, then print it. Then I go to my stash of trivia questions and grab the next question for the contest. Lastly, I plug in the mic (we use an omnidirectional microphone rather than a headset so that both of us can talk on Saturday evenings) and test to be sure it’s in working order. Overall, the process usually takes me a little over an hour.

Okay, NOW that you have all that background, it’s time to tackle the subject matter I alluded to in the title.

Because this was my first show, I was excessively nervous about putting together the show. Would it go over well? Would my format serve to break up the party instead of enhancing it? Would there be complaints? How would I explain the theme of my show and how it fits in with the event?

I became more and more anxious about this as the day progressed until I finally started programming the show. I took it slower than usual, paying closer attention to detail than I would give a run-of-the-mill show. And then I read the article.

It seems that a well-known gaming website had run a feature about the event and specifically mentioned the DJs providing music for it. And that sent my anxiety into overdrive.

My wife was an angel and talked me down from the anxiety attack as she’s done so many times before, but my anxiety was still pretty high all the way up to showtime.

And as the event progressed, the anxiety stayed with me.

It wasn’t until a couple hours after I got off the air that I could finally let it go and calm down enough to eat – up until that point, I’d only had breakfast, not a good thing for a diabetic to do.

But the point is that I got through it. I survived one of the longest-lasting anxiety attacks I’ve ever experienced. And hopefully, I managed to do it without the anxiety coming across on the air much.

My listener count was multiple times more than usual. The event was very well run and my hat’s off to the organizers for making my job fairly straightforward.

And once the anxiety finally went away, I was out like a light.

So that’s my way-too-long explanation of my anxiety attack yesterday, and how I managed to cope with it.

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