Ten years ago, ABC News anchor Dan Harris had a panic attack on live television - and now he says the incident may have saved his life.
"Shortly after seven on a sunny spring morning in 2004, I freaked out in front of five million people," writes Harris, who was filling in on Good Morning America at the time. "I was overtaken by a massive, irresistible blast of fear. It felt like the world was ending. My heart was thumping. I was gasping for air. I had pretty much lost the ability to speak. And all of it was compounded by the knowledge that my freak-out was being broadcast live on national television. Halfway through the six stories I was supposed to read, I simply bailed, squeaking out a 'Back to you.'"
In his blog, which was published Wednesday, Harris reveals that his meltdown was likely caused by his habitual use of cocaine and ecstasy, which he says he began using to deal with depression after covering wars in the Middle East. "I'm not talking Wolf of Wall Street-level debauchery," Harris clarifies. "My intake was sporadic, and mostly restricted to weekends. ... A side-effect of all of this, as my doctor explained to me, was that the drugs had increased the level of adrenaline in my brain, dramatically boosting the odds of a panic attack."
Harris, now a co-anchor on Nightline, says his doctor told him he needed to quit using drugs immediately, and that he eventually turned to meditation despite initial skepticism. "I am not a stereotypical meditator," he admits. "In fact, I'd always had - and still have, really - an allergy to all things touchy-feely and New Age-y. As it turns out, though, meditation doesn't require robes, incense, crystals, Cat Stevens or 'clearing the mind.' It's exercise for your brain. ... Meditation is a tool for taming the voice in your head."
According to Harris, the practice of meditating makes him "10% happier," which is also the name of a book he's written that will come out in March.