“I can’t feel my arms or my face,” I announce.

Chris doesn’t even look at me. “Hmmm…” he says disinterestedly.

“Seriously.” I repeat. “My body is starting to shut down…limb by limb.”

Chris reaches out and presses the elevator button for Floor 8 with one hand while navigating his iPhone with the other. “Hmmm…” he repeats.

And if I didn’t know it was all just an act to keep me calm, a façade of disinterest,  I’d reach out and shake him while bursting into tears, demanding that he take me to the emergency room.

But it is an act. An act that I’m familiar with after the other two times. The other two times when I’ve told my “Moth” story.

Each performance day, just hours before the show, I’d announce that I thought I was dying. That my heart was going to burst from the pressure. That even my lungs were shaking. That I didn’t think I was going to make it this time. That I Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. Again.

And each performance day, the people around me would shrug.

They’d say things like, “Oh Prinna, you’ve done this before…what’s the worst that could happen?”

I could literally pass out walking up the stairs to the stage, I think.

“Oh Prinna, they already have one good recording of you…who cares if you mess up?”

I care if I mess up.

And “Oh Prinna, the nerves will actually help you to do better.”

Yeah, right.

And at first I’m angry with these people for not taking my panic seriously. These people who have never wobbled up on shaky legs to an empty stage in front of a single microphone in front of a “packed house.” These people who  have never felt the white heat of the spotlight on their hair, or saw the faint shadows of row upon row of people staring at them. They’ve never opened their mouths to hear the deafening echo of their voice from all directions.

But I know better than to be angry with these people because not only do they care, but they are my biggest supporters. The ones who always believed I could do anything. Get through anything. Conquer anything. Even life’s worst tragedy.

They are the people who, five years ago, picked me up off the bathroom floor and told me I was going to have to go on. They are the people who supported me during the worst days and months and years of grief for my daughter. And also through the times when things started to get better. When I started to get stronger. When I realized that there was power in my story – and that telling it could be a gift to others and also to myself.

And I remind myself as I walk up the stairs to the stage on my shaky legs, with my numb arms and seemingly explosive organs, that this IS a gift. It is a gift to tell people my story. To feel the thunderous applause of 1,058 people shake me to my core. To have audience members line up to talk to me at intermission, some of them just wanting to give me a hug. It’s a gift not only to me but to all the people who have gotten me up on this stage.

And I look out into that audience at the end of my story and I can imagine each and every one of them sitting out there.

And they are the ones clapping the loudest.