Impending Panic Attack

I can’t get my brain to turn off. Right now, I’m in the early stages of a panic attack. I feel it building, and I’m having trouble stopping it. I often do.

For me, it feels like every muscle in my body is slowly contracting. Worse in my arms, but they’ve been sore for days. It feels like either everything is slowing down, or I am speeding up. My thoughts are racing. They get louder as it progresses.

My own brain is screaming at me of all my failures, my deepest regrets. My fears.

Which, really, all amount to poor life choices. But were they ever really choices? My brain is telling me that all I ever do is sit back and let my life live me. I don’t choose, I don’t move. I don’t engage past the absolutely necessary.

I let the waves and eddies of my life push and drag me wherever I go. Did I ever decide to move here? Did I decide and want the life I have? Right this moment it sure doesn’t feel that way. Right now all it feels like is fear and pain and uncertainty.

The typical tricks only help when the attack is fully manifested. I have found the most useful to be

  • focusing on a specific, stationary object and describing it in vast detail
  • measured, slow breathing
  • blankets, and other soft textures. Burritoing up!

But they don’t help now, at this stage. At this stage, I’m frozen in fear of the train of anxiety crashing down at me. It feels inevitable. As it is, I’m focusing heavily on the sensations and emotions to avoid thinking about the triggers. To do that would be to listen to my own brain list in detail how I have failed those I love, how to go back in time to fix my one most regretted failure would be to fail those who depend on me now. It’s a paradox of shame and tears, I suppose.
But there I go, thinking of the wrong things. Usually crafting keeps my brain occupied enough to avoid this. Enough brain-engaging crafting will keep me unable to sit and listen to the litany of my failures. Unfortunately I didn’t have any projects nearby, and I didn’t feel like reading.

I have a big project I’ve been pushing off because it’s intimidating. I have a medium project I’m resisting because it’s in a monotonous stage. I don’t have a small project.

Perhaps a hot shower, and working on my kid’s Halloween costume are in order. Because whatever I do, I need to do it right now, and I need to stop thinking. Maybe I can head this one off.

Just writing this has lessened the pressure in my chest to the point that my head feels full of cotton, and a much smaller gorilla sitting on my chest. And yet it’s far less terrifying than it was ten minutes ago.


I’ve got no strings

to hold me down, to make me fret to make me frown…

Or perhaps now I do. I am a permanent resident of Canada, now. I am not sure how long I have to live here before winter is no longer alien. The hush that comes from a world freshly powdered with snow. The crisp bite of wind that slips in the seams of your coat to nip and bite at your skin. The bitter chill of a walk through the slush.

I’ve learned to read a different type of weather report. To know that a heavy snowfall will make it feel warmer than it is, but a high humidity will make it feel far colder. To know that less dense wool coat will keep me far more comfortable than my thicker fabric coat, as it will repel the damp from melted snowflakes.

The joy of knitting is partly the art of creation, and partly the satisfaction that comes from keeping your loved ones warm and dry. Felted wool mittens let children throw all the snowballs they want, and fingerless cabled mitts let me take pictures of them playing. A lace wool scarf knit by a friend makes me smile at it’s beauty, and keeps me warm.

I know all these things from the winters I’ve spent up here. Yet every time I look out my window and see the deep snow drifts, the world feels alien and different. I wonder if I could ever go back home or if the chill of a desert winter would even need a coat any more. If I could stand under the wide desert sky that seemed so vast when I was young. The cold crisp chill of the desert winter sending everyone hiding inside, underground. The stars glittering on a deep black velvet of the sky.

Here, there is too much light pollution. I think back to that inky dark sky and I miss it. The grey sky tinged a slightly sickly yellow from streetlamps with fat white reminders drifting down that I am so, so far away from what I knew. And yet I feel at home.

Guest Blogger Starling: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Aptly put.

Shapely Prose

Phaedra Starling is the pen name of a romance novelist and licensed private investigator living in small New York City apartment with two large dogs.  She practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and makes world-class apricot muffins.

Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection…

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I feel so far from the person I was

This is quite logical, at the heart of it. Thinking of my life at 16, and now at 31. I’m the same person, certainly. But my hair was paler, my skin was darker. I was thinner, with different priorities, goals, expectations. A freedom that only teenagers don’t know they have. But there were things I always knew. I always knew I’d move out of the country. I always knew I’d have kids one day, etc.

There’s plenty of things I know about myself. But 16 year old me wouldn’t recognize me now. I don’t live in the outdoors anymore- so my outward appearance reflects that. I had no idea how brown my hair was. Is that not terribly odd? Not to realize your own hair color? But then, I didn’t know I had curly hair until I convinced my dad that (as a preteen) I was fully capable of brushing my own hair, my stepmother did not need to do it for me. Once it wasn’t brushed and blow dried into a Farrah Fawcett-esque fluff, I found out my hair actually had some fantastic curl to it.

And then, last month I cut it all off. It’s gone! Actually, I’m pretty sure my husband has longer hair than I do now. But I love it. And it’s brown. Who would have thought?

I used to just tear through libraries by devouring the classics and fantasy section, author by author. Lately I’ve been asking for recommendations. Your own literary choices speak quite a lot about you. The world you live in, the dreams you have, the dreams you wish you had. So I post up for my friends and family, and read books that they love, too. I don’t always like them. But it’s always interesting. Currently I’m reading The Left Hand of Darkness. The prologue really nattered on, but now that the novel has actually begun, it seems promising.

But how is this different, really? Everyone grows up, lives change. Appearances change with age. What’s really so different that I’ve startled myself into spending far too long writing a blog post that really is inconsequential?

I figured it out yesterday, after realizing that I need another hair cut, because my super short sassy ‘do is overgrown. I looked at the woman in the mirror and realized that yeah. I’m about 40 pounds heavier than 15 years ago. I’m saggier, thanks to two kids. But you know what?

I love this woman. Everything about her. Even the anxiety attacks that are now rare, even the picky and mildly obsessive tendencies about food, the social anxiety, the hermit tendencies, even the silly insistence that casseroles are awful. (But lasagna is good.)


I’ve finally decided to forgive and love myself. Awesome.


Well hello there.

Introductions can be really rather boring, so I’ll keep this fairly short. I’m an American expat living in Canada. My husband and I have two young boys, and a cat. The cat is really quite grumpy, but when you factor her age into consideration she’s allowed. In all those stolen moments of free time when I’m not cleaning, cooking, or parenting, I read, write, knit, crochet, sew, embroider… and none of those are in any special order.

And of course, like any writer I’ll write about things I know, things I love. So you’ll probably find stories about children, cats, knitting, and other housewife-y things. But that doesn’t mean  you won’t find me babbling about Canada in general, and how different it is. I also will not promise not to go on about my favorite shows, because really, the SuperWhoLock fandom really rather pervades everything, doesn’t it?

So cheers. I’m starting this wild ride to get back into the habit of writing because it’s something that I love to do that I’ve neglected for far too long.