Image Credit: GOo
I had my first panic attack on a flight from JFK to Portland. As I sat in a middle seat, sandwiched between a fresh-faced twenty-something woman and a starchy-shirted businessman, the feelings that something was terribly wrong, that maybe I was going to die, that I was no longer existing in reality–took over and didn’t relent until I was off of the airplane, on the ground and in a car en route to my house. While deep in it, I sort of knew what was happening to me (I don’t remember if I was able to identify my physiological symptoms as a “panic attack”) and I sort of didn’t know what was happening to me. I just knew that it wasn’t good and that I wanted whatever was happening to end immediately.
In order to get through that living nightmare, I attempted to distract myself with the little screen on the back of the seat in front of me, figuring two feature length movies and a few sitcoms later (the flight is just under six hours), I’d be on the ground and okay again. But the player would not work–it froze on the opening credits for David O. Russell’s film, Joy, which I had seen before, I believe, on another, non-panic-stricken flight but was ready to re-watch out of desperation. An attendant happened to be walking by and when I flagged him down with a shaky hand, he confirmed that yes, the player was not functional, that they didn’t have any portable players on offer and sorry, there was nowhere else for me to go (the flight was full).
I took out a tattered copy of the New Yorker that I had in my backpack, flipped through it looking for something to read, but the words and the images blurred together–they were illegible. My eyes and my mind were unable to work together, that symbiosis that we often take for granted. I then picked up whatever book that I had been reading while in New York (I’m not sure what it was, but it was most-likely something dystopian and dark, very possibly a sad memoir or maybe even true crime) but I kept reading the same paragraph over and over and over. I simply could not retain anything.
So I just sat there between two strangers and rode out whatever evil had befallen me. I was literally trapped: in my body, in my mind, on the airplane.
About an hour and a half in, I looked at my own hand and didn’t recognize it. At that point, I considered going to the back of the airplane and asking someone for help. But I couldn’t talk; I couldn’t even leave my seat by that point. When the attendants came by with drinks and food to purchase, I asked for hot water. It tasted like boiled tin foil and Styrofoam but I sipped it like it was sweet milky tea, as I was frozen both inside and out.
Time will pass, I kept telling myself.
This will be over soon, I said.
I tried a deep breathing practice. I attempted to meditate. I have been a committed yoga practitioner for over twenty years and although I am currently a lapsed psychotherapist, I do have an advanced degree in counseling psychology. But none of the tools that I had learned about, had developed over the years, would work for me–they were all dull, broken, useless. My body had taken over my mind or maybe it was the other way around. They had separated from one another and there was nothing I could do to patch them back together.
At the time, I was deep in the throes of trying to publish a highly personal, extremely vulnerable memoir about losing my mother two months before becoming a mother, a narrative that is interwoven with a backstory of traumatic childhood and adolescent experiences. By that point, I had written multiple drafts and various iterations of the book had been read and passed on by both literary agents and independent publishers. There were a few points where it came very close to being picked up, but it was still in the drawer and pining to be released. When I planned a trip to New York for a friend’s birthday, I figured I would try to set up a few book-related meetings and of course, I would see some friends and my family. I grew up in Queens and Jersey and spent my formative years traipsing around Manhattan, so my roots are set deep in that terrain.
Maybe it was multiple things combined–the intense meetings with book people and the sudden intimacy with people whom I care deeply about but don’t get to see often enough. Maybe it was these things compounded by the fact that I was trapped in the middle seat on an airplane–a perfect storm resulting in a hostile takeover of my nervous system. Although it took a few days, maybe a week for me to come down from it, to fully process the experience, I didn’t think much about the panic attack too much after the fact. I thought it was an individual experience and that it was done and over, never to happen again. I certainly developed a moderate fear of flying but that too faded in time.
The next panic attack struck, believe it or not, exactly three years to the day from that ill-fated flight. This time it came not on an airplane, but in a sterile, fluorescently lit, windowless room at an urgent care facility near my home in Portland. I ended up in urgent care because I had been experiencing moderate heaviness in my chest and a dull pain in my left arm. Over a few weeks time, the symptoms weren’t getting any better (nor were they getting any worse) so I decided to call the nurse’s advice line on the back of my insurance card.
I was sitting in my car after just getting out of a Saturday morning gentle yoga class. During Savasana, the final, laying-down resting pose (also morbidly called corpse pose), I decided to make the call. I felt pretty good physically but I couldn’t help but worry that maybe something was really wrong with me: my chest ached when I took deep breaths and my left arm felt slightly tingly. I was worried that something could be wrong with my heart.
It was an unusually sunny and warm spring day. My debut novel, I Don’t Blame You–the book that had started out as a raw, vulnerable memoir and was now an autobiographical novel–was due to publish in two months. I had gone through multiple rounds of copyediting and proofreading over the previous six months, which means that I had to continually relive (and be re-traumatized by) some very difficult experiences. It was a hard book to write and so it was a hard book to edit. But, all along the way–I felt tremendous joy and hope in the prospect of having this book make it to print. I worked hard and I waited a long time to get to that point.
“My chest feels tight and there are dull sensations running down my left arm,” I said to the nurse over the phone.
“Can you rate your pain on the scale of one to ten?” she asked me. I almost hung up at this point, because she seemed ambivalent, robotic.
“I’m not sure–I mean, it’s not really pain. It’s more of a sensation.”
“Ma’am, you need to give me a number,” she asked, blowing out steam in frustration.
It went on like that for a good ten, maybe fifteen minutes. I had limited experienced with computer-based intake. Before I had this health insurance (I had an actual job at a liberal arts college for a year), my main healthcare provider for the past decade had been a mostly out-of-pocket paid naturopathic physician. During our appointments, her resident would take notes while I spoke one-on-one with my doctor. I had always felt seen and heard, the opposite of how I felt talking to this nurse over the phone.
We got through all of the questions and then I was patched through to an actual doctor. When he got on the line, he sounded older, experienced. I pictured a greying, white man in scrubs leaning against a wall in the middle of a hospital tethered to a desk phone. I walked him through the same symptoms as the nurse, but it didn’t seem like he had to type anything in–it was a more organic, actual person to actual person. He told me to go to the urgent care facility associated with my insurance plan and then gave me the address.
“They have all the diagnostic tests there,” he told me.
“Okay, thank you,” I said, laughing out of nervousness. And then he laughed too for some reason before hanging up.
When I got home, my husband and son were puttering around the house, about to go out skateboarding. I told them that I needed to go get checked out at urgent care and that I’d be back in a few hours, maybe less. They both looked at me with wide eyes. I told them my chest felt heavy, that maybe it was allergies. They didn’t ask too many questions and I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, especially around our eleven-year old son. I changed out of my soft pants and into jeans, made myself a smoothie, said goodbye to my family and left the house.
“Your EKG is abnormal which means that you may have had a heart attack,” the doctor told me as I sat upright on a cot.
“Okay,” I said, void of emotion.
And then he left to put a call into the emergency room. And then there it was again, those feelings from the airplane – the sudden panic washed over me like a sneaker wave. I was suddenly freezing cold and shaking uncontrollably. I could feel my heart pounding away at a rapid rate, certain that it was about to explode. I tried to lie down and then I got up right away, dizzy. I paced the room, breathing, stretching. There was a small, childlike part of me was relieved that something was medically wrong, as if those chest pains and that arm numbing were not psychological, fraudulent, histrionic.
“I’m really trying to stay calm,” I told the doctor when he came back into the room.
“Oh! You will be okay!” he said, touching my arm, as if he didn’t realize that saying that I may have had a heart attack wouldn’t completely freak me out. “The emergency room is waiting for you, but you need to go right there. Do you need me to call an ambulance?”
“Can’t I just walk there?” I asked, for some reason thinking the urgent care facility must be attached to a hospital.
“It’s ten miles away. And please make sure someone goes with you.”
“I will,” I said, lying.
As I prepared to leave the room, I looked at the urgent care doctor and saw a slight, thirty-something man with short, slicked back dark hair and clammy skin. He seemed on edge, strung out. Something about him didn’t sit well with me.
I drove myself to the hospital in the midst of a panic attack. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t what I should have done. After I checked in, two nurses immediately slapped EKG suckers to my chest and then just as quickly, pulled them off. I was then asked to sit in the waiting area, a depressing pit of illness that reminded me of the Port of Authority bus terminal in Manhattan. And then I proceeded to be shuttled in and out of fluorescent rooms for around three hours, getting blood drawn and being asked questions that I don’t remember. When I tried to talk to the phlebotomist about that HBO documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, about a young woman who founded a multi-billion dollar company called Theranos that tried and failed as a self blood-testing startup, she looked at me like I was an idiot.
I’m just trying to connect, I thought to myself.
At one point, my husband and son came and sat with me in the waiting room. It felt awful to have them there. Their presence made things feel worse. I had told my husband over the phone that maybe something was wrong with my heart and that I needed to go to the hospital, but again–I dumbed it down saying it was protocol. I said that I just needed to get checked out. So having them sidling up next to me made this nightmare more real, more in waking life and I didn’t want real, waking life. I sent them away, I said that I was fine, I said that I would be fine.
“I’m not doing well,” I told the woman manning the front desk at one point.
“You can try to catch the nurse,” she responded, un-emphatically.
I hovered around a treatment room near the front desk, while a nurse whisked in and out with patients trailing behind her. I sat back down and waited. And then about a half an hour later, they called me in to meet with the ER doctor, a gentle, tall man who probably went on ski trips with his family. This time, I sat on a comfortable couch with side tables and lamps with shades–a mock living room inside a sterile hell-zone.
“You’re fine. You’re totally healthy,” he told me, as he leaned over and looked into my eyes.
“There’s nothing wrong with you, Frances.”
“Then why did that urgent care doctor tell me that I could have had a heart attack?”
“I don’t know,” he said, looking down at his notes. “Go back to yoga, live your life,” he said.
He asked me what I did for work and when I said that I worked at a local college, he told me that his daughter was about to start college in the fall, but that she didn’t get good grades in high school so she somehow slipped into an Oregon state school. I told him that I was also a writer and that my first book was about to be published, that sometimes I get into my own head. I told him that sometimes I stress myself out.
And then suddenly all the panic was gone. Just like that, it washed away. I thanked the kind doctor, paid a $150 copay at a plexiglass window, left the hospital and drove home in a state of what-the-fuck-just-happened-to-me wonder. It would take me weeks to parse out the experience of maybe just having a heart attack and then being totally fine, completely healthy. Yet there was still a part of me that remained in that bright urgent care treatment room with that freak doctor. There was still a part of me still felt vulnerable, afraid, small.
About two months after the ER visit, I’m sitting in a small, intimate meeting with my colleagues and there it is again: the intense fear, the panic. I close my laptop and tell them that it’s my stomach. I tell them that I need to leave right away. Again, I drive through Portland in the midst of a panic attack. When I arrive home, I find my husband at work in his attic studio.
“I can’t do it,” I say, crying uncontrollably. “I can’t do the reading.”
“What do you mean?”
“I just can’t do it,” I say. “I just can’t!”
In two days, I would celebrate the publication of my debut novel at a local book pub. I would read an excerpt from my book. Another writer associated with my publisher would come in from Taos, New Mexico, to join me and would read from his recently published novel. My friend’s groovy, instrumental band would play between readings. Many people, if not almost all of the people that I know in Portland, would come out to celebrate with me. A lot went into this book: time, rejection, commitment. I knew that it needed to be published–for me and for other people who had hardscrabble childhoods and who lost people who they loved in challenging ways.
Finally, here I was–about to be a published author with a book on offer. But I was a debilitated mess.
The two days between leaving work in a panic and the evening of my book launch party passed in a benzodiazepine haze. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t do anything except do what I could to survive moment by moment. In the midst of this crisis, I had also come down with a terrible cold. My husband, son and I had just gotten back from that weeklong trip to Manhattan and New York State.
It was a whirlwind, chaotic, but beautiful trip. We went to a dear friend’s wedding upstate. We had a big family dinner out in Jersey at a classic burgundy tablecloth Italian restaurant. It was the first time I had been back east since I lost my father two and a half years prior; it didn’t feel right not having him there, but I put the grief aside to instead focus on the joy of being around my people.
“That was your first trip back east since you lost your dad,” a friend said to me when I was deep in the throes of anxiety. “It probably has something to do with this.”
“You’re probably right,” I said, although I was having such a hard time making that connection in the state that I was in.
My book published while I was there and it felt like Christmas morning in late May. I woke up on pub day and sat in a cozy West Village café sipping coffee alone, scribbling in my journal, feeling overjoyed and relieved. My friend who had just gotten married came into the city from upstate to celebrate with me. We had champagne and oysters and saw Lanford Wilson’s emotionally charged, 80’s-era play Burn/This. She is also a writer and we tried to plan a reading together, but it both wasn’t feeling right to me and it simply wasn’t coming together. But she had seen me through the ups and downs, the ins and outs of both writing the book and trying to get it published, so honoring this book with her in this way, with an epic play and gorgeous food in the dynamic city that has always been a major character in my personal narrative was just perfect.
When we got back to Oregon, I was worn down, my energy reserves drained. The previous six or so months had been consumed by editing multiple drafts of my book and of trying to figure out my role in the getting the book read (my publisher is super indie and they expect authors to do most of the publicity)–all while parenting and working a chaotic job. But being in New York also felt like a bookend to my book; it meant a lot to me to celebrate the launch where I came from, in the city that I consider my true home. And then I was suddenly back in Portland, where I have lived for almost two decades, my sense of self shattered, disassembled, lost.
“Let me now if there is anything that I can do for you for your launch party,” a friend, also a writer, happened to text me while I was riding out the anxiety before the event. And then it hit me: an idea.
“Can you read for me? I can’t do it,” I wrote back, explaining what was going on. She had her own bouts with anxiety and understood what I was going through.
“Of course. Just tell me what to read,” she wrote.
And then I asked another writer friend to read as well. My doctor prescribed me a few Xanax, in addition to the five that she has prescribed me after the ER heart attack incident and thought I’d only keep on hand in case of an emergency. I stayed in bed, fitfully. I took long walks. I tried to be a present parent to my son. I only had a week left of my job at the liberal arts college where I had worked for just under a year. I found the environment to be toxic and patriarchal, so I was in the midst of transitioning out.
Even through the crisis, the launch party went extremely well. I didn’t have the pressure to read and could sit back and enjoy visiting with people and listening to my friends read from my book. The live music was chill and added a sweet layer of festivity. I felt surrounded in love, support and community. There was also this deep sense of closure to hearing my work read aloud. I once heard the writer Francisco Goldman tell an interviewer that is how books are celebrated in Mexico–other writers honor the writer in question by reading their work. Even though I had read my work in public before, I certainly struggle with public speaking anxiety. And what I was experiencing leading up to my book launch party was next level speaking anxiety. It was a debilitating panic. It was from another dimension.
In the days after the event, I continued to battle a bad cold but started to feel better in terms of the anxiety and panic. I returned to work the following Monday and wrapped up throughout that week. I was depleted, but thought for sure that I was on the mend–just a bundle of nerves relating to my book launch that would eventually settle. But then the anxiety came back with a wicked vengeance and had its claws in me during the next two months. It was the heart of summer and my son was home from school. Looking back, which is not easy to do, I don’t know how I managed. I would sleep deeply, but I would wake up to a miserable, shaky, frightened reality.
“It’s how you felt as a child in the mornings,” my therapist told me. “The nervous system lives in the past.”
“Then how can I get it back to the present?”
“You have to tell yourself that you are okay. You have to re-parent yourself.”
She must have told me those things a hundred times and they just wouldn’t stick. I started to see her weekly, even though I generally see her twice per month. I texted her many, if not most, mornings to tell her how scared I felt and sometimes we would schedule time to talk briefly over the phone. I had frequent consults with my naturopathic doctor either over the phone, in the clinic or over email to discuss both allopathic medications and Chinese herbs. I got acupuncture once, sometimes twice per week. I had shiatsu massage and craniosacral treatments. I took an arsenal of natural supplements. I went to restorative yoga classes. I had saunas. I went on walks with friends. I met friends for tea. I often spoke over the phone with my siblings and close friends from out of state.
And through all of this horror, I developed a strong desire for a deep connection with other people. It wasn’t something that had ever come naturally; it wasn’t something that I had ever thought about consciously. I had always enjoyed friendships and close relationships with my siblings and other family members. And although I had mostly dysfunctional intimate relationships with lovers until I met my current spouse–I never knew what true connection meant until it became a primal need. There were times that I could not be alone, because when I was alone, I felt extremely afraid–of dying, of getting sick, of something happening to the people I love, of me or my loved ones being involved a natural disaster or a mass shooting.
When my thoughts would turn catastrophic, the anxiety would spiral further and further, it would get louder and louder–it would travel into the depths of fear until they took over.
“Anxiety grows the more you let it take over,” my therapist told me. “So you need to be the witness. You don’t want to bethe anxiety.”
“But I don’t let it take over. It takes over and then it feels like I have no control over it,” I would say in response. And then she would patiently repeat the self-soothing narrative.
Sometimes I would feel like a failure, as if the anxiety was something that I had allowed to happen to me: the result of character flaws, weaknesses, and the inability to self-regulate. This is where I learned how hard on myself I could be. I tried to practice self-compassion but it always felt so counter-intuitive, so strange to be nice to myself.
“How long are you going to allow yourself to be like that?” my therapist asked me.
“I don’t know,” I would answer, frustrated, in tears.
“It’s up to you to make the decision to be kind to yourself,” she would tell me, over and over and over again.
I would take long, desperate walks through my leafy neighborhood in Northeast Portland and I would drink in the beautiful colors, the heady scents of the natural world. Amidst the heart palpitations, the exhaustion and the fear, there would be these brief glimpses of peacefulness, calm, or maybe just the idea that peacefulness and calm could some day become a possibility. There were times that just those thoughts would bring me peace and calm and sometimes I would even feel a glimpse of joy.
And during these moments, I could always feel the fear trying to creep back in, trying to kill the calm and the joy. The anxiety held so much power and control. It would try to dominate; it would attempt to take over my nervous system. Sometimes it would thrust me back into pure anxiety. Whenever I was lost in the anxiety bubble, I would feel as if that was how life would be moving forward. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot of a grocery store explaining to a friend how I felt in that moment, as if my nerves were stuck in pure fear.
“It sounds like an alternate reality,” she told me.
“It feels like an alternate reality,” I said.
When I would talk to someone, to really connect, my nervous system would down-regulate. I would be okay for a little while at least; it would offer me a short reprieve from my wild animal mind.
I was out of Xanax and didn’t want to ask my doctor for more, partly out of shame but mostly because I didn’t want to go to the dark side–I couldn’t tell if I liked them too much or hated them too much. They felt like a pharmaceutical version of a one-night stand: they feel good in the moment but then there was so much residual detritus. It would feel as if I was covered in those thick moving blankets for a few hours, but once the medication wore off and once the blankets were removed, I would feel shelled, cold, lost. So I would take fistfuls of natural supplements and sometimes they would help and sometimes they wouldn’t.
By this point–my bank account was dwindling. I was not working, could not work and since my husband is a freelance graphic designer with an unsteady income stream, we really didn’t have the extra money that it took to pay for the extensive, mostly out-of-pocket, mainly alternative medicine based self-care regiment that was keeping me at least halfway tethered to the ground. Really, the most affordable way through the anxiety bubble would be to go on an SSRI, which the primary care doctor that I had been seeing on and off for the past twenty years wanted me to do straightaway. I sat with it many, many times, toiled over that decision. I have no judgments against psychopharmaceuticals. I know that it could always be an option, but it just didn’t feel right to me–not because I wanted to be a martyr and suffer through the pain, but more because I knew that it simply wasn’t the right choice for me at the time. Trust me, I would have done anything to end the anxiety, but I didn’t think an SSRI would be the thing that would truly end it.
So I cashed out a modest inheritance that I had received when my father died. I rationalized that it was partly his fault that I was an anxious mess. He brought a very unstable, angry woman, my stepmother, into my life when I was a young child. He allowed me to live most of the time with my mother, also a mentally unwell woman. I knew that my anxiety was tied to how I was raised, so I took this money and I took really good care of myself. It was a tremendous privilege.
Outside of my parenting responsibilities and household chores, all of my time was consumed by my mental health. I had healthcare-related appointments most days. The rest of my energy was spent on not completely coming apart. I had certainly come apart enough. I was committed to staying put together and a lot of that was for the sake of my son. I was raised by two women who often came apart and it was scary to witness those events as a child. I didn’t want that fear to live in my son like it lived in me–the feeling that I was not safe with my supposed caregivers, so I was not safe in the world.
I somehow maintained my ability to parent, to go to the grocery store, to make simple meals, to do laundry, to feed the dogs. But that was about it. I couldn’t write, couldn’t consider looking for a job, couldn’t travel too far outside of my nest. I had to lean on my husband more than I ever had to and he pulled in to do what needed to be done, including pressing his hand into my chest during the difficult morning hours when my heart would be pounding with fear. There were a few times when he worked from home instead of going to his studio just so he could be home with me–those were the darkest of days.
“It’s called the dark night of the soul,” my therapist said to me after I suffered multiple nights of debilitating insomnia.
“That’s what it feels like,” I said, staring at her with wide, frightened eyes.
I was starting to feel better, more myself and that reprieve lasted for about a month. My son went back to school and I had begun to piece myself back together. I picked up the novel that I had put in the drawer about a year prior and it felt good to be in it again–there was a sense of purpose and meaning to my existence, that magical part of being an artist. We brought home a kitten. And the season was changing from summer to autumn, my favorite time of year, a time of beautiful transformation.
And then I found out that a former friend was dying of cancer. Our relationship was challenging and I didn’t know how to make sense of this impending loss. I thought about contacting her but make the choice not to. We weren’t in each other’s lives for a long time and it felt way too complicated to reconnect while she was actively dying. After she passed away, I went right back into the panic zone. It held tight for a few weeks and brought with it a new type of hell: insomnia. I would pass out cold around nine out of sheer mental exhaustion and would wake up at around one in the morning, unable to settle back down to sleep.
All of the horrific thoughts and feelings would come to me during those dark, cold, lonely hours: that something was seriously wrong with me (most likely cancer, like my former friend), that something would happen to both my husband and me and my son would be left alone, that something would happen to my son. Again, my heart would beat hard and heavy into my chest. When the sun would start to come up, I knew that I had to get up to get my son off to school, that I had to be a mentally functioning mother. If I could make him silver dollar-sized blueberry pancakes, then everything would be okay. It would feel like I was walking through mud and that I had to muster every last bit of strength just to exist in the world.
Everything hurt. Everything was hard. Everything was frightening.
“Maybe it reminds you of when you lost your mother,” a friend said to me. “It’s the same time of year and your friend just died of cancer.”
“You’re probably right,” I said to her, even though I was unable to truly make the connection because I was unable to feel connected to the earth, to myself.
We were at a café near my house in Northeast Portland. It had been many days since I slept more than four or five hours in a night and the sleep-depravation had compounded, causing the anxiety to grow bigger and bigger as the days progressed. And then the depression started to creep in–something that I had never experienced before. It was no longer an all-consuming fear, but a heavy darkness. My friend looked directly into my eyes and I could feel her gentle compassion for me. She had lost her mother in recent years and knew what the ghosts of grief felt like when they came haunting. I sat with her, doing what I could to be present, trying as best as I could to engage in a shared conversation, but I was really struggling. I didn’t have much to offer and it felt like so much of me wasn’t truly there. It was this feeling of needing to be with someone, but not being able to be with someone. She remained kind, patient and understanding.
It was a beautiful early autumn afternoon, clear and sunny. As I walked home, past my son’s school, I remembered back to this same season a few years prior, when I was working on my book, how I would spend hours sitting in cafés drinking strong coffee and tapping the memories of my past traumas. I would leave to pick up my son at school and if I got there a little early, I would sit in the sun for just a few moments before the kids came out. I would feel the exhaustion of the intensive writing practice, but I don’t remember really taking it in, taking a pause and acknowledging how hard the work really was. The kids would get out and I would hug my son and we would go home. I would carry on like I had arrived home from a mindless day job.
Before heading home that afternoon after sitting with my friend, I sat in the park for a few minutes and thought about how this was not how I wanted to live, not who I wanted to be, not how I wanted to feel. But I felt like I had no choice in the matter–this is who I was right now and hopefully that would change in time. I would get better.
“This is transient,” I remembered my doctor telling me months ago, when I was in my first longer bout with anxiety.
“Are you sure?”
“I can promise you,” she told me.
Some time has gone by and I am feeling closer to who I want to be, closer to how I want to feel day to day. There are still ups and downs but they are not as extreme. I can be the witness then without being consumed by them. I’ve learned a lot: about the roles of both mental and physical health, about the practice acceptance, and about the importance of self-compassion.
Sometimes people ask me if I had the choice–would I not have published my book? I know they are asking because then maybe I would never have come apart. I don’t know if I could answer that, I tell them. This is just how it was supposed to unfold, I say. Because in so many ways, it really wasn’t up to me–that book begged to be written and it pined to be published. I was just the vessel. I was just the writer.
It was just my story.
Frances Badalamenti was born and raised in Queens, New York and Suburban Jersey, but she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. Her short form work can be found at The Believer Magazine, Longreads, Vol.1 Brooklyn and elsewhere. Her debut novel, I Don’t Blame You (Unsolicited Press), was released in May 2109 and her second novel, Salad Days (Unsolicited Press) is forthcoming in 2021.