The day after

I am struggling to get through every activity today. I am finding it so challenging to answer work emails, and go about my business like today is any other day.

I live about 30 km from Nice, far enough away that my family and I were nowhere close to being in danger, so far in fact, that we were asleep in our beds while our neighbours were having their lives thrown upside down. But we are close enough to feel the pain of those around us, to see their fear, and to know that their lives will truly never be the same.

When I left the comfort of my bed this morning, I was confronted with the news. I turned on my iPad, and instead of finding information, knowledge, understanding, I found messages of anger and of hate, promises of more war and more violence. I was overwhelmed, I nearly drown in a sea of ignorance and terror.

Then I realised something else, I had emails, Facebook messages, and text messages from people far and wide, those I spoke to yesterday and those I haven’t seen in years, all trying to make sure we were okay. People whose lives we have touched, who in this time of crisis thought of us. Again, I was overwhelmed. I had no idea that so many people would think of us, would care to know that our family was okay.

After I had answered all the emails, a new wave hit me, I was okay, but were the people I care about? I quickly scanned Facebook for all those that live in Nice, searched to see if they were marked “Safe” and then I started sending my own text messages of concern.

It’s 15h00 the day after; I am still feeling…feeling too much to really process everything, but my brain is slowly trying to take over. I am reacting less and less to my emotions and more and more to the facts. I am reminding myself that France is still one of the greatest and safest countries to live in; I have my family and friends who are today safe from harm. I have my health, a home, food on the table, clothes in my closest, running water, electricity, plumbing, the right to be at work, and be independent. I have love, a sense of humour and reason.

Today is a tragic day, but I won’t be crippled with fear and anger, and I refuse to feel hopeless and lost, because I will remember that one man created so much ruin, but tens of thousands of people have since shown nothing but love and kindness. The world is a good place, filled with happiness, and many many wonderful people and beautiful things. We must not lose sight of that.




Bursting with Pride

Skiing and I have had a very long love/hate relationship. I still remember my first time on skis quite vividly, and I was 8 years old at the time. I remember it so clearly because it was an experience filled with so much excitement and fear that the emotions have etched into my brain.

I hate heights, so ski lifts are challenging, I hate pain, so falling is also challenging, and I am not terribly coordinated, so let’s just say skiing is challenging. But, skiing made me feel like I was free, the speed, the wind, the cool air, and the floating down the hill is just an amazing feeling.

As I got older, more scared and less coordinated, the feeling of freedom diminished to almost nothing, and all the bad feelings bubbled into panic. Then one day, to Hubby’s great disappointment, I let go and finally decided that I was done with skiing.

I had completely written off the whole experience in my head, totally forgetting that my kids are also Hubby’s kids and are therefore genetically programmed to at least try skiing. So this week, that is what we did, and after three short days, I am so proud of both of my kids.

Oddly enough, it was little Squishy who took to it first, she giggled the whole way down the first little slope she took, and quickly figured out how to move around without falling.

It didn’t seem to me that Crazy had picked it up as fast, but the ski instructors seemed to see something I didn’t and switched him into a higher group about 15 minutes into his first lesson.

Crazy kept at it, though sometimes he needed to be pushed (thanks C2), and he walked out of his third lesson today with a shiny medal, 7 freaking euros for a crappy ass 30 cent metallic birdie…but it was totally worth it. He is so proud of himself, on top of the fact that he actually loves to ski now. He wore his badge of honour all afternoon and even tried to convince me to let him wear it to bed. I am so proud he is proud.


I am also really proud of Squishy, her initial triumphs turned very quickly into unbearable displeasure and I ended up taking her out early on the first lesson, she stuck through the second, I gave her the choice for the third and she declined to return.

Given that she is three, I felt conflicted between pushing her to do something she didn’t want to and not pushing her to do something she might end up liking if she weren’t so freaking stubborn.

We brought all her ski stuff with us to take Crazy to his lesson, and I gave her a ton of opportunities to change her mind, but she was very sure she didn’t want to ski anymore, so in the end I respected her decision. She watched Crazy go off with his class, she watched him get his medal and didn’t for a second doubt her decision. Her sense of self astounded me, and made me so proud.

Naturally we are not giving up on skiing altogether for her and we may try again next year, but for now we will leave her in peace.

Now, here is the part where I am starting to feel proud of me. I was a stubborn little jerk when I was a kid, sometimes for good reason, sometimes out of laziness, and my parents often had to push me hard to get off my ass to do stuff, which I almost always inevitably enjoyed…almost, chill Dad, I am not saying you were right in anyway here.

Because I was like that, I have trouble discerning in my kids when they are truly trying to tell me that something is too hard or too unpleasant or too whatever vs when they are just whining because they are tired, or busy watching Tinkerbell at that exact moment in time. But today, seeing Squishy at peace with herself told me that at least this time, letting her have her way was definitely the right way to go.

And who knows, maybe she will continue to hate skiing and she and I can go have awesome mother-daughter bonding moments while snowshoeing or hiking while the boys are off falling down hills on sticks.

I hate panic attacks

My name is Amanda and I have panic attacks. Phew, that was a relief to say out loud, although to be honest, I didn’t say anything out loud, I wrote it silently, and my name is not Amanda, but I swear the rest is all true.

I have panic attacks, and I hate them. I hate absolutely everything about them. FYI – I have never actually spoken to a doctor about them (see about ten paragraphs down), so I just googled the term panic attack and can say with some certainty that what I have may or may not be actual panic attacks. Basically, I panic suddenly and for no obvious, external reason; I become paralyzed with fear, or sorrow, or stress, my heart races, my chest tightens and I have difficulty breathing. They don’t usually last long and when they go away, I am left with an uncomfortable alertness, which I think is a fear of my own thoughts, terrified that I may feel that panic again.

My very first panic attack was in my late teens or early 20s, I was old enough to drive, I remember that much and I was home alone at my moms house. I heard the front door handle rattle and became paralyzed with fear (note, it was someone leaving a flyer for who knows what and my life was in no way in any kind of danger). It was so overwhelming that although my car sat outside, and my keys were a few feet away, I called my dad to come pick me up. In the ten minutes it took him to get there, I was calmed down, but still unable to leave the house on my own. It was both humiliating and funny at the same time, the sane part of brain realized how ridiculous it was, while the saner part was desperately trying to understand what had just happened.

I had my second attack in Paris nearly ten years ago. We were lined up to take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful June evening, and someone suggested that we should take the stairs instead. Other than my overwhelming laziness, I saw no issue with this. I never likedheights, but I wouldn’t have said at that point that I had a fear of heights (in case it wasn’t perfectly clear, I now have a borderline debilitating fear of heights; the balcony in our old apartment on the tenth floor became off limits for me, especially if there was wind – have fun trying to find the logic in that).

I don’t remember how far up we were on the iron stairs ( I had to google that too, I knew it was metal, but couldn’t remember what the tower was made of precisely), but at some point I looked down. I became completely frozen, it was like my legs were dead weight, I suddenly gripped the railing as if I were falling, my heart raced and I wanted to cry. It was a hard moment for me because showing such vulnerability and weakness in front of people I didn’t know that well was unnatural for me and painful in itself on top of the insane and sudden fear that came over me.

The next major life altering one came about five years ago when we were skiing. Since then, no more skiing, Hubby is quite disappointed by that, but he is grateful that Crazy is now four so the skiing amongst men can begin.

Most often, I have them in the evenings, in particular when Hubby is out. Although tonight he was here and we were discussing what would happen with the kids if we both passed away at the same time – a morbid, but necessary conversation. This threw me into a full-on panic, and I desperately wanted to go cuddle with my children (these being the children that had just fallen asleep after an hour long bedtime battle). It still aches now 20 or so minutes later, but I know it will be a lot more painful tomorrow morning if I wake the little devils up. So here I sit, uncomfortably alert, a dull pain in my stomach and hating these stupid whatever they are.

So why haven’t I spoken to a doctor? This is where things really get fun, this is a new phobia brought on by a panic attack with one of the three crappy ass doctors I spoke to about depression since moving to this neck of the woods. The first two told me to essentially “suck it up and quit being a wimp”, and the third one told me to “go for a run”. While I do understand that physical fitness is important, and the endorphins released while jogging can be beneficial, it was clear none of these doctors were taking my requests for help terribly seriously. The biggest slap in the face for me was they were all women, and their blatant rejection of what I was trying to express made me feel inadequate as a woman.

So, yup, you guessed it, from each and every public attack, I have gratefully developed a new phobia. Luckily the ones I have in the privacy of my own home – when I have no witnesses – just turn into insomnia, because I am sure exhaustion will definitely help me get all of this under control. One day, I do hope to overcome my fear of healthcare professionals and seek advice on this, but for now, internet ranting is my best therapy.

PS. For any one in my inner circle, if you start treating me like I am about to snap, I just might.