Just missionary: why *anyone* can write a sex blog

It looks like I had it all planned out, doesn’t it? I think I’ve even gone so far as to claim in an earlier post that the whole ‘(of sorts)’ thing was designed to let me write about anything I wanted because I don’t believe that there’s any reason to split blogs into strict genres. It’s almost believable.

Except it’s actually bullshit. The real reason I tagged the qualifying bit on the end is that I’m so clearly *not* a sex blogger – six sexual partners, five of them for one night only, a fear of receiving oral, a flirtation with a d/s dynamic that wasn’t even a thing when I started writing SBOS – I wanted to write about sex, but I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.

Where am I going with this? Well, I read this post by Girl on the Net earlier and started thinking about which of my posts get the highest hit rate or number of retweets. It’s harder for me to tell than her – the majority of my posts have similar figures – but without a doubt, two types of posts get retweeted more than others. The sex ones and the ones in which I write about my relationship with my body.

But you’re not reading me for the filth. The sex I have, d/s dynamic or not, is pretty vanilla. My love life is a car crash, but I hope you’re not reading me for that reason, either. I hope you’re reading me because you can relate. I hope you’re reading me because I try to capture the mundanities and the day-to-day dramas of my life as much as I do the ‘Wow!’ moments.

One thing I’ve learned in the course of blogging is that I don’t want to document all the sex I have, and certainly not in public. Generally I’ll write about sex for one of two reasons: because a particular detail is haunting me, or because I’ve learned something about myself. If I wrote about every sexual encounter, it would leave you cold. Fucking can be as dull to read about as anything else.

If Girl on the Net gets the urge to do any more stats analysis, I’d be really interested to know how the posts about her relationship stack up against the really filthy ones on throat fucking and the like. Because I’m a fan of both but it tends to be the ones about navigating the realities of life with her partner (including the sex they have) that stay with me the longest. And again, not because my reality is in any way similar, but because I’d rather there was one cock, one cunt and an insight into the emotional dynamics behind the sex than three cocks, tits everywhere and a face covered in jizz at the end of the post.

If it sounds like I’m slagging off posts about the kind of sex acts the majority of us might never try, I’m really not. Hell, I’d never have stood in uncomfortably damp knickers in the queue for security at Gatwick if it hadn’t been for this post. It’s just that I wish there were more sex blogs out there and I wonder if what puts people off is not just the thought of putting the most intimate aspects of their lives out there for the world to read about, but the fact that they don’t think they’re having the right kind of sex for a sex blog.

There’s no kind of right sex for a sex blog. If you want to write about it, there’s a good chance I’ll want to read about it. Even if it’s just missionary.

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How to write a book review

I don’t review books often, so if I do, it’s pretty safe to say I either loved them or had a huge issue with them. More on books with which I’ve had huge issues in a couple of weeks.

So here’s the thing. Increasingly, I feel like reviewing erotica honestly and fairly is becoming harder and harder to do. Erotica is a relatively small genre. Many erotica authors follow each other on social networks and interact with each other regularly. Many of us who read erotica are privileged enough to be able to interact with our favourite authors too, something which I think would be harder with many other genres. In short, erotica authors have the potential to be one of the most supportive, friendly and inclusive groups of authors out there.

But. As a reader, just because I interact with an author, just because we get on, doesn’t mean I feel obliged to review their book, or their writing, in a way that doesn’t dare to mention anything negative at all. If I like their writing, it’s almost certainly because it’s nuanced, intelligent and hot. If it’s an anthology they’ve edited, I think it’s fair to say that I’ll find some of the stories hot, others well written but not my kink or fantasy, and a few which don’t do it for me either in terms of hotness or prose. If I *really* like two or three stories in an anthology, I think I’ve got a pretty good deal – after all, those are the stories I’ll revisit time and again, and how many books on your bookshelf, even those which you enjoyed a lot, do you really go back to multiple times? I guess what I’m saying is that, if you’re intelligent enough to write beautiful and nuanced prose, you’re intelligent enough to recognise that a positive review with a handful of ‘not quite my things’ is not a negative review of your work. Not everybody will love everything you’ve written and that’s fine – good reviewing, that says what does/doesn’t work for the reviewer will ultimately make sure your book reaches the audience it was intended for all along.

And so you won’t find me writing uncritical reviews. It’s not my style. When I blog, I expect people to come back to me and be honest about what they do/don’t like and when I edit, in RL, I expect my authors to listen to my opinions, take on board the bits they agree with and to challenge the rest. I’m not going to start writing super critical reviews, not least because I think to write a fair book review you have to finish the book in question and if I really hate something it’s unlikely I will.

But I don’t think it’s unfair, either, to admit that you recognise that something is well written, but that it doesn’t turn you on. I don’t think it’s wrong to say ‘Femdom is not my kink, so x story didn’t work for me but hey, it was superbly written, so if that’s your thing, you’ll love this!’ Nor, if you really don’t like something, is it wrong to write a constructive review saying so – you’d do it for a restaurant, so why not an erotica anthology?

In short, whether we’re friends or not, I (or anyone else) am not obliged to shower your writing with praise. I’m allowed to be objective. After all, it’s your book, not your baby.

We need to talk about suicide

On Sunday, a friend and I went to our first jump race meeting of the season. It was the perfect day for it: cool, a bit foggy, dry. We got there slightly late and just made the third race. I’d picked my horse, Sgt. Reckless, but there was something weird going on.

The ground, after two days of solid rain, was shitty, and horses were being pulled from the race left, right and centre. Place betting was abandoned: money was on for the win, or not at all. I’m cautious, so I don’t usually bet that way, but with my original choice no longer an option I stuck some cash on the favourite and hoped I’d make my stake back, at least.

It was pretty clear from early on that I wasn’t going to win, but hey, that’s life. And then, at the last, the horse that was trailing well behind the rest fell, badly – front legs collapsing, body crumpling in on top. I looked away. I can’t bear it when the horses get hurt. I saw them put the screens round on the video and yeah, I got a bit tearful. I really, really hate it when that happens.

Five long, long minutes passed. On the other side of the course, the fancy side, applause broke out. The horse staggered to its feet – just winded, not hurt. I cried more – I’m far from an animal lover but fuck, I’m fond of horses.

Someone explained to me, later in the week, that animals are really bad at handling pain and trauma. If a human breaks an arm or a leg, you put it in plaster and wait for it to heal. The human might be in shock, but they recover from that shock pretty easily. Animals don’t – if an animal goes into shock, it’s hard to save it.

So yeah, we’re resilient. And because we’re resilient, and we think we can cheat death, to an extent, we’re fucking terrified of it. Later the same day, I said, in passing, something along the lines of ‘And if that happens, I may as well top myself.’ I wasn’t being serious. My friend stared long and hard at the cigarette between her fingers. Long enough for the ash to tumble to the ground. ‘I wish you wouldn’t joke about killing yourself,’ she said, quietly.

We’re getting better at being open about depression and anxiety. We’re still fucking awful at talking about suicide. I know it’s not easy – I’d love to say that when friends of mine have been depressed that I’ve been there for them unconditionally, but I know that that’s not true. Because being there for someone with serious mental health issues is really bloody hard.

When I’m depressed, the last thing I want is for everything to become a huge deal. When I mentioned to a real life friend that I was planning to write this post, she asked why I couldn’t talk to her about it instead. She probably wouldn’t be able to give me a response there and then, she said – she’d need time to reflect and give a measured response. Which is great. That is undeniably being a great friend.

But to me, it’s like the ill-fated Samaritans’ Radar. It’s too much. I don’t want my every word on the subject noted and appraised for the likelihood that I’m a risk to myself. When I mentioned the suicide conversation to my therapist yesterday I saw her shuffle her notes, no doubt checking she had my GP’s details – something you have to hand over at the beginning of a course of therapy in case things reach that point. When I mentioned writing this to the boy, he too wasn’t sure it was a great idea.

When I google suicidal ideation (interestingly, people who admit to thinking about suicide aren’t necessarily high risk, but equally, it doesn’t mean that they’re not, as urban myth sometimes maintains) I love that the first thing that pops up is ‘Need help? In the United Kingdom, call 08457 90 90 90.’ That’s exactly where I do want the Samaritans – there if I need them, but not muscling in to find out if I do. I never found out what the key words for the radar were, but my Twitter followers aren’t friends, I don’t want them alerting every time I let off steam. I want to be able to use words like depressionanxiety, suicide, desperate and can’t do this anymore without worrying about what will happen if I do.

Without in any way wishing to suggest that anyone who says they feel suicidal means anything other than that, I think linguistically we don’t have the words to express the desperation associated with depression. I can’t carry on/do this anymore/keep going or I can’t face another day sound very, very much like the words of someone who’s contemplating ending things. They might be, but equally, they might not – there’s just no other easy way to express to people just how shit things feel.

I’m not suicidal at the moment. I know that because in my lowest moments my bed has more appeal than the river, or the railway line. I want to sleep, for a long time. I don’t want to die. But I can’t keep tramping down the desperation that bubbles up periodically inside me – I want to be able to tweet about freely. If people unfollow me, whether because it triggers them or because they’re not interested, that’s fine, but talking about it cannot be taboo.

In therapy for the last couple of weeks, the same theme keeps cropping up. ‘It’s ok to be angry,’ the therapist says, ‘It’s ok to feel hurt. And it’s hard not to lash out when you’re hurting.’ I cry, a lot. ‘I’m so, so sick of hurting the people I love, though,’ I say. ‘I’m the one who’s sick, why do I have to put them through it, too?’ I can’t do it – I can no longer be honest about how low I am with my parents, because I don’t want to see them crumble. Ditto for my friends. My sister. Twitter is a safe space to give voice to the worst of my feelings, to stop them drowning me, and if we accept that it can be helpful for people to use it that way maybe the dialogue will eventually be more helpful for everybody.

I hope so, anyway.

Sex and communication

One of the conversations I’ve been involved in on Twitter this morning has been about sex and ‘feedback’ – which everyone involved seems to agree is a terrible word for it. Basically, the question, as I understand it, is: should we be open to talking honestly with our partners about what does/doesn’t work for us in the bedroom?

On paper, I’d say yes, we should. But what works on paper doesn’t work for me in practice.

Let’s take a different example. Ever since a few months back, when Exhibit A wrote on sport, I’ve been meaning to blog my own thoughts on the matter. It seemed more sensible that commenting on the original post: I needed to work through my feelings on the matter and they’re so bloody complex I knew they’d probably run to longer than reasonable comment length.

On an intellectual level, I know that exercise isn’t something you get to opt into or out of in life, although despite that knowledge I still do very little. I asked my parents if they’d consider paying for gym membership as a Christmas gift. Initially, they thought this was a great idea – they’ve been hassling me to be more active for years. But then they had a little chat overnight and decided that they both agreed that a personal trainer (obviously a much more expensive option) would be better.

I’m ashamed, but not particularly surprised, to say the whole conversation collapsed into a tearful row. I cried. I made my mum cry. My dad, normally a staunch ally, took my mum’s side. I’m not interested in a personal trainer: I can’t bear to catch sight of myself in mirrors when I exercise, the thought of *paying* someone to stand there and watch, especially if that someone was male, sends me spiralling into immediate panic.

You’re not listening, I argued. What might be objectively best for me won’t work for me, because there are other factors getting in the way. I’m looking for compromise: you’re telling me it’s your way or the highway.

And that was my experience of sport pretty much all through school, as well. When I was eleven, and had come home from double PE in tears again, my mum lost her temper. ‘*Everybody* has something they’re bad at,’ she argued, ‘What about the kids who can’t read or add up?’

She had a kind of point there, but again, the comparison wasn’t quite fair. I’m young enough that I went to school at a time when humiliating kids with poor reading or maths ability by getting them to read out loud in class or to come up and work out an equation on the board had gone out of fashion. Sadly, the same wasn’t true for sport. The focus of sport was at best on teamwork (I don’t like letting people down), at worst it was ‘Get into groups, design a dance/gymnastics/aerobics routine and perform it in front of the class. High jump was one at a time in front of everybody else. So was rope climbing. Hurdles. My PE teacher ironically ultimately won an MBE for services to sports education – I don’t once remember her asking what she could do to help or make me feel more comfortable.

Her younger colleague on the other hand, obviously came from a different school of thought. She cornered me after a trampolining lesson and asked if I’d consider coming to trampolining club early on Friday, before everyone else arrived. ‘Bring a friend,’ she said ‘And you can have a go while there’s nobody else here. Would that be better?’

There’s a limit to how much of that special treatment – great, and kind and appreciated that it is – that you can expect when you have a disability – you kind of do have to just get on with life the best you can. But I don’t think that’s a reason to make it unnecessarily hard on yourself – to go against what comes naturally.

On the subject of feedback, I had my mid year appraisal at work yesterday. It was, much like the job itself, paper heavy, insular, more like a (endlessly long) cosy chat than an appraisal. It’s another of the things that tells me I’m in the right career: nothing about the pushy, competitive, bullshit-heavy, male-dominated worlds of consultancy or the city, for example, appeal to me. I wouldn’t be good at those jobs. I’m too soft, too emotional. I don’t think that makes me a bad person or a failure: it’s just about recognising that I have a different skill set.

The point I’m trying to make is that although, obviously, we’d communicate with our partners often and sensitively and constructively in the bedroom, in practice I think that’s harder to achieve. Good communication is something to aim for, but I don’t think it comes naturally to many couples, whether they’ve been married for years or are just friends with benefits.

Since I started having sex, men have said all of the following to me:

‘I don’t care if it’s waxed or not as long as it’s tidy.’

‘We’re not friends, we’re just two people who fuck and get on fairly well.’

‘Use your hand as well.’

All of those have stung a little bit, for one reason or another. My body confidence is low – is my bikini line neat? Does it meet his standards? Probably not – it’s not as neat as I’d like it to be, but I don’t know how to do a better job of it. Why aren’t we friends? What’s wrong with me? Are you ashamed of being seen out with me in public? And ‘Use your hand as well?’ To me that translates as ‘You’re shit at giving head.’

A lot of this is fuelled by issues that I have to address. I know that – it’s just one of the many reasons I see a therapist. But as relationships become more complicated – as more and more of us are in friends with benefits arrangements, or just having regular one night stands – what qualifies someone as having the right to give ‘feedback?’ I wouldn’t, for example, be open to receiving comments on my technique from someone I picked up in a night club and wasn’t planning to see again.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the trust necessary for giving constructive feedback on sex, and for it being well received, extends far, far beyond the bedroom. With me, you’ll win that trust by showing that you’ve thought about how things affect me that perhaps don’t affect you – you’ll hold my hand if we’re crossing an icy road for example. Or, if we’re out having dinner, you’ll squeeze my shoulder when you come back from the Gents: little signs of affection that show that you care about me even when we’re not naked.

If you’re not that invested then I’m sorry, I’m not particularly open to hearing what does/doesn’t work for you in the bedroom.

Three

In forty-five minutes, the boy and I will have been sleeping together, on and off, for three years.

Fuck, where does the time go?

You’re not supposed to get sentimental about your friend with benefits. They’re the person you fuck when there’s not a better option (that is: a proper relationship). They’re just sex. A stop gap. An itch that needs scratching. A means to an end.

He’s so much more than that to me.

I think he thinks, sometimes, that I don’t like him very much. I wish that was true. Life would be so much easier if he was just someone to fuck: someone whose bed I rolled out of and didn’t think about until I rolled back into it. It would be easier if he didn’t push me, didn’t challenge me, didn’t force me to confront my demons. It would be easier if the sex had been best at the very start, if I wasn’t still learning about what I want in the bedroom. If the thought of losing what we had left me indifferent.

Tonight I went on a date with someone. Someone nice, who I’d happily see again. The type of person who, probably, represents my best shot at happiness. Of course, it probably won’t work out, but if it, or anything else, does, then I think I wouldn’t be what I am right now if it wasn’t for him.

I’ve never bought into what you’re supposed to do. If I want to be sentimental, then fuck it, I’ll be sentimental. The past three years have taught me so much, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Thank you x

On the four words it’s really hard to hear…

The Internet is filled with thousands and thousands of posts about casual sex, friends with benefits, fuck buddies, sex friends – whatever you want to call them. Most of them, or the ones written by people who aren’t sex bloggers and therefore have a tendency to be somewhat less sex positive than you might hope, take a cautionary line, especially if they’re aimed at women. Have casual sex if you must, with the same person multiple times if you’re *really* *really* sure you can handle that, but essentially, be aware that heartbreak is inevitable.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about casual sex for a while – largely with reference to Bryony Gordon’s book The Wrong Knickers where she said that no woman really enjoys casual sex. I haven’t read it in full yet, so that post will have to wait, but I do, as you’ll know if you read this blog regularly, have plenty to say on the subject of friends with benefits.

I’m trying to be a bit more upbeat about my current life choices than I was in the early days of the blog, which in practice means I try and write fewer posts beating myself up for caring about him and berating him for not doing the decent thing and ending things for me. That’s what happens in public, anyway…

But truth be told, no matter how many sex positive blog posts I write, no matter how much I love the bruises, the kissing, the fucking, the having my comfort zone constantly challenged, the reality is that, for me at least, a long term friends with benefits arrangement is emotionally bloody hard work.

I care about him. A lot. Certainly a lot more than I should. And I’m not good at hiding these things, so he knows that, obviously. Largely he knows that because of how often I turn on him and call him a cunt.

If you’d asked me 6 months ago, what I wanted most from the arrangement, I’d have said that, sex aside, honesty was the essential. If I asked him a question, I didn’t want him to lie, I wanted to know the truth, no matter how much it might hurt me.

I stand by that, because I think it’s the right approach to take, the grown up one, certainly. But fuck me, it’s harder in practice. We’ve fallen foul of it a couple of times, but there are four words in particular that kill me:

‘I don’t love you.’

Dogs and babies

Last week, I was telling the boy about something I’d read. A piece on just how beneficial dog ownership is for mental health: it imposes routine on your life, for one thing, but also brings affection, company …

But this isn’t a post about dogs. This is a post about what I said next, when he asked, ‘Are you thinking of getting a dog, then?’

‘No,’ I said, without considering my answer, ‘I’d rather have a baby.’

There was an awkward silence and the side-eyeyist side eyes I’ve ever seen. He reached for his phone: ‘I’m *so* tweeting that!’

I lunged for it, before he could: ‘Don’t you fucking dare!’ and ended up sprawled across him, his phone still well out of my reach.

We were both laughing.

I’ve written before about how much I want children. I’m not ashamed of being honest about that. Wary, perhaps, in case it never happens and I’ve bared my deepest desires to the world only to ultimately fail at making them reality, but not ashamed.

But I do think being honest about wanting kids is still a problem for some women today. When I first started Internet dating, two of the standard questions gave me pause. The first was the one about how much I drink. The friends who watched me fill in my profile cautioned against ticking ‘Most evenings,’ or ‘Often,’ on the basis that it would make me sound like an alcoholic, and encouraged me to tick ‘Socially,’ instead. And I did, because at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s that big a deal either way.

I didn’t ask my friends what they thought I should tick for the question about children. Should I go for ‘Doesn’t have kids, but wants them’ or ‘Doesn’t have kids, but *might* want them?’ In the end, I plumped for the latter, but I do still wonder if some guys might read it and think that essentially, I’m looking to get knocked up as soon as I can.

I’m not. I haven’t reached this point just yet.

Inexperience

When I was six or seven, I got a bike for Christmas. I don’t recall much about it, other than that it was almost certainly pink, that I spent a lot of time pimping it with plastic shit from packets of Frosties, and that by the end of the winter I was regularly in the habit of pedalling so fast that the stabilisers didn’t even touch the ground.

And then my dad took the stabilisers off.

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Unforeseen consequences

I think I’ve said in a previous post that I would hate it if the boy blogged about me the way I do about him. I’m pretty uncomfortable with anything that forces me to face up to the reality of the way I really come across to the world – whether that’s video footage, bad photos or overhearing what other people say about me. I daydream all the time, and the version of myself that’s in my head is a far softer, funnier, slimmer version of me than the flesh and blood reality.

But then, why would he blog about me? I’m not the only girl in his life, and his blog isn’t usually in quite the same vein as mine – it’s rare for him to write about specific people. Plus, I doubt my antics are blog-worthy – have you seen how few times I’ve actually blogged about sex since I set this up?! In fact, I tend to believe that he doesn’t really think about me at all in between the occasional evenings when we see each other.

That was perhaps an error. After all, I knew he was reading what I wrote. But: there were two things I never really considered when I set this up. The first was that the few people I mentioned it to might actually start to read it on a fairly regular basis. I only realised this when friend with the obnoxious ex-fling texted me out of the blue: ‘I read your blog post.’ 

Ah, that brings me back to what I said before. If I’d hate other people writing about me, why the hell should I expect to get away with writing about them, especially without their permission? She was upset that I’d blogged about being pissed off about her reaction to a particularly unfunny comment, rather than telling her how I felt. 

I tried to explain to her that I didn’t blog about it because it was a massive deal, or an unforgivable error on her part – I blogged about it because it was bothering me at the time, and because I thought there was a wider lesson to take from it. It was a snapshot of my feelings at a particular time, but now it’s consigned to a list of ‘Earlier Posts,’ it can be easy to overlook the fact that I’m over it by now.

Which brings me to the second thing I didn’t realise. I sort of overlooked the fact that, if you blog on a regular basis, not only about sex, but also about your emotions, likes and dislikes, it’s not that difficult for someone to get a pretty good sense of how you see the world. I’m not sure how this happened: maybe I didn’t think anyone would come back and read more than one post, or maybe I didn’t think that I’d be quite as open and honest as I have been, but anyway, that’s what’s happened, and people, the boy included, have been taking what I write here seriously.

I like to tell him he doesn’t care about me, as often as I possibly can. I like things that reinforce my view of myself, and that’s one of them. But then the other day he sent me an email, outlining the reasons why he does care, and also what he’s learnt by reading the blog, and fuck, was it an accurate character study. It turns out that it isn’t just uncomfortable to read about yourself on a blog.

There’s something disconcerting about someone getting it like that. Firstly, it makes you realise that, even if you don’t think you express your feelings particularly well in writing, you might be surprised at how vivid a picture of yourself and your relationship you’re painting. Secondly, it forced me to reassess my view of him: it’s harder to write someone off as an uncaring git when actually, they’ve been watching and assessing quietly all along. 

I can’t help but be reminded of the bit at the end of Bridget Jones, when Mark Darcy finds her diary, and all the nasty stuff she’s written about him. What was true when she wrote it has huge destructive potential at a later date. I don’t draft my blog posts, nor to I wait for my emotions to settle before I publish them. I often find it easier to write about the bad stuff than the good. Somewhere down the line it’ll probably fuck up my relationship all over again, and I’ll wish I’d never told him about the damn thing. Right now though, I’m glad I was honest about it.

Self-preservation: 2 ways

So … you remember friend with the ex-fling who ‘joked’ about her being a size 14? Well, he’s been cementing his reputation as a total cunt this week by getting drunk and making more great jokes – this time about how, the morning after he slept with a girl, he drew a map to the nearest bus stop, gave it to her, rolled over and went back to sleep. That girl is my friend and they work together. It’s not like he was never going to see her again. But the deal breaker for me is that he regaled all her other friends and colleagues with this story on a night out – ok, he didn’t say it was her, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something she wanted to relive. She was, understandably, pretty upset. But she didn’t let him know this, because this is her version of self-preservation:

Self-preservation #01

When someone, whether it’s a guy, a friend, a family member or whoever, does or says something that hurts you, you *never* let them know that it bothered you because that would just add to how humiliated and stupid you feel. You might, after a time, rant to other friends about it, about how he made you cry, or why you wish your mum would just shut up for once, but on no occasion do you mention it to the person concerned. If it’s particularly bad, you might give them the silent treatment for a while, but the key feature of this approach, to me at least, is ‘Quick! Brush it under the carpet!’

Self-preservation #02

Personally, I prefer approach No. 2. The only thing this has in common with approach No. 1 is that it sometimes involves the silent treatment, but rarely. More often it involves ranting and raving at the person who hurt you until both of you have lost the thread of the argument and are absolutely exhausted. Why do I handle things this way? Because just as my friend says it’s embarrassing to let someone know that they’ve got to you, I cannot internalize how much I hate myself if I think someone’s treated me badly and I’ve just gone along with it.

That’s the logical thinking behind it, anyway. The reality is more instinctive. If, for instance, I get a text or see something online that I don’t like, I immediately get pins and needles in my hands and feel like I can’t breathe. For a long time, I thought this was just me being melodramatic – I’ve since realised that it’s actually a mild panic attack, and as someone who suffers with anxiety and depression, I’m not sure why that surprises me. I’ll immediately fire back a text or an email with my gut ‘How dare you!’ response, because it feels like the only way to exercise some control over the physical reactions.

I should probably learn some relaxation techniques, but I’m far from ashamed of approach No. 2. Yes, it often backfires, but hopefully it sometimes also forces difficult conversations that wouldn’t otherwise be had (sometimes being the key word). I wouldn’t switch to approach No. 1 for the world.

How about you? Which of these approaches do you think works better? Or do you have a third way? Are you , *gasp*, capable of talking things through calmly?!