Archive for November, 2013

Mr. Eddie Burke’s Response to Miss Walsh

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

In the last post, we learned that Miss Burke herself suffers from agoraphobia. It is a condition that some people never really overcome completely. For many agoraphobics, they get to a point where the condition is under control if they follow certain strategies. Because Miss Walsh has experienced most of the symptoms that have overwhelmed Caryn, she feels even more strongly the need to help her than she would have if she were not familiar with the problem. Therefore, she did come on rather strong, (as Mr. Burke noted) when she tried to make Caryn’s father understand how important it is to give Caryn the help that she so desperately needs. The following is Mr. Burke’s response.

“Dad paused a while before he answered. He was obviously moved by Ms. Walsh’s words. ‘I appreciate
your candor, Miss Walsh,’ he began. And it is a confidence that I will respect. But in all honesty, I am quite aware of the different types of therapy that exist out there. When I was in college, I had a breakdown in my last year and went through a long and drawn-out program of psychoanalysis.’

“I sat there in shock. Dad had never told me about any of that before.”

” ‘It isn’t something that I have discussed since. Not even with my wife. But it left me with certain very difficult prejudices against modern psychiatry. It was not only a very expensive process but an excruciatingly painful one as well. Only those who experience emotional pain can know how unbearable that can be.’

” ‘And that’s precisely why I want Caryn to get help now,’ Miss Walsh interrupted.

” ‘Please let me finish,’ Dad continued, trying not to lose his temper again. ‘I don’t know how much the analysis helped. Of course, I did finish up my last term of college and went on to graduate school. But who knows if I wouldn’t have done that anyway? I don’t know if all that mental torture was worth it. The dredging up of old wounds. The hurt, the pain.’

” ‘The therapy at the phobic center will be behavioral in nature, not Freudian,’ Miss Walsh broke in. ‘And as far as her private sessions, you can take her to a therapist who does not practice Freudian psychiatry. Most of them don’t today, you know. It’s too lengthy and costly and not entirely effective.’

” ‘I love my daughter, Miss Walsh, and I don’t want to do anything that will hurt her.’

” ‘Maybe, by doing nothing, you will hurt her the worst of all,’ she said softly. Then she turned to me. ‘And what do you think about all this, Caryn?’

“I walked up to Dad a little hesitantly and held his hand. ‘Give me the chance to find out for myself, Daddy,’ I said. ‘Whatever happens,. I’ll deal with it.’

“Then, all I remember is Dad’s holding me in his arms. When I kissed his cheek, I could feel the tears.

” ‘Thank you, Daddy,’ I whispered as I remained there with my arms around his neck. And when we both looked up a few minutes later, we realized that Miss Walsh had left us and closed the door behind her.’ ”

Will Dad soften up now and allow Caryn to get the help that she needs? And, if so, what kind of help will she actually be getting? What works for agoraphobia? In the next post, we will see.

Until then, be happy and healthy. Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, but remember that giving thanks for all our blessings should be something we do every day.


Monday, November 25th, 2013

When Mr. Burke hears that his daughter’s teacher has recommended professional help for Caryn for her agoraphobia, he is irate. He is totally against most types of psychological therapy, and through this excerpt he makes that point clear.

” ‘So what was the problem you wanted to discuss with me?’ ”

” ‘Caryn had an anxiety attack in my class the first day of school. When I questioned her about it, she informed me that she wasn’t under any medication or therapy for her condition. I can’t conceal the fact that that appalled me!’

” If you don’t mind my saying so, Miss Walsh, you certainly come on a bit strong,’ Dad stormed, his eyes piercing.

” ‘When the welfare of one of my students is at stake, I don’t believe in beating around the bush!’ Miss Walsh countered, boldly returning his stare.

” ‘And just what kind of therapy do you propose, Dr. Walsh,’ Dad continued at his sarcastic best.

” ‘For starters, a private psychologist and then a full program of phobic therapy at one of the many phobic centers in the state!’

” ‘And how much good do you think that will do?’ Dad challenged.

” ‘We’ll never know now until we try,’ she replied just as angrily. ‘Don’t you think your daughter’s worth taking a chance?’

” ‘How dare you talk to me like that!’ Dad said defensively, raising his voice.

” ‘Because I happen to care about your daughter, Mr. Burke, and I refuse to stand here watching her needlessly suffer. There are people out there who are trained to help with phobias. There are support groups where people with these problems can come together and discuss their fears. Just knowing they’re not alone makes the burden that much easier to bear.’

” ‘And how would you know?’

” ‘Maybe because I’ve been agoraphobic most of my life, Mr. Burke. Only when I was Caryn’s age, there wasn’t much that could be done about my condition. There were no phobic centers and behavioral therapy, and most of us had to cope as best we cold. Sure, we saw psychiatrists, but for the majority of us, there was no relief. Life was a kind of hell. We often wound up housebound in the end, and you’d be shocked at the number of people who have attacks and then just stay inside their homes. They become their own prisoners, and you and I know that’s the worst kind. But I didn’t wind up housebound. No, I fought hard for that. But I had to pay my dues anyway. After twenty-five years of dealing with these symptoms, I have high blood pressure, a heart murmur, and a life that is still less mobile than most. And very few friends, Mr. Burked. When you’re fighting conflicts most of the time, there’s little time or motivation left to enter into new relationships. Is that the kind of life you want for your daughter?’ ”

You must wonder how Caryn’s father would react to Miss Walsh’s self-revelation. In the next post you will read, not only about Mr. Burke’s reaction, but his own equally astonishing revelation about himself.

Come visit the website again and look for the next few highlights from the novel.

Until the next post, enjoy every moment of your life. Each is precious.



Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

When Caryn meets Miss Walsh, her English teacher, she has no idea what a special person she really is! This is a teacher who will go all the nine yards for her students. She has had a difficult life, but her own challenges have only contributed to her being more kind and compassionate. When she realizes that Caryn is suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, she wants to do all she can to help.

Caryn’s father, even though he loves her deeply, is against her receiving therapy at first. We find out later in the novel why he is so against Caryn’s receiving psychological help.

In the excerpt for today we will zero in on Caryn’s and Ms. Walsh’s student-teacher relationship. The following excerpt follows Caryn’s being allowed to leave class with her friend, Jennie, after her first panic attack in class.

“When we returned to class, the period wsas almost over. Jen and I took our seats, but I don’t think either of us was able to concentrate on the story. When the bell rang, we were amlong the last to leave.

” ‘Caryn,’ Miss Walsh called as I was getting my things together.

” ‘Yes, Miss Walsh,’ I said, stopping at her desk.

‘You look much better,’ she began. ‘Are you feeling okay?’

” ‘Yes,’ I answered shyly. ‘I can’t thank you enough for helping me out there and giving me a pass.’

” ‘Look, Caryn,’ I don’t want to make you late to your next class, but I would like to talk to you more about this. Why don’t you meet me here during your lunch period tomorrow? It’s my lunch period, too, and if you want, you can bring your lunch and I’ll provide the cokes. ‘Okay?’

“I felt a little self-conscious about having lunch with a teacher, but I didn’t want to be impolite either. ‘Okay,’ I finally agreed-with a silly grin on my face.

In this next quote from the novel, Miss Walsh and Caryn have lunch together, but it doesn’t take long for the teacher to start asking questions about Caryn’s true feelings of stress and anxiety.

” ‘So how do you really feel?’ she asked again.

” ‘So far, so good,’ I answered calmly.

” ‘And is that the way it is every day?’ she asked. ‘Never knowing when to expect an attack?’

” ‘I guess,’ I said, taking another bite of my sandwich.

” ‘And do your parents know how you feel?’

” ‘I’ve tried to explain it to them, but I don’t think they understand.’

” ‘So what do you plan to do? Just go on like this?’

“I stopped eating and stared at her. ‘What else can I do? Dad won’t let me have any professional help, and aside from you and my friend, Jennie, I’ve never talked about it to anyone else.’

” ‘And we wouldn’t even be talking about it now if you didn’t have an attack in class yesterday.’

“I tried to continue eating, but the sandwich seemed very dry all of a sudden. Parts of it stuck in my throat. I opened the soda and took a sip to wash it down.

” ‘You could talk to the school psychologist,’ she continued.

” ‘I couldn’t do that without telling my dad. He’d never forgive me if I went behind his back.’

” ‘So what’s the alternative? Your suffering in silence. Becoming Caryn, the martyr. Maybe another Joan of Arc.’

For a minute she sounded just like my mother. I could feel my lips starting to tremble as a tear rolled down my cheek. I seemed powerless to stop it. ‘I don’t know what else to do,’ I saids finally. ‘Maybe, nobody can help me anyway.’

” ‘You can be helped, Caryn,’ she replied with an amazing force as she took my hand. ‘You’ve got to believe that!’

” ‘How can you be so sure?’

” ‘Because I happen to know from personal experience. I have phobias of my own. And so do millions of other people in this country. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of other faculty members suffered from one kind of phobia or another, too. And the kids, Caryn. It’s incredible how many school phobics I’ve seen over the years. Kids who are so frightened of the school environment that they miss more than half a given year of school. You must believe you’re not alone in this.'”

This is a very unexpected revelation. Miss Walsh has suffered from phobias most of her life, and she has received help to be able to cope with her condition. Otherwise, she never could have become a teacher.
In the next post we will learn more about Miss Walsh and how she plans to help Caryn.

Until the next post, enjoy every moment. Life is indeed precious.



Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Caryn Burke is trying to cope with the most overwhelming time of her life. She has recently experienced agoraphobia, (fear of the outside world”, and accompanying panic attacks. No one seems to understand her, not even her parents, family doctor or closest friend. What is she going to do?

She has made several attempts to go along with her life, as though nothing has changed. But something has changed, and she realizes that, if she does not accept that and do something to alleviate her newfound condition, her life will never be the same!

Today I am going to show you Caryn’s panic attack in the department store to which Caryn and her friend, Jennie, have gone.

“When we got to the entrance of the department store, I boldly walked into the lobby. Then it happened. For no logical reason, I just stopped dead in my tracks and looked around me as though the place were really awesome. I couldn’t count the number of times I’d been in here before with my mom, Jen and lots of my other friends, but for that moment, I felt as though I were in there for the first time.

“If Jen noticed anything funny about the way I acted, she didn’t let on. ‘The pre-teen and junior blouses are upstairs,’ she reminded me gently as she walked over to the elevator. ‘come on,’ she said when she saw I wasn’t moving.

“I felt like a zombie as I followed Jennie to the elevator. My arms and legs felt like mush, and my hands were getting sweaty. Even my eyes weren’t feeling normal. Everything seemed blurred, and the glare from the fluorescent lighting was blinding me.

“We’ll get your blouse first and then I want to look at some jeans. Mine are getting positively threadbare,” Jen rambled on while I backed up into the elevator, watching as hordes of people crowded into it. My heart was racing and I wanted to scream, but no sound came out. I felt like I was dying, and all I knew was that I had to get out of that elevator and out of the whole department store. Somehow, I knew if I got out of that elevator and out of the whole department store, everything would be all right. But I had to get home first. That was the only important thing now. I had to get home.

“The elevator stopped, and all the people got off. I could feel Jen pushing me in frustration as I just stood there, feeling totally confused and dreadfully sick. I think the psychologists call it ‘disorientation’.

” ‘What’s the matter with you?’ Jen finally yelled when nothing else seemed to work. ‘You’re as white as a ghost. Do you want me to call a doctor or something?’

” ‘Just get me home,’ I said slowly, between breaths, and beginning to pant a little. When my eyes started to fill up, she began to move.

“‘We’ll get you downstairs first in the elevator,’ she announced, sounding more like her mom every minute, ‘and then I’ll call a cab…unless you want me to call your mom.’

” ‘A cab,’ I said, my head swimming and my brain trying as hard as it could to keep control. Dear God, I prayed, please let me get through this. Let me not faint.

‘Let me not die. Please let me get through this somehow. Please let me get through this somehow. Please let me.”

Now let’s see what happened as Jennie calls the cab and she and Caryn take the short ride to Caryn’s house.

“I held onto the door of the outside phone booth, gulping the fresh air, as Jennie made her call. I tried to take deep breaths, but they didn’t seem to help much. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity or two, the cab arrived, and Jennie helped me inside.

“The cab driver took one look at me and asked what was wrong. ‘She’s been sick with a virus or something,’ Jennie lied. ‘I guess she’s gone out too soon.’

” ‘Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the emergency room?’

” ‘No,’ Jen said decisively, probably remembering how scared I was of first aid stations and doctors. ‘Her mom will know what to do when we get her to her house.’

” ‘Okay, young lady, but it looks to me like she’s hyperventilating. At least, let her breathe into this paper bag,’ he said, grabbing a paper bag from somewhere under the front seat. ‘I come prepared with these since I had a few emergencies like these over the years. New Yorkers sure seem to be nervous these days. I guess it’s the way we have to live. Terrorism, high taxes, unemployment, plutonium levels in the drinking water, nuclear reactors leaking…and let’s not forget about the bomb.’

“Jen passed me the bag, and I began to breathe into it. If it weren’t for the cheerful conversation of the cabbie, I might have begun to feel better. But at least my breathing was more even, and I didn’t feel as frightened.

“By the time we reached my house, I had already taken out my key. I got out of the cab by myself and opened the door as Jen paid the cabbie and ran along after me. I knew nobody would be home, and that relieved me more than anything else. When I closed the door behind Jen and me, I felt warm and safe. My arms and legs felt like limbs again, and my heartbeat had slowed down a whole lot. The house had become my refuge, and in my heart, I knew that I never wanted to leave it again.”

Yes, those were indeed intense moments for Caryn, just as they are every day in real life for those people (millions, in fact), who suffer from anxiety conditions, manifested by panic attacks. In the next few days, I will provide more excerpts from my novel as you follow Caryn’s journey towards the help that she so desperately needs. Until the next post, enjoy every moment of your life.

Best wishes,


Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

It finally happened! Caryn experienced her first panic attack in school. It was in her English class. Let’s see exactly what happened. She had experienced one previously with her friend, Jennie, when they were in an elevator in a department store. But never had she suffered through a panic attack in school!

“After lunch we went outside in the soccer field. Actually, our choice was the soccer field or the library, and on such a beautiful day, you didn’t want to stay indoors a minute longer than you had to. I really thought I was feeling like my old self again!

“But in Miss Walsh’s English class that afternoon, it happened again. Jennie and I were in the same English class, and I guess she was the only one aware of what was happening. When my heart started pounding all of a sudden, my face must have turned white, for I could see her staring at me, and that made me feel even worse. Finally, when my knees started to feel shaky, I had to get up and walk to the front of the room to ask Miss Walsh for a pass.

“Taking one look at me, she stopped speaking in the middle of a sentence and assigned the class a short story in the literature text she had just distributed. Then, she walked me outside.

” ‘You’re Caryn Burke,’ she said, looking at the Arco card which I had just filled out and she had already placed in the proper slot on the seating chart.

” ‘Yes, I answered nervously. ‘I’ll be all right. I just need a little water and maybe an aspirin.

” ‘Do you want to go to the nurse?’ she asked.

“And when that suggestion seemed to upset me even more, she filled out a pass and gave it to me. ‘Before you go to the girls’ room, Caryn, come with me to the water fountain. First, take a few deep breaths, and then have some sips of water. Are you feeling better?’ she asked after I had taken her advice.

” ‘A little,’ I said.

” ‘Do you want one of the girls to go to the bathroom with you?’

“She was so understanding I could have kissed her. ‘If you don’t mind, I’d feel better if Jennie Harrison came with me.’

” ‘That’s fine with me,’ she said, smiling. ‘I can’t leave the class, and I wouldn’t feel right if you went there yourself. not the way you feel.’

“When Jennie and I got to the girls’ room, she looked more shaken than I did. My heartbeat had already stated to slow down, and I was feeling more relaxed.

” ‘You’ve got to do something, Caryn. You looked like you were going to faint.’

” ‘I’m okay now,’ I said as I splashed some water on my face.

” ‘But what about the next time?’

” ‘I’ll worry about it then,’ I said.

” ‘I’m happy about one thing, though,’ she continued, staring at me.

” ‘Happy about what?’ I asked, looking at her as though she were the crazy one.

” ‘At least someone else knows now. And sooner or later your dad has got to let you get some help!’

Next time we’ll go back to the panic attack in the elevator of the department store. There is pathos in that scene but also humor. You will see why when you read my next post. Remember to comment or e-mail me at if you have a question or comment.



Monday, November 18th, 2013

My last post dealt with Caryn’s reactions to the onslaught of panic on the bus. I showed how her mother and father were in denial, intensifying Caryn’s anxiety. Today, I want to let you see how Caryn felt deep inside.

“So on Tuesday morning at about 8:00 AM,there I was at the bus stop on my corner, a shadow of my former self, as they say. I guess, to a casual observer, I didn’t look any different. I had the same brown eyes and shoulder-length brown hair, tucked slightly under. My skin was still clear, and I applied the same small amount of powder and lipstick. My jeans and top were as neat and clean as ever, thanks to our housekeeper, Maria, who comes in once a week to do the light cleaning and ironing. And, of course, my sneakers were the same comfortable, slightly worn Nikes I always wore. Yes, I guess I looked the same, but I had become a stranger to myself.

“As I waited for the bus, I felt in a way like a victim of the “body snatchers.” It was as though some evil force had duplicated my body and taken away my spirit, my soul, my guts-everything that was really me-and left me with this shell that performed certain functions, but for all meaningful purposes, was not really me.

“Mom’s right, I thought. Maybe, I do read too much science fiction. But, although I knew I was fantasizing, a part of me believed it.

“For when you came down to it. I wasn’t the same person. I was scared, timid and totally unsure of myself. And that showed in everything I did. The way I walked, talked, the very way I carried myself. When I looked in the mirror, which was pretty seldom now, I didn’t like what I saw. When the bus finally came a few minutes later, I said hello to the bus driver the way I always did and took my regular seat, but inside I felt numb and emotionless, waiting for something terrible to happen while desperately praying that it wouldn’t.”

Now let’s take a look at how Caryn interacts with her friends.

” ‘I dreaded seeing Julie, who was on the same bus route. When she came on a few stops later, I tried to seem as normal as possible. ‘Missed you yesterday,’ she said pleasantly. ‘Are you feeling better?’

” ‘Much,’ I replied, a bit guardedly.

” ‘Did you study for the French test?’ she asked. ‘I know it’s gonna be impossible!’

” ‘Jennie told me about it when she called last night,’ I said.

” ‘If I fail one more test,” she continued, I’m gonna get a deficiency notice, and my dad will kill me.’

” ‘You won’t fail,’ I said reassuringly. ‘Here, let me test you on some of the vocabulary.’

“What a stroke of good luck,’ I thought. That would keep up busy for the rest of the ride, and I wouldn’t have to make conversation. Better than that, I wouldn’t even have to think.

“We met Julie and Micky before homeroom. Thank God, no nobody asked me anything personal while we were all together. However, after we dropped off Mick and Julie at their homerooms, Jennie whispered, ‘Are you all right? You look a little tired.’

” ‘I feel fine,’ I lied.

” ‘Maybe, I shouldn’t mention it,’ she went on, ‘But have you had any…?’

” ‘No attacks yet,’ I interrupted. ‘I just feel a little nervous, that’s all.’

” ‘You’ll be all right,’ she said reassuringly as she gave me me a kiss on the cheek. ‘For luck,’ she said as she entered her homeroom, and I went into mine, which was next door.”

But Caryn was not all right, and it would be a long time before she would feel even close to normal again. In tomorrow’s post, she has her first anxiety attack in class. It will be a surprise when we learn about the teacher who helps Caryn through her crisis.

Until the next post, stay happy and healthy.



Saturday, November 16th, 2013

The last time I posted my blog, I discussed the reaction of Ilene Burke, the protagonist’s mom, to the latter’s agoraphobic condition, resulting in panic attacks. Caryn was very upset with her mother and asked her to leave her room. Now Caryn is trying to calm down when her dad goes outside to speak to her. Let us listen in.

“In fact I was so out of it that I didn’t even hear my father when he walked out on the patio.

” ‘And how’s my sick little angel?’ he called out in his usual hearty voice. When he was an actor, I’m sure the audience must have heard him easily in the last row without any amplification.

” ‘Much better, Daddy,’ I said hesitantly as I raced into his arms.

” ‘Maybe, it was the tail end of a twenty-four virus or something. Doctors are known to sometimes make mistakes,’ he continued as he put me down.

‘You could say that the increase in their malpractice insurance is proof enough of that.’

“When I still looked unconvinced, he said, ‘I believe you, baby. Of course, you were sick on the bus and at Jennie’s house. And then you felt better by the time you got home. It happens like that sometimes. The important thing is how you feel now.’

” ‘I’m really feeling okay, Daddy,’ I said, sounding even to myself like a very little girl. ‘I was so scared. I never want to feel that way again.’

” ‘And you won’t baby. You won’t,’ he replied. ‘Why don’t we all get all of this out of our minds for a while and have dinner out? I know how you’ve been wanting to try the new Chinese restaurant on Main Street. Well, it looks as though your wish has been granted, princess.’ But my reaction to Dad’s suggestion is what puzzled me the most.

” Ordinarily, I’d be so excited to go out for dinner, especially for Chinese food, but instead, I was starting to get scared again. I had butterflies in my stomach and I felt nauseous. Even my hands were clammy, and my heart started to race again.

” ‘Not tonight,’ I managed to say after a few minutes. ‘Is it all right if we go some other time?’

“Immediately, Daddy’s smile began to fade, and his usually laughing eyes looked painfully serious. ‘Of course, honey. It was probably not a very bright idea anyway. After all, you’ve been through a lot today. We’ll go check out that restaurant another time.’ He paused a few minutes and then gave me another of those boyish grins.

“‘I know what we’ll do to make tonight special. You and I will barbecue a few steaks while your mom runs out for the potato salad and coleslaw. And then we’ll have some chilled watermelon. How does that grab you, baby?’

“I don’t know why I cried so hard as Dad held me in his arms again. I was supposed to be happy, but I just remember feeling so relieved. ”

At this point Caryn realizes that her life is never going to be the same. The next post will show you how Caryn deals with her fears in regard to her friends, going to school and relating to her parents. it is like being in an alien world and not knowing how to return to the life you once knew. Those of you who have experienced agoraphobia and/or panic attacks will be able to identify with Caryn and her battle against forces that seem to emanate from deep inside herself. Until the next post, stay well and happy,



Thursday, November 14th, 2013

You cannot understand what a panic attack really is unless you have ever experienced one. Attacks like these are rated from 1-10, the latter being the worst and the most intimidating. For every individual in the midst of one, the experience, of course, is somewhat different, but there is a horrific commonality: a panic attack of 10 is about the most frightening, disconcerting and terrifying experience one can have. You are painfully cornered by your own fears, and only God and you together can get yourself out of it. You have to play a part in your own rescue if you are ever to gain some kind of control.

In my novel I identify strongly, not only with Caryn, (who bears a striking resemblance to me as a teen), but also with Ms. Walsh, who is a little like me during my years as a teacher, (although there are many obvious differences between her and me.)

First, I would like to mention that Caryn’s mom bears no resemblance, physical or mental, to mine. After all, this is a novel, not my autobiography. My father was far different from Mr. Burke, too. The only thing my actual father and Mr. Burke have in common is the love that both men feel for their daughters.

In the first excerpt, you can see the reaction of Mrs. Burke to Caryn’s anxiety or panic attack.

“‘ You know there’s nothing physically wrong with you, Caryn,’ she continued. Dr. Peterson wishes all his patients were as healthy as you.’

” ‘I’d feel pretty sorry for them if they all felt like me,’ I whined.

” ‘I’m not trying to put you on the defensive,’ she continued. ‘This isn’t meant as a challenge to your honesty. I just don’t understand what’s going on with you lately.’

” ‘Nothing’s going on!’

” ‘Have I been spending too much time at the office? Is this your way of getting my attention?’

“Looking at those stern, accusing eyes on that perfectly made-up face, I couldn’t help feeling angry and confused. The more I tried to blink away the tears, the faster they ran down my cheeks. ‘Just leave me alone!’ I yelled as I ran down the stairs and out back. It was warm for April, and the later afternoon sun on my face felt relaxing as I sat on the swing.”

On the next post, we will see how Caryn’s father reacts. Until then, have a nice day and enjoy the weather tomorrow. It will be getting warmer for a few days, you know.

Best wishes,



Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

My novel, entitled Counter-Attack, was so named because I wanted to emphasize the importance of fighting against one’s fears. Hence, one has to go “counter” to the object of one’s fears. Unusual titles also attract the reader’s attention.

Since members of my family, a few former students of mine and I, myself, have suffered from phobic problems and anxiety attacks, writing this novel was high on my priority list. Actually, I wrote the first draft of the novel in the 1980’s while I was still teaching. After a long day at school ( I didn’t get home until five o’clock on many days or later if I were taking an after-school course), I would cook dinner for my husband and me, clean up and start writing. You can imagine that it was a bit much, and as soon as I finished the novel, I vowed not to write another one until I retired. And that is exactly what I did.

After I completed the novel some forty years ago, I started to look for a publishing company. (I did not consider self-publishing at that time). I found an editor from a new publishing company who advertised in Writer’s Digest who showed interest, but alas! My protagonist, Caryn, was a middle school student, and the prospective publisher wanted a book for a high school audience. Since the idea of completely changing the novel to fit an older audience was a little too much for me at that time, considering that I was still very actively teaching, I put the book aside and let it gather dust for about forty years.

In 2006 I decided to self-publish “Counter-Attack.” Red Lead Press was fairly new at that time. They are a subsidiary or an “imprint” of Dorrance Publications. I was delighted to find an inexpensive and efficient way of printing my book, which was “on demand.” Copies of the book would be published, in other words, as they were needed.

For today’s highlights, I am going to provide for you the preface to the novel as well as the beginning of the first chapter. In future posts I will type other excerpts from various parts of the book to give you a nice cross-section of the novel. You can always look up the novel on Amazon and go “inside the book” as I suggested previously for “Escape From the Maelstrom.”



“At first this novel was supposed to be nothing more than writing therapy at the suggestion of Miss Walsh, my agoraphobic English teacher, and the shrinks at the Phobia Clinic, but it got to be much more than that. I guess, somewhere along the line, the writing took over itself, and I was just a willing instrument.

“Now I know that this book is not just for myself, but a kind of tribute to all the agoraphobics out there who choose each day to hang in rather than give up. It is a way of seeing life from another perspective, not perhaps always a pretty one, but at least a more realistic one.

“For, as Miss Walsh told me so many times, life is a battleground and all of us, soldiers. When the going gets bad, and all other strategies no longer work, it’s time to counter-attack.”

“Caryn Burke”

Now that the readers knows the reason for writing the novel, which in the context of the story, is just a journal kept by the main character, it is time to begin the novel.


“The battle first began when I was thirteen. I was on a bus headed for my friend Jennie’s house when all of a sudden, my heart started to pound and I felt a little breathless. My hands were so full of sweat I had to wipe them on my jeans, and I couldn’t get rid of the awful feeling I was going to die right then and there.

“I don’t know how I made it to Jennie’s, but when I got there, I told her mom how I felt and asked her to drive me home. She and Jen were fussing over me so much it only made me feel worse. I felt as though I would just die if I didn’t get home.”

So we see the profile of a true agoraphobic in the middle of an panic attack. If you have ever been unfortunate enough to have experienced one yourself, you know what Caryn was going through to a certain extent only because not all attacks are the same. There are so many factors to consider, such as intensity, threshold of fear, age, health, etc.

To learn more about Caryn’s descent into the unenviable world of panic and anxiety, a world she cannot explain to others and which totally overwhelms her, come back to this website tomorrow. The story is quite riveting. If you would also like to visit Amazon and look “inside the book,” that would be another good idea. In fact, if you read sample chapters on Amazon and follow the excerpts that I will post, you will have a very good idea of whether you would like to buy the book. Whatever you decide, be well. Until the next post, I wish you the best. Keep reading and writing.



Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

For the last few posts, I have enjoyed highlighting “Escape From the Maelstrom”. Tonight I will add a few more interesting excerpts before I move on to another novel. I do hope that you will read the entire book and share the experience of following Karina’s journey from tyranny to the freedom she seeks in America. I cannot express how much I have enjoyed writing the novel a year ago and highlighting it here on my blog.

While Karina, now known as Aleksandra, stays with the Daletsky family, she is always anxious about being recognized and consequently caught and brought back to Moscow. The paragraph below gives you a picture of the anxiety with which she must live.

” ‘It was too late to worry about whether someone would ask questions about me since, not everyone was aware that I was the new language teacher at the high school. Also, I had let my hair grow long and back to its natural chestnut brown, no sign of the red at all. If there were any local residents there who had relatives in Moscow, maybe they might have heard of Dimitri’s death and the escape of his dark-haired youthful wife from the Czar’s security forces. Maybe, someone might have seen my picture from a Moscow newspaper. My true identity would then be compromised. But the possibility of that happening was very small, I knew. I was glad at least my long hair was covered up by a scarf.’ ”

Later, however, Aleksandra’s cover was in danger of finally being compromised. Feodor and Aleksandra would have to move up the plans for their wedding.

” ‘Things certainly do not look good,’ Agnessa said.

” ‘Maybe you and Aleksandra should move up your wedding,’ Grigori said to Feodor. ‘I agree with Anatoli that the sooner you and Aleksandra leave Russia, the better it will be for you and for the rest of the family.’

“Feodor nodded assent but said nothing.

” ‘It will not be difficult for Grandpa and Aleksandra to get married as soon as they like,’ Katya said. ‘The Rabbi and his family are practically our family already,’ she said.

” ‘That is true,’ Anatoli said. ‘Just make the arrangements, Father, and you, Alek, have your contacts come up with safe passage for your grandfather and Aleksandra soon after they are married.’

” ‘Yes, of course,’ said Feodor, still visibly upset by all that had transpired this evening. “Do you think you can make the arrangements for our voyage to America in the next week or so, Alek?’

” ‘I don’t know, Grandfather,’ Alek said reflectively. ‘There is much to do and many people to be contacted, but I feel confident that it can be done.’ ”

There are so many more exciting parts of my story. Because I want you to read the novel and enjoy it yourselves, I cannot tell you what happens. I know you are wondering whether Aleksandra and Feodor will finally get married and safely find passage to America. Will others in the family have to flee Odessa, too? How will it all turn out?

I can tell you only that the novel does not end in any predictable way. The ending is suspenseful, exciting, yet in some sections funny as well. I provide background information on World War I and the Russian Revolution because these wars act as a backdrop for the action in the novel.

When you read the novel, please let me know your reaction to it. Please write a comment or send an e-mail to me at

My next post will be about my first novel, which deals with winning the battle against phobias and panic attacks. It is a suspenseful story with a great deal of background information on panic attacks and accompanying phobias. I hope you will find it interesting and informative.

Until the next post then,