Health Care, Love, Life Stories, Wellness

Here’s what anxiety really feels like on a bad day

I won't give you the cutesy bullshit version. This is what really happens.

It started yesterday, I usually only get the stomach-clenching anxiety in the morning/early afternoon. But last night it was dark outside and I could feel the stomach-clenching rolling in. ‘How odd’, I thought to myself, ‘I never get that at this time.’ I felt a tinge bit more anxiety around bedtime (like 1am-ish) than usual, so I took something extra to make sure I got a good night’s rest.

[bctt tweet=”On a good day, I only play two to three episodes. Today I went through seven. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I’m not sure when I woke up the first time, but sometime around 7 am I turned over and played the next episode of Parks & Rec. I repeated this, I estimate, every hour. Until I was almost done with season 7 and had to go back and play an episode from season 6. On a good day, I only play two to three episodes. Today I went through seven.

That means I woke up seven times, clicked play the next episode, and tried to fall back asleep.

By noon I gave up and checked my phone. Bad idea. Because I got some unpleasant news. The staffing company won’t move up my departure flight to Saudi Arabia so I’m stuck in Miami for another 12 days. This might seem like nothing to you, but to me, who has been waiting for months now for the paperwork to come through and already started saying goodbyes expecting to leave any day now, twelve days seems like an eternity.

[bctt tweet=” Slowly, the anxiety, in the physical form of nausea, is building.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Then I get out of bed and go do my ablutions while skimming social media. Slowly, the anxiety, in the physical form of nausea, is building. I’m trying to ignore it. I know I don’t actually have to throw up. But it becomes too hard to ignore. I give in, all I want is for nausea to go away. So I go back to the bathroom gag a few times.

But I don’t hit the spot. And I’m still nauseous.

I go do some other stuff. But nausea keeps building. This time coupled with stomach cramps. And I don’t have any Coke in the house. Usually, that’s my go-to bad day remedy, so it feels like I’m going to battle today with one less weapon in my arsenal.

[bctt tweet=”Find something that will bring me a primal joy. And wait.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I finally give in again. I go back to the bathroom, I turn on the extractor and the tap so my dad doesn’t have to hear me vomit, but I secretly hope he does, so he feels a little bit of sympathy because I already know he can’t empathize.

I have a posture I’ve perfected. I take off my glasses, I bend my front knee and place my left foot a few feet back, I brace my right arm against the tile of the wall in front of me and pull the hatch. I’m still not hitting the spot. So I use my toothbrush. This gets the ball rolling. I have nothing in my stomach, so the most that comes out is some foam. So it’s not so bad really. But this does the trick, and the stomach cramps start to fade.

[bctt tweet=” I wonder how I’m going to get anything done today. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I go back to my room, and I wait for the next panic attack. Because by now I know that round 3 is imminent. And I wonder how I’m going to get anything done today. This only makes the stomach-clenching come back. Now nausea has hit significant levels again. And the stomach cramps are becoming painful. But I know it’s all psychosomatic.

Except that doesn’t help.

And now I have a sharp pain in my chest, the one that sometimes has caused me to wonder if I’m having a heart attack. In real time I’m debating going back for round 3. I’ll do anything to make this go away. I’m giving in. Be right back.

I’ve turned some kind of corner now, it feels like the anxiety is moving north. I feel overwhelming sadness, as opposed to the physical symptoms of a few minutes ago. I want to cry. But mostly I’m just over all of this. I’m tired of the panic attacks. I’m tired of carrying a plastic bag in my purse in case of emergencies. I’m tired of feeling stuck.

[bctt tweet=”I’ll do anything to make this go away. I’m giving in. Be right back.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I look at the clock, it’s almost 2 pm. I’ve got a little more than an hour left of this. Usually by 3 pm, something shifts and the anxiety starts to recede. It’s like some kind of magic hour.

So for the next hour, I’m going to figure out some way to indulge myself. Find something that will bring me a primal joy. And wait.

It’s now 3:32.

I don’t feel any physical symptoms. Now it’s more of a fundamental uselessness.  I literally cannot do anything right now. I know this is just a phase too. If I play my cards right I’ll be able to start getting shit done soon.

I think putting my phone on airplane mode hit the spot.

  • Alex bint Eisa

    Alex bint Eisa is a Cuban-American with an MA in Gulf Studies from Qatar University, she specializes in the relationship between religion and government in the Arab Gulf states. She spent 4 years living in the Gulf. During the day she teaches social studies to kids, after work she enjoys discussing the intersection of politics and religion and binge-watching sitcoms.