Monday, December 13, 2010


When I said I was exhausted in my last post, I couldn't even conceive of how I was going to feel yesterday. Have you ever had a stress stomachache? I never had before, but I ended (I guess...I don't really know where Sunday ended and today began) the evening curled up in a ball, willing my stomach to stop attacking itself.

I spent a large part of Sunday in the library, lying on a couch in the 3rd floor study area and frantically writing a paper that was due today. I started to get hungry around noon and decided that, since PJs wasn't going to be open until 4, I should go home and cook some lunch. I made a black bean burrito and got through about half of it before deciding that food was a bad idea. My anxiety about my paper growing, I also emailed my teacher around this time, asking for an extension. I went back to the library and steadily spiraled downward. I started having trembling fits and nausea. I spent the next hour and a half throwing up everything I'd eaten since Saturday night (half a burrito and a banana. substantial!), because my body deals with stress by purging. Then the stomachache started. It was this deep in my center, burning, twisting someone had set fire to my insides and was hitting them with a mallet. Every time I'd come to a block in a sentence, it would flare up. A particularly upbeat song on the iPod would cause it to twist. Nothing would make it go away. At one point, I was on my back on the couch, shaking all over, listening to Bee Hives and trying breathing exercises to no avail. I was getting pretty worried that I was drawing attention to myself so I came home and immediately got in the shower.

I wish I could write my paper in the shower. It never fails that, when I am under tons of stress, a shower will calm me. I put my shower cap on and sat directly under the spray, letting the rain sound and the water block out the world for a little while. I sprawled on my back and let the water spray on my stomach and the ache went away a bit.

When I got out, I wrote some more and decided, around 1am, to try and get some sleep. Except sleep was a mishmash of stomachache, shakes, worrying and lucid dreams (I always have those when I'm very stressed) where I kept thinking "When I wake up, I have to..." followed by some absurd task like "write a 14 page paper on carpal tunnel release's due tomorrow!"I finally gave it up around 5am, made some tea and wrote some more, while getting sicker and sicker at the thought that my teacher wasn't going to grant me an extension. I caught another quick nap at 6:30am and then went to work...where my teacher FINALLY emailed me to tell me that I had until Thursday(!!!) morning to turn the paper in.

And, as miserable as today was, it was also kind of a reminder of how great people can be sometimes. In addition to my professor, Alyson spent a big part of the morning talking to me, sending me funny links (and some links to Tulane's mental health services website). Nancy bought me lunch (soup, since food still didn't sound or feel like a good idea. My boss bought me dinner (which I didn't really eat, but appreciated). My co-workers took some of my work. I called my mom. And it helped, a lot.

I was talking to both Alyson and my mom about how awful and debilitating my stress and anxiety were, how it had kind of taken me by surprise to be that physically affected. My mom reminded me that, on top of school stress, it was the holiday season (she's pretty familiar with my breakdowns around this time of year), that I was probably still dealing with the breakup, that I've been stressed about money, that I just started back on birth control and that all these things combined could have a pretty cataclysmic effect on my body. She's right, of course. I've been priding myself on how well I've been dealing with life lately, but maybe I've just been pressing it all down, into a huge knot in my stomach.

I also think that the help of people today was especially meaningful to me, because last night, I wanted to  be held so badly. I ached for physical contact, for someone to just put their arms around me and let me hide in them for a bit. Sometimes I joke about wanting one of those hug machines, because when I get really keyed up or sad, I just want something to stabilize my body. Since I don't have a hug machine or a hugger, I packed pillows up around myself, put an extra blanket on bed and Marla sealed me in by sleeping at the top of my head.

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