You know that feeling when you wake up with a stomach bug and you spend as much time as you can fighting the nausea? You know you don’t feel well but you know you don’t want to throw up because you HATE throwing up. So instead, you pretend everything is fine.
In your mind, you’re focused on one thing and one thing only: you don’t feel right.
You try to avoid sudden movements. Commercials about food can stay the hell away and if anyone even tries to talk to you, you’re gonna lose it. You dread, dwell, worry and hope the feeling goes away, but it doesn’t.
Your throat gets tighter, your heart starts racing, somehow, you’re sweating and shivering at the same time and suddenly you can’t catch your breath.
You run to the bathroom and start heaving just in time. That was close. No one should have to see the mess you currently are. Everything comes out and my god there’s so much, how did you hold it in for this long? You wish someone was there to hold you while you went through this, but also don’t want anyone to see you in this state. You’ve expelled every last bit of energy and you are gasping for air and everything is burning.
Finally, for the first time in what feels like an eternity, relief.
You feel like you could stomach ginger ale. You could, but the new blanket of sheer exhaustion doesn’t allow you to focus on anything but sleeping for what you hope is an eternity. You silently promise yourself that this is the last time this ever happens because my god, it sucks so bad.
As you drift into a slumber, you go back over what you did the day before. You felt fine. Did you eat something weird? Did you take your vitamins? What did you do so you can make sure this never, ever happens again? The thing is, doing that changes nothing. You can’t control this.
Sometimes your health betrays you.
Fighting an oncoming panic attack is exactly like this, but getting sick is so much more relatable. With that, I offer you a simple way to understand anxiety as a healthy outsider, to empathize and offer support. If you’re the healthy outsider in someone’s mental health story, remember to put yourself in the shoes of someone with extreme nausea. Mental health can be out of someone’s grasp as much as physical health can.