It was one o’clock in the morning and I found myself sitting erect and uncomfortable on the couch in my living room. My night clothes were in a messy heap near my feet and I had placed my warm, clammy, naked body against the cool leather of the furniture. The coolness made me feel better, but only momentarily. Minutes earlier I came down the stairs to find the supply of gravol and zofran in my purse – my bedroom stash was too hard to find without turning on the lights. With the smallest sip possible, I swallowed the pills, hoping and praying that the medication would stay down.
It’s been a long time since I last experienced the unpredictable waves of warmth and nausea that start in my pelvis and quickly overtake my entire body. From the couch and in the dark, I watched the silently falling snow fill up my back yard under the yellow light of the street lamp beyond the fence. I focused hard on the unsettling feeling my my throat and I rubbed my sternum in the predictable fashion that I always did when I feared that nausea would win over my body.
Why was this happening now? It’s been months since the last time, and I thought it was all under control. Was I sick? What did I eat? Was everyone else in the house about to wake up sick as well? Did I push the exercise too much this week? Was my post-exercise snack too small and this was just hypoglycemia?
The waves slowly became less intense as I began reassuring myself that everything would ultimately be okay. The medication must be kicking in now – it’s almost two o’clock and if I go to bed now, I can sleep another three hours before I have to wake up for work. Work. Maybe I should call in sick? Who should I call? Should I text? Is that professional enough?
Work. My leave has been approved. I have to tell my preceptor. I just met with him today for my mid-point evaluation and I made no mention that I was requesting a leave. He’s going to be angry that I lied about the time I had left. Would he understand why I was waiting until it was approved?
The warmth between my legs was coming back – hotter – harder. I sucked in a breath. My fingers rubbed harder on my sternum as I bolted upright. Maybe it’s time to move to the bathroom. The tile floor is bound to be colder than the leather couch.
I looked back at the hoar frosted tree out the window. ‘Stop thinking about work,’ I heard myself say. I swallow hard, but my mouth is too dry. I think about water, but I don’t want to move. I concentrate on the tree, and the large snowflakes falling around. The nausea recedes, but slower than it came on. I relax back into the leather and concentrate on my breath. I feel my heart rate slowing beneath my fingertips. Anxiety.
The anxiety is still there – work, preceptor, last minute leave of absence, unexpected break, accountability, uncomfortable. I didn’t think it was still that bad – bad enough to wake me at night, bad enough to elicit panic at the worst possible time. But even with the medications, the goals, the exercise, the openness, the extreme effort I’ve put in to push the anxiety away – there it is.
It will always be there. Anxiety. It will always be a part of me. I can learn to take control, I can learn to manage, I can learn to cope, but I can’t ever get rid of it permanently. It will wax and wane for the rest of my life. Last night was just an unpleasant reminder that it will forever be with me.
Anxiety. It is a part of me. And, it’s just going to have to be okay.
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