I spent the last hours of Thanksgiving sitting on a toilet, wanting to feel good again. I was angry, I was frustrated with myself and didn’t understand why violent nausea ruined my favorite vacation. The unexpected symptom I finally realized was anxiety and nausea.
This wasn’t the first time that nausea ruined my day (and my appetite), but I never thought my anxiety was causing me to feel sick.
When the nausea started in full force a few months ago, I was constantly worried that my digestive system wasn’t working properly or that my eating disorder had found a new way to haunt me. Even my doctors encouraged me to think of physiological conditions, such as gastroparesis, as an explanation for my nausea, rather than assuming that my tendency to vomit was “all in my head.”
Read Eating Disorders: How to Correct Food Anxiety
But I’ve spent months trying to connect the dots, and every time I feel an excruciating wave of nausea, my anxiety is clearly the culprit.
Social anxiety is at an all-time high when I eat dinner with friends? nausea.
Sensory overload when everyone is in the living room at once? nausea.
Expect an extra personal session with my therapist? You guessed it – nausea!
When I discovered that there was nothing physiologically “outside” in my stomach, I was relieved. Although the nausea I’m experiencing tends to come on suddenly, without warning, this seems reversible.
The same coping skills I use to manage my anxiety should alleviate the nausea, right?
Unfortunately, managing the nausea caused by my anxiety is a lot less simple than I had assumed. Worrying nausea is so intertwined with my eating disorder that when my stomach feels its worst, I skip meals my body desperately needs because I can’t eat anything more important than a pinch of salt.
I can handle a racing heart and my sweaty palms. I can live with hot flashes and panic moments. I can overcome pervasive fear and social isolation. But I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that the least expected symptoms of my anxiety affect my life the most.
Read the Four Parts of Anxiety Management
The good news is that as I consciously improved my mental health, my feelings of nausea became less frequent. I started to look differently in situations that previously caused a severe stomach upset, not only mentally but physically as well. And while I am concerned that my bouts of nausea and vomiting are too intermittent to be fully managed, my anxiety has decreased, so have my moments of nausea.
I may not be in complete control of my latest anxiety symptoms, but I’m finally hoping that maybe I won’t spend the next Thanksgiving hovering over the toilet bowl, trying to contain my anxiety and not wanting to vomit. I don’t know how long I will live with these annoying symptoms of anxiety, but finally, I feel like I’m on my way to being free of “anxiety nausea.”
Written by: Kelly Douglas Originally appeared on: The Mighty Republished with permission.