Several times last week and this week…including today…I’ve had these moments where my stomach starts to hurt out of nowhere. I wouldn’t exactly describe it as pain. It’s the dull ache. It’s a feeling that seems to dissipate when I’m distracted but come back with a vengeance when I’m thinking. Drinking water doesn’t help. Eating doesn’t help…or make it any worse.
Today’s stomach pain lasted most of the morning and then went away this afternoon.
It felt like I’d been hit with a lightening bolt when it suddenly occurred to me that my stomach ache today was based on anxiety because of a difficult email I needed to send. I rode a wave of anxiety in writing the email followed by a second wave waiting for the response. Not surprisingly the stomach ache went away when I receive a kind word in response to my moment of vulnerability.
As I thought about this throughout the afternoon it occurred to me that at 37 I should have had gut-wrenching anxiety before right? I’ve read it described in books and heard my friends talk about it. So why on earth do I not remember experiencing it?
Then I had this thought…”OH! That’s what that is!”
As a child I lived anxious a lot of the time. I was anxious about making my parents angry. I was anxious about disappointing God and going to hell. I was anxious about the next opportunity my abuser(s) was/were going to take to hurt me. I was anxious about my grades. I was anxious when my siblings upset my parents. I was anxious about random things that in hindsight didn’t make sense for a child to care about, much less be anxious about.
I’ve often described myself through the years as “tightly wound.” I wonder if all those years of being “tightly wound” were really long bouts of stomach pain and constant muscle clenching?
And more importantly…I wonder if the fact that I had genuine stomach pain about an anxiety inducing conversation is actually a sign of healing? My ability to FEEL the real emotion of anxiety is a beautiful thing if the alternative is to always be either so uptight or so numb that the physical reaction doesn’t register with discomfort. I do believe I have good coping skills these days…meditation, journaling, reaching out to others, yoga, etc. I now say “I used to be wound pretty tight” in the past tense.
To this I say…THREE CHEERS FOR HEALING…in all its forms.