I’ve spent a lot of time horizontal recently. Some of which was giving into the need to rest after a draining year. But some of it has been involuntary; being unable to move much due to unexplained pains in my abdomen. It’s not really what I wanted for Christmas, but on the positive side at least I was off work anyway!
This particular problem got me thinking of a medical issue I had when I was born. For my first 6 months, so the story goes, I couldn’t keep food down and was often sick. My parents still remember clearly how worrying this was for them and how doctors thought I wasn’t eating. Eventually they identified that a stomach muscle hadn’t developed properly and the problem resolved. Luckily for me!
I wonder if this had any ongoing impact. Of course I can’t remember how it felt. But I can imagine. Worrying about being able to eat and digest is a primal fear. I was constantly monitored by concerned adults. I wonder if anxiety started there.
I’ve always suffered from motion sickness and had particularly bad times on school coach trips. I’d feel my stomach churn and try to control it, channelling all my will to stop the nausea. Sometimes I’d make it through a short journey, but sometimes I’d have to put my hand up and ask to get off the bus. The embarrassment meant I’d leave it to the moment I felt absolutely awful. The point of no return.
Since I grew up near Alton Towers, the irony is often the trip would be to the theme park. Imagine feeling and sometimes being sick, then spending a day on rollercoasters! Naturally I disliked the fast rides and was known as the one willing to hold everyone’s coats whilst they had fun. Standing still, sipping water. Of course I desperately wanted to be more carefree. But I didn’t know how to have fun on my terms yet.
I can look back on this with a touch of amusement and kindness to my younger self. I want to tell the poor kid just to avoid those trips, or tell everyone she gets travel sick so loudly that they put her in the front seat and make sure she gets air. I’m better at this now, but I still need to steel myself to raise health issues and not let other people overrule me. It’s easy to give in when you are weary. How significant is the pain? Is it just stress? Is it psychological?
Gas-lighting is a popular term for making someone question their experiences and their own sanity. I can gaslight myself sometimes. I’ll look back on a situation and say perhaps it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Perhaps I should have kept that job or taken a different path. Whilst reflection is useful, it’s others who point out to me that actually I hated the job and I took the right path at the time. Trust yourself is written on a chalkboard in my flat. I really need to work on it.
I notice that the times I haven’t followed my instincts or had my say lead to feeling resentful. If I get really upset, I’ll send a strongly worded email (is there a more British way to complain?) I recognise this as conflict avoidance, wanting to get my points across without the awkwardness of discussion. Perhaps I don’t want to be contradicted and face being wrong. But surely it’s better to be direct, to face disagreement and move things forward?
Anyway, a few surreal dark nights of the soul have left me even more convinced I don’t want to be alone as much this year. I need other voices and calm support, particularly when unwell. We all deserve that. If you do need medical advice during the pandemic, please do seek it out. Like many, I’ve been putting things off due to concern about risks. But we are in this for the long-haul and if at all possible, need to keep our own selves well.