The journey to school began as normal – the plan was to be dropped off with a friend and walk the short distance to the gates.
But as I opened the car door, I projectile vomited across the ground.
This was a rarity for me – I hadn’t thrown up since I was force-fed peas aged five.
At the time, I was 15 and had been recently diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – a condition affecting the functioning of your ovaries – but knew very little about it, so assumed it was related. I know now, it wasn’t.
Unfortunately, as I started my final year of secondary school, my random spewing was about to become a trend.
Often people start their day with a multivitamin or brushing their teeth, I was met with the unwelcome introduction of routinely throwing up.
It wasn’t only in the mornings though – I would also randomly vom mid-afternoon. Heaving is horrid at the best of times, but the consistency of my nausea was painful.
Of course my teachers were aware, but I didn’t have a diagnosis to go on at the time so they didn’t know what to do about it.
I would begin to walk to school, throw up along the path and then continue my journey
My initial trips to the doctors were followed with a series of tests – blood, allergen, food restriction and medication trials. No results showed anything alarming, but of course, my hypochondria assumed the worst – thinking I had some form of chronic illness.
Getting to grips with my new routine, I would begin to walk to school, throw up along the path and then continue my journey. Although it wasn’t enjoyable, it was a relief – after being sick, I felt like I was ready to start my day.
Around the same time, my assessed weekend for the Duke of Edinburgh Award was fast approaching and I was terrified because I knew I would probably barf in front of everyone.
Sure enough, I did. We were about halfway through our walk on my 16th birthday when I was sick. A friend stood with me throughout, but I remember being really agitated and embarrassed that other people were grossed out by it.
By this point, vomiting was becoming as routine as breathing. On most occasions, I would literally walk and be sick simultaneously.
I remember attending a gig and puking just before getting on the train. Mornings of GCSE exams would be the worst.
Although I dealt with it in a rather nonchalant manner, as it had become so routine to me, I knew my parents were worried.
No less than four months after it started, my doctor sat me down and told me the source of all this spontaneous throwing up was likely anxiety.
Me? Anxious? I couldn’t believe it! I was a confident (OK, maybe even cocky) Year 11 student and had few conscious worries at school or in my personal life.
The diagnosis really threw me. It made me reconsider my relationship with anxiety and whether I had any additional symptoms of it.
Unfortunately, seven years later, it’s still happening to me now – as a master’s student. Thankfully, not to the same severity as before, but I’ve learnt to live with it.
For example, I have two exams at the end of this month, but I’m already preparing to puke on my way to university. I’ve had to plan the last time that I can eat in order to not bring anything back up.
This is my current chosen method – but I’ve tried other methods for vomit prevention, too.
I’ve tried keeping a liquid in my mouth while travelling to stressful situations. To my dismay, it just resulted in a spittake before being sick.
I was even put on antidepressants, but they didn’t work for me either. Instead, I’ve found breathing exercises to be more beneficial.
The NHS Every Mind Matters website actually lists nausea as a common symptom of anxiety, which is odd because I feel very alone with it.
For a long time, I refrained from attending certain events, or meeting up with friends in large groups. On several occasions throughout my late teen years, I would often cancel plans last minute.
When I started my undergraduate degree in 2019, I was met with a new bout of confidence. I had moved away from home and could be whoever I wanted to be.
That seemed to mask my vomiting-induced anxiety. This luckily persisted throughout Covid-19 as, even though the world was being attacked by a deadly virus, I felt comfortable and safe in my bubble.
Now, my vomiting only tends to present itself in scenarios where I am truly nervous, such as interviews or exams.
For example, I recently attended my first yoga class, and while it was incredibly exciting and rewarding, I threw up beforehand. I had panicked the night before about the class, so it was no surprise this was my reaction.
But sometimes, I have no explanations for why I am anxious and vomit as a result. I still have no clue what brought on that first bout of sickness as I arrived at school.
I hope that in the future, I can discover more about the reasons why this happens to me, as well as learn new methods for coping with it.
Until then, I am looking after myself by preparing for anxious bouts by sharing my feelings with friends and family, and rationalising why I may be feeling certain ways.
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