Friday, April 10, 2009

a slice of frank!

I read for the first time in months yesterday. It was a short story by Hemingway, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." Among the highlights was his description of a lion’s slow death, “. . . he turned his heavy head and swung away toward the cover of the trees as he heard a cracking crash and felt the slam of a .30-06 220-grain bullet that bit his flank and ripped in sudden hot scalding nausea through his stomach.” This is how it feels to have anxiety.

When I was seven and eight I played T-ball and I would cry and tremble with anxiety before every game, and throw up before most games. This continued through junior high and high school. I was unable to brush my teeth some days because opening my mouth would make me vomit. I’d get sharp cramps in my intestines as though I were digesting a glass vial filled with poison that’d exploded. It was purely psychosomatic as whenever I sat on a toilet the pain would fade instantly. There was great relief and guilt on days I feigned illness.

This was compounded by my not discovering I was lactose intolerant until I was 20. I’d have cereal in the morning and my face would be purple with pain by fifth period and I’d too scared to ask to use the restroom.

My anxiety manifests itself in other ways. I enter catatonic states in public, especially around my family. I don’t talk to anyone. I feel like Boo Radley: uncomfortable, awkward, and much too aware of myself like if my skin is tightening against my organs. Liken it to test anxiety when you study for hours only to forget vital facts when trying to answer questions. When meeting strangers or speaking to authoritative figures I literally forget how to hold a conversation. My muscles tense, I lacrimate, and any information I’d acquired about the person dissipates. I end up kicking myself in the ass afterward when what I wanted to say comes flooding back.

I eventually became conditioned to avoid social situations, or confrontations with authoritative figures, like a child learns not to touch an iron. I cringe irrationally at the thought of social mishaps, even those so small that they are innocuous to others. A limp handshake, a misspoken word, a minor stutter all stay with me for months and, when involuntarily conjured, make me feel like that lion that was shot through the stomach.



  1. I'd cry, tremble and throw-up too if I still played T-ball in Jr High. The other kids must have been cruel to you when you played.

  2. Thanks for reminding me of my college years. I studied music and I would frequently have to run for the bathroom to vomit right before my sight-singing tests(I had a crush on my teacher.) It was one of the reasons I switched majors...

  3. whenever you feel this way frank, just picture people in their underwear, or better yet, naked, unless of course, they're ugly. :/