I’m finally back to regular, solid foods again. You don’t know how much you take for granted the simple act of eating until you can’t do it. My heart truly aches for those that deal with issues in eating on a more regular basis. I had a friend who had some kind of gall bladder/colon/something issue who said it was painful to eat.
I experienced severe hunger, but no way to satisfy it. Not really. Not unless I wanted it coming back up. But even those things that I could keep down (you know the Bananas Rice Applesauce Toast diet) after awhile became unappetizing. I finally went to shop for Ensure or Slim Fast, just to have some nutrients in me. Oddly enough, Slim Fast worked decently.
It’s funny, because I’ve counted calories to lose weight, but rarely to make sure I was getting enough to eat. And I wasn’t. Not really. A single serving of Slim Fast (okay, if we’re being honest, the off-brand) is only 200 calories or so, hardly a good meal. It was a struggle to even eat a piece of toast or banana, and those are really only ~100 calories themselves.
So I was pale and extra sleepy. This was also couple with anxiety over moving to a new place and a slew of other things that had been going on. But as a writer, I still tried to take note. And here’s a few things I noticed that could add texture to our stories.
Pile it on. Then pile on some more. Anxiety, it seems, is set off by one small thing in a culmination of many other stressful things. Say your vacuum breaks. But before all that you’ve been dealing with a scammer, had to take your car into be fixed only to learn there are even more problems with it, and money’s tight, and maybe you have a relationship souring. Then the vacuum breaks and so does the dam holding back all the frustration, anger, fear, etc. All of these things by themselves you can totally handle, but altogether it’s just too much.
It made me think about story and characters and how you can use a lot of little insignificant things that maybe they sigh at in the beginning that later culminate into a big meltdown.
Find something taken for granted, something simple, and make it a problem. For me it was eating. I had to force myself to swallow things because I had zero appetite and NOTHING tasted good. I only forced myself because the hunger pangs were worse. And then there’s the balance of not eating too much too quickly and having it all come back up anyway. Maybe for your character it’s sitting or showering or brushing their hair or hearing—whatever it is—remember it’s the small things that can become really horrendous things.
Combine difficult emotions, sometimes with physical ailments. I was supposed to be moving for crying out loud, and now the flu?! But to use an example that isn’t me, I know of a woman who’s on bed rest because of her pregnancy. But that’s not the worst of it. Her husband’s got the stomach flu and her toddler has some kind of infection. I really felt for her, because if I were in her shoes I’d be wanting to help and take care of my husband and toddler. Maybe it’s just the kind of person I am, but I hate feeling helpless and unable to accomplish things I need to accomplish. But timing for stuff like this is never convenient. I imagine it was a very stressful and difficult time for her.
Being sick and dealing with so many things certainly was for me. Getting that anxiety is the worst though. Your stomach is constantly in knots. At times I felt dizzy. My hands sometimes would tingle. And then nausea. And then if I could make it through all of that, I’d be exhausted. I’d try to sleep, but the worry made it difficult, which in turn made me more tired, which in turn made me more susceptible to worry.
But don’t forget the light at the end of the tunnel. I still feel a little anxiety even thinking about all of last week. If you do this abusing too much your readers won’t be able to take it anymore than your characters. Even if it’s only glimpses of light, don’t forget to throw them in. For me it was being able to drink the Slim Fast and content my hunger for a little while. Or watching a show and taking my mind off things for awhile. Or finally being able to sleep. And finally being able to eat something real.
The BFF and I were trying to take care of moving biz and happened to be near a local restaurant that has an AMAZING veggie burger. I’m not kidding, I dream about this burger. She suggested we give it a try. I went slow, and had to leave a little of it at the end, but having something appetizing to eat AND actually feeling full for the first time in days—it was like I’d won a million dollar lottery. I’m so grateful for the small things.
Have you ever been through an awful ordeal that made you appreciate the simpler things in life? Do you ever have to deal with severe anxiety? What are some ‘glimpses of light’ that have helped you? Or how do you deal with stress?