So I've had this post in my draft folder forever. Because the incident I'm about to retell is SO FREAKING EMBARRASSING. I can (sort of) laugh about it now, but there are not enough monkey-covering-his-eyes or blushing-face emojis for how I felt at the time. The only thing that got me to hit "Publish" on this post is that the embarrassing disaster to follow taught me a good lesson that might be helpful to other anxious people.
Let's roll it back to Monday, March Something, 2015. It started out like any other day: I was on the bus by 6:30 AM, headed to work, and feeling kind of nauseous. Nauseous is basically my resting state, so I didn't think much of it. Once I got to the el, though, I was feeling sicker, so I slumped in my seat and tried to distract myself by watching (I remember this vividly) a YouTube video of Stana Katic (yes, Beckett from Castle, lol!) on Jimmy Kimmel.
Several stops into my trip, I began to fear that I actually might get sick. Should I go home? Ugh, but I had done that before--called out of work because I felt sick but then turned out to be fine. Nausea is common for me. Sick days are not. So on this day, soldiering on won out, as it usually does for me.
But there was a flaw in this plan: the illusion of control. Oh. THAT. When you ignore your body and try to control it, it often does not end well...
And that's how I wound up puking on the door of the el between the 46th and 40th Street stations in a train packed with commuters, one of whom was standing right next to me at the time, looking appropriately horrified. I don't think I threw up too much, but any throw up is too much in an enclosed public (!!) space like the el, right? UGH.
Here is how retelling this moment went:
Friend: "You threw up at the station?"
Me: "No, on the train."
Friend: "On the train."
Me: "Yes. Specifically, on the door."
Friend #2: "OMG what did you do?!"
Me: "I FLED like an idiot! What else was I supposed to do?!"
Yes, I sprinted off the train at the next stop because what else can you do when you're that a-hole who just went full Exorcist (while, A, completely sober, and B, older than five years old) on a train full of people? Had the situation been reversed, sure, I would have felt bad for the poor soul puking on the el... but I definitely would have felt bad for myself too for having to commute under those conditions!
If you had presented this scenario to me as a hypothetical ("Let's say you threw up on an el full of people on your way to work one morning, what would you do?!"), I would have probably frozen in horror and hyperventilated. But having come face-to-face with it, I can tell you what we do in these nightmarish worst-case scenarios:
WE FIGURE IT OUT! WE DO SOMETHING!
Once at the station (and no longer gagging), I took a few seconds to mentally beat myself up for being ~that person~ on the el, but you can only freak out for so long. Eventually, you have to do SOMETHING. So I pulled myself together at the station, called out of work, and began my trek back home.
Anxiety wants us to be hyper-vigilant and always fretting the worst. "Oh, I better not do X because then Y might happen..." (That is pretty much my current struggle with buying a car, btw.) But there is really nothing to worry about because we are strong and resilient and figure out what to do when these bad or unexpected things happen.
Personally, I get totally flustered and paralyzed when presented with possible scenarios and worries. But in the heat of the moment, I can figure out solutions. We usually do. We get through these unpleasant situations, even if anxiety taunts us that we can't and won't. My el debacle is a great reminder of that, and one that I think of often (while cringing, of course). It's also an excellent reminder that we need to listen to our bodies and sometimes give them a freaking break! Had I gotten off just one stop sooner, I could have puked in a very ladylike manner in a trash can at the station. Both of these lessons are ones that I need to remind myself of on pretty much a daily basis.
AND! If we can handle nightmarish, but relatively minor, stuff, then we are more prepared than we think we are to handle the big, super-terrifying stuff too. xo