It was a late Sunday afternoon, a bit past 6 p.m., but I don’t remember the time very well. It was quite a delirious moment for me. All I remember is an intense sense of nausea in the pit of my stomach mixed with a faint tell of pain gliding from the front of my stomach to my mid-back and down. I had felt only diluted versions of these symptoms, along with an intense longing for my bed throughout the weekend.
I was thinking I could sleep away the pain while I waited for my answers for my survey to load in until 8 a.m. I had forethought this earlier that Sunday, but didn’t take into consideration my inability to sleep.
My body was so uncomfortable from the pain, which seemed to creep along my whole body and radiate from my abdomen. I laid in bed for two hours tossing. I managed to close my eyes in stillness for five minutes before my alarm went off. Groaning while resenting time, my body and life itself, I moved to get out of bed.
When I stood up, I realized how hard it was to breathe. Each time I took in a breath there would be a pinch of pain at the top right of my abdomen, as if there was a tiny stick wedged in between my stomach and my right lung. The deeper the breath the worse the pain was for me, so shallow breaths became my only friend as I walked to my seat and worked on focusing on my current project.
With almost 17 years of living with my parents underneath my belt, I already knew the protocol for aches and pains. Water, tea and if necessary, the best over-the-counter medicine to relieve said “pain.” If the pain lasts to the next day, you go to the doctor the next day. If you’re fine in the morning then there’s no problem. The feelings were bad, but I knew they could be worse, so I decided to and follow protocol.
I told my dad about my pain. My right hand was clutching my side, as I stared down at him in frustration as he looks up at me with concern and asks me what’s wrong. I tell him my symptoms. His eyebrows furrowed, and he looked at me helplessly, suggesting I get some water and tea because it’s probably just gas.
Every step and breath just sent shocks of pain through my body as I walked to the kitchen. I knew my father was watching me with worried eyes as I limped over to the kitchen. I internally bashed myself for not being able to deal with the situation better, for looking so pathetic. He shouldn’t have had to worry. I pour water into a glass and sip at it while I wait for the water to boil. I could feel my stomach tighten, and I flinched in fear of the pain that may follow.
The water made a slow trudge down my esophagus and fell into my stomach like a stone in water. It wasn’t too painful. I ignored it and did my best to take shallow breaths and limped over to the counter to pour the boiled water into the prepped cup of tea. I tried to get myself to burp, yet each time I tried dredges of bile came into the back of my throat with the barest degree of air bubbles before disappearing. I began to doubt that it was gas alone causing my affliction.
With my contorted into a state of worry and pain, I focused on pouring my now boiled water into my mug. I look towards it in hopes that it would relieve my pain, but I knew it wouldn’t. It would only make it worse, but the lingering sense of hope is what made me to continue on with the process. I added only one teaspoon of sugar. The standard for me is two and a half, but I was worried it would upset my stomach even further if I put in anymore than that. I stir the tiny crystallized particles until they dissolved with my silver colored spoon.
As I take the spoon out from the to set it on the counter next to me, I double over in pain. I breathed in too deeply. I whimpered like a kicked puppy, squeezing my eyes shut. I held my breath and counted to three, and waited for the pain to ebb away. I let it out and opened my eyes again.
I’m okay, I told myself, You’re okay.
I stood up as tall as I could, grabbed my tea and water, and slowly and carefully walked back to my seat in front of my computer. As I waited for my tea to cool down enough to drink, I continued to write my first article for this issue. I had already set out the layout. I took too much time creating the outline that I forgot to actually write the two pieces I needed. I began to write the next sentence in my first article. I was worried about my chances of getting these pieces in by midnight with the pain I was going through.
I could barely breathe, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to get them turned in on time.
I took a sip of my tea. The lemongrass flavor left an earthy aftertaste as it slowly traced its way back into my stomach. I looked at the time. It was 9:35 p.m, almost 10 p.m. The small amount of tea I consumed had reached its destination, making my pain increase ten-fold. I couldn’t even take in wispy breaths without lightning striking through my center, and a sharp pain inserting itself in my back.
I began to hyperventilate and struggled to make the pain bearable. My hands shook as I tried to find some way to breathe that wouldn’t lead to pain. I quickened my breath so much I wasn’t getting any air, and the only time I could properly get some was through deep breaths, which seemed near impossible. I was terrified.
I looked up at the half-finished article that I had written and instantly began to cry. The stress from not being able to finish and the pain with the fear of missing the first day of exam review came through. Suddenly I was a sobbing sniveling mess. My dad comes rushing over to help me. For a minute the pain went away, and I was able to get myself to stop sobbing in pain and frustration, and I was able to ask him to send the email to my editor for me. I couldn’t do it myself.
This made me cry even harder. My dad sent it, but I didn’t believe him. What if he didn’t send it the right way? What if she doesn’t get it? Did he send it, really? What if she thought I was being rude? I only saw him type in one sentence. I said way more than one sentence.
I kept asking him over and over again if he sent it, as I sat there doubled over in pain. He said yes, and I was able to calm myself for a second. My river of tears slowed to a stream as I sat at the table with my head on the table watching him move over. It felt as if there was knife inside my back.
He looks down at me with the familiar pattern of concern and worry in his eyes. He tells me to put on my shoes and a jacket. We were going to the hospital.
I struggled to get up, leaning on him to help hold me up then continued to my room. I put on the easiest pair of slippers I could find. I go a turtle pace as I rush to find the nearest jacket. It's in the dining room on a chair. As I speed-walk over to the jacket, while still limping and grab it off the chair. My dad was already ready. He had already called my mom.
I began to panic. I didn't need a hospital. It was nothing, extremely painful but unimportant. While I thought it was insignificant, I was still unsettled about the situation. If I were to go somewhere, they would have a better chance of helping me get through the pain, maybe find out what’s wrong. Doctors would at least give me something to help me. At least that's what I hoped.
I struggled to put on my jacket. My legs crumple beneath me as I try to step forwards to my dad. More tears come to my eyes. I was going to walk back to get my phone. My brother came out of his room also looking worried and asked me what was wrong. I needed to get my phone. I ask him to get it for me as I was squatting on the floor, trying to breathe. He didn't know where it was. Of course he didn't know where it was. I yell in frustration at him. It was next to the bed. He rushes back to me with it in hand I take it from him and give a thanks.
By the time he came back, I could feel myself getting better. The pain was still there and I couldn't breathe very well, but I knew I didn't need a doctor.
I just wanted this to be over with. I didn't need a hospital. My body was just overreacting. I was overreacting. Maybe I was really injured, or maybe it's just a severe case of indigestion. I knew I would be fine though. The pain was going to be bearable. It wasn't at that moment, but I knew it would be soon.
I didn't want my parents to have to pay for a hospital visit just for it to be a fluke, and that nothing was wrong with me. I walk out my home to go downstairs and a story of African-Americans with sickle-cell kept recurring to me, as I limped over to the car. I heard about it on the radio a few years earlier. They were in the emergency room and needed immediate attention, but didn't get it because the nurses didn't believe they were in severe enough pain. It was because they were able to smile when the nurses were expecting hysteria. Despite their attitude though, they were still in terrible pain.
I subconsciously thought of this and developed a plan, as the forefront of my mind was focused on the pain. I thought of a joke I made to myself earlier that week. Well, it was more of a curious question, that I knew was surrealistic and stupid to ask in my situation. I also knew that it would make my father think I was alright.
"Do you think my stomach is going to explode?" I ask with every ounce of playful concern I have for myself and genuine curiosity. As soon as the words left from my lips, I knew that my plan would work.
Just like that, with one sentence alone, he no longer believed I was in dire need of help, nor did he think that I was dying. He gave me a relieved, frustrated and incredulous look as I tried to act coy. He told me to get out of the car, and for the time that night, I was able to completely ignore my the uncomfortable pain in my chest and let out a short abrupt laugh.
For the rest of the night, I was forced to walk around because I saw I felt better when I actually moved, and even had to do push-ups. Even though, my dad said he sent the email to my editor, I still doubted it and checked for myself. He did. And I continued walking and stretching, until the sharp pain in my back and stomach went down to a dull ache and exhaustedly falling into my bed. By Tuesday with good sleep, and a regular amount of water, there was no pain left to feel, and I started over my articles to be the best that they could be.
That night I realized the way you present yourself to others really does affect the way they perceive you. It changes the way they see your strengths and weaknesses overall in a person. It also made me realize that just because someone says they’re not in pain, even nonverbally, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true either.