Around 18 months ago I had a rather bizarre experience very late one night...
I awoke with a start, my body already sitting in a rigid upright position. My heart was pounding loudly and quickly, and my stomach was in knots. I was about to puke. I checked the time; 3:00am. I slowly got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, taking very careful steps in case any particularly quick movement would spur it on.
I hate vomiting. If I can do anything to avoid it, I will. Even if it means feeling horrendously nauseous for a long period of time I avoid it like the plague. Of course, my tendency to foresee all manner of possible outcomes (however remote) to any one event, including the worst possible scenarios, means I avoid any situation that could even potentially lead to vomiting, amputation, or setting myself up for severe disappointment. By extension, this means I don’t need to vomit very often (and yes I am aware that if I vomited on a more regular basis I would probably not hate it so much, but I do completely hate it so there, that’s all).
Of course, whilst sitting very near the toilet, willing my body not to puke, it occurred to me that it was very strange that I should wake in the middle of the night and vomit for no particular reason. I made a list of all the possibilities. One, analyse food ingested in the past 4-6 hours. None. That was easy. Two, do I know anyone who is sick? Not that I was aware. Three, (please God, no) am I pregnant? Unlikely as I was on the contraceptive pill, although notorious for forgetting to take it.
I turned each of these possibilities over in my mind. After 15 minutes I joyously returned to bed, having not vomited after all. “Ha!”, my brain gloated to my stomach. I carefully slid back under the sheets, and pulled the bucket I had brought in with me to within reaching distance, and tried to fall back to sleep.
It was not five minutes later that my body almost involuntarily jumped out of bed. I grabbed the bucket on the way out of my bedroom, sat down just outside the doorway and had a massive puke (sorry to be graphic).
After cleaning up, and getting back into bed, I felt much better. There hadn’t been much inside my stomach so it wasn’t too painful, and I felt completely well again, and maybe even better than I had felt before.
The cleaned bucket sat beside my bed, as I assumed I would awaken at some point to re-vomit. But once I had fallen asleep I did not wake until the morning alarm.
The following day, and feeling absolutely fine, I mentally crossed possibilities one and two from my list. A quick pregnancy test, and a huge cry following the relief that ensued after, also revealed possibility three struck out.
I briefly wondered what had prompted the need for my body to expel the contents of my stomach in such a particularly urgent manner, and then pushed the thought aside. I felt fine now.
Later, having relayed the story to a friend, I decided it may be worth further investigation. Hello, Dr Google. (For all you doctors out there reading this, if in fact anyone reads this, please stop expending your energy getting people to stop Googling their symptoms, concentrate on making sure there is accessible information online! Forgive me, I digress.) It said, “the signal to vomit can be stimulated by smells, taste, various illnesses and strong emotions (such as anxiety or fear)”.
I still remember the feeling of the back of my neck prickling in fear from those thoughts that were becomming increasingly impossible to ignore.