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I Couldn't Eat In Public For Months!

It's actually a little surprising to me that I'm sharing this traumatic event with you now (it was traumatic for me anyway).

We do need to leave the past behind so we can move forward, however sometimes sharing our experiences can help others. A time of healing is needed first so as we can discuss the past event without the associated trauma coming back. This was over twenty years ago so it should be okay now!

When I was in my early twenties, I was with some friends at a food court eating Chinese food (honey prawns I think - I know that's not what the picture shows, sorry). I was nearly finished but getting full. I put the last one in my mouth and suddenly felt quite ill. I don't remember if I swallowed it or spat it out. Nevertheless, I was about to be sick in public, too much rich and sweet honey perhaps? I had no choice but to admit the situation to those around me. The primary reason for that was I couldn't see the bathroom anywhere and I needed it now!

I was suffering a mental illness. If I had known, imagine the stigma and shame.

To my horror, no one could help me. No one knew where the bathrooms were, how absurd! All I could see was a rubbish bin nearby. I did not want that to happen in front of all these people. I was in a state of panic. Somehow, probably sheer will, I wasn't sick and things settled down after a very long moment or two. That was close! I just needed to calm down now, my heart was pounding! Little did I know the damage was done. As it turns out I was already suffering #anxiety before this event which no doubt made it that much worse. This was a mental illness. If I had known, imagine the stigma and shame.

The fright I had received left its mark. I never knew it until much later but it turns out that was a panic attack! From that day on, I was unable to put any amount of food in my mouth when in public without the dread and nausea returning. It was debilitating. I couldn't eat in public for months and months. Even at work in the lunchroom, to take a nibble of a muesli bar was too much. I suffered in silence and once lunch break was over ended up hungry later on. I could eat in privacy at home and that's it.

I had to take deep breaths but I was feeling so ill, my heart was pounding and my hands became cold.

This fear interfered with many family outings and on several occasions I needed to leave the table for the bathroom, eating very little or nothing. I certainly didn't enjoy it. One time we were having breakfast at a coffee shop and the first thing I wanted to know was where was the bathroom? Another time I was at the movies with some family and I had an attack for no apparent reason. I had to take deep breaths but I was feeling so ill, my heart was pounding and my hands became cold. I had to get out of there so I left during the movie and went to the bathroom just to feel safe. I was so worked up even though I wasn't even eating! My hands were grey in colour from a lack of blood. It was not nice and I had no control over how I was reacting to nothing. Another time I couldn't even eat a choc top ice cream and I love ice cream.

After a long period of time, it slowly subsided and I slowly gained enough confidence to begin eating in public again, slowly (I think it was more than a year or so). It would have been helpful to know this was not normal and seek help. I encourage you to tell someone if you're struggling with life in any way, there is great help available. At the very least, share with someone you trust, that will make a difference. I know it seems so silly but it was a real struggle, my body was reacting to what it perceived as a real threat. I had no control over it. We are amazing beings but oh so delicate at times. If you struggle like this or in some other way, you're not alone. Tell someone you need help, that's not weakness, that's real courage and it will be worth it. We're all different, react differently and experience differently. It's not your fault and it's no reflection on you as a person. Be encouraged that you can get through with help. A course I attended put it this way, you experience mental health issues, they do not define you.

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