When the stomach bug makes you anxious…

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No one likes the stomach bug. No one enjoys when it lurches it’s nasty way into your system, and makes you ill, and spreads to your family. It’s unpleasant, and inconvenient, and makes you and your family feel unwell. I don’t think anyone would say “yay, I love it when my family gets a stomach virus!”. If they do, then they are very strange.

One of my anxiety triggers is health related matters, usually those around my family. Being a former nurse, with a fair amount of medical knowledge, does not help. I know too much, and I have seen some things, in my career, that mean my mind can work overtime, when it comes to symptoms. When something simple presents itself, I can let my mind wander into the realms of what dreadful things it could be, in terms of diagnosis. This is an area that I have been aware of for a long while, and I am working though, now I am having CBT Therapy. It’s a work in progress. It is not easy to retrain your mind and get control of your thoughts once you start to head down that rabbit hole….

Stomach bugs, are one of my worst anxiety triggers. I have no idea why. They are part of life, rarely fatal, if the person is looked after properly,  and to be honest, whilst dealing with the products of stomach bugs isn’t my favourite thing, I am not that bothered by it. It’s just the whole thing, the prospect of the stomach bug, sick children, diarheao, cleaning, trying to stop the bug from spreading, time off school, work, staying home until we are not contagious, (which I am very strict about) that makes me so anxious and I become stressed and unhappy. I know most parents probably aren’t leaping about with delight when they are dealing with stomach bugs in their households, or themselves, but I really do react badly.

If I hear mention that someone we know has a stomach bug, I mentally count the days since we last saw them, and will go out of my way to avoid contact with them, until they are well and truly gone. If I happen to hear there is a sick bug going round school, I remind my children to wash their hands, and make sure they don’t put things in their mouths, if they can help it. I have actually been known to cancel social arrangements, when a sickness bug is doing the rounds, rather than risk exposure. I have a special “sick clean kit”, which is a box of wipes, bleach (which is the only thing that properly kills the viruses and bacteria that spread the stomach bug, in it’s many forms) rubber gloves, extra washing powder and other bits and pieces for when a stomach bug invades, so I am prepared. I hate winter time, which is when stomach bugs seem to manifest their ugly presence, and I avoid  busy, public, soft play areas like the plague, because I am convinced that’s where they spread most. When I was asked if I would like a ball pond in our soft play area at work, I vehemently refused, due what I learned on an infection control day during my nursing days about what germs linger in public ball ponds. I might look calm, when sympathetically nodding at someone telling me they have a stomach lurgy, but inside I am mentally counting the seconds until I can run away, wash my hands and then not go near them again!

Sad, I know. Silly, I know. It bothers me, it’s not easy to put it out of my head. Sick bugs make me anxious.

When I came down with a stomach bug, or food poisoning, last week, all the usual feelings and anxieties started to surface. Instead of looking after myself and dragging myself back to bed, I was wielding a cloth and bleach, cleaning surfaces, and our bathroom, determined to stop it spreading. I spend the whole time I was recovering trying to minimise contact with the children, refused to go anywhere near the kitchen or do any food prep, so as to minimise passing on whatever it was that was violently working it’s way through my system. Thankfully LSH makes a far better nurse than me, and was sympathetic, and took the reins and looked after the children and the house, and  let me be, but itis hard for him, too, because when I am anxious, I get snappy and irritable. My hands are dry and sore, from washing them, so many times, to keep germs at bay.

It’s not a fun place to be, dealing with a stomach bug and your mind going haywire. It’s hard to explain, and like many aspects of anxiety, doesn’t seem logical to someone who hasn’t struggled with issues around anxiety. I HATE it. I hate feeling like I HAVE to overreact to protect my family. I hate feeling like a huge crisis is hitting, because we have caught a stomach bug.

I am hoping that with time, and the CBT I will be able to handle things better. I am counting the days until I can breathe a sigh of relief that we are out of the woods in terms of incubation and infectious periods. I watch my children for symptoms and I wait…

The stomach bug will always be an enemy, but at the moment, it’s one that reduces my normal, usually managing self, to a ridiculous, stressed, anxious wreck. It messes with my mind, not just my digestive system.  I don’t just hate them, I live in fear of them, and I don’t want to. One day, I hope I don’t have to.

 

Posted in Family Life and Parenting, Mental Health Tagged with: , , ,
10 comments on “When the stomach bug makes you anxious…
  1. Wow! I can’t imagine trying to deal with the anxiety as well as the actual stomach bug. I have to say that, touch wood, we tend to be quite lucky and don’t get many stomach bugs, and when we do they’re not even 24 hour ones. Colds and coughs, however, that’s another story entirely! Hope the bug goes soon and your house doesn’t get another one for a very long time.
    Franglaise Mummy recently posted…Why Game of Thrones is good for my 7 year old daughter

  2. No Sad, Not Silly – it’s just the way you are. A huge part of the healing comes from accepting and acknowledging your feelings without judgment. If your child, best friend or husband suffered in this way would you call them sad and silly? Of course not, so be the friend to yourself that you are to others…

    I have panic attacks and generalised anxiety (nothing to do with stomach bugs, but all the same mental health stuff) and had a year of CBT – it was wonderful, life changing. I still have the symptoms, but CBT gives me a great tool to get through the really challenging times. I still use it to this day, it just helps take the raw edge off stuff, changes my perception and give me back a ‘reality check’.
    I hope it works well for you – it’s not an overnight fix, so stick with it 🙂

    xx

  3. Lisa says:

    This is exactly how I feel. The funny thing is, I have no other anxiety, but when it comes to stomach bugs, I am absolutely irrational. It was amazing to see my experience being described so accurately. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Heidi says:

    It is as if I wrote this myself. I live in fear every single day. I have lined wastebaskets near kids beds, and I wake several times a night thinking that I can hear somebody possibly getting sick. I stress about the food they eat, where we go, who touches what & also avoid people who recently had it like the plague. I have no idea how to control it. Its an awful feeling. I can’t be rational about the stomach bug. colds & flu don’t scare me…apparently, just vomit 🙁

  5. CAROLINE Gllyettt says:

    OMG! Karen I am exactly the same as you and I mean that. I have felt such a failure and a freak. My obsession with the stomach bug leads my normal everyday, happy life into one of irrational torment. Thank you for bringing out into the open something that affects so many of us, but yet leaves us unable to explain so eloquently.

  6. Shayle Figueroa says:

    I caught a stomach bug 2 weeks ago today. I only got sick twice, but was nauseated for a bit after. I ended up making myself super anxious about eating. In the aspect of getting sick after I eat. I still am fighting this issue. It has not been a fun road to go on, and it definitely keeps me from doing things I used to enjoy doing. Thank you for posting this and reminding me that I am not alone or is the only one with this mindset. I guess my fear of throwing up was far worse than I thought it was. I hate dealing with this daily. I focus too much on eating that I don’t even enjoy my meals at times. I should be happy and thankful that I am able to eat and keep the food down. It’s just a bug and I am sure this is not going to be the last time I will get it. Just staying as strong in my faith as I can, and letting the Lord guide me. I am not sure if I need to get in contact with someone and go talk to a psychiatrist since it has been two weeks or what? This is ridiculous how my mind plays tricks on me. No bueno! 🙁

  7. Cece Woodward says:

    Wow it feels like this was written by me! I’m the same exact way. I’m currently going through it. Its so hard. I just want to cry.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Hi , reading your blog makes me feel like I am not the only one with these fears. I have sickness bugs had always been my main annxiety triggger, I obsess & it frustrates me so much. I am due my first child and getting really concerned that my fear will effect the me even more .. I was wondering what I can do to help myself. May I ask how you feel the therapy worked for you? I have never talked about my problem or been to the doctors but I think that now might be the time.

    Thank you in advance for ny advice x

  9. Silly Shan says:

    This is exactly how I feel! I am a teacher and constantly at risk of getting the virus! It keeps me up so many nights! I don’t know what to do! The fear of getting the bugs is making so anxious and unwell, it’s like a viscous cycle! I’m particarually bad right now because a pupil I spend a lot of time with is off with the virus, this terrifies me that I’m next!!!! What on earth do I do!

  10. J says:

    I am the same way except when I have the flu and my anxiety attacks turn into pure panic so does IBS and I get dehydrated and usually send myself to the ER (( which does nothing except give me fluids but some how mentally makes me feel bette) I hate it I hate it I hate being this way. I think it creates a barrier between being able to be loving and care for my children in that anxietied state.

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