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Grief, Anxiety and Hunger

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I wrote this on December 7 (the anniversary of my son's death):
"I'm really amazed at how much more I want to eat all day long yesterday and today...
I should elaborate I've been eating, just not as much as I keep thinking I want to based on the inescapable visceral hollowness. I probably need to do more deep breathing, now that I've named it."

Inescapable visceral hollowness. I learned how to deal with this in 2003, when I had panic attacks following my disordered eating while pregnant, and I saw a therapist for Anxiety Disorder, OCD, and Depression. In the disorders, one gets feeling this way for no identifiable reason. Sometimes there is an indentifiable reason. Maybe we need to go through feeling that way, but I thought I'd share what I think and have practiced in case it can help anyone.

The stomach and gut is actually full of receptors for the neurotransmitters that signal hunger and satiety for the brain. Or maybe it's vice versa. But we really do experience emotional distress on a gut level. It's why comfort food is comfort food. All those carbohydrates, fats and savories send happy chemicals to the brain and the vagus nerve, which links many of our organs together, particularly the brain, heart and stomach and diaphragm. But there are times when even comfort food can't overcome the abyss of negative feelings. I want to eat, but even after eating I feel just as hungry.

The curious thing about the vagus nerve is that while stress can make our breath shallow and our pulse thready, we can actually reverse the effect by breathing deeply and having a straight posture. It's the same way that eating can "make" us feel better -- when it does. There have been some studies in the value of thinking on positive things for our heartrate. Of course, it's hard to control scientifically for what is a positive thing and how you can be sure someone is thinking it. So it's not hard science.

Often when I have a visceral hollowness, I find I am hunched over, and I keep having to remember to straighten up and breath fully. Going for a walk is perfect, if you can get yourself off the couch.

But there's something to be said as well for just taking it easy.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I'm so sorry for your loss. The information in the blog is very useful and helpful thank you for sharing.
    1984 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your pain over the death of your son. No parents expects to outlive their children, so your grief is in a special category. Thanks also for explaining some of what's happening inside us. After yesterday's slaughter of so many innocents in Connecticut, I've been feeling hungry and out of sorts all day. I am consciously choosing to let myself eat more, but I am logging everything. Finally, thank you for reminding me to sit up straight!

    1984 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/15/2012 4:40:28 PM
  • LAC936
    So sorry for your loss and for Nikki above's loss as well. It's heartwrenching to lose a child as those in CT can attest. God Bless.
    1984 days ago
    Wow... this is a very good blog post. Thank you so much for sharing with us. And I'm incredibly sorry about the death of your son. emoticon
    1984 days ago
    Im sorry about the passing of your son. I too lost my daughter two and a half years ago. Unfortunately, 20 other parents loss their children two days ago. I think your blog is timely and i will try to remember this when I am experiencing my own hollowness when dealing with my daughter's death.
    1984 days ago
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