Hunger Panic

Mental health is a complicated topic, because mental health is so inherently fluid. Something you never would have thought could be an issue could creep up on you without warning, or things that you thought you had moved past could suddenly come back with a vengeance. Today I wanna talk a little about one of my most recent experiences, and why it’s ok for things to come back when you least expect it.

For some context, when I turned 18 I moved across the US to Arizona so I could go to college at Devry University for Game and Simulation Programming. This was back in 2008, with the recession is full swing, so I had a bit of trouble finding work. But, I had a little bit of cash put aside so I could get a vehicle when I got out there, and I was moving in with a family member, so I was confident everything would be alright.

It very much was not.

While I still consider Phoenix one of my favorite places to live, and look fondly back at most aspects of my time there, it is also one of the most deeply scarring parts of my life. The only job I managed to get while I was there was a part time job at a greek fast-food place, working roughly 2–3 hours a day, 6 days a week. The job didn’t pay much, leaving me with just enough to pay for rent and little else. The only meals I could afford were the free lunches I got from work, and the occasional McDonalds when customers bothered to tip, or scraps from roommates when they had extras. The room I was supposed to be living in with my cousin I stopped using very soon after his girlfriend started bringing her dog around (it wouldn’t stop barking and screaming until I left the room, and they refused to put the dog outside of the room at night). And I very quickly worked out that the Devry education was a scam (literally told that by one of my professors), so I dropped that very quickly.

And that’s how I spent a year: one meal a day, six days a week, visibly wasting away while a family member watched until I was finally convinced to move back to my parents’ house by my dad. In the week or two before I flew back, I GORGED myself on pizza; now that I didn’t have to worry about rent, there was no reason to put what little money I had away.

Needless to say, I developed a bit of a trauma response to hunger. I’ve had it under control for a long time just by making sure I have access to food, but that’s kind of inconsistent. Anyone who has been paying attention to this blog for the last year or two will know that I’ve never really had the most stable living conditions, so it wasn’t uncommon for awhile for me to have little episodes here and there. But, over the last year, I haven’t had any episodes. When I was hungry it was just a mild inconvenience, at worst. So I thought I had finally moved past it.

This last Tuesday, I forgot to grab something to eat while I was taking a break at work. I work in a grocery store, and my shift ended in three hours. I had food at home, I had money to buy food if I needed it, I had just forgotten to buy a snack to keep me going through the last three hours of work.

I proceeded to have a three hour panic attack, ending in me buying $75 worth of food I didn’t need and gorging myself when I got home. I only managed because I called a roommate to come give me a ride. We live across the street.

I have a lot of theories on why that might have happened. Maybe with all of the Covid stuff going on, and the upcoming move, and the looking for a new job, all of the stress just piled together at this one pressure point. Or maybe I was just getting to the end of my planned meals and accidentally worked myself into a frenzy starting the next meal plan.

But this relapse isn’t something I should be ashamed of. It didn’t happen because of my own failure to predict it, and while there is something I could have done about it, I couldn’t have known that I NEEDED to have done something about it before it happened. While it’s not ok that I had to suffer through a panic attack for three hours, it is ok that the panic attack happened in the first place.

Relapses like this happen, and all we can do is learn from them and move forward. So now I’m keeping snacks on hand more often. I’m planning my meals a bit further ahead. I’m changing how I do things a little to try to avoid that situation in the future. But I won’t ever accept blame for it. This trauma isn’t something I asked for, it isn’t something I sought out, and it isn’t something that was fair for me to get in the first place.

It isn’t fair that we end up with Trauma, but it’s ok that we have it, and it’s ok to deal with it however you need to. We do what we have to do, and no one can look down on us for pushing on like we do.

As always, I want to thank my Patrons for helping me make these articles and the other things I make for them over at Patreon.com/BardsGambit

Special Thanks to:

AJ
John Beckelhymer
Katie Coker
Tyler Litton
Sara White
Thaddius Goldner
William Moton
Serenity Tomala
Brett Schoonover
Elliot Chapple

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Dani Kirkham

A writer and storytelling writing about: Mental Health, Video Games, Tabletop Games, Short Stories, all written as blog posts or articles