First, it’s the cold hands. Ice cold and paper white; their blue veins seeping through. My rings become loose, sliding around to hide under my fingers. Stretching my hands out, they shake ever so slightly. Once I notice the cold, I begin shivering. Rolling waves of Goosebumps; I can feel them trace down to my ankles. Then the nausea and flipping stomach follow.
I clutch my fingers for warmth, touching them to my cheeks. I try warming them under my thighs. I start fiddling with things around me, my jacket buttons, my cell phone; focusing hard enough so I don’t end up chewing my nails off. But I can’t sit that still for long.
Sometimes I resort to spinning my already loose rings around and around and around; reminding myself how cold I feel suddenly. I chew on my lips, peeling off little pieces of rough skin or applying chap stick and forcefully rubbing them together. I rub my lips hard, drawing them across my teeth in a way where I can feel all the bumps, biting down a little until it hurts.
If none of that works, I go to the bathroom and hold my hands under the hot water. It feels like the most amazing thing ever. I have fantasized about a hot bath many a time while in my cubicle. When my fingers aren’t so cold anymore, it’s time to pop all possible joints. All my fingers, my toes if my shoes allow and my neck; then I rub my hands together, and rub and rub, putting on imaginary lotion.
Eventually the nausea starts to fade either on its own or with help from sipping water or hot tea. My legs stop jogging and my muscles relax. I feel like I’ve been working out, my body is tired. I try to hold my fingers again; still icy, I find it more bearable. My stomach grumbles as if telling me it’s angry at me for making it sick. My rings are loose so I shake my hands around to hear them clink together.
Minutes pass, usually just a few minutes then it’s over. I’m off the ledge, a little warmer, getting back to work.
The anxiety passes.