My Stomach Hurts

my stomach hurts

Every night at about 2 or 3 in the morning I wake up in enormous pain. The  pain gets worse every day. This has happened for about two years. It’s a straight line of pain that goes from one side of my stomach to the other.

Sometimes the pain is so great I can’t sleep unless I walk around for about  twenty minutes. Sometimes I just stay up and start my day. Which means I have to go to sleep around 7 or 8pm to get a good night’s sleep. Which is critically important to me.

I’ve done everything to stop this pain. Its not an ulcer. Nobody knows what it is. I’ve changed diet several times. I’ve stopped eating dinners. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke or anything like that. I’ve taken medication for gas and other things. I’ve done cleansings that were so disgusting it fully reminds me that we’re barely just a few thousand years out of the jungle. When you sit on a toilet and every piece of genetic material comes out of you until it destroys the bathroom you think, ‘does everyone do this?’ Are we just shitting machines just passing the time for the rest of the day?

I know exactly why I have this pain and what it is. In 1995 I started freelancing. I had a fulltime job at HBO. A very stress free job. I would leave at 4 in the afternoon, go over to Astoria to Steinway billiards and play chess/backgammon and drink coffee with my Greek friends (Astoria was all Greek. And then there was me)  all night long. Life was good. I had no stress at all. I lived in a room with no furniture other than a foam mattress my sister had bought me. Every weekend I had to clean the roaches out of the bathroom.

In the summer it was so hot my sweat would soak through that foam mattress and stay there, coagulating into a horrible smell. Whatever. I had no girlfriend who ever visited me in this apartment. I’d stammer whenever I had the opportunity to talk to the waitresses at the Astoria cafes but none of them would ever talk back to me no matter how big I tipped with two dollar bills with my phone number written on them. I had no chance.  On the weekends I would watch movies all day at the Museum of the Moving Image (I had a free pass. Thank you HBO) until the guys would start gathering at Steinway Billiards for the evening.

But in 1995 it all changed. By day I had my fulltime job. And at night I was freelancing. I built websites for Toshiba, American Express, I even built as a freelancer while I was working at HBO, a division of Time Warner, as an employee.

I had  dozens of deadlines, all for different masters who didn’t know or care about each other

I had scared people yelling at me. Because they had deadlines. And their bosses had deadlines. It was like a hall of mirrors where you see a billion versions of yourself. Who knew how far the deadlines went back. With everyone screaming at everyone underneath them. I was at the very bottom. I had nobody to scream at.

infinite mirror elevator picture

So I felt it. I began to tighten my stomach while I worked. And I would tell myself, I’m just doing a favor. After this website I’m done. I’m going back to the easy life. Cube life. I can handle the pencil factory. It was fun. I wanted to play chess and drink coffee and stare at those Greek girls shooting pool all night.

They were so beautiful. If just one of them would talk to me she would laugh at my jokes, marry me, have my children. We would have sex all the time. Maybe 20 times a day. Whatever. But none of them ever spoke to me. I was with the men, playing backgammon. While I stared.

Every deadline, someone yelling at me. And always something would go wrong. This was 1995. Nobody knew what they were doing. “YOU SAID you could have this done by tomorrow. I NEED IT! My boss will fucking freak out!” And his boss will, because his boss’s boss will. And so on.

And that clenching in my stomach never stopped. It just got worse. But I figured it’s ok, I’m young. What makes me better than everyone else is that I had the energy to stay up all night and do these things. That’s all. It will all be over soon and everything will be better.

And I was always doing things on the side. At my fulltime job I was doing things on the side. Then, on the side, I was doing things further on the side from my side-things. I had so many sides you can’t even name the shape I was working myself into. Its was like some weird four-dimensional tetra-quadrilateral.

And the pain got even greater.  Now I had employees to pay. I had people now I could yell at but I never was the type to do that. I had clients who didn’t pay. I was pretending all the time to like people I hated. I went to therapy because I wanted to know better how to pretend to like these people.

But that’s ok. I’ll sell my company. Which I did.

But then the pain got worse. Because I had numbers to meet and new bosses to please. No problem. I’ll start a new company. But that went down in blazing failure.  And I would go broke. Now there was pain in my head that was making me go blind to any pleasure in life whatsoever.

I would go to meetings pretending to be successful. We’d eat steak and drink wine and then I’d go home and throw it all up at night. That’s ok. I would clench the stomach until all the deadlines were over. Until finally I had enough money. Until finally I was deserving of enough love. Again and again. More companies, more sales. A roller coaster of love and money.



We all have a part of our bodies where we feel stress, where we feel love, where we feel anger. My stomach is where I felt stress. But I put off doing something about it.

Now, I have various techniques (The Daily Practice) I use to deal with the demons. They work. They bring me success when I need it.  But I wish I had started those techniques in 1995. At the beginning of it all. The time to begin your practice is NOW.

Those nights when you lay up late wondering how the hell am I going to feed these kids, how am I going to make it through another month, how can I make that deadline, what will my investors say, when will I get that raise, or deal with my enemies at work – these worries stick to your body like gray dirty cement. The dirty cement carves itself over time into an ugly demon gargoyle.  I thought it was temporary. But it wasn’t.

And it hurts.


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  • Guest

    For many, it could be an undiagnosed basis of:
    Helicobacter pylori

  •  Hi James, have you ever tried magnesium? It’s a natural muscle relaxant and most people are deficient in it:
    I hope your doctor’s visit goes well. I had a similar pain but luckily it turned out to just be a muscle tear in the abdominal wall and was easy to fix with ice and compression. Do you like reading medical books? Medical dictionaries and pharmaceutical reference books can be unnerving yet strangely relaxing after a day spent working on tech projects.

  • ‘Vivian Andrade

    What you need to check out is your poop instead.  The coloration, the texture, is it loose DIEarreah- like or firm like a rock?.  How painful is the release process.  ANALize it!.  I know SHIT happens James Al-TUSH-er    

  • Let it go. Let it ALL go. It has settled in your stomach and will continue to burn like a cancer. Two years is a LONG time to suffer like that. 

  • C Pennybrown

     A few years  back when our building was being converted to condos I couldn’t decide whether to buy or not.  My stomach knotted up and ultimately I was hospitalized for a ruptured appendix.  This most pain I ‘ve ever experienced – it made me think euthanasia makes sense.  

    I really believe in gentle, non-invasive treatments when at all possible.  One that works for me is to brew a big mug of herbal tea right before bedtime using one ginger tea bag (improves digestion) and one peppermint tea bag (relaxes the stomach).

    If I’m really tense I add 3 capsules of valerian.  This is the same plant Valium is made from and it has similar sedative effects.

    When all else fails, then and only then would I recommend white man’s medicine.

  • Recomputers

     Sounds like cancer..hopefully this will mean a closure of the atlchur confidential?

  • Recomputers

     Sounds like cancer..hopefully this will mean a closure of the atlchur confidential?

  •  God, I know this feeling! I throw up when I’m angry. I throw up when I’m sad. And I especially throw up when I am stressed out. 

    I did give myself two bleeding ulcers when I was twenty years old. They are long gone, but when things are at their worst I can still feel where they were, always threatening to come back. 

  • John

    Have you heard of EFT?

    Its surprisingly effective and simple.  You could google EFT and get some quick results for free.  Just try it at home.

  • Alex

     James, you may need energy healing.  The way worries stick to body and carve themselves into a demon gargoyle is more than metaphorical.  Try Heidi McBratney,  You can look her up on google to see her credentials.   

    Also… my son used to have severe stomach pains at night – on a number of occasions we’d go to ER and they’d find nothing.  The pains stopped when we removed both wheat/gluten and dairy from his diet.  The sharp stomach pains at night may be caused by allergy to gluten, or it can be allergy to casein (milk protein).  Or it can be both.  Pro-biotics are good, but you can get them from non-diary fermented foods or supplements.

  • Hi James,

    I have had pain and a pressure feeling in my stomach for many years. Took many blood tests, Xrays, and an ultrasound. Last week, a new doctor ordered another ultrasound which didn’t find anything problematic. The ultrasound technician suggested a HIDA scan. This is a test which finds out whether your gallbladder works. A normal gallbladder has an ejection fraction of +35% – +75%. Mine was -26%. I am now 3 days post surgery for a gallbladder removal.

    I don’t know if this is your problem, but thought I would bring it to your attention in case you have not gotten a HIDA scan.

    I am sure FLWS from you are on the way. heh heh

  • Whenever my wife goes through a really stressful period, she gets gastritis.  She cannot do anything about it other than try to manage her emotions and when it hits, she is toast.  Avoiding spicy foods and alcohol help, but it can hit her even if he eats nothing at all and she’ll stay laid out in bed all day.  In my case, I usually carry all my stress in my neck and shoulders, which leads to me realizing I’m hunched over like an 80 year old some days.  And I’m in my 30s, man.

    When my wife and I went through the worst period of our lives, the loss of a child, I thought I was actually doing a great job of holding it together and managing.  I thought that I could just grit my teeth, boil life down to the most basic requirements, and keep going until things improved.  Instead, I turned myself into a pressure cooker, with the physical manifestation of release being that I got a hernia.  It seemed very fitting at the time; to have sprung a leak of sorts.

    I think that demons never go away.  Some of the remedies below might help, but demons are in our heads and in our hearts, not in the flora in our guts.  The key is in finding a way to strangle the demon and control it as much as possible.  I’ve done it with running (the metronome-like effects feel like meditation for me) and, more importantly, surrounding myself with as much love as possible.

  • Bodan77

    Watch “College Conspiracy”, new documentary…on youtube. It is so true. 

    •  I will. My daughter, Mollie, and I went on ABC News last night to talk about “college as a scam”. Ill check the documentary out.

  • Todd_Andelin

    I ran this past my physician friend.  His said your symptoms sound like:

    GERD (gastroesophogeal reflux disease)
    You could take Omeprazole, which is an over the counter medication.
    40-80 mg before bed.
    You should:
    Continue to avoid alcohol.  Try to cut back on caffeine if you can.
    Lose weight.  This is really important. 
    Shoot for a low glycemic index diet.  This means lowering your intake of carbs.
    Waffles and Pancakes are not the best for you.
    Try eating eggs for breakfast.
    Oatmeal is also good.
    Avoid fatty and greasy foods as well.
    Good Luck
    Avoid fruit juices…but eat fruit whole.

    •  Thanks for this. I do about half the things on tht list (but not the waffles or caffeine. those are big leaps for me). I’m going to try that Omeprazole. Its funny. I already know I’m going to try it but i know nothing about you or your doctor. The human brain is wired to just believe. So I will. Why not?

      • Bill M

        James, I had similar symptoms and was diagnosed with GERD.  I couldn’t tolerate the medication (my stomach never felt quite “right”) so I went off them.  The doctor suggested I raise the head of my bed.  You can use books under the top legs or what i do is put a medium sized pillow between my mattress and boxspring so that my head is a couple inches higher than my feet.  Sounds simple, but I gotta tell ya, my pain went away immediately.  No more waking up feeling like I was doing situps and pushups in my sleep.  Give gravity a try and see what happens.  It can’t hurt.

      • Seshank

        hey James, Hows your stomach now? I know you met Dr Huang – did he completely cure you of everything ?

    • C Pennybrown

      I don’t know how the doctor got to GERD.  GERD is acid reflux and the symptoms are heartburn.  Anyone who has heartburn doesn’t have pain running in line across the belly.  They have a burning feeling in the esophagus caused by stomach acid.

      Besides, the medication you mentioned has long term draw backs, namely, bone fractures.  Don’t believe me , then re-read the Science section of last week’s NYTimes. 

      • It has short term draw backs too, My stomach doesnt produce acid anymore. I am glad i found out and now am taking Acid pills. HCL pills. which help me. calm my stomach.

  • Skip90291

    Yup, I suffered with the same thing. It started in my mid-20s during my first year as a lawyer. And always hit me at night. Which according to some dire self-diagnostic articles online meant cancer. But I didn’t have cancer. After ultrasounds and barium enemas and cleanses and diet changes to try and figure it all out, the pains persisted. I didn’t have anything, according to the doctors–I was “perfectly healthy” they told me over and over. Except I wasn’t–I felt awful. And I wasn’t sleeping at all well.

    The nightly pains would vary, somewhat unpredictably. But they never really went away. I spent thousands on stupid diet supplements and over-priced gluten-free/sugar-free/sanity-free food. They did nothing except make me ridiculously obsessed with food and finding the precise toxic offender in my diet, all to no avail. Finally the pains got better once I realized the real cause of it all: depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety have huge impacts on the gut and digestion. Now when I see these pale, sad faces traipsing down the aisles of the local health food rip-off joint, I see my former self and feel quite sorry for them, and I wish I could save them a lot of money and distress with a simple referral to a mental health practitioner.

    My tummy is much better now. I’m not a lawyer anymore, that was big help. I will never be rid of it all, because I’ll never be rid of all my demons–that’s just what makes me the me that I am. Just knowing the root cause seemed to help a lot.

  • Kaypack

    The mind and body are intensely correlated. If the mind is depressed or anxious or worried there will be a corresponding effect on the body at some level.

    No wonder US presidents age quickly after just a single term. 

  •  >>>Every weekend I had to clean the roaches out of the bathroom.

    In 1995?  Did they become resistant to Combat?

  • Meanstrs

    sounds like cancer

  • FOX84

    I will offer up what worked for the wife and myself. First my wife.

    Two years ago my one of my daughters best friends committed suicide. She (the friend) was home from her first year away at College (San Francisco). Something happened to this little girl while there. Anyway, the only thing we could think of to do for our daughter was to get her a dog. She always wanted one (Chocolate Lab), so despite being an avowed anti pet person my wife ordered one from a breeder that was recommended to us. Two years later Emma, (the dog) has had a profound impact on us all. Emma as it would turn out is a therapy dog.

    As for me, I needed forgiveness.

    Maybe you need some forgiveness James……….or a dog.

  • Tonx

     Drink more water…you are dehydrated

  • This sounds a lot like my experience with Crohn’s disease. My doctors spent 6 months trying to figure it out; first diagnosis was an ulcer, then bowel stricture, etc. Eventually they figured it out, and I’ve been managing quite well for 2 years. Read up on it at WebMD and see if it’s consistent with what you’re experiencing.

  • Kenneth Yasny

     Great article – but find and OMD. they will tell you what the time of day you wake means; either liver or lung. also, get an aloe vera tablet and take 2 (or 3 or 4) before sleep. you must buffer your stress reactions!

  • Vinnakotakk

    Thanks for sharing this. I am in my late 20’s and starting to have health problems. I was also thinking these would be temporary and would go away… But lately have been realizing that these are not temporaray and we would have to work to fix them. Thanks for sharing your expereinces.  

  • Bigfish

    You just laid the piece of the puzzle I’ve been looking for, but you hold one other.  Your stomach hurts because you knew the whole time that you were lying, to others, and to yourself.  Clearly from your posts, you value honesty as one of the most important characteristics one can have.  But it seems as though the only way to become wealthy or powerful is to lie your way there.  Do you think it is essential to hoodwink folks in order to achieve success for oneself?  How do you think one could achieve success and wealth for oneself and still maintain a sense of integrity?

  • Bigfish

    You just laid the piece of the puzzle I’ve been looking for, but you hold one other.  Your stomach hurts because you knew the whole time that you were lying, to others, and to yourself.  Clearly from your posts, you value honesty as one of the most important characteristics one can have.  But it seems as though the only way to become wealthy or powerful is to lie your way there.  Do you think it is essential to hoodwink folks in order to achieve success for oneself?  How do you think one could achieve success and wealth for oneself and still maintain a sense of integrity?

  • Betty

    Acupuncture is fantastic for stress and stomach problems. FANTASTIC! Go to Dr. Chang out in Sunnyside, Queens. Super nice guy, third generation acupuncturist and herbal med guy. Not expensive (Queens prices!) and a sweet little office. He is a gem.

  • Betty

    Acupuncture is fantastic for stress and stomach problems. FANTASTIC! Go to Dr. Chang out in Sunnyside, Queens. Super nice guy, third generation acupuncturist and herbal med guy. Not expensive (Queens prices!) and a sweet little office. He is a gem.

  • Kjp712

    Curse a lot.That seems to cut down on the stress.

    • Vivek

      My boss must be stress free !!!

  • Thank you James. I now feel like my stomach pains serve a purpose – beyond having to look at a digested ham sandwich at least. Thank you.

  • I wouldn’t mind working with a boss if that boss was like you.

  • Trex

    Looks like this has already been said, but Chinese medicine.  HERBS are most important, but acupuncture.  I have Crohn’s and the only thing that controls it is the complicated Chinese Rx of herbs and acupuncture.

  • moj

    Nice to know I iam not alone. I had 4 stomach surgeries in 9 month, a huge hernia with 30 staples which causes much pain with adhesions when under stress. I bloat 6 inches in the waist and cant eat anything without feeling sick. I had a hip replacement and carrpal tunnel which pain is subsiding after SIX months. I need a knee replacement. I will try cutting out wheat and daiiry and caffiene. In tryin yoga and self talk, I have ptsd and nightmares every nite. My son just moved out and Im reduced to a blob of protoplasm, I enjoy his presence so much. I hope I can lose weight and start on the recumbent bike, years ago I swam surfed and looked like wonder woman. I hope I can get it back but age and discouragement take their toll. Living in CT doesnt help, folks are cold as ice. Thanks everone who wrote in.