Wednesday, 14 March 2018

My Emetophobia Story

Trigger warning: emetophobia.



This post has been sat empty in my drafts for months. Since watching Katie Snooks' video about her emetophobia (here) and finding it both extremely interesting and helpful I thought 'I'm going to write a post about my experience' and then here I am four months later finally writing it...

I have written a post about emetophobia before (here) but I always felt like it was a little vague and also it's now quite out of date. I suppose it's a very specialist thing to write about and something that I assume people wouldn't want to read, as well as not really being a very nice topic to talk about, but I really wanted to write it because I feel like it'll help me get straight in my mind where I am with it and you never know, maybe it might help someone else who can relate. I imagine this will possibly be the longest post I've ever written too so you probably want to make yourself a brew...

So, just in case you don't know, emetophobia is a fear of vomit. Some people are afraid of being sick themselves, some are afraid of other people being sick and an unlucky few of us are afraid of both. As with any phobia, absolutely everything about it varies from person to person in terms of triggers, coping mechanisms and level of fear. It's also something a lot of people don't realise they have because nobody likes sick do they? For years I just knew I hated it more than other people and thought I was possibly being a little pathetic until I read about emetophobia and realised I had it. As with most phobias it doesn't just come out of nowhere and it's usually caused by some sort of bad experience. 

So let's start from the beginning and talk about where my phobia came from. For years I didn't really know, but I spoke to my mum about it and I think she hit the nail on the head. When my sister was younger she was very ill and often in and out of hospital. There was a particularly bad summer when she was two and I was seven. She was kept in hospital for a month and fed through a tube, but for some reason she was being fed more than she could tolerate so every day she would projectile vomit the last feed, bringing the tube up with it. That in itself was horrible to see, but my mum pointed out that because I was only seven I wouldn't have really understood everything that was going on around her being poorly so all I knew was that everyone was very worried and the only thing I could really relate it to was the physical vomiting. So from then on, in my mind, vomit has always been linked with intense worry. 

As I hinted at before, I'm scared of both other people being sick and of being sick myself. This brings me onto triggers and coping mechanisms. Things that can trigger me to panic include other people being sick (even if I'm not present), people saying they feel sick, very drunk people or feeling sick myself, among others. When any of these things happen I get all the usual symptoms of fear - my heart beats insanely fast, my stomach twists and I have an overwhelming claustrophobic feeling of needing to get away. To deal with other people, my main coping mechanism is avoidance, which is usually fairly easy. The situations I find difficult are ones where I'm unable to get away. I don't like flying, not because the plane bothers me, but because I'm worried that someone will be ill and I won't be able to get away from it. If Nick is ill I'll sleep in another room and won't use the toilet until it's been thoroughly cleaned. When I was younger I wouldn't even step on areas of the playground where I knew someone had been sick months ago. I haven't been sick myself for nearly twenty years, which I used to brag about, but now I'd really rather just get it over and done with and be sick again if I'm honest. I used to have a little ritual when I felt sick, which was to brush my teeth, tie my hair back and lie on my back in bed with lots of pillows, quite often with something like a bucket or bin beside the bed. It became a weird ritual in that if I didn't have the bin there ready or if I missed out another part of this 'ritual' I'd think that would mean I would be sick, which I suppose was only supported by the fact that I never was. As it happens, I've discovered that my mind really does have control over my body as I now physically cannot be sick. There have been a couple of situations where I've stood retching over the toilet, but nothing will come even though I've definitely had a bug and it's literally because my mind just won't let me. If I'd known this years ago I would have found it comforting, but now I just find it annoying.

The main way it has affected my life is by holding me back from doing certain things for fear of coming into contact with it. Luckily, I think a lot of those things (nights out for example) aren't really for me anyway. And again I'm lucky that I've ended up doing a job that I love when my prospects were limited just by eliminating any job that might involve vomit (it eliminates more than you think!). I also just get generally a bit more anxious about things like flying, coach journeys (which I actually avoid like the plague if I can help it) and being in crowds. When I am in those situations I become quite paranoid, constantly looking out for any signs that someone might be feeling ill and on edge every time someone so much as coughs. One thing that Katie mentioned in her video, which I've never really spoken about before because it seems so odd, is how I put myself in someone else's shoes who might be feeling ill. So if I'm with someone who says they're feeling travel sick I'll immediately start feeling travel sick myself and it'll help me gauge how bad it is for them - the worse it feels for me the more paranoid I become that they'll actually be sick. 

I've never had any sort of therapy for my phobia. I've considered looking into it a few times, but never done anything about it. I've read that exposure therapy works very well, but it's a hard thing to put yourself in that situation when it's your worst nightmare! Nick suggested that I just do the exposure therapy myself by forcing myself into situations that I wouldn't usually. I imagine it's a much slower process than actually going for therapy, but that's what I'm trying to do. I think the fact that I now really want to get over it helps, whereas before I would happily just hide away from it. So the last time Nick was sick, I made myself listen rather than covering my ears and I stayed sleeping in the same bed. If someone is sick on TV or in a film, I make myself watch instead of turning away.

So where am I now? Well, I think I'm a little better. I'm definitely better at thinking rationally about it. Because of that, my phobia seems to have got more specific to germs. Drunk sick no longer bothers me (not that I like it, but I'm not afraid of it). In the back of my mind, I know that the worst that can happen is that someone is sick and I get ill and am sick myself, which can only be a good thing in the long run in helping me get over my phobia, although that's not what goes through my head at the time. The cats are also sick a fair bit, which made me feel a bit funny the first few times (although I dealt with it fine), but now doesn't bother me in the slightest, which gives me hope for being able to look after any potential children. I know that getting pregnant and having children is always a worry for someone with emetophobia. I've never been that worried about being pregnant because I've always assumed that I wouldn't get morning sickness as my mum never did (it probably doesn't work that way, but that's how I thought of it), but I have worried slightly about how I would care for any potential children if they were sick and, more importantly, about passing my phobia onto them. Luckily, I'm very calm on the surface in any situation even if my stress levels are insanely high and in a way I now welcome the challenge of looking after sick children to help me get over my phobia so that's not something I really worry about anymore. 

So there wasn't really a point to this post apart from to share my experience of emetophobia and to tentatively say that I think there is light at the end of the tunnel so if you're in the worst throes of it at the moment, I promise it can get better. I can't share anything revolutionary about getting over my phobia because I'm definitely not over it, I just want to be and it's amazing how much difference that makes. 

Amy x
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24 comments

  1. I'm sorry to hear you have to deal with this Amy and that you haven't yet completely beaten it. If it helps at all, I used to have a phobia of toilet cubicles (you can imagine how problematic that one was when out and about), but after 12 years, I beat it completely (around the age of 19). Now I have absolutely no problem with entering them. So, hang on in there - you never know when something will trigger a positive shift of mindset with regard to your phobia! :)

    aglassofice.com x

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    1. Oh wow I'm so glad you beat it! Hoping something shifts to solve mine too...I'm definitely starting to feel more positive! xx

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  2. I suffer with a sick phobia too! It’s crazy how common it is, but it never takes away how hard it can be to deal with. I was sick for the first time in 11 years last November and even though it was traumatic, it made me realise that sick is harmless. It makes you feel better and in a way I was glad I was sick, because it proved to my fear that it isn’t anything scary. I send you all the best wishes. Always here as a fellow emetephobia suffer if you need someone to talk to!!xx

    Lauren | itslaurenvictoria.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. That's why I'd quite like to be sick now - I think it would actually help me so much! Thank you lovely xx

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  3. You poor poor thing, it sounds like a nightmare and must be so tough day to day :( I hope you manage to overcome it one day xx

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    1. Thank you! I hope so too, it definitely feels a little better! xx

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  4. Well done for writing about this Amy - and I hope it did some kind of good for you to put it all out in words! I'm glad I read this because I know nothing about emetophobia and probably wouldn't have even thought about how that could effect someone. It sounds horrible, but it also sounds positive that you are seeing an improvement, however slight that might be at the moment. Hope you manage to keep that going and one day overcome it xxx

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    1. Thanks lovely, I think it did! I'm hoping the improvement continues even if just very gradually :) xx

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  5. Thanks for sharing this Amy. I hope as you get older this can get easier on you.

    x,
    S | Je M'appelle Chanel

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  6. Oh wow! I've never heard of emetophobia before, thank you for sharing. Sometimes I think the "I'm going to be sick" feeling is worse than actually being sick!.

    I don't have any great advice to give you, just to say it's brave of you to not only share your story but to try and find ways to face it on your own! I hope with time it gets easier for you!

    Hope you are having a good weekend :) We are having a quiet one to recover from our busy week!

    Away From The Blue Blog

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    1. Thank you lovely, hope you had a lovely quiet weekend! x

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  7. I suffer with severe emetophobia, so its always reassuring to read other people's experiences with it - even though I'm sorry you have to deal with it yourself. Its such a debilitating phobia, and I have severe panic attacks because of it. I'm the same was you with the drunk sickness though, like as much as I hate it, I can understand and accept it as its not something I can catch. Its the 'stomach bugs' that make me so incredibly anxious, and send me into spiralling panic. Even saying it makes me feel anxious inside. But anyway, I can empathise with you desperately and I only hope you get better in your phobia!

    Lucy | Forever September

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    1. Aw I'm sorry to hear you suffer with it too! It's always nice to find someone who can relate, however much I wouldn't want anyone else to have it! Hope you find a way of coping and even getting better one day xx

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  8. Wow, I didn't even realize this was a phobia. I would love to hear more about steps to overcoming your phobia as I unfortunately suffer from Decidophobia, a fear of making decisions. As you can imagine that gets in the way quite a bit. Though it's a different fear, I can definitely relate to many of the things you said so thank you for sharing!

    Shann Eileen | www.shanneileen.com

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    1. Oh gosh that must be awful! I think although fears are different, the feelings you get are definitely the same or at least similar! I'll definitely do updates if I find myself getting better xx

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  9. It's great that you're sharing your story and raising awareness, I'm sure this will be very comforting for people going through a similar thing. I'm glad that you're managing it better now, well done for facing your fears! And there really is no right or wrong when it comes to recovery, you do what you think is best for you. xx

    113thingstosay.com

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    1. Thank you lovely, you're so right that there's no right and wrong! xx

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    2. Thank you for sharing! I also struggle with emetophobia, reading others experiences helps me feel less alone, and even gives me hope for a better future. :)

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    3. I do love reading other people's experiences for that very reason! xx

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  10. I actually just met someone the other day who was talking about her emetophobia, except for her she doesn't mind if other people are sick around her, she just doesn't want to me sick herself and that's a huge fear for her. Good on you for taking steps to tackle your emetophobia, I have a different phobia but one that can be equally difficult to explain and I'm just trying to push myself a little one day at a time as well :)

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

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    1. Glad you're trying to push yourself - take it at your own pace and remember even if it is irrational it's not at all weird! xx

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  11. I've never heard of emetophobia before reading this. Thank you for sharing. It sounds like a horrible thing to live with!

    Eleanor May || www.eleaanormay.com

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    1. It's not great! Glad you're aware of it now :) xx

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