I recently read an article about living with Emetophobia, a fear of vomiting.
My whole body went numb as I read this persons struggles, my heart began to race, I felt as though I was reading my own thoughts. I had no idea this overwhelming fear I felt every single day of my life had a name!
For as long as I can remember I have always been terrified of vomiting. Mum used to tell me I would pace around the backyard just to get fresh air or lay naked on cold tiles to cool my overheating body down as much as possible, all to prevent myself from the inevitable vomit I could feel rising in my throat. And if I did in fact vomit (I can count on one hand those times in the past 27yrs) I would cry hysterically and hyperventilate the whole time, convinced I would never stop vomiting.
As a grown woman, I still do all of that when I feel ill, and I've picked up even more vices, but once I hit my teens it got worse. I couldn't be anywhere near anyone who was or was about to vomit. If I heard even a stranger nearby utter the words "I feel sick" I would literally sprint as far away as possible. I have been known to lock myself in cupboards, bathrooms, garages, anywhere I had to to ensure I would not be near anyone who was sick. I have even slammed doors in loved ones faces when they have come to me saying they were about to be sick (horrible I know). I have become a master at picking up on signals and body language for when I or anyone around me is about to be sick and how to get away as fast as possible! It is all i think about.
I refuse to eat anywhere I have never eaten before or that even remotely looks like I could get sick from them or that I know somebody has been sick from eating there before. And if I do find out that someone has been sick from eating there or I get sick, I ban it for life. I am constantly washing my hands or sanitising in fear that someone who has been sick has touched the same door handle or surface as me.
I will not travel to certain countries in fear that I will get sick from just being there.
Every few months I obtain a prescription to an anti nausea/vomiting pill that I carry with me everywhere, just in case.
I constantly bail on plans last minute as the fear of being sick while at an event, the gym, a party, a restaurant etc becomes too much that I physically feel ill while getting ready. Therefore making me a terrible socializer.
I do not have any desire what so ever to have children because 1. I can't handle the thought of having morning sickness and 2. Because as a mother I would be expected to nurture my child when they are sick and I know I could never do that. In fact I fear for what I would do if they did come to me unwell. People always tell me, "Trust me, you'll change your mind when you're older and when it's your own." Trust ME, as I get older, my desire for children becomes less and less!
I have, what I know are irrational, thoughts every day that if I don't put my makeup on in the exact order that I have done every day for last 4 years, I will vomit that day. If I don't set my alarm to an even number, I will vomit that day. If I don't dunk my teabag exactly 30 times in my tea, I will vomit that day.
If the volume on my car stereo is an odd number (besides anything with a 5 on the end), I will vomit that day.
I regularly, and when I say regularly I mean every day, think about what would happen if I had a terminal illness that's treatment or medication made me vomit as a side effect, what would I do?! Die. That is always my answer, I would rather die. I think about how I would explain it to my family, or how I wouldn't tell them until it was too late for them to make me do anything anyway. It is CRAZY I know it is, but I would genuinely rather die than vomit even once. The idea of death has never scared me, vomiting scares me.
When MrAnnabell and I first started dating, my Emetophobia reached its lowest point. I was soo paranoid about vomiting, especially in public that I could not go anywhere except our house or my parents without becoming instantly anxious, sweaty and nauseas and had to leave.
I wasn't actually sick but the incredible fear of being sick made me physically ill, it was a vicious circle.
It put a downer on a lot of holidays, events and just life in general. I felt so shit that I could not control my own body or mind and was upset every day thinking that it was ruining our relationship. We were meant to be in the "honeymoon period" of our relationship, the early fun loving days where every day is a date and meant to be adventurous and exciting, but with every amazing idea or plan he had for us, all I could think was "I am definitely going to vomit if we do this".
I don't know how he put up with me, but he did. And more so, he began to pick up on my body language when I was beginning to feel overwhelmed, anxious and sick. He would offer me a fizzy drink because he knew that settled my tummy or would excuse us from the dinner table and tell our friends we were just going to get something from the car so I could get fresh air. If he saw someone being sick while we were out he would take me the opposite direction. I could not have been more in love with him.
Upon one of my routine visits to try and obtain a new prescription, my doctor mentioned my anxiety and suggested I seek further help for it. I didn't want to be put on medication, as I know the side effects and could not stand the thought of being even more sick. So I sought alternative help in hypnotherapy.
I was a skeptic for sure, but agreed with my doctor on one thing, I needed help and was willing to try anything that wouldn't risk me being more sick.
I'm not going to say hypnotherapy was magic and cured me, because it definitely did not. But it did give me tools to help manage my fear a bit better than I was.
I learned to yawn when I was feeling the overwhelming anxiety that led to my nausea which allowed me to take a deep breath when I felt like I couldn't breathe at all.
It was a small thing but it really helped and gave me a second to think about something else other than vomiting. I could collect my thoughts. I learned to unscrew the lid of my water bottle and take a sip when I was in a crowded place and could think of nothing but suddenly vomiting in front of everyone, which gave me a task, a distraction, again allowing my to momentarily collect myself.
I was really good at managing my phobia for a while after that, I finally felt I had some sort of control over myself again.
But every now and then I still have episodes where I lock myself in rooms, or on a balcony with no clothes on, or try to get out of a moving car on a busy freeway all to avoid vomit (yes that all happened). I still feel as though I am a terrible girlfriend, friend, daughter and sister and every day I still have those irrational thoughts about dying instead of having to vomit and I know that is not normal, at all. But somehow, since finding out my condition has a name, and that there are other people out there that have just as insane thoughts as me, it's made me feel less weird and less alone.
It may sound amusing and "so not serious", but to someone like me, whose entire life is consumed with the crippling anxiety of vomiting, being humiliated and even dying, it is incredibly serious.
I have become quite a pro at hiding what really goes on inside my head on a daily basis, so many people who know me probably don't know just how badly I suffer. But I am fortunate enough to have an amazing mum and dad, brother and sister, boyfriend and best friends who do know the extent of my phobia and help support and protect me where possible.
I have written and deleted this post about 16 times already because that little voice in my head keeps telling me, "if you post this, you are going to vomit and people are probably going to spontaneously vomit in front of you just to scare you and laugh at you". But a bigger voice is telling me to share this little story so everyone can understand that although someone may seem "normal" or happy, you never really know what's going on inside their head or behind closed doors. Mental health is such an important topic and one that I hope everyone feels they can talk openly about, because if we don't talk about it, we can't get help.
Be kind, be respectful and if you or anyone you know needs help, please know there is always help available. You are not alone, no matter how alone you may feel.