What is holding me back?

I’m lacking faith in myself. That’s the issue. I don’t believe I can live without doing those safety seeking behaviours. I don’t believe I can cope with the anxiety and uncomfortable feelings. I don’t believe I can lose weight and get fit. I don’t believe I will ever have a baby as I don’t believe I will fall pregnant. I don’t believe I know what I’m doing at work. This is not thriving like I should be. I don’t know why I can’t get over this last bit. I guess it’s because every time I try to stop the safety seeking behaviours I feel so uncomfortable that I quite straight away or I don’t even get as far as not washing my hands etc. What is holding me back? Laziness?

Why do I put so much on myself?

That’s what my husband asked me whilst on holiday and it got me thinking. I want everything to be perfect and don’t like it when it’s not. I’m on holiday and I got really bad stomach ache. Quite like I did when I was sick back at Christmas. It caused a panic attack which hasn’t happened in a while. I realised it’s because I’m on holiday and want it to be perfect. Everything is about being perfect.

I started writing this when I was on holiday but never finished. I am back at work now but yesterday I wasn’t well. On Saturday I ate far too much and my stomach rejected it. I spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning on the loo! I then spent the rest of the day in bed. So today it is Monday and it is my fist time being at my new job whilst not feeling that well. Of course I wanted to stay in bed this morning and not come to work. I wanted to run away from the uncomfortable feeling of the tight stomach, headache, feeling weak and hot and cold. But I didn’t! I know I am lethargic from being in bed all day and I am not going to let it get the better of me. For a minute I started to obsess. I typed into Google ‘lethargy symptoms’ but stopped myself before I began reading it. I don’t need to look it up to make myself feel better. I don’t need to try to work out why I feel ill, I know why. So I stopped that obsessing in it’s tracks and got on with things!

I have to realise that I am putting far too much on myself expecting everything to be perfect and to feel perfect. It just doesn’t work like that. No one is perfect (apart from my cat!).

Day 5 and they still don’t know I’m pretending….

that my stomach isn’t in knots and I feel perfectly fine!

Here I am on day 5 of my new job and so far things are going really well. I feel like I am settling in well and everyone seems really nice. But my stomach has been in a knot the whole time and I have had an upset stomach twice. Part of me feels like I am failing at thriving because of it but first of all, I shouldn’t be telling myself off, and 2, I am thriving because carrying on like nothing is wrong and “pretending” is part of the process of learning to thrive. Calling it “pretending” is not the best term. It is more about mind over matter and getting on with things despite felling rubbish.

I also mustn’t worry that I have gone backwards because I have felt a bit of panic from my tummy being in knots or that I have worried about being sick a few times. I’m not even sure it was a blip completely. The other night I woke up because my stomach hurt so much and I got a bit panicky. I did manage to stop a panic attack and actually fell back asleep. But the panic wasn’t that I was going to be sick because I was scared, it was that I was going to be sick and would then have to be off sick on my first week at work. I think that is quite a normal thought really.

I have felt a bit worried about my stomach being bad at work (will they be able to tell and make fun of the smell if I go to the loo), or will I be sick? So that is a bit of a blip but I am handling it and just feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I even just managed to use the bathroom for a ‘cough-cough number 2’ despite being worried what people will say.

I am challenging myself by changing jobs and I am processing it in an internal way. It is a good thing that I have exposed myself to this. I can tolerate it. The more I do, the quicker the churning stomach will go away!

I gave my niece a kiss!

So you are thinking, what’s the big deal? All you did was give your niece a kiss. But what if I told you that for the past week she has been throwing up in the mornings for no reason? Again, you might say what’s the big deal but for me it was. It didn’t cross my mind that she has been being sick. I didn’t worry about catching something. I just let her give me a kiss (which to a one year old is basically just putting her open mouth on my face!). 

I’ll admit that the thought that she had been sick crossed my mind after but I just dismissed it like someone else would and thought, ‘well if it get it, I get it. I’ll cope.’  That was such a big deal to me!

Chance, luck or fortune

As part of the Thrive programme there are 30 locus of control questions that show you if you have an internal or external locus of control. You then need to work through the ones that were external and turn them into internal responses. One of the questions involves the belief in luck or fortune.

For me it seemed obvious that some people were lucky and others were not. Surely it had to be luck that meant you would win the lottery or bad luck if you got into an accident? But that was just my human nature trying to explain something that couldn’t be explained. You see luck and fortune are just man-made concepts. We have a need to explain why something happened (this is particularly true of Emets). Everything has to fit nicely in a little box , something can’t simply just happen. But, things just have to go one way or the other. You will either win the lottery or you won’t; you will either fall down the stairs and break your ankle or you won’t. There is no supernatural reason behind it. This is what chance is but you could also think about it in term of probability or odds.  What are the odds that you would fall down the stairs? If you really looked at it there would be many factors affecting the odds but in simple terms, there is a 50% chance that you will fall down the stairs. In other words, you will either fall down or you won’t!

Another way of looking at luck is that it’s something we create for ourselves. ‘Luck is preparation meets opportunity.’ If you believe that you are lucky then you are more likely to go out looking for opportunities that would make you seem lucky. For example, if you believed that you were going to win competitions because you were lucky, then you are going to actively enter competitions believing your ‘luck’ will make you win. But all this is doing is increasing the chances that you will win. If you believe that you are never going to win anything, you won’t enter the competitions. This will mean you won’t win and that will reinforce the idea that you are unlucky.

Your belief in whether you are lucky or not can also affect other people’s reactions to you. So if you believed that you were lucky and would get any job that you had an interview for, you will come across as confident and this will give the interviewer confidence in you. But if you believe that you are unlucky and would need a miracle to get the job then you will come across as confident, you won’t get the job and that will reinforce your idea that you are unlucky.

So, to answer the Thrive question, ‘do I believe in Luck?’  The answer would be no. It is just a matter of how you perceive chance and how you process what happens to you in your life.

A test to see if I am thriving

Yesterday was a real test to see if I am thriving or not. During the day I didn’t think I was thriving but looking back on it I think I did very well.

My DH was going out with my BIL to the cinema. It was the day after my DH’s birthday and he was really looking forward to it. That morning my BIL called and told my DH that my SIL had been sick all night and had the stomach flu (which doesn’t exist as the flu is influenza and is a respiratory illness – she had a stomach bug!) and so my SIL wasn’t coming out for the meal in the evening. My DH said he therefore didn’t really want to go so that we both didn’t catch it but my BIL wanted to get out of the house so they went. I didn’t really know how to deal with this information. As an emetophobe I would have gone absolutely crazy and demanded that my DH didn’t go out and risk bringing the dreaded stomach bug into my home. But Thrive would tell me that I could be sitting next to someone on the bus who’s wife or kids had a stomach bug and not even know it. My desire for control was just going crazy. As I said I knew that I could be next to someone on the bus and not know it but in this case I knew that there was a chance my BIL could be ill or carrying the illness and so I wanted to control my risk to it. But I knew I shouldn’t give into the little desire for control birdie that sits on my shoulder.

I put my DH in a really awkward place. Because I was struggling to control my desire for control and struggling not to go back to the habitual emetophobic habits, I was just withdrawn and quiet all day. I felt the easiest thing to do was sleep because then I didn’t have to work out what to do. I really wanted my DH to make the decision himself not to go as he didn’t want to get sick either but he wanted to see the film. I told myself that I will have to tolerate feeling uncomfortable as I didn’t have control of the situation and that we would handle it if we got sick.

Then in the evening my BIL came out for the meal and felt quite sick himself but he takes some strong medication. I think I handled it quite well actually. I had a mini freakout when my DH said he was coming because again this was something that I couldn’t control. My DH kept asking me what I wanted him to do to resolve the situation but there wasn’t anything except demanding that his brother didn’t come and that would be rude and unfair. The only other option was for me to not go but I wasn’t missing out on his birthday meal. I knew it was just that birdie again telling me that I had to do something so I put a sock in its mouth and went anyway. My BIL even came to our flat briefly after and I didn’t freak out at all. Ok so I had a few anxiety moments but only for a few seconds and I told myself that I was creating them so I could stop.

I really need to be working on my black and white thinking as well. In my eyes my BIL was carrying the illness and/or would definitely get ill himself. But that isn’t the case. I need to learn to see the grey areas but I am really struggling with that part of Thrive. I just need to continue to work on it. I was about to write that I didn’t obsess about the situation as I didn’t worry that I was going to be sick but actually I did obsess. I obsessed about how to get control of the situation  when I should have told myself that obsessing does not resolve the issue because it was something that couldn’t be resolved as I said above.

It is in the back of my head now though that we have 72 hours to see if either of us gets sick. I shouldn’t really be having those sorts of thoughts I don’t think but then I am not sitting here worrying about it or avoiding food etc. That is what I would have done before. I would have started eating safe food and washing more to make sure I didn’t get ill.  Maybe it is normal to think in your head about those 72 hours? Or am I just kidding myself? Us emetophobes loves a statistic!

So I may not be thriving 100% yet but I definitely have the framework of the tools in place to handle these situations and I am sure that if I devote my time to doing the exercises etc. more, I will be thriving 100%.

The House of Hypochondriacs

I saw the advert for this Channel 4 programme a week ago and didn’t really think anything bad about it and decided to watch it. Last night it was on and I was extremely disappointed in it. It portrayed people with heath anxiety or HA (the term hypochondriac is a bit derogatory I believe) as a burden on the health care system and basically just a nuisance. Rather than highlighting the condition to people who don’t suffer it, it just led to people bashing them and calling them ‘selfish’ on social media. Dr Christian said that these people ‘visit the GP when they are well’. How dare he say that. They aren’t well, they just aren’t physically ill. People will mental illness should be treated exactly the same as someone with a physical illness.

It was also to my surprise that there was an Emetophobia sufferer on there. Ok so I can see how they said Emetophobia was similar to  HA in that it is a fear of getting ill – just a specific illness, but other than that, it isn’t the same at all. If anything it is more like OCD than HA. The Emetophobia sufferer never went to the doctor’s even if she was ill due to a fear of catching something that would make her sick. She had lots of rituals to stop herself catching something (like using gloves to open packing. (I still take something from the back of the shelf to make sure it hasn’t been touched)) and clearly spent her life doing these compulsions to stop the obsessions. I know this for a fact as that is what I was like. I was diagnosed with OCD before the word even recognised Emetophobia.

I had to stop looking at social media as the comments I saw were awful. One suggested that the Emetophobic lady should see what the factories were like that her food came when it was shown that she used gloves to open the packaging. What is that meant to achieve? Do they think that it is a laughing matter and that seeing that will make her better? I guess they think she was just being stupid. In an age where mental health charities are working hard to get rid of the stigma of mental illness, this belittling programme just put the fight back a few years by making it something to be laughed at – even the music that accompanied the show had a comical tone to it.

Someone on No More Panic asked why someone with OCD (or Emetophobia as she actually had) would be on the same programme as those with HA. That is a very good question. That would be like putting on a programme all about recovering from heart attacks and then adding a person who suffers with acid reflux disease. They both cause chest pain but they aren’t the same thing! This was just bad researching by the programme makers. They read that Emetophobia was about a fear of vomiting and put two and two together and assumed it was the same as HA.

Speaking of acid reflux, that was another small part of the show that really got to me. They suggested that people also go to the GP to ‘waste’ their time on simple things like acid reflux and constipation and that they should just see the pharmacist about that. I have suffered with gastroesophagus reflux disease (GORD) for 10 years and I also have IBS. These are another two disorders that have charities etc. trying to get people to understand better and to take away the stigma that it is ‘all in their head’ but this programme once again took away the work that they have been doing. Of course you should go to the GP with acid reflux or constipation! They could be a sign of something serious going on from a hiatus hernia, stomach ulcer, bowel obstruction to cancer.

This programme by channel 4, along with other similar titles like Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, just adds to the stigma that people like me have to face each day. It is programmes like this that make me want to fight to get these real illnesses taken seriously and for sufferers to be given the same respect as those with physical illnesses.