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to control my desire for control and struggling not to go back to the habitual emetophobic habits, I was just withdrawn and quiet all day.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.

Remember the symptoms…

Feeling like throat is numb and stomach is numb
Stomach feels strained – usually when tired – feel like sleeping would help
Feeling like can’t swallow
Feel like something is trying to push its way up – wind?
Unsettled stomach whenever I eat – acid reflux
Feel like full to my neck
Slight panicky feeling because I feel like this
Feeling like need the loo or like cork in bum!
Acid reflux is worse when tired
Feeling like I can’t eat even due to anxiety (think I am too full for this so if I eat I will be sick)
Panic that have no appetite – probably just constipation but worry that it is because I am ill
Bloating
Wind pain that travels from upper to lower and then out
Lightheaded – most likely ME/CFS but could also be constipation or anxiety
Feel like stomach in a knot
Feel all spaced out
Temperature affects my anxiety – if it is hot or cold I start to feel weird and panic
The numb feeling in throat is like what you get before you yawn or burp. Like something needs to come up. Always said it was like my throat was opening up to be sick but know that it isn’t
Get empty burps that make my throat and stomach feel more numb
Nausea, lack of appetite, numb feeling all happens when I am constipated or need the loo
Lots of wind in stomach. When get the wind bubbling feels like really hungry. Then I burp and it feels better. Can feel it moving in stomach.
Seem to quickly move between feeling full to feeling really hungry. Guess that is the wind and air
So confused whether hungry or not so sticking to a schedule. Still get panicky that eating will make me sick even when I know that it won’t. I am just constipated and like that bag in the video (even though I am still going).
Wind also feels like burning. Can hear my whole stomach gurgling and can feel it moving
Really, really thirsty a lot. Don’t fancy dry food, want wet food

Numb throat and stomach makes me panic. I worry that because I am not hungry it means I am ill when it is likely just to be constipation

If I think about stomach it makes me get a sudden feeling of nausea and panic in my chest. But can stop it now

Remember there is no point going home as there is nothing to do there. It is better to be here doing work and socialising with people. You won’t be sick. It is just your anxiety flaring up because it is Thursday and you are tired

Anxiety is always worse on a Thursday for some reason

Maybe the reason I am numb and feel like my I really need the loo (but can’t go) is because of the red meat I ate working its way through?

The Bisodol that I had this morning really helped with the burning and unsettled feeling but not the numbness. Remember that.

Right now you just need to accept that the feelings you are getting are IBS and that you won’t be sick at all. Now get on with your work.

You have had all these symptoms millions of times before and it has never made you sick. It is IBS and that is what it does so stop it!

Gurgling stomach just makes you feel hungry all the time. That is why you struggle to diet as it just makes you feel off and then you worry about whether you should actually eat or not. Eating makes the feeling go away

That numb feeling in your throat when you eat or drink is not because you are going to be sick. That is part of the constipation IBS and you won’t be sick. So stop being silly. You would have had a temperature if you were going to be sick

Do not look up the symptoms of constipation as it will say being sick. But that is only if it is really bad and has been weeks. You won’t be sick. Nausea is a normal side effect but you won’t be sick.

I remember often feeling like this before with my IBS. It is normal. You just let the phobia get the best of you that is all. Because you were concentrating on food through dieting and then you were concentrating on what your body was doing through trying for a baby. That is why you felt sick the whole time. Yes you have fatigue and have done for a long time but the focusing on the IBS made it worse. Stop it, you won’t be sick.

You also know that the flare up and the symptoms don’t last forever. It will get better. I have noticed in the past that my anxiety gets worse when I am in a constipation phase of my IBS and I think this is true. Back in 2012 I remember feeling very ill before my period and someone asked me if I was constipated and I was so that made me feel sick. Same thing happened this time and back in the summer when I was trying for a baby. So basically I get constipated (although I am going a little) and then get acid reflux and my stomach feels off. This then makes me panic that I am going to be sick when I should know that I won’t be as it doesn’t do that. That might be why I felt less sick with my period this time because I had an upset stomach the night before I started and so was empty and not all blocked up. Have been told by my parents the whole time that I am that bag from the advert and that it is just my IBS but my anxiety was clouding my judgement. I think I felt sick before my period when I was off the pill due to my constipation. However, because I thought it might be a sign that I was pregnant, I then got anxious and made myself feel more sick. I also convinced myself that it was morning sickness and therefore made myself feel sick!

Today’s ramblings – 22nd January 2015

I had a very successful day yesterday as I didn’t have a single panic attack. Yes I had high anxiety (especially in my throat after eating) and I also felt sick but managed to stay calm about it (though writing that now made me panic slightly that it will happen again today).

Despite that I woke up in a full blown panic attack this morning and at 10.30am it is still with me. I think it is because I felt slightly sick yesterday and I was afraid it was going to happen again today. Of course because I was afraid I have made myself feel rubbish and a little sick! Typical really. Yesterday I felt sick when I needed the toilet as I have IBS. I managed to control my panic about it yesterday but it did threaten to get me. Today is not the same. I feel like I need to go and feel a bit sick but too scared to go in case it makes me feel more sick. Stupid I know. I know the nausea and feeling in my throat is due to constipation and IBS but it doesn’t stop me worrying.

I’m really struggling to do my Thrive today. I guess that is because I am tired. I need to control these negative thoughts and move on with life but my head feels fuzzy today and my stomach feels off. My head feels so fuzzy that I can’t even work out what negative thought I am having! Let’s try and write them here:

  • That I will be sick due to constipation either if I don’t go to the loo or if I do. This has never made you sick before. It has made you feel sicky when you don’t go and then a bit sick after you do but it has never made you actually sick.
  • That I will feel nauseous at work and not be able to concentrate and not be able to escape. There is nowhere to escape to as you will feel sick at home as well and you can’t sleep your life away. Not now you are getting sparky the cat. If you do feel nauseous you will be able to cope. It is unlikely to make you sick as you haven’t been over the last four months and it is most likely just your anxiety, IBS and period making you feel that way (like it has been all along). It will pass.
  • That I won’t be able to last the whole day at work. Yes you can. You have managed it twice this week and you can do it again. I know that is what you were panicking about this morning but you can do it. You can cope with life. People go to work with much worse things than a bit of IBS nausea and panic attacks. People carry on with their lives when they have cancer treatment, have broken their ribs, have hurt their back in a car accident or are pregnant and feel very ill. I can live with a bit of IBS, anxiety and a headache. You can cope, you will thrive.
  • Feeling external as I have to stay at work all day. Turn it into internal in that I want to stay at work for myself so I can live a life, have money and get Sparky.
  • That people will know I am having a panic attack or know that I feel sick and judge me. That they will judge me if I can’t eat and know that something is wrong. People here care about you and will only want to make sure you are ok. They will not have those thoughts about you. You are imagining that they are thinking that due to your social anxiety. You cannot read their minds.
  • I am feeling external because I have IBS constipation nausea and there is nothing that I can do about it. Black and white thinking that I will feel nauseous every time I need to use the bathroom and after. Black and white thinking that my IBS will never go and I will never be able to cope with the symptoms. Firstly the black and white thinking – you know that IBS comes in flares and at the moment you are in a flare up of it. You can go a long time without any symptoms and be fine. You also know that the feeling in your throat is caused by it and that if you drink more water it would help. You also know that you can cope with the symptoms as you have in the past. The constipation will not make you sick. Not sure how to turn the external thought about my IBS into an internal one really. I will manage my thinking about my IBS and learn to tolerate the uncomfortable feeling and then I will be ok with it. I will not let the nausea cause a panic attack as I know it won’t make me sick.
  • That I won’t be able to cope with the nausea and headaches associated with constipation and I won’t be able to carry on with my life and thrive. Yes you will. You have concurred this mountain before and you can do it again now. You are making yourself feel ill by being hypervigilant. Stop it.
  • That I will have to feel terrible for days or weeks before I can actually feel normal again. You have concurred this mountain before and you can do it again now. You are making yourself feel ill by being hypervigilant. Stop it.

Why does the word nauseous fill me with more dread and panic than vomit? Because it lasts longer and there is nothing you can do about it. When you are sick it is over quite quickly and you feel better. With nausea you have to either wait for it to pass or wait to be sick to feel better.

Get throat nausea at the same time every day. It seems to be just before lunch time and just after. Basically that is when I am anxious because I am anxious about eating. Maybe that is what causes the throat nausea? Either way I know that I won’t be sick from it and that it is just an uncomfortable feeling. Oh I also get it on the way to work and on the way home from work which is strange. I just feel really thirsty and have a kind of background nausea. In that I am able to eat food still but don’t feel too well. If I focus on it it gets worse and it makes me panic. Does that mean it’s anxiety? But it also seems to happen after I have been to the loo so maybe it is IBS nausea as well? It just makes me feel really dry. I know it won’t make me sick but I just so badly want to control it and make it go away.

My desire for control has gone absolutely mad with my IBS as it isn’t something I can control. That is why I am having such a hard time with it at the moment. I can’t control the nausea I am feeling and the symptoms I am getting. Even if I tell myself that I won’t be sick because it has never made me sick before, I still get the panic because I am nervous of the nausea (hence why that word is more scary to me now than vomit). Although you can’t control being sick it isn’t something that happens that often. When you have IBS, acid reflux and periods nausea happens a lot! You would think that would mean I was less afraid of it. Well once upon a time that was correct. I have been through stages like this before when I have been completely afraid and then eventually have got used to the feeling and it hasn’t panicked me. Not sure why it suddenly started panicking me again. Actually I know why. It was because I thought I was pregnant and therefore getting morning sickness. I thought that meant I would definitely be sick (as I felt very sick) and couldn’t really believe that it was due to constipation and my hormones.

All the symptoms I am getting are the same and I know they won’t make me sick. The psychiatric doctor told me to check my symptoms and see if they are the same as I have had before. Then if they aren’t, sleep on them for the night and if they don’t get better go and see the GP. But most of the symptoms I get are the same even though they change. So why can’t I just accept that they are my IBS and get one with things?

Any little twinge or feeling in my body is interpreted as I am going to be sick. Right now I am really hot and my head feels fuzzy and my stomach off (though that will be my period). Naturally I started to panic that I will be sick. Told myself to stop it but still don’t feel well at all and have two hours to go. Trying to concentrate on my work

Feeling really sick right now. Actually feels like it is going to happen. My head doesn’t feel right, my stomach doesn’t feel right. I actually feel if I move to much I will be sick. I know I can cope with this. I can get through this. If I am sick it will not be the end of the world. People won’t think I am disgusting, they will want to make sure I am ok that is all. I can cope. I am sure it is just my headache, that it is stuffy and my anxiety but the worst thing that could happen is I am sick and I will be able to cope with that.

Imagine – a poem about Emetophobia

Imagine

Imagine being afraid to eat, afraid it will make you sick.
Imagine feeling trapped, trapped in your own mind.
Trapped in a body that scares you to death.
Imagine being afraid of every little feeling,
Be it hunger or pain, they scare you the same.
There is no escape.

Imagine being afraid when you burp, afraid to use the loo.
Imagine losing lots of weight through lack of appetite.
But you’re told your aren’t anorexic, you’re too fat for that.
Imagine being afraid of digestion, afraid of what food might do.
Every meal brings a panic attack, you feel shakey and weak.
But still you don’t eat, you can’t relax.
There is no escape.

Imagine just wanting to sleep, to sleep to escape.
But you can’t sleep anymore, you’re too wide awake.
Imagine spending every day in pure fear.
Nowhere is safe, you can’t calm down.
Imagine being afraid to poo, afraid it will make you sick.
Indigestion scares you, acid reflux and IBS too.
There is no escape.

Imagine feeling sick from nerves, when that’s the thing you fear.
Each day is a struggle, your eyes being to tear.
Imagine you’re afraid of life, but no one understands.
‘I hate being sick too’, you hear them say.
If only that’s all it was.
Imagine being agoraphobic, social phobic with low self-esteem.
That is Emetophobia, no word of a lie.
There is no escape.

Thought diary…

I actually went back to work on Monday and did a whole day! Currently on my lunch break of my second whole day and still struggling a bit. I found it helpful on Monday just to write down how I was feeling and this was the result (sorry if it is a bit of a ramble!):

I basically just can’t tolerate uncomfortable feelings. That is what this is about really isn’t it. The most uncomfortable feeling is being sick as well as feeling sick so that is why I am scared of it so much. I feel uncomfortable at work for one reason or another and so I just want to go home. But then I feel uncomfortable at home as well as I know I should be at work. It’s catch 22 really. I do find that journaling helps though. Just writing down what is in my head seems to really help me.

I think I am uncomfortable at work as I kind of feel like I am not important or not needed. Really the company could continue without me. In fact it has when I was off sick. There is no satisfaction in my work, no reward. I don’t have any targets to meet and don’t have a team to work with. I know that is not the only problem going on (I don’t really have anything to strive for at home either) but it is a big part of it I think. How can I thrive when I feel so repressed at work? But I can’t move to another job until this stupid anxiety has done one really.

I keep asking myself whether or not I feel sick which is ridiculous. Obviously if I have to ask myself that it means I don’t! The feeling in my throat and head is anxiety and my stomach is IBS and acid reflux. All I want is for them to go. But I just have to accept that they won’t go. I have to learn to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings. People get on with their lives when they have chemo or much worse things. People continue to go to work with depression, eating disorders etc. Some even continue to work with flu or even stomach bugs! Yet I can’t even tolerate the uncomfortable feelings of my period! I don’t even seem to be able to stand the feeling of being tired which is ridiculous! I think everyone feels rubbish at some point in the day. Whether it is when they first wake up or when they are ready to go to bed etc. I know that before all this I used to feel off at least once in the day but it didn’t scare me like it does now. I’m not even sure why it scares me. Even if I tell myself it won’t make me sick I still get scared. I think it’s my perfectionist thinking that does it. I think my mind tells me I have to feel perfect every day but I don’t think anybody feels perfect every day. I wish there was some way I could do a survey of people to find out how often they felt something wrong with them and then how often they just got on with things. There is no point me doing it on the emet forum as they are all people who think the same way as me.

This is why it doesn’t really matter if I am at work or at home as I feel anxious in the morning everywhere. I get anxious about whether or not I will feel ill and anxious that day and then that creates the anxiety.

All I think about at the moment is how I feel. I try and concentrate on other things but all I can think about is how I feel. Do I feel sick? Does my stomach feel off? Am I hungry? Do I have acid reflux? I get like this after a stomach bug all the time. This time I haven’t had a stomach bug but I felt very ill for a long time due to my hormones and it has left me this anxious mess.

Ok so it is definitely acid reflux that gives me that weird throat feeling and then the anxiety makes it worse. That is why I panic when it comes to eating which is just stupid really! Now my throat feels off and my stomach a little bit churning and I hesitate to eat. But eating will help me. Why am I so afraid to eat? It is stupid! I just need to accept that it is acid reflux and IBS and that it isn’t going to make me sick. I need to accept that I will feel like this most mornings and that eating will help it. I have lived with it for years so why does it suddenly scare me so much? I think it might be because it got so bad when I was off the pill and my hormones were free to wreak havoc on my body! If I could just realise that eating will actually make the acid reflux die down and the wind die down then I will feel better, Also need to sort out my black and white thinking regarding my acid reflux and IBS as well. I need to tell myself that it isn’t here to stay and that it does get better. For some reason in my mind I have decided that I am going to have it every day for the rest of my life. When in actual fact it is just worse around my period. I also need to remind myself that the burning feeling I get along with the desire to burp (which happened just this minute) does not mean that I am going to be sick. If I could somehow disassociate acid reflux and IBS with being sick then it would help. But I also need to accept that it won’t be there all the time. Besides I’m not sure the burning feeling I get is due to acid reflux anyway. If it was then surely the medication would sort it and it doesn’t. I think really I should be referred back to a gastro doc for a review but I know they won’t do that as they think of me as a hypochondriac. You know what? I have had the burning feeling and burping for some time now. I think I have always had it and managed to get on with life. It is obviously just part of my IBS. It’s not behind my breast bone which is where indigestion is, it is on the right hand side and in my bowels. Yet I do still get that feeling in my throat of what emet people call throat nausea. It is like a gaggy feeling. Or like something is trying to push its way up (which I believe is wind or a burp). If I could just stop concentrating on it and realise that it won’t do me any harm. It is definitely a burp trying to force its way up and getting stuck (think I read another emet describe it as that and how it makes her panic). I get this burning in my chest and then I have to burp or fart. That then relieves the burning temporarily. I think it is anxiety induced acid reflux. I have felt it hundreds of times before but why is it sometimes I just can’t handle it? Is it because it gets worse and makes me feel more sick? Or is it because it is combined with other things going on (such as the nausea from my hormones) that makes me eat less and makes my acid reflux worse? Why can’t I just accept that I have acid reflux and that nothing can change that and it won’t make me sick? Guess it is my desire for control going crazy like normal. My period makes me very gassy and I think that is what makes me burp more, not necessarily acid reflux. Surely if it was that I would feel the burning behind my breast bone? Plus I get the burning feeling in my bottom as well! Wow I really am going round in circles here. This is what goes round and round my brain all the bloody time. It never settles in the morning. I can’t seem to find anything to settle my stomach. I was ok after my breakfast but now I have had a cuppa and some biscuits my stomach feels off. It’s all churning and burning

I guess it is acid reflux and the more I think about it the worse it gets. I always burp after having a cup of tea and I am sure that is due to acid reflux. I just feel like there is so much air in my stomach is won’t come out and it just burns and pulls on my throat. But why don’t the PPI’s work if that is the case? Why is it that someone with emet has to suffer these digestive issues? But you know it won’t actually make you sick Jen. You know it won’t. It is just an uncomfortable feeling that you need to put up with and get on with your life. The medical world obviously can’t do anything about it otherwise they would have done already. Lots of people have said the cause of it is stress and your hormones so you know that is what is causing it. It might make you burp a lot and make you throat and chest feel funny and off but it won’t make you sick and you can cope with the feeling. Nothing is going to happen to you at all. It is just IBS and acid reflux. Why is it that even though I have written that several times I still don’t believe it? At the same time I get the burning I also get the desire to go for a poo so maybe it is related to that as well? It just makes my stomach feel off and makes my back and ribs hurt. The doctor told me that was just IBS not acid reflux and that IBS can make you feel that way. Oh for goodness sake, time to stop thinking about it now. At the beginning of this diary you were fairly positive now all you are talking about is how off your stomach feels and that is probably because you are worrying about having lunch!

What it is

Recently there was a post on Anxiety UK asking for people to get in touch with a reporter from the Independent who was writing a story on Emet. Although she was a sufferer herself, she wanted to hear other people’s thoughts on it. I put the following together and thought I would share it on my blog:

Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting. I know what you are thinking, no one likes vomiting and believe me, I have been told that many times by people who just don’t understand how debilitating this phobia actually is. It’s more than just being afraid of vomiting. It is a constant struggle every day to carry on with a normal life. It is the constant worry that you might get sick when you least expect it. It is a fear of not being in control and when are you the most out of control? When your body takes over and makes you sick. You aren’t able to stop it, it just happens. This phobia brings with it many symptoms that the name would not suggest to someone. Imagine you are afraid of flying. Well it’s simple really, just don’t get on an aeroplane (I realise that you may have to face the fear at some point in your life). Or if you are afraid of dogs, you have a good chance of being able to avoid dogs for most of the day, maybe even most of your life. Now imagine that what you are afraid of is your own body? You can’t escape it. If there was a dog standing in your way you could run away and feel ‘safe’. If it is your own body, wherever you run to, your body comes with you so you can’t escape it.

Each day starts with a complete body check to make sure that you aren’t ill. Do I feel nauseous today? Does my stomach feel weird? Do I fancy my breakfast? Do I have a temperature? Am I going to be able to face work/school today? If you have any symptoms that even remotely suggest that you may be sick during the day then you bury the hatchet, climb back in bed and hide the day away. Although you can’t actually escape the nausea or the fear by being in bed, it makes you feel better as you have taken control of the situation. Being in bed or even just at home, means that you can control the situation if it were to happen and also takes away the social anxiety element of being sick.

I recently asked on an emetophobia forum what it was that people are actually afraid of. I got several responses and only one said actually vomiting. Most of them came back saying that they were either afraid of losing control of their body or that they were afraid of being sick in public and people’s reactions. So clearly this is what the phobia is about deep down.

Another trait that I have and that Rob Kelly from Cure Your Emetophobia and Thrive have stated emetophobia’s have is low self-esteem. I definitely have low self-esteem and I believe this is the deep routed cause of a lot of my anxiety problems and especially my emetophobia. I feel that I am not worth the same as other people and therefore don’t deserve to be loved and looked after. For me this was routed in the time my little sister was born and I was no longer the baby of the family. A lot of attention was on my little sister, especially as my cousin (my Mum’s sisters’ son) had died of cot death a month before my sister was born. The whole family was anxious and agitated and my parents in particular were understandably scared the same thing would happen to my little sister. So not only did I have the normal five year old reaction to no longer being the baby of the family, it was made worse as even less attention was on me. Now let me say right here that I am in no way blaming my parents for my phobia. It is something I created for myself. No one gave it to me. It wasn’t something that happened to me. It is something I created with my incorrect thinking styles.

My five your old self was desperate for the attention and my brain tried to figure out a way to get it. I know that I have always wanted my parents and grandparents attention as there are home videos of me trying to get them to record me instead of my two sisters. Seems it has always been a struggle to compete with them both (I have one older sister and one younger sister). I don’t recall a particular incident with illness when I was that young but as a five year old I must have caught a bug at some point. I do however, remember being in my bed at a young age whilst my sisters were both outside the room playing. I was feverish and felt awful and just wanted my Mum but my sisters were getting the attention. When I was ill my Mum would give me her undivided attention which was just what I wanted. So my brain learnt that this was the way to get attention, to be ill. But at the same time I didn’t want to be ill as no one likes vomiting do they! It then became a constant struggle in my brain between wanting to get the attention from being ill but also not wanting to be ill. My desire for control took over this struggle and eventually I had a full blown phobia of being sick. I am not afraid to say that I also realised I got more attention for having the phobia. It meant my whole family had to treat me in a special way.

At 14 I had a bad stomach bug that woke me up in the middle of the night to be sick. This is where the phobia really started to take hold of my life. I remember refusing to sleep each night after that and it was another constant struggle, this time with my desire to fall asleep but my desire to control the time I woke up and was sick in the middle of the night. This also meant I got more attention from my Mum and Dad. Not only were they giving me the attention (albeit negative) because I wouldn’t go to sleep, but I was also being taken to the doctors and psychiatrists by them who were basically calling me special. One of them told me that I had OCD (which is another disorder that is about not being able to handle uncertainty and having a high desire for control). From that moment on I had a fully-fledged case of OCD. Although it wasn’t on a conscious level, I am sure that in being told I had this disorder and being given a label actually caused me to have it. I realised that I was special (because there was something wrong with me) and I also go a lot more attention for it. (I should mention that as a child I always wanted there to be something special about me. My best friend had glasses and I remember crying my eyes out when the optician said my eyes were perfect and didn’t need glasses. I so wanted to be special like she was and have something unique about me!).

I had treatment for the OCD but I didn’t really seem to get better. It wasn’t until I was 16 and I witnessed a child be sick in front of me that I realised what I was truly afraid of. I was afraid I would get sick. Yes I was afraid of contamination but it was the fear that the contamination would make me sick. I researched the fear of vomiting and realised that it was called Emetophobia. The doctors and therapists didn’t diagnose me. I did. Finally I knew what was getting to me this whole time. But even to this day I have a fight with the GPs and therapists who don’t believe what is wrong with me. They don’t seem to understand quite how debilitating emetophobia is. They believe that it is just a fear of being sick and therefore one is only afraid when faced with being sick. But it is so much more than that.