Sick of Being Sick – The Emetophobia Story

REINTRODUCTION

Hi there. My name is Icedcappp (with 3 p’s). I’m female, 22 years old, and emetophobic.

This is a reintroduction, because how can you introduce yourself without including something that overshadows every action, every emotion, every decision of your entire life? It would be like hiding your gender, age, or anything else that might affect your worldview. Being a girl, being a young adult – it’s crucial to understanding who I am, where I come from, and where I’m going. So is this.

So let me say it again: I’m emetophobic. I live every day of my life paralyzed by fear of vomiting. I’ll mitigate the issue only once – I’m not nearly as bad as I could be. There are people who are afraid of going outside, or taking medication, or eating food, on account of emetophobia. I’m not an example of the worst a person can get, likely due to the myriad of positive influences in my life. That’s the end of my mitigation, because this really does suck, and pretending it doesn’t hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

For reasons I may or may not explain, I’ve decided it’s about time to do something about this, and actually make real progress for the first time in 8 or 9 years. For other reasons, I’ve decided to try sharing my attempted journey here, on TYFLMAYC. I think it might become a weekly feature? Maybe.

Let’s start here. What am I even talking about? I’ve tried to explain the phobia to people before, and I don’t think anyone has ever taken it seriously at first telling. This is most likely due to my obsessive mitigation, which ended a few paragraphs ago. Here’s a typical response:

“Yeah, I also cry when I vomit.”

A reasonable misunderstanding, but wrong in every way.

I DON’T CRY WHEN I VOMIT

Here’s why:

  1. I don’t vomit. An emetophobic is almost always someone with an iron stomach and an iron will, and due to a combination of natural immunity and obsessive controlling behaviour, we usually transcend mere mortals into a world free of vomit. I can count (and vividly remember) the number of times I have been sick to my stomach in my memory – it’s 6, if you’re wondering, and only once in the past 10 years. Emetophobics do, as luck would have it, experience higher than average levels of nausea. This could be caused by anxiety, and also by a tendency to assume any discomfort in the stomach area is nausea.
  2. I don’t “cry”. I mean, I do, but that’s not really the issue here. The real issue is panic attacks. If you’ve never had one, it’s basically when your body employs “fight or flight” levels of adrenaline in a situation that doesn’t actually call for it. In other words, I get nauseous, and react like I’m being chased by a starved mountain lion. Here is a selection of symptoms, which just happen to be the ones I get: Heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and shaking, dizziness, depersonalization, chills, and, of course, nausea. So you can see how “cry” is an understatement.

The great joys of emetophobia are starting to make themselves plain, as I’m sure you can see: Anxiety leads to nausea, which leads to anxiety, which leads to nausea, and it’s all just downhill from there. There’s also my old friend Anticipatory Anxiety, which is basically getting anxiety because you’re afraid of getting anxiety. Which then causes nausea, which… you get the point.

So what do you do when you’re afraid of something you can’t control? You try, and try again, to find a way to control it. There’s this hopeless struggle to find ways to avoid vomiting, when really, you know you never can, and you’re afraid of what might happen when that day finally comes. But you try. You avoid public transit. You take motion sickness drugs before setting foot on a boat, even if you’ve never experienced motion sickness before. You obsessively categorize every feeling in your gut. You spend hours on WebMD, trying to diagnose your nausea. You avoid anything that you’ve decided could eventually put you in a vomit-related situation, like, say, drinking, or dentists, or chicken. And when it comes down to it, and you’re just nauseous, and there’s nothing you can do about it, you just break down, because you know you can’t handle what’s coming.

And then it doesn’t come, and you start over again. I used to wonder if it would be better if I did vomit once in a while. When I did, I realized that what had kept me calm-ish for the past few years was a shaky set of rules that hadn’t failed me yet. When they did fail me, and I did vomit, I didn’t feel better – I felt completely helpless. So I made new rules, and these ones are worse, I’m finding. And now here I am, ready to let go of them, finally.

NOW WHAT?   

Now I’m going to speak openly about this. Emetophobia is one of the most common phobias, and one of the least researched. I’ve spent a lot of time mitigating, even more time saying nothing at all, and most of my time being afraid, and it occurs to me that millions of people out there are doing exactly the same thing.

Here’s the thing – I’m sick of mitigating. I’m sick of silence. And I’m really, really sick of being afraid. And God knows I don’t like being sick.

It’s going to be a long process. Lifelong habits don’t just dissolve overnight – I need an extreme attitude adjustment, and I think I’m ready to make the leap. And I intend to keep you posted. So, let’s say Fridays. Are Fridays good? On Fridays I’ll post something to do with emetophobia, and anything useful I might pick up along my travels. And, just for fun, I’ll include some emeto-logic in each post, because what is the point of life if you can’t laugh at yourself?

EMETO-CATION OF THE WEEK

Canady Dry Ginger Ale. “With real ginger!” I’m told. By the bottle.

Ginger is an age-old nausea treatment, and there are tons of ways to include it in your diet. Ginger ale is the absolute worst of them. It probably only has a speck of real ginger in it, just so they can say it’s there. It’s also the best tasting way to consume ginger, and some highly credible sources on Yahoo Answers or something claim that carbonation can soothe the stomach. Yay?

EMETO-CABULARY OF THE WEEK

Throat Nausea: A gaggy feeling in the back of the throat, like something is stuck in there, which kind of feels like Stomach Nausea only higher up. I have yet to find a real explanation for it on the internet, other than possibly Acid Reflux, but I keep getting it when I eat this certain cereal for breakfast, so I’ll just stop doing that. I also got it from a Toblerone. Utterly tragic.

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One Response to Sick of Being Sick – The Emetophobia Story

  1. Pingback: Part-Time Living – The Emetophobia Story | thanks for letting me autograph your cat

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