All Groan Up: The Story of My Toaster Oven

This Christmas, I wrote the most boring wish list of all time, and found it deeply exciting. This was the moment when I felt grown up.

On this wish list, I included the following things: A shelf for my bedroom, a new backpack for Masters, a new straightener, and a toaster oven. This toaster oven is amazing. It toasts like a normal toaster (i.e., it is top-loading), in addition to being an oven. It is a Toaster Toaster Oven.

Because Santa was kind to me, I got my toaster oven! It is currently waiting on my bed in my apartment, because where else should I put a toaster oven but on my bed?

My good followers, I must point out that I have not posted in about 6 months. And now here I am, rambling on about a toaster oven. Take comfort in that I have not changed.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “All Grown Up.”

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Sicko: The Emetophobia Story

Well, it finally happened: I’m getting sick.

GETTING SICK WITH EMETOPHOBIA

Emetophobia lends itself to hypochondria quite nicely. Hypochondria, according to Google, is “abnormal anxiety about one’s health, especially with an unwarranted fear that one has a serious disease.” It’s an anxiety order which many can relate to – I’m sure most of us have given in to the temptation of WebMD, and subsequently diagnosed ourselves with cancer, or some rare terminal disease. Or even hypochondria.

When I develop a sore throat, my first thought is, “I hope this is a cold”. Colds don’t involve vomiting, you see, and once the cold hits me I settle down and stop worrying, because I know I can handle it. But for a while there, it’s pretty scary. I start to think of where I’ve been, who I’ve been around, and if anyone I know had a stomach bug. If someone I know has a stomach bug, I usually develop symptoms instantly. It never amounts to anything, obviously, but I can create the beginnings of an illness using only my mind. It’s the worst superpower ever.

Colds, then, are no problem. But what about the others, the grey-area illnesses? I struggle with coughs, because I know it’s possible for a really bad cough to make you vomit. Worse still was Strep, which I’ve been exposed to a hundred times but only ever experienced when I was on vacation, conveniently. The swelling in the throat, and the violent cough, and the inability to swallow left me in a constant state of near-panic.

Then there’s the flu, and this merits its own section.

STOP CALLING YOUR STOMACH BUG “THE FLU”

Influenza is a virus (I think) that famously causes a fever, aches and pains, fatigue, chills, and sometimes cold-like symptoms such as congestion and cough. We all know this. We get shots for it (not me. Those can make you vomit).

And then there’s the “stomach flu”, or the “24-hour flu”, which is not the flu at all, so PLEASE stop calling it that.

When people say they have the flu, you never know if they mean the actual flu, or the vomiting-every-20-minutes “flu”. This really really bothers me. If anyone ever uses the word flu, I ask for clarification, and then correct them that they are not talking about the flu. It is the difference between a terrible virus that gets you down for a week or more, and the actual end of the world.

On the other hand, I can’t really expect other people to act differently simply to make it easier for me to obsess about vomiting.

WHAT IF IT ACTUALLY IS A STOMACH THING?

This has come up twice in the past couple of weeks – two people close to me ended up with legitimate stomach-related problems, and weren’t able to hide it from me properly.

The real issue here isn’t that I was forced to handle anxiety about being helpless to stop myself from following suit. The issue is that people in my life actually have to consider my feelings when they are sick. Anyone who knows me well enough to understand this phobia, which is not actually a lot of people, has demonstrated in the past that they have gone out of their way to stop me from noticing the fact that they are sick.

The thing is, I am obviously aware of how bad these kinds of sicknesses can be. I am also aware that when I get sick, or I think I’m getting sick which always ends up being the case, people are sympathetic. I don’t know if this is cultural, or a humanity thing, but in general, people will help out sick people, do them favours, give them advice, listen to them talk about their symptoms and offer their sympathies. People have a lot of patience when it comes to sick talk.

And then there’s me – unable to support anyone who’s sick, crippled by the fear that I might get sick too.

EMETO-CATION OF THE WEEK

Gravol is my feature this week, even though I’ve boycotted it since childhood. The weird thing about liquid gravol is that, back when I last took it, it would actually numb the back of your throat, to physically prevent you from vomiting. Is there a permanent version of this?

EMETO-CABULARY OF THE WEEK

Side Effects: The list of things, always including nausea, which ABSOLUTELY WILL HAPPEN if you take this medication.

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Control Freak – The Emetophobia Story

This week, I’ve been nauseous every morning. Again. It tends to come back every time I eat, and then fades away for the afternoon and evening. It has been exhausting, but not as exhausting as my latest challenge to myself: To stop trying to control something I can’t control.

CONTROL AND VOMITING

There are 2 words that don’t belong in the same phrase. Why? Because you simply can’t control your body’s instincts. It doesn’t matter if I never drink pink wine again, or if I swear off Gravol because it failed once when I was little, or if I wash my hands every ten minutes with bleach. I still can’t control it.

This is the thing that makes emetophobia and other health phobias stand out from the other phobias. It’s not worse, but it is unique. If you’re afraid of heights, or water, or airplanes, there is always a chance for avoidance. It may destroy your life, when you go to such lengths to avoid something, but at least you know that you’re not going to die in a plane crash if you never take a plane for your entire life. But vomiting? I can never know for sure. But trust me when I say that I’ve gotten as close as one can get.

This week, I challenged myself to let go of a couple of my controls, even though I half-believe that it’s not a good idea. Technically, anything I do to avoid vomiting is also improving my health, and comfort. But I’m doing it anyway, despite my lack of conviction.

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE

If I let myself continue to plan my day around the Number 1 item on my to do list (“1. Don’t Vomit”), I enable obsessive controlling behaviour that feeds into my fear. These are the controls I have decided to start with this week:

  • Sitting forwards on the train
  • Not eating fast food

I know it seems like simple little things, but they make up the framework of an unhealthy attitude towards vomiting. My goal is to walk onto the train and seek out a seat that looks roomy, clean, and ideally, alone. I do not need to look for a forward-facing seat because “some people” (read: not me) get motion sickness from sitting backwards. My other goal is to eat fast food when I want something unhealthy, quick, and cheap, and regret it because it was gross, not because I’m afraid of how my stomach will react to it, or because I’m afraid of food-borne illness.

RESULTS

My days of letting go of controls have coincided with my days of being nauseous all the time, and that hasn’t made it easy. But there is something empowering in knowing that I made my decision for normal reasons, not for emeto reasons. There’s also something empowering in knowing that I have made it through almost a full week of nausea without having a full panic attack. I want to be hard on myself, because this morning I was hit with violent nausea suddenly, and I had to sit down and stop everything I was doing, and I could have been late for work. But the fact is that I talked myself down, I got back up, and I kept fighting. I may have let it stop me, but I didn’t let it stop me for very long.

EMETO-CATION OF THE WEEK

Pepto Bismol! An old favourite, tried and… almost true. It’s failed me twice, in my entire life. I used to take it almost daily. When I got older, I realized that taking too much medication can make you vomit, so… I stopped taking Pepto every day. Huh. Anyway, it’s great for placebo-ing you out of a tough spot.

EMETO-CABULARY OF THE WEEK

“Sick”. It has two meanings, not unlike “I love you” and “I’m in love with you”:

“I feel like I’m getting sick” = I feel slightly feverish, or have a sore throat, or fatigue. This might lead to future nausea and I’m freaking out about it.

“I feel sick” = I am already nauseous and I am FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT.

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Social Anxiety Day: The Emetophobia Story

Well, it seems having a M-F job doesn’t bode well for posting a blog every Friday. Who’d have guessed? I’ll work on it.

This week, we’re talking about Social Anxiety, and what it has to do with emetophobia and everything else.

WHAT IS SOCIAL ANXIETY?

It’s technically a phobia: A phobia of humiliation. According to Rob Kelly, creator of the Thrive programme for anxiety, social anxiety is one of the main factors that feeds emetophobia, and all other anxieties, and basically all of the unhealthy thoughts that we have on a day to day basis, so it’s definitely something worth ruminating about every now and then.

It isn’t hard, imagining having crippling anxiety in social situations – many of us experience it, at some point or another, in job interviews, first dates, what have you. It’s when lunch with a friend you’ve known forever feels like a job interview that it begins to become unhealthy. Social anxiety shows itself in many unhealthy habits – rehearsing conversations before they happen, dwelling on minor slip-ups for months (or years) afterwards, and experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety in social situations that many would consider not stressful – say, ordering a coffee at Tim Horton’s. Those symptoms could be a raised heart rate, blushing, trembling, etc. This is a huge oversimplification, and there are a number of different opinions on this (one of my favourite people, Susan Cain, describes it as “chronic shyness”). Basically, there’s a lot of literature out there available to anyone who is interested. Here’s a personal favourite:

Story of my life.

Story of my life.

HOW DOES SOCIAL ANXIETY AFFECT EMETOPHOBIA?

I’ll talk about my own experience, rather than reiterating my research (according to Wikipedia, emetos are afraid of vomiting in public, leading to social phobia. I completely disagree – vomiting period is my worst-case scenario, no matter where it happens). For me, growing up, I was experiencing social anxiety, and I had no resources to deal with it. I didn’t even know what it was until I was 18. But as a kid, I would have anxiety attacks on a regular basis, and as neither of my parents have ever experienced one, they weren’t able to help me much. My anxiety attacks were almost all based on social anxiety – a few were more about hypochondria – but every time, I was unable to find a way to explain what I was upset about, because it was all too overwhelming. So I went with the fact that I felt nauseous.

I did feel nauseous. I get nausea from anxiety regularly. But my first experiences of emetophobia overlap with my first experiences of anxiety, and I think the two grew together. Since social anxiety is an extremely hard thing to explain aloud (“I’m panicking because three days ago I pronounced a word wrong and someone pointed it out”), it was easier to just say that I felt sick. It’s difficult to say whether or not I developed emetophobia on its own, or simply because I associated nausea with anxiety attacks. Maybe it was a combination of the two.

To take this another step further, it’s obvious that people who are prone to one type of anxiety will be prone to another. If you fear complete helplessness against your own body (i.e. vomiting, hypochondria), and you are desperate to find ways to control your own health, is it such a far leap to also desperately try to control social situations where you feel helpless against others’ actions and perceptions? The same unhealthy attitudes and thinking styles lead to all types of anxiety. The good news is, if you fight back against one anxiety, you are really fighting them all.

THE PAST TWO WEEKS

I started a new job last Monday. The early part of new work terms is always painful, especially with the burden of social anxiety. I’ve learned to accept the fact that I won’t get much sleep in the first week, and my thoughts will be constantly consumed with rehearsal and reliving the countless mistakes I must have made.

This time, it’s been a little different. While there has certainly been anxiety, nausea, Limited Symptom Attacks on the train, and whatever else I was expecting, there has also been evidence that my efforts have been working.

Let’s take a moment to discuss adult acne. I have adult acne, and have had it ever since I stopped being a teenager. Anyone who has ever had moderate or severe (or even mild) acne can tell you that only one thing is certain: there is no quick fix to acne. There is no way to heal your skin overnight, and anything you try will probably just anger it further. The only way is to take it one day at a time, so slowly that you can’t even see the changes as they come. It’s the same as weight loss (hello, crash dieting) and any other healthy change you might want to make: there is simply nothing healthy about quick fixes. They either don’t work, or don’t stick, or involve sacrifices so great that they consume your life.

I see my phobia, and other anxieties, as basically the same situation. I’m not going to crack this in one shot. And because I’ve had a lot of practice with quick fixes, I know that I don’t want to get anywhere near one this time. Slow and steady is the only way I’m ever going to make it to the finish line. So the fact that I’m starting to notice very slight changes is a really good thing – it means that I’ve taken a couple of steps towards where I want to be, and the steps are surefooted, so it’s not likely that I’m going to start backtracking.

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Steve’s Music Mix:

Been a while, ladies and gents. I am exhausted from my new commute, which is about an hour and a half each way (3 hours of my life every day). More exhausting is meeting the people, learning the ropes, etc. I am so glad this is my last work term. Bring on the permanent jobs!!

Anyway, I’m too tired to come up with my own post, so I’m doing Steve’s Music Mix tonight! It feels like it’s been ages.

Where is your happy place?   

Another One Bites the Dust

Well. That’s morbid. I’m not that heartless!

Where are you now?

My Immortal

No. I’m in my room.

I came very close to posting a link to this instead. My favourite literary work of all time.

What do you mean?

Take Me Out

Huh. What do I mean? Take me out where? To the ball game?

Good night, all.

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And I’ll Cry If I Want To

If I were going to throw a party for myself, I wouldn’t. I hate parties, they’re a huge source of anxiety, and if they’re centered around me they’re even worse.

My party for myself would probably involve no theme, no decorations, and definitely no events. I may invite between 0 and 1 guests. There will be snacks, though. And Netflix. Am I doing my 20’s wrong?

I may need a do-nothing party soon, because I’ve been doing a whole not of not-nothing this week, and as you should know by now, not-nothing is my least favourite thing to do. I had to go down to the city twice this week, once to meet my new coworkers and once to look at a bunch of fish. I also went up north to remember my great grandmother, who passed away this winter at the age of 99 – just a few months short of her 100th birthday.

That is far too much excitement. And there’s no break, because tomorrow I’m starting my new term/job/ridiculous public transit commute. Today is my last day before I spend the rest of my summer as a salmon.

Salmon

Actual Photo of the Train Station
(Source: http://www.livingoceans.org/)

I wonder what kinds of parties salmon would throw. Migrating parties? Swimming upstream parties?

I bet salmon are throwing a “bring back the spring bear hunt” party as we speak. Because bears eat salmon, see? And we’re going to just go and kill them all now? Because our Liberals are the worst at being Liberals of all time and I am going to have to start spoiling ballots now?

This post is all over the place, but I have to go to my favourite store of all time (Wal Mart), so I’ll let you go.

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Conflict Resolution 101, From A True Expert

How do I handle conflict, you ask? I don’t, if I can help it. I wouldn’t touch a conflict with a 10-foot pole.

Even if I had a 10-foot pole, why would I be touching things with it? Wouldn’t it be awkward to handle? Wouldn’t I break a lamp or something? Cliches are so weird.

Sometimes conflict comes to me, and I usually try just falling down and playing dead for a while. If that doesn’t work, or if the person is being so infuriating that I can’t stop my face from responding to them, I usually try the “agree to disagree” method. If that fails, I’ll block them on facebook and pretend I never met them (I’m looking at you, former friends from elementary school and second-cousin-once-removed/MRA).

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