Emetophobia & Me

A blog about sick – yay, just what you all wanted to read, right?! Don’t worry, that’ll be the last mention of the word. I struggle with reading or even writing the words as it can trigger my anxiety so I’ll keep the rest of this post and my blog as trigger free as I can. This means you’ll probably come across a lot of “s*” and “v*” etc.

Let’s be honest, no one likes s*. It’s horrible. I’ve never met anyone who says otherwise and I don’t think you will ever find anyone who does…

It’s not a pleasant experience, but emetophobia is more than just a dislike of v*. It’s an overwhelming fear that comes with awful anxiety and LOTS of safety/avoidance behaviours which can manifest into OCD. (In my case, this is only mild). For me, it’s washing my hands EVERY time I want to eat something, or need to touch my face. It’s covering my hands with my sleeve to open doors. It’s avoiding certain foods that can trigger anxiety, or avoiding eating altogether if a family member is poorly. I could go on, but the long and short of it is it’s horrible, and extremely limiting.

Therapists and other sufferers explain that this phobia can manifest from a traumatic experience pertaining to v*. That isn’t the case for me and frustratingly, I can’t pinpoint what’s caused it.

My emetophobia has only really started to rear its ugly head over the past few years. I think it became more prominent when I moved out of my family home and moved 200 miles away to live with my boyfriend back in 2014.

It was on holiday this year that I had my first panic attack and I knew I needed to get help. The whole flight there and the first couple of days were constant anxious thoughts of “what if”. Nothing as far as I can remember triggered it, but I got so worked up one afternoon by the pool, that I had to go back to our hotel room, look the door and cry. At first, it started off as a few tears, but then the tears increased and my breathing became more rapid and shallow. I started feeling dizzy and s* – which as an emetophobe only made things worse and caused me to have a full blown panic attack. This lasted for about 45 minutes to an hour, but felt like a whole day had passed. My boyfriend was asleep by the pool and none the wiser, which at the time was exactly how I wanted it. I didn’t want to tell him about my phobia as it just sounded silly every time I thought about how I’d try to explain it. It was only when we landed back at home, that I took the first step and called someone to talk about it.

That someone was a complete stranger. My employer provides an “Employee Assistance Program” – a 24 hour, free, confidential helpline to talk about pretty much anything and everything. I called the number and as soon as someone answered, I burst into tears and told this poor woman everything. She convinced me to tell my boyfriend as a problem shared is a problem halved (and boy, was she right!) She also did an anxiety and OCD questionnaire, where they essentially ask you different questions and then scale your anxiety and OCD traits. She then recommended that I undertake Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and sent a referral letter to my GP.

Shortly after, I opened up and told my boyfriend about everything, and he has been super supportive, I can’t begin to explain. He understands when I don’t want to do certain things and why I don’t want to do them, but he also encourages me to take baby steps towards exposure goals I’ve set myself but without pushing me to do things I’m not comfortable with. He really is the best!

I’ve recently moved house so have had to change my doctor’s surgery and have been referred for CBT that is provided in the area I now live in. I have my first goal setting appointment in the New Year so fingers crossed I can continue with my therapy there.

I’ve got a long, long way to go, but I suppose the only way is up (as cliche as that sounds!) and I’ll continue to track my journey and progress on this blog.

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