Phobia’s are strange things; we have an abject fear of something that in some cases won’t actually harm us. I remember watching a program a few years ago about someone who was scared of knees, could you imagine being petrified of a body part that 99% of the world has? Everyday you would wake up, conscious of the fact that you might catch a glimpse of your own knees and just that thought alone could bring on sheer panic. Your whole life could potentially be dictated by the risk of coming into contact with your phobia. Sometimes, its not just the sight of it that could cause meltdown; just the ‘what if’ is enough.
In my case, I suffer from emetophobia. After I did some research I came to realise how common this phobia was and how many of the symptoms I had possessed for years without being totally aware.
I have been afraid of sick for as long as I can remember and it is becoming apparent in recent years that it is the biggest trigger for my anxiety. One of the hardest parts is trying to explain how I feel, especially to those who are not fazed by vomit. Unless you suffer with a phobia of any kind I think its difficult to comprehend how frightened you can be of something so ‘normal’ and, in my case, inevitable.
In the last few weeks emetophobia has been taking over my life. I have been struggling immensely with it over the Christmas period and I’m not entirely sure why. I haven’t been sick, I haven’t seen anyone or been around anyone whose unwell. But, for me, feeling even slightly nauseous can trigger panic and from that moment it just becomes a vicious cycle. Anyone who suffers from anxiety or a panic disorder will be aware of how much your stomach and brain are closely linked and how nausea is a common side effect of these conditions. Pair a highly anxious person with a phobia of sick and you’ve got a catalyst of problems. One always sets off the other and it is an extremely hard battle within my brain. I have to constantly try to convince Ben that I won’t be sick, its just all in my head, whilst he’s in my ear taunting “but you feel very sick, I think you might throw up any minute and its going to be so awful”.
So many aspects of my life are ruled by emetophobia but one in particular is eating. When I am anxious I find it difficult to stick to normal food habits and because I feel nauseous so easily when Ben is present it makes eating a big task in itself. My way of controlling the feelings of fear linked to sick is to tell myself that if I don’t eat much then I can’t throw up. This is totally untrue and even I know that, but Ben latches onto this thought and creates a negative connotation around food.
Recently, my phobia has been so overwhelming to the extent that I have been looking into a new therapy and started taking a new medication. Luckily, these tablets work wonders, however, they aren’t necessarily something I can take long term. Which instills more fear into me because I have relied on them on the worst days to get me through and once you find something that works, its hard to let go. The tablets I am trying are called Promethazine Teoclate which is a type of anti sickness medication. They are used for travel sickness and is also an antihistamine. They work by stopping histamine from binding to the receptors in the vomiting centre – this part of our brains creates the sick feeling and vomiting reflex. For now, these tablets are the only thing I am holding onto as a way to control my phobia. I still have an urge to wash my hands if I even hear that someone I know is feeling unwell, or has been sick recently; I am still building my food intake back up after a difficult couple of weeks and I am still very aware of how much of my focus is on potentially feeling sick again at any point. Its extremely draining and is having a significant impact on my quality of life.
The therapy I have been researching is called unconscious mind therapy. It is similar to hypnotherapy which I have tried in the past unsuccessfully. However, I continue to be open to trying anything that may benefit or ‘cure’ this phobia. There is a man in Essex (see here) who I have spoken to regarding this therapy and I have been informed that it takes just one session to begin to change my thinking. It is an expensive form of therapy but having already spent thousands in the last few years on cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy and craniosacral therapy, I have to forget about putting a price on my mental health. Despite this, I am still doing a lot of research to ensure that I choose whats best for me.
Thankfully being back at work after the New Year has given me my much needed routine back, and helped to quell the anxious thoughts by giving me a distraction and a reminder that I am capable of overcoming this just as I have with every obstacle Ben has placed in my path. I don’t intend on letting this become the reason that I give up after all the progress I have made over the last few years. My mental health doesn’t and won’t ever define me and despite bumps in the road I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now if I didn’t have the knowledge that there are better days to experience.
The night comes but the sun always rises again.