PLEASE NOTE: some people with emetophobia cannot handle even reading certain words. I have not placed asterisks or edited words and phrases that may be a trigger for you!
Emetophobia is an intense, irrational fear or anxiety pertaining to vomiting.
And I have had experienced it, on varying levels, since I was a junior in high school.
I know what some of you are thinking - NO ONE likes to get the yuckies. NO ONE likes to witness the yuckies. NO ONE likes to clean up after.
That's not what this is.
My phobia grew as my depression and anxiety increased. The definition above really gets to the heart of it: "intense and irrational."
It is extremely embarrassing, now, to talk openly about how this has played out in my head over the years. I'm saying some of this out loud because I know there are plenty of you out there that know exactly what I'm talking about, and also keep it to yourself.
If someone talked about having been sick anytime in the previous week, I completely avoided them. If they had already shaken my hand, I created an invisible barrier around that hand. Until it could be properly washed, I made sure it did not touch any other part of my body, or any object.
When my kids were young, I would avoid travel and certain situations, for fear they may come down with something while we were away from home.
When someone in the house had been sick, I would put myself on the BRAT diet, barely eating for days. My thought process was that hopefully I would "only" have diarrhea, because my stomach would never be too full. When a big virus swept through the house, I would be utterly emaciated by the end of it all.
When feeling sick, I would do whatever it took to keep anything from making its way back up. Always kept Phenergan pills and suppositories on hand. I discovered my pediatrician would prescribe them if the kids had a really bad bout that was lasting for more than 12 hours. So, by the time we filled the prescription, they no longer needed them. I kept them on hand for myself.
Again, I told you. This is embarrassing. But it's true, and it was the way I functioned for years. I know it made no sense. That's the problem with phobias and panic attacks and severe anxiety. They don't make sense, but they are just as, or more real, than any other emotion you have ever experienced.
If I witnessed someone being sick, my entire body flushed. I didn't feel nauseous. I felt terrified. I had zero empathy for that person, but only cared about personal survival. Yeah, I just said survival. I felt as though I could die if I caught a virus. I mean, I KNEW I wouldn't. I knew how rare that was. But it didn't take away that fact that I thought I may actually die. It was sheer terror.
And after that flush, once I could get myself separated from the situation, I always had diarrhea. Adrenaline rush. I still do this. It's my last residual effect from my now diminishing phobia.
Last night my 11 year old son woke us in the middle of the night. He was sick for several hours. Good, old fashioned stomach bug, hitting him from all angles. Once we got everything cleaned up, had him settled in the bathroom ...
*note, I just returned to finish this post after yet another child went down for the count ... cause that's how we play this game in a house full of kids ... moan*
So, anyway. As I was saying ...
We had him settled in the bathroom with a movie, and I crawled back into bed, I had time to reflect. This particular child rarely gets gastrointestinal issues. In fact, the last time he had something like this, was six years ago.
Yeah ... SIX YEARS AGO! I remember it well, because it was one of my worst experiences with this whole phobia thing. I can look back now and understand that I was having panic attacks. Hearing him get sick. Waiting for the next round. Cleaning it up. Every little cough or wiggle or clearing of his throat sent me straight back into this frightening pit of despair. I was a mess. Pacing the floor. Could not sleep. Could not calm. My husband had a big event that weekend, and had to be gone the next morning. I called my mom and begged her, through tears, to come over and help out with the other two kids.
I could not be alone.
Have I mentioned it was "intense and irrational?"
I honestly have feared death ... over ralphing.
But last night, my sweet middle child came into our room during the night to wake us. He apologized for tossing his cookies away from any appropriate receptacle (yeah, he really is that kind and sweet ... he was apologizing!). I loved on him, in that awkward way a mom does with her now-11-year-old son who wants his Mommy but also doesn't necessarily want her in his business in the bathroom. I stayed up to help him with whatever he needed for the next few hours. Once I knew he was dozing off, I let myself fall asleep.
I slept. Like a rock.
Then, in the middle of this post, when my youngest got that look on her face and everything went into slow motion as I yelled, "Ruuuuuuuun tooooooooo theeeeeeeeeeee battttttttthhhhhhhhrooooooooooommmmmm!" ..... I just went into Mommy mode. Got her settled. And kept trucking.
Don't get me wrong. If I catch this, I will be MISERABLE and hate the whole process. But I won't think I'm going to die. I'll WANT to die, but not think I'm GOING to.
It may not seem like a big deal to most, but it is huge for me. To be sitting here typing away and checking in on everyone, and getting lunch made and EATING A FULL PLATE ... it is huge. In finding healing for my anxiety and depression, I have found healing from this, as well.
Now, off to disinfect something!
(photo by Michael Chambers, used with permission)