Hello world and welcome to day Q of the A to Z challenge. My Q is for Q&A – questions and answers. Today I present to you a mini interview, about me, about emetophobia and about being a mum. Feel free to post your own questions in the comments and I will try and answer them for you!
When did your vomit phobia start?
As far back as I can remember really. My life seems to be split in to vomit episodes and non-vomit episodes. Some of my earliest memories are of when I lived in Bristol as a child, being sick as a child and fearing nursery. From what my mum says, I was around 3-4.
What do you think caused your phobia?
I honestly have no idea. And this is a question I’ve been trying to answer in therapy for literally years. And to be honest, now I’m in my thirties, I’ve given up trying to find an answer. Who cares anyway right? I can’t say it was one event in my childhood that sparked the phobia. I never had some traumatic vomit incident. I was a fairly normal kid, from a normal home. There are, however, things that happened during childhood which I don’t think helped my anxiety. One being dinner ladies at primary school. They used to make us sit in the dinner hall and finish our school meal. If we didn’t finish, we were made to sit there. Often, if a kid felt sick, instead of moving them out of the lunch hall, they’d bring in a bowl. I also remember vomit incidents at primary school, literally down to the colour of the vomit. I don’t understand why they are etched in my mind thirty years later.
What are you afraid of exactly?
Again, it’s hard to say. The whole notion of feeling nauseas and vomiting scares me so terribly. The sight, the sound, the smell, the taste. Everything about vomit is awful in my mind.
But you’ve been sick, you survived? Didn’t that show you that you were ok?
In some ways yes but I find my emetophobia has a horrid way of creeping back in. I’ve found when I’ve been sick, the actually procedure of vomiting has come as a relief after hours and hours of trying to fight off nausea. Often I tell myself it would be easier and quicker to just be sick than to try to hold it back. And when I’ve been sick, yes it isn’t pleasant but I always tell myself it isn’t the end of the world. I’m still here. My husband and son are still here. My life is still here. But after a few days, none of that matters and any vomit incidents tend to just reconfirm in my mind how horrid the whole ordeal is.
How did you cope through pregnancy?
It wasn’t easy but I have an amazingly supportive husband. The day we found out we were expecting, for me it was “insta-nausea”. My mind is so good at making me think I feel sick that I ended up bringing on some kind of weird flu type symptoms that evening. I was ok the next day but I am sure it was caused by anxiety. I spoke with my doctor straight away and she prescribed my anti-emetic drugs. Just knowing I had them in the house made me feel more in control. I also spoke with my boss early on. I didn’t mention the phobia but I did say I was suffering with nausea. It was agreed I could work from home if I was feeling sick. This helped me A LOT. Again, knowing I had some level of control.
What will you do when your son is sick?
My son has been sick, a number of times, and I’ve had to just get on with it really. When he was a tiny baby, I found the spit-up and milk-vomit fine to deal with. We had a few projectile milk vomit incidents and J was there to clean them up and sort things out. As my boy started weaning, the prospect of lumps and chunks worried me. It hasn’t been great to be honest but J is always there to help me. My biggest achievement was my son coughing and being sick down my front. I managed to get him home, sit him down and change him and myself. I did call my husband in a state, telling him to get home asap. But I tried to keep calm, telling my son it was all ok and not a big deal. It’s really important to me not to show him that vomiting is a big deal and something to fear.
Have you had any treatment for your phobia?
I’ve tried many different approaches in the past yes. Honestly, I’ve never found anyone who really understood things and I got fed up of forking out fifty quid a pop to talk about a bloody vomit phobia. I made friends through an online forum and this helped through some tough times. Although my thoughts on forums are mixed and I will post something separately on this! I also used self-help books to learn some basic CBT techniques which sometimes help. My main key thing is keeping busy. The more I sit and ponder things, the more it becomes a big deal. The more I fill my day and push myself to get on with life, the easier I find things. It depends though if I am in a good place or a bad place emet-wise.
Who knows? Every day I worry I’ll be sick. That it will be my “turn”. But I’ve got to keep living, I’ve got to keep getting on with things. And this is true more so than ever now that I have a son. In the past I have seriously contemplated suicide. This isn’t an option now. My son needs me, and I need him. And I want to enjoy my life. I honestly can’t believe I’d consider ending things over something as simple as being sick. But when it gets bad and when I’ve been sat on the bathroom floor, shaking, half-passing out, scared to death I’ll be sick, then yes, I’d rather be dead in that moment.