– TRIGGER WARNING: Please be aware that this post contains talk of emetophobia and panic attacks –
Me and my mental health. Where do I even start with that statement? I don’t even know where I stand with my mental health, so this could be interesting. Anyway, the main reason as to why I’m sat here writing this post is because its mental health awareness week. Although we should be spreading awareness every day, I think this week is so important and gives everyone a reason to be talking about mental health. So I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about me and my mental health, share my own experiences and speak out to break the stigma behind it all.
I suffer from anxiety. More specifically, emetophobia (the fear of vomit). Oh and throw in some derealisation in there as well. I’ve explained a little bit about my emetophobia before on my blog, which you can read here if you’re interested in getting a bit of a backstory. Essentially I’ve suffered from the fear for as long as I can remember and had my first panic attack because of it when I was about five years old. There have been times in my life where I have dealt with it better than others but nonetheless, it’s very real and very scary. I hate not being in control of my own body and like to know exactly what is going on at all times, which of course is impossible.
Emetophobia isn’t simply the fear of vomit, but the rituals, intrusive thoughts and sheer panic that comes along with it. It’s so much deeper than just hating sick. It’s the constant nagging at the back of your mind 24/7, that keeps you alert at all times. Feeling the need to prepare for that unthinkable situation, where god forbid, you get ill. But then, of course, you don’t want to jinx anything so actually, you tell yourself you don’t need to be prepared because it can’t happen, not to you. It’s avoiding certain situations in case something makes you sick, or someone else around you is sick and you can’t escape. This includes avoiding certain foods, certain modes of transport, medicines that contain nausea or vomiting as a side effect…the list could continue forever.
For me personally, suffering from emetophobia results in panic attacks a lot of the time. They tend to occur when I personally feel sick because I am absolutely petrified of the outcome. It gets to the point where even if I feel a little bit off, I refuse to go near a toilet, I don’t want to see a plastic bag or bucket near me and basically, anything that connotes itself with sickness just needs to be out of my sight. If I don’t feel well I have to just sit still and not move because I’m scared if I move I’ll be sick. It sounds absolutely absurd and trust me I know its ridiculous and totally unnecessary, but I take every precaution (useful or not), to stop myself from getting ill. As mad as it all sounds, the rational part of my brain just goes out the window.
I suppose what I’m really trying to get at with this post, is how debilitating it can be on a daily basis. Unlike a phobia of flying for example, it’s almost impossible to avoid. It’s a fear of your own bodily functions, which can’t be escaped or outrun. It’s so exhausting because you’re constantly scanning your body for signs of something wrong, or anticipating not feeling well at some point, but you have no idea when so that sends you into a spiral of anxiety. It’s also the intrusive thoughts that creep into your mind at the most unwanted times, disturbing what you’re doing and potentially ruining your train of thought for the rest of the day. I think this is the hardest part of emetophobia for me, the day to day struggles and the impact it has on everything I do in life.
I’m aware this post is quite a long one and honestly I could keep typing forever because this is such a complex topic for me. I still have a lot to say but I think that’d be digging to deep for this post, so maybe I’ll do some separate posts or create a series highlighting the different aspects of my emetophobia a bit further. So to summarise, having emetophobia is debilitating. It does affect every aspect of my life and I don’t get a day off from it. As sad as that may sound, its the truth and honestly its exhausting. However, I don’t want to leave this post on a complete downer so here’s a few little things to help me to cope with my phobia and anxiety.
01. Specific apps, such as ‘Calm’, ‘Flowy’ and ‘1010!’
02. 7/11 breathing, inhale for 7 seconds, hold your breathe for 10 seconds and exhale for 11 seconds
03. Visualisation, closing my eyes and picturing a happy place
04. A cup of peppermint tea before bed