Emetophobia…

…it makes me sick. Ha ha ha. No, I´m not in the mood for jokes and puns. And why would I, given that I am sitting here with my dinner, noodles with butter and salt, feeling unable to swallow more than a few spoonfuls. After a busy 14 hour day – where I ate nothing but a sandwich. And why can´t I eat? Because I feel sick. And why do I probably feel sick? Because I don´t eat!!! It´s a downward spiral.

Now what is the big deal about vomiting? It is nothing to be so scared of, is it? If it happens, it happens, right? Good for you. I have no idea why I´m so scared of it. For all I know, I am not scared of suffocating. So what makes me cry for my mommy when I feel really sick? Well…I´m not sure, but if you suffer from the same condition as I do, you might find the next few paragraphs quite triggering or at least very yucky, so proceed with caution.

Now, last time it happened to me that I thought I was going to vomit (a few days ago) I wanted it to happen, so I finally stopped feeling sick, but the thought also horrified me. I couldn´t stay still, I was walking around, moaning; always wondering if I should stay near the bathroom, just in case. This also drove me mad, though, because I realized that I would have to stay there forever because I would never feel safe. I knew that as soon as I´d move away the nausea would attack with full force again. I felt like it was either never going to stop, or it was going to lead to me vomiting, and both alternatives were horrifying me.

The nausea comes in waves, and whenever there is a peak and I think “okay, that´s it, I´m gonna vomit” everything inside me is protesting and frantically tries to prevent me vomiting. I think about for how long I managed to avoid it, and I think that if I vomit now, I will have to start all over again avoiding it. I guess I somehow assume that if I manage to avoid it long enough, I will stop being scared of it and I will never feel sick again. It has worked before – for about 10 years.

When there is a moment of slight relief, though, I think: “Okay, at the next peak, you will just vomit, and it will be fine. Afterwards, you won´t be scared of it anymore – and then you will never feel sick again.” I know, of course, that this doesn´t work. It was an incident where I had to vomit that kicked my phobia back into high gear. And, I remember now, then I also thought that it sucked how I had managed to avoid vomiting for so long, and now I failed. I had no idea back then, though, just how bad the consequences would be.  The last time I had felt constantly sick because of my phobia had been in my early teens. I barely recall that time.

So, what am I really scared of about vomiting? I hate to look at this, but alright. I´m scared that if I vomit after eating something, I will never be able to eat whatever it was without thinking about how I vomited after eating it and what it looked like then. I fear that while I eat I will believe that the food turns to vomit (no smartass comments on that one, please! I know that in a way this is what happens…). Okay, so to sum it up, what I am scared of is that I will get intrusive memories if I should vomit after eating something. I fear that I will feel like it is happening again. “It” being me having vomit in my mouth. So maybe this is what I fear most about vomiting? Having vomit in my mouth? Tasting it?

I find this whole thing deeply ironic (though not exactly funny): I behave in an avoidant fashion, because I fear that if I don´t avoid some foods, beverages, habits and I have to vomit afterwards – they will be tainted and I will have to avoid them in the future. I avoid things, in order not to  have to avoid them. Imaginary control at its best. But is it really all about control – or am I rather trying to save things from getting contaminated with a vile association? I guess I´m playing on time: If I manage to avoid vomiting long enough, I will be able to eat and drink without much care or avoidance – but only those things which aren´t contaminated with a memory of me feeling sick or having to vomit after consuming them. Currently, the logic goes, I feel sick all the time, but it will subside on day. And I need to save as many good things as possible for that moment. 

I wonder if my emetophobia is typical or rather atypical. What thoughts, feelings and specific fears do other people have who suffer from this condition? For how long have they been suffering from it? I have had it since early childhood, but there have been long periods of dormancy. Have others experienced such periods as well? Has anybody fully recovered from emetophobia? And if so: How???

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