I have always been emetophobic. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been. When I was younger, I didn’t understand what it was, no one did.
I remember when I was little my Mum was sick. I cried and hid away in my bedroom for the rest of the day. Dad was angry at me at the time for not being more considerate and caring but that is understandable.
None of us knew there was such thing as having a phobia of being ‘sick’. However, as I grew up, I knew there was a problem. I couldn’t watch any medical programmes on TV without having to cover up my eyes, I stayed away from people who said they were feeling poorly and I was constantly worried that I was going to be ill too. I don’t drink alcohol either. Friends joke around and call me “boring” at times but the thought of getting ill from alcohol petrifies me.
I am 20 now and I still live with emetophobia
I am 20 now and I still live with emetophobia. However things became extremely bad in 2011. I started University in Leicester and tried to enjoy my nights out but I just couldn’t. That year, my friends and I went to Spain. I was enjoying the holiday until a horrible boat ride. Everyone on the boat seemed to be suffering from sea sickness and absolutely everyone was throwing up. I couldn’t stand it.
I tried to stay brave – my friends know I have a phobia but I don’t think they understand how bad. I always try to stay brave around them so they don’t think I’m “weird” or being over the top. However, from that day my phobia seemed to get worse. Being “sick” was always on my mind, constantly.
It still is.
I became scared of travelling in case I became travel sick
A few months after the holiday, I knew I needed help. I couldn’t do anything anymore. When I got the train to University/home, I would panic. I became scared of travelling in case I became travel sick. It was in the car once where I had my first panic attack. I thought I was dying.
From that day on, my life took a turn for the worse. I stayed in my room pretty much 24/7, I didn’t eat anything for weeks, I felt constantly sick and felt like there was no way out. My family and my boyfriend at the time were great and understanding. They never got angry and supported me all the way. I could see how worried they were, I had lost so much weight and I looked so ill.
I was too embarrassed to talk about emetophobia
One day, I heard my friends were upset too because I never “made an effort” with them anymore. This hurt me a lot, because all I wanted was to be around them. I was just too scared and embarrassed at the time to tell them what was wrong – I didn’t want them to judge me. However looking back now, I wish I had. My friends have been great in understanding what I have been through and haven’t judged me once.
The thing that frustrated me the most was that it was all in my head. It angered me, and it still angers me today, that I have no control over my mind whatsoever.
At first I refused to take any medication to help me because the side effects were “vomiting”. I was convinced in my mind that if I took this I would be ill. However – things got so bad around Christmas 2011 that I had no choice. I also attended CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy). This helped a lot; my counsellor taught me relaxation techniques for when I had panic attacks. CBT helped me to control my anxiety in stressful situations. The techniques I learnt will be with me for life. However, when the counsellor tried to help me with my emetophobia, I wasn’t so brave. I was asked to watch videos of vomiting and I just couldn’t do it.
I'm ready to share my experiences and want to help
I chose to no longer have CBT but I have come along way since 2011. 2012 wasn’t easy but the techniques I have learnt, along with the medication I am on, has helped me to relax and get my life back to a normal routine. I am able to go out with my friends again and live a normal lifestyle.
I know I will have ups and downs with this in my lifetime, but I am now ready to share my experience. In 2013, I shall devote my time to helping other people living with anxiety, phobias or depression and will do all I can to promote mental health.