My emetophobia started around the age of 11. My dad had been terminally ill since before I can remember. It was so bad I do not remember him never needing an oxygen tank 24/7. When I was around 11, he got his lung transplant. That is when the terror started. The terror of him dying, me dying, everyone I knew around me dying. I would have panic attacks at night, and no one could calm me down. My parents had me later in life because they struggled with fertility issues. I had a half brother and sister who were over a decade older than I was, and I used to wish that my parents had me sooner, so I could have more time with my dad. I used to wish, he would go away, and my mom would remarry to someone younger and healthier. Then I would feel guilty for having those thoughts.
When I was in the 6th grade, on a three-day weekend, I got very sick. I threw up a few times throughout the night. It was the first time I had vomited in a few years. It was around this time that I realized I had been molested a year or two before. This developed into a fear of men, including my dad. Shortly after his lung transplant, we were told that he was rejecting his lung, and was going to die in about two years. I did not tell anyone about the molestation, because I did not want that to be one of the last thoughts on my dad’s mind before he died.
In my teen years, my phobia got worse. One time when I was in Junior High, I was in the bathroom, and through the walls heard my dad throwing up in the other bathroom. I walked in on him the next time he was doing it, and I still remember the sight and sound of it. Face red, cheeks puffed, trash can up to his face, and loud as hell. I went to school that day different. I was scared of what was waiting me when I got home. Maybe I thought my dad would be dead. Or maybe I thought that since he had breathing problems he would stop breathing. Whatever it was, for me I think that is when emet really started.
My grades started dropping. I was still very phobic of death, and men. I could not figure out what was scarier, vomiting, dying, or marrying a rapist or child abuser. My mother’s and my relationship became very strained. She became depressed, and emotionally abusive. Nothing I did or said was right, and I had very little control of my own life. When I was 17, I started going downhill. I was smoking, getting into bad relationships, and before my 18th birthday, I ran away from home.
By the time December came around, I was pregnant. I was so scared of morning sickness I contemplated abortion. I could not bring myself to have one though. I am happy to say that my daughter turned my life around. I became more responsible, got a college degree, and found a love I never thought I could have. I married my now husband, and had a son. Life was good, but I was still very emetophobic. I thought after having two kids, I was mostly cured of my fear of vomiting. It kind of went on the backburner, unless one of us got sick. Then the panic would set in. Once when I had a stomach virus, I was in the bathroom with diarrhea, just knowing I was going to throw up, and screaming to God to make it stop. I did not throw up that time.
Things hit rock bottom in February of last year. I was getting pretty fed up with being phobic by then. My husband, son, and daughter all got sick within days of each other. I remember freaking out pretty bad, and getting in the car driving, thinking I would never go home again. Of course, I did go home, but I knew this could not go on anymore. First, I told my husband about my emetophobia, then my doctor, then a counselor. I made the decision I would do ANYTHING I could to overcome this phobia. I started frequenting emetophobia websites, learning about norovirus, and telling myself to just let myself throw up already. I thought for certain I would catch their stomach virus. I was bad off. I would have panic attack after panic attack. I could not sleep, work, or take care of anyone. I was either pacing, or in the rocking chair just waiting for when it would happen. I cried all the time, got very angry, and started having flashbacks of my very scary childhood. I lost sleep, stopped eating, and lost 30 lbs almost instantly. I was scared all the time, sick with worry, in pain, exhausted. Nothing my doctor or counselor did was helping. I began contemplating suicide. When they suggested checking into a psych ward, I was scared beyond belief. I did not know what would happen in there. Would they make me throw up? Would the medications they gave me make me throw up? Was I going crazy? It took a little persuasion, but I remembered that I said I would do anything to conquer this phobia, and this was the next step.
My time at inpatient worked wonders! The anxiety started decreasing, and has been decreasing over this last year. However, I am far from cured. I finally found a counselor who was able, and willing to work on the phobia with me, and I have been going to see him for six months now. We have tackled words, sentences, movies, and YouTube videos. I am proud to say I have completed my last video, the walrus vomiting in 50 First Dates, and what seemed impossible then is now possible. I do not suffer from OCD anymore. My son recently had a stomach virus and I stayed with him the whole time, and took care of him. I did not run away.
I still have a ton of anxiety and depression to work on, and my next few tasks are the trickiest because they all involve the power of the mind. I have to visualize helping my daughter throw up, holding her hair, stroking her back, and staying with her instead of heading for the hills. I also have to visualize the last time I was sick, and my dad being sick, and find a way to be ok with that. I am sure I will have to let go of the past hurts, past transgressions, and find a way to move on from that and be ok with being me. I know now that developing emetophobia was not triggered by one event, but a series of events that led to a very anxious adult, and that my real problem is anxiety not vomiting. Eventually I will also have to learn to be ok with myself vomiting. I am not sure how to go about this, but the desire is there, and I hope to be free from these mental blocks someday if I keep working on it.