This is something I’ve wanted to talk about so I feel less alone, but as it makes me so uncomfortable, I don’t generally like talking about it. Hence the post today instead of a video. I’ve always thought I was a bit odd having a fear of something which is generally quite normal, but over a period of time, I’ve realised I’m not alone. So today, I’d like to tell you what it’s like having Emetophobia, what my friends and family think, and my inner thoughts and feelings around sick.
I don’t generally research Emetophobia, even though I’ve known I’ve had it almost my whole life. According to Anxiety UK, “those with emetophobia have a fear of vomiting or seeing others being sick. They may also fear the feeling of being out of control while they are being sick or fear being sick in public which can trigger avoidance behaviours.”
I’ve only been sick once. It was when I was around 10 years old and had an illness called gastroenteritis. It was a pathetic amount really, and I generally don’t remember having much control of it when I was that age. I was obviously sick as a baby too, but nothing I remember. So, let’s start by discussing me being sick….
Me & My Body
My first anxieties around being sick is from food poisoning, which leads to fears around cooking and eating. I’m lazy with cooking anyway, I don’t enjoy it and like to stick to what I know. The idea of touching raw meat makes me want to wash my hands 5000 times, in case I get ill. My body avoids being sick so much that even if I do get a bug or I’m poorly, let’s just say it comes out ‘the other end’. Gross. Since living alone, I’m definitely better with being more experimental with food, but I just like to know its 100% cooked.
My next issue is alcohol. I didn’t experiment with getting drunk until I was 18, and even then I was adamant to not mix my drinks, in fear of being sick. I think this has honestly gone in my favour, because over the years I’ve built up quite a nice balance of knowing my limits. I push them every time I want to get drunk, and if I’m not sick? Result. I’ve never been sick from alcohol and although I get hangovers, I’m now comfortable mixing different alcoholic beverages during an evening, I know exactly when to stop or slow down.
My biggest (and by far, the worst) issue is seeing others be sick. I was watching Baywatch at the cinema recently and it happened a few times. The main character is nicknamed ‘Vomit Comit’, excellent. If I see it in movies or on TV, I have to cover my eyes and take a moment to forget it’s happening. I block it out and try and continue to focus on the rest of the show, but sometimes I play the image back in my head and it makes me want to cry. I recently wanted to start watching The Crown on Netflix, but the opening scene was a man at the sink coughing on the edge of sickness, and I had to turn it off.
The worst recently was at Christmas seeing a kid on the street in New York. I was having a happy holiday with my family, and then I burst into tears. I was physically shaking and my palms were sweating. Thank god I had my mum with me, because she was really good at knowing I needed an instant distraction, and totally understood why I reacted that way.
If I’m travelling on public transport, I often have to keep my mind distracted from worrying I’m going to see/hear/smell someone be sick. I love travelling and I love flying, but I try to position myself on an isle (so I can get up and walk away). I always check there are sick bags in the pouch in front of me, so I can quickly give it to another person. I have a jacket/scarf with me to be able to cover my nose from the smell if necessary. My flight back from Benidorm recently gave me major anxiety. There was a girl who was clearly very unwell and sadly wasn’t able to fly, but I was stuck in a middle seat and watched every passenger walk past, praying it wasn’t that girl. I cannot tell you the sigh of relief I let out when an older lady sat down next to me. Long car journeys and boats are another ball game too.
Babies. I’m not very maternal right now and not many of my friends have babies yet, but if I’m going to hold them, I’d rather do it when they’re sleeping. I’ve never been able to hold a baby on my shoulders, even with a muslin cloth there, in fear they’ll be sick down my back. Just typing this probably sounds crazy to some, and yes, I know I might have a baby one day and yes, I know I’ll have to deal with it then but for now, I’d rather avoid it.
The only situation I can think of where I don’t feel uncomfortable, but I know other people with emetophobia suffer with, is Theme Parks. I like Thorpe Park & Disney Parks, and generally my happiness in both places is a large distraction.
Where did this come from?
I’m not 100% sure, really. I have bad memories of my brother being terribly travel sick as a kid, so I’m not sure if it’s stem from there. I read somewhere about the fear of having no control. This is of course another topic, but I guess I do like to have control over most (if not) everything in my life. I wish I knew the cause, and I wish I was better at being more relaxed over something so normal, but all I really know is that I’ve had it for a long, long time.
Friends & Family
I thank my lucky stars that my friends and family are very forgiving and understanding. My boyfriend was poorly recently and selflessly told me to stay at home and had his mum pick him up instead of me, knowing full well I’d struggle to cope and look after him. I won’t want to kiss him, or be around him if he’s unwell. Similarly, if anyone has been sick in a loo I need to use, I need it 100% clean (with bleach) and no smell, before I even consider using the same loo.
He’s really good at telling me to look away during a film, and he’ll tell me when it’s over too.
When I travel in cars for a long distance, and I need to be in the back, I like to sit on the left, because I can get out the car quickest on this side. A habit I’ve formed for so many years, many of my friends and family don’t question it.
Honestly, I don’t know. My emetophobia doesn’t affect my daily life; most of the time I go by my day absolutely fine and if it is triggered, I’m getting better at coping. Mainly distraction is the key. Sometimes it’s worse than others, and sometimes I hold back tears in fear of looking absolutely crazy that I’d cry over something so trivial, but it’s an emotion I don’t know how to stop.
I’ve consider hypnotherapy, but I’m not sure how bad I need to get before that’s necessary, and I’d rather just cope alone. For now.
I’m fully aware that with any phobia, it affects people in different ways and on different levels, but if you can relate, do reach out to me, because I totally understand how it feels.
For now, screw you Emetophobia. I might not be able to cure you but at least finally writing this is another step closer to being in better control.