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And, for as long as I can remember, people have said things like “yeah, I don’t like vomit either.” Except, that isn’t it. That isn’t it at all.
Recently ScaryMommy shared a blog post regarding parenting with emetophobia. I immediately tagged everyone I knew in the comments as if to say “here. read this.”
It’s brought up a lot of dialogue in many circles. I’ve had to explain to people all of the ways this affects me — every. single. day. And I think it’s truly difficult for people to understand, so I figured I’d write about what it’s like living with emetophobia — the little things and all.
Here are some things that go through my head on a daily basis:
- I have to sit at the window seat of an airplane, but not because I want to see out of the window. I just want to be furthest from the aisle — in case someone gets sick.
- If I’m going to the movies, I’m always thinking about the potential for the people around me to throw up.
- I cannot hear the word ‘puke.’ It is awful. I will always refer to it as vomit; and if I hear someone say puke several times I will politely ask them not to.
- If someone (my kids, other peoples kids, anyone really) even looks like they are not feeling well, I will ask them over and over and over again if they have a belly ache.
- Every place I go — whether it be the grocery store, preschool drop-off, using a public restroom, going out to dinner — the fear of someone getting sick or being sick is on my mind. Always.
- In fact, if I’m somewhere and I hear that someone elses family member is sick/has been sick recently (even if they are not present), it will induce a serious anxiety — often resulting in me wondering if I’m starting to feel sick.
- I carry Clorox wipes with me and use them far too frequently. I specifically keep them for shopping carts, but I do not trust hand sanitizer because it does not fight the germs that cause the stomach bug. You know what does? Bleach. Bleach will kill it. So I carry these bleach wipes with me just in case.
There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about my emetophobia. During the depths of ‘sick season,’ I can often be found with severe anxiety for days. It’s absolutely unhealthy.
ScaryMommy really summed it up with this:
Unlike many fears, emetophobia can easily affect a person’s everyday life and eventually become totally debilitating. Emetophobes are essentially afraid of their own body, and there’s no getting away from the possibility of getting sick. Anyone, at any time, could be carrying around a contagious stomach virus and not know it. Any food could be contaminated with food-borne illness. Most of us live our lives understanding those lingering possibilities, but don’t give them a second thought. And even if we do, we’re able to brush it off quickly.
My anxiety medicine certainly helps curb some of this; but the fear itself is deep-rooted in who I am. I will never be free of it — I just have good days and bad days. But please, please, keep in mind that people like me do exist — and there are far more of us than you likely know.
And their simple request for you to refrain from saying a word or talking about vomit does not go unwarranted — remember it may truly be causing them trauma unbeknownst to you.