How Knowing I'm Not Alone Changed My Perspective as Someone With Emetophobia #rwanda #RwOT Taysom Hill

How finding out that my lifelong irrational fear was actually a common phobia changed my perspective:

It took me 25 years of struggling to realize I wasn’t alone, and what I considered to be an unexplainable irrational fear is actually a known and common phobia. Emetophobia is defined as the fear of vomit, but for those who struggle with it every day — it is so much more than that.

It is the activities or events that don’t get attended as a child. It’s the sleepaway camps, the hockey games, the slumber parties, the class trips, the high school parties, the movie theaters and the inability to try new foods, or try alcohol or riding a roller coaster. It’s the constant, debilitating worry that something you do, something you eat, something you touch, just something, will result in you or the ones around you being sick. It’s the stomachaches, and panic attacks, obsessive hand washing and the constant urge to locate the nearest bathroom. It’s the clothes that get thrown away because you happened to be wearing it when you didn’t feel well — or the friends you refused to see again because they happened to turn ill in your presence. It’s the food you’ll never eat again because you threw up after eating it one time 12 years ago and the board games you will never play because your best friend threw up in the middle of the game when you were both 5 years old. It’s all these things, and so much more. Because the fear of vomit is not enough — so the mind makes you afraid of every single thing that may be related to it, or may impact your wellness in some way.

After 25 years of being afraid to tell people what keeps me up at night, and then ashamed when I do tell people who end up laughing it off, I finally found out I am not alone. A very good friend of mine sent me a post on Instagram related to anxiety and the weird throat sensations that go along with it. The post had multiple images, and when I swiped through to see what else they had to say — there it was. Emetophobia. With a note saying “…which is a very real fear of throwing up.” I started to cry, because I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, validation, community. I do not know anyone else who shares this fear, however whether I know them or not, I now know I am not alone.

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I get the feeling that I can’t be the only one who was ashamed to talk about it for a big part of their life. There is always this sense of weakness when you say you have a fear of throwing up. The few times I have said it to people, they either think it’s funny, or they say things like “well I don’t think anybody likes throwing up,” or “but don’t you feel so much better afterwards?” Then trying to explain that it is much more than a dislike or inconvenience, which seems like an impossible task. How do you explain to someone that you would literally rather break both of your arms than get sick? Or you cannot think about it without starting to cry? Or that the sound of someone throwing up in movies sends you into a spiral of panic and tears? You can say those things — but then you get labeled as being dramatic. I can see how it would come across as dramatic or unrealistic to some — but for those of us who struggle with emetophobia, it is reality. And it is hard.

After 25 years, I found out my fear had a title. It took me so long because I cringed at the thought of googling it. I figured if I googled “fear of getting sick” either photos of people vomiting would show up — or even worse, nothing would show up. And it would confirm the fact that I was alone in this. Finding out my fear has a title does not change the fact that I have this fear. It is still here and it is still very real. But it does change the way I feel about myself. I feel less ashamed than I ever have. I feel like I no longer need to hide behind it, and the next time someone asks, or the next time I feel like I have to explain myself, I can simply say “I struggle with emetophobia. Google it.”


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