Friday, 26 February 2010

Emetophobia (Part 1)

Partly because I am so deeply ashamed of the sheer range of issues I have, and partly because I am so frightened of it that I find it hard to go near the subject, emetophobia is something I haven't particularly mentioned here before.
Or anywhere else for that matter.

I am aware as I type, that some of those who read what follows may have never heard of such a thing as emetophobia before. A few of those people may gain some insight into this fear and the impact it has on those who suffer with it.
Others will be completely unable to comprehend why some live their lives in fear and trembling of something which seems to be a relatively minor (and short lived) discomfort.
However, there may also be some people reading who know this fear only too well. People who have to carry the weight of uncertainty and fear day in, day out.
These unfortunate people are known as "emetophobes"; though, to use the term, 'known as' is somewhat ironic given that, due to the unprecedented sense of shame that surrounds this particular phobia, others are rarely aware of it.

What is it?

This is where it gets difficult because the strength of my phobia makes it hard to use the vocabulary associated with its definition.
For the purposes of this post however, I'll go against my instincts and attempt to use the 'words' (which often feel dangerous or overwhelmingly repulsive to an emetophobe) to define the phobia.

Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of v*miting.
(I thought I could face the words, but even spoiling them is difficult at the moment.)
Emetophobes may themselves be terrified of the act of v****ing, may be terrified of others doing so, or it may be that, like me, they have an equal fear of both.

Although it is relatively unheard of, emetophobia is actually thought to be between the fifth and seventh most common fear in the UK so if you are suffering from this, you may at least take a tiny bit of comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone.
Emetophobia affects people differently but can be so severe that it will render the emetophobe incapable of managing to leave the house, maintain employment, attend any function where alcohol may be present, be in crowded places or have children /fall pregnant.

In my own case I have learned that at times when a bug is going around, it may appear that I am both agoraphobic or anorexic, but whilst partaking in the behaviours of these conditions, they are symptomatic of the real problem, which is the emetophobia.
As I have already pointed out, the fact that it is so deeply repulsive and shameful to the sufferer, often means that most phobics are unaware of just how many others share their fear and can often lead to intense feelings of isolation and loneliness in the pain and terror.

Trust me. I speak from experience.

I can't recall the time when it dawned on me that my panic attacks were mainly caused by the fear of myself or others being physically ill.
What I do remember very, very clearly, is the moment when, walking over the bridge to the house where I was living in Greenwich about four years ago, my old house mate and best friend for 15 years phoned and told me that there seemed to be a name for what I had.
Now; I'm not big into labels and names and all that stuff... but I looked it up and I will never, ever forget the absolute relief I experienced as I read through the emetophobic websites I found.
Don't get me wrong
Since that time, I have hardly been near any of those sites.

It puzzles me that anyone with emetophobia would want to be in a community where the main topic of conversation is the very thing that they are most plagued by and terrified of.

A lot of the time, I can hardly read the words without feeling nauseous .

I also find it puzzling that people who are suffering with this condition (and yes, I do believe "suffering" is the correct term in this instance) would want to turn to others who are in exactly the same situation as themselves! As if someone else who is drowning could be saved or rescued by another person who is drowning.

I find it anything but comforting to be told it's all going to be okay by someone who feels exactly the same terror as myself.

However, we are all different and some people no doubt, find it immensely comforting to know that they are part of something like this.

To be honest, it is such a desperate phobia, if something seems to help, it should be clung to as if it were a life raft.

Emetophobia, or 'emet' as it is often known amongst sufferers, is one of the most difficult phobias to work with clinically.

Although CBT is widely recognised to be the most effective treatment, emetophobia is thought to be one of the most difficult to shift.

Exposure therapy is also thought to have had some success, although I have read that any relief from this therapy is temporary.

Hypnotherapy... Well... Don't start me on that one. That is for another post. Suffice to say, if you are reading this and considering hypnotherapy for emetohobia... be very aware that despite the claims made by experienced hypnotherapists, it is often a very expensive waste of time.


Where does all this leave me?

I'm in therapy. Psychoanalytic.

Does this work for emetophobia?

Apparently not.

But then, nor does anything else.

I've said enough on this topic for one post.

It's absolute hell at the moment and I am terrified of breathing, but I will try to explain from a more personal perspective in another post.

Monday, 22 February 2010


If you like to read careful, well thought out, balanced thoughts, penned by the dim glow of understanding and hindsight which therapy allegedly affords us, please look away now.

In fact, look away anyway.

My therapy session...

I don't even think I can find words.
I haven't been able to think about any words she said.

She spoke about "mentalising".
(Don't ask me, never heard of it)

Apparently, according to her with the giant therapeutic crystal ball, my parents were unable to do this with my / our feelings.

So nobody heard them and nobody bore them.

Woe is me, I cry in mock distress.

What does she want me to do?
Throw a pity party for myself? The much loved, much encouraged, much adored eldest child who, by comparison to most of the population on earth, barely knows what it IS to suffer?
Does she want me to be upset because my parents, in their love and their desperation to bring us u to be moral and responsible members of society, deemed it okay to smack us sometimes?
Does she want me, in my comfortable Western world lifestyle, to weep and wail because things didn't work out quite the way they would have done in an ideal world?

I disgust myself and today, she disgusted me too.

I walked in today and she just pointed a gun at me and fired repeatedly until I told her that I couldn't take it anymore and I wanted to leave.

She stopped firing but somewhere, something had curled u during the shoot, hands over ears, feet drawn in tightly.
I don't even know what I felt, or if I felt at all.

I'm a mass of contradictions, she says.
I nod.
I'm caught in absolute extremes, she says.
I nod.
My parts are totally opposite extremes, she says.
Haven't you already said that? I nod.

It's because nobody could hear the feelings.
I stop nodding.
Nobody could bear them or make them manageable.

I don't believe this.

Okay, look at the evidence.
So I do.
And yes, it seems to be there, but I CAN'T reconcile it. Not with what I know about how loved we are.
I can't.

I'm not even touching the throbbing pain I have in my chest.
It sickens me as it pulses.
I breathe through my nose as nausea beats in waves, my mouth shut tightly.

Today her kindness made me want to snap myself into small, sharp pieces.
I hate her for it.
I don't want it. It will make me ill.
She will take it away and I will be left, a small, curled skeleton in the back of an hollow shell.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Coastal Wanderings

I have friends in Cornwall and, in need of a change of scene, I packed my little car and headed South in search of wintery sun, salt winds and the turquoise ocean.

I certainly wasn't disappointed by any of those.

Over the four days, I followed craggy cliff paths for miles along the coast.

I love the stinging freshness of the sea air, knotting my hair into sticky tangles as the on shore winds catch you from the side.
I love the flat, wind-skinned grasses and I breathe the salt fish air as it cuts across my face.

Far below golden, sun baked cliff faces, the black rocks gleam like angular seals and I am in love with this place. This moment. This air.

I loved picking my way through the lonely, heathered landscape; Watching swelling, white clouds roll across the blue, to become as one white sea over the horizon.


Humbling majesty.

And somewhere within, a wave builds and I surf it as it folds and crashes and races my heart

There is a bible quote that I always think of at times like these. I have no idea whether it is appropriate to use in this context, but for me, in the midst of the breathless wonder of such untamed, natural beauty, it is as though, "deep calls to deep".

Countless times I have been struck by the indescribable sense that some deep, unknown part of me is responding to a depth of purity in creation that is beyond the grasp of human intellect. Deep calling to deep.

At the risk of sounding as though I am spouting hippy crap, I wish to point out that I am not big into tree hugging.

No. What I am trying to describe is something spiritual. It's almost as if, a tiny piece of earth breathes in at exactly the same time as heaven, and for one fraction of a moment, the two merge and hover together, as one.

I could go on to write about the rest of my holiday, and how I came back early because I could no longer cope with the fear and lack of control over food.

I could write about the terror each time that night fell and the emetophobia sentenced me to moments of extreme panic.

But... I won't because I am afraid.

I'm so angry that I ruin every good thing that I have.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Eye Of The Storm

in the corner
I curl
as the storm
and whips
my untucked feet.
My deaf ears,
closed to the winds.
My fists
clenched to fight
you who come close.

in the corner,
I curl

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sitting Tight

Sometimes I have to stay very still and keep away from reflection... From my reflection, I guess.
It's been like that lately.

Even in therapy I have stayed as far away as I can.

I call it, "staying on my outside".

It can be a strange place to be because, once I'm there, I find it very hard to believe in any of the things I struggle with. I even believe that I am lying and that nothing inside really exists.

At the moment, I am not sure.

What I have been struggling with a lot is the selfishness I see in myself.

I feel as though therapy, with its emphasis on me, has caused an increasing preoccupation with SELF.

I have reached new levels of self disgust lately.

Again, SELF.

Hence I have been staying on my outside.

On the outside I function very well because it is all about the needs of others.

I haven't been here at all lately and so haven't read anything. I'm trying to catch up on lots of blogs posts I have missed.

Bear with me...

And Gail...