*****Trigger warnings: emetophobia, sickness, nausea, mental health*****

"Emetophobia is a fear of vomiting or seeing others being sick. Those who experience emetophobia may also fear being out of control while they are being sick or fear being sick in public, which can trigger avoidance behaviours. It is a condition that is not widely diagnosed even though it is a fairly prevalent anxiety disorder."  - Anxiety UK

Emetophobia was something I didn't know existed until recently. It seems as though I've had it for the past 6 years or so, but I just didn't know it had a name. Or that it was even a "thing". Approximately 6-7% of females live with this fear, and this stat made me feel less alone. When I'm on a packed tube in rush hour, struggling to cope and telling myself I can't do this - there's probably someone on the same carriage, experiencing the same feelings I am; incessantly rubbing hand gel between their fingers, and clutching onto their hidden sick bags.

I guess I didn't want to admit how bad it had gotten, or let anyone know that this fear had started to take over my life. Some of the symptoms that I experience (but this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Fear of taking prescription medication - if I know something could possibly make me vomit, chances are? I won't take it.
  • Fear of anaesthesia - I've chosen to have two operations awake, for fear of vomiting when I come round.
  • Fear of travelling (especially public transport) - not only do I get terrible travel sickness, made worse by anxiety; but getting on public transport is something I find impossible to do at the moment. Catching germs, being sick in front of everyone, getting travel sickness - all things I worry about when using public transport.
  • Fear of people saying the four dreaded words - "I don't feel well". If someone around me says this, I am gone. And I won't see them for at least 72 hours after - "just in case".
  • Fear of food - this is the one I really can't cope with anymore. I did a food hygiene course, and since then, I'm obsessive about what I eat, who cooks it, how it's prepared etc. I won't eat chicken from a takeaway anymore, even though it's one of my favourite foods, from fear of food poisoning. 
  • Fear of alcohol - since I got particularly drunk one night almost 4 years ago and was severely sick the next day, I don't drink alcohol any more. On my wedding night, I drunk a bottle of wine to celebrate and stayed up the entire night trying to convince myself I wouldn't be sick. Who says romance is dead?
  • Fear of children - I adore the bones off my niece and nephew, but there was a time where I was terrified to see my nephew when he came out of nursery, in case he was carrying something that I'd pick up. 
  • Fear of others who have recently been sick - if I know that someone I've spent time with in the past 48 hours has been sick, I will spend the next few days panicking. I won't eat much food, I won't sleep, if I get slight nausea (which I do anyway due to my chronic illness) I will hang over the toilet for hours. 
  • Fear of not having my "set up" - this is a personal one to me, but I can't sleep without a sick bowl beside my bed, "just in case" I wake up and need to vomit. I also carry a designated sick bag around with me in public, for the same reason.

In reality: anything that may lead to me being sick, at home or especially in public, my body can't cope with and the fear starts creeping in. The less I do, the more debilitating the fear becomes. At the moment, I'm cancelling events and meet ups left, right and centre because I can't physically bring myself to get on public transport .

The thought of touching a handrail containing millions of germs; of brushing against a stranger who could potentially be carrying a virus; of being in a compact space full of hundreds of people glaring - I just can't do it.

The problem with having emetophobia and other forms of anxiety is, they both trigger each other off. So if you're feeling one, you'll probably be feeling the other and it starts off this vicious cycle. For example: in social situations, I get nervous (lots of people do), which makes me nauseous. As soon as I get nauseous, I start to worry I'll be sick, which in turn makes me nervous. See what I mean about that vicious cycle?

Someone I've been speaking to for a very long time now, and consider one of my best friends told me just yesterday that she suffered with this too. And I cried, and cried, and cried. All this time, I'd had someone who knew exactly what I was going through, and I didn't have to face it alone anymore.

And that's why I'm writing this post really. To show you that if you have this; no matter how mild or severe; you are not alone. I'm thinking of putting a private group together, possibly on Twitter, where we can discuss this in a non-judgemental environment, and share tips and tricks on how we cope with it and what works for us. Or just a group where you can rant, get angry, share the thoughts you feel ridiculous saying to anyone else.

Because I'll be honest, I'm not ashamed to say: I am struggling and I need help. 

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