I feel like I need to preface this with saying you, the Internet, are very lucky. I have only ever told this to two other people: my therapist and my husband. They both happened on the same day, and that day was roughly 3.5 years ago.
One of the biggest struggles I faced with emetophobia was not just the phobia itself, but trying to learn to tools and coping mechanisms to handle the anxiety and panic that was associated with it. Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy (CBT) is by far the best thing my therapist did with me, and a lot if it is simple coping techniques to help me stretch my boundaries.
However, about six months in to my therapy, I began to see progress but I was scared. More scared than I had ever been since I started battling emetophobia. It wasn’t because I was stepping out of my comfort zone, or that it happened to be the middle of flu season, but because I was felt like I was losing myself.
Let me explain.
As many emet’s know, emetophobia usually is something they’ve battled with all their lives. That’s not always the case, but for many there hasn’t been a moment of their life that they don’t remember being terrified of throwing up. That’s how it was for me, and for the first time in my life I was finally learning how to overcome those fears.
At the same time, emetophobia was all I knew. It was a part of how I identified with myself. I was Chelsie, a college student at High Point University studying Journalism and Psychology, and I had emetophobia. I had spent my entire life being Chelsie with emetophobia, that when I began to break away from those fears it felt as though I was losing a part of me.
I remember sitting down in the therapists office and explaining to her all the good that had come from the week. I had tried a new restaurant and ate the left overs I took home. I didn’t use an entire mini bottle of hand sanitizer in a day. During an anxiety attack, I calmed myself down quicker than I had in past experiences. But like most talented therapists, she knew something else was wrong so she asked me what was on my mind. To this day I credit this to being the moment I crossed the line into recovery.
“I just feel scared. All I’ve ever known is emetophobia, and now that I’m learning to cope with this I feel like I won’t know who I am anymore. It’s almost like emetophobia was a security blanket, and now that it’s being taken away I don’t know what to do.”
I was struggling with a sense of identity and that’s a terrifying experience. Not knowing who you are supposed be, or how you are supposed to act is a very large wall to climb. I spent several months learning about myself; who I was, what my personality was actually like, and what my interests were. You alter so much about your life to keep yourself “safe” from throwing up. You change your diet, your daily routine, you avoid places that you’d love to be and people you’d love to see, and you develop coping tactics to help you feel safe in moments of panic. In those moments, you suppress your true self, and after so many years of pretending to be someone you’re not, you begin to believe you are nothing more than the phobia.
But what I realize now is that emetophobia didn’t define who I was, it stopped me from being who I wanted to be. After I opened up about my identity crisis, it opened a door to help me re-discover myself and battle my phobia with an entirely new frame of mind. That is such a rewarding experience. That moment in my therapy is the most important to me and my recovery process.
The hardest part of conquering a phobia isn’t pushing your boundaries, facing a sick family member or even you getting sick yourself. It’s finally letting go of the notion that you are defined by the phobia. Until that moment, fighting the phobia will seem insurmountable – but I promise it’s not. Don’t be afraid to let it go, because as soon as you do there will be a burden and a weight lifted, and you can finally be who you know you can be.
If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!
Lastly, I run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle I am passionately engaged in. The group is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.