I have been dying to write this article since my husband gave me a genius idea for a community post. He looked at me and said, “I’d love to write an article for your blog about what it’s like to live with someone who has emetophobia. Kind of like, what we go through and how we handle an emet.”
Genius, I tell you. This is why I married him, because he’s just so freaking smart. This does raise a very good point though, that in a world where emetophobia is not widely understood even for those who suffer from it, it’s sometimes easy to forget that behind every emet is someone who has to live with a crazy, irrational ball of panic every day.
Which is why I think the unsung heroes of the emetophobia community are the people that help care for the person suffering from constant anxiety, panic and OCD rituals to keep themselves, and others, safe from a nasty bout of vomiting.
They are the friends, family, spouses, significant others and trusted co-workers that help keep an emet as sane as possible, despite what their minds are screaming at them on a regular basis.
Those people are called co-emets.
I coined co-emets after coming across the term “co-survivor” during my internship with Susan G. Komen. A co-survivor is anyone who was the primary caretaker, supporter and helper during someones fight, and victory, with cancer. They are the people who drove the patient to treatments, helped cleaned their house, watched their kids, stayed up with them while they cried, or even just helped raise awareness.
Co-survivors are so important in a cancer patient’s life, if they are lucky enough to emerge victorious with their battle. So many people feel alone during that fight, despite that there are so many people who go through cancer every day. I learned after talking with many brave women and men who went through breast cancer at my internship that despite having such a strong support group of cancer fighters, they still felt alone.
This loneliness can be aided with the help of someone who isn’t there to necessarily understand their fight, but to help them through it.
Sometimes, when you deal with someone who is also going through it, they assume that their struggle is the same as yours, which is just untrue. While all cancer patients may experience similar situations, how they handle it and how they react to treatments are all going to be different. Every fight is different.
While cancer is a very serious disease, and it may seem silly to compare emetophobia to cancer, there are some very similar undertones to how an emet feels and how someone with cancer, a chronic illness or other serious invisible mental illness perceives their world.
They feel alone and scared, like no one understands their struggle. They may feel limited to what they can do, what they can achieve and how they interact with the people around them. They might notice that things they once loved to do are no longer as enjoyable, or they feel like they can no longer do it because this weight is on their shoulders.
There is so much anxiety, fear, depression, panic and unknown that comes with a diagnosis like this, and that’s why it’s so important to have someone who you can rely on in a time of need; that’s why the world needs more co-emets.
A co-emet, like that of a co-survivor, is not there to understand your struggles; they are there to help you through the panic, the fear and the anxiety.
They may not understand why seeing a car on the side of the road sends you into a panic, or why that food label needs to be checked 10, 20, 30 times and Google consulted before you place it in your dish to cook it.
They may not understand why, in the middle of the night, you wake up, pacing the floor because you had a dream you threw up and you can’t shake the feeling that some how, some way, that dream is going to come true.
And they may not understand why seeing or hearing someone gets sick makes you fall to the floor, paralyzed, with ears clogged and eyes shut, while you cry and wish you could just get up and move.
But a co-emet will be there to hold your hand as you pass the car on the side of the road, or to patiently wait as dinner is cooked slower than their used too. They’ll be there to pace with you in the middle of the night, or at the very least, understand why you seem tired the next day as you explain your panic from the night before. And they will always be there to help you up, dry your tears and get you feeling normal again when you’re panic sets in.
That is the role of a co-emet.
My husband is my co-emet. He has absolutely no idea why I am the way I am, and he was raised to believe that if you have anxiety, you just get over it. Mind over matter, as they say. Over the years, before I knew what emetophobia was, we fought a lot about my anxiety, but as we both learned what it was and what I was struggling with, he started to change.
He’d tell me, “I don’t understand why you act the way you do, and I think it’s completely irrational, but I don’t like seeing you suffer, so I’ll do whatever I can to help you through this and make you feel better. You just tell me how you need me to help, how you need me to be there, and I’ll do my best to fix it.”
That is a co-emet in every sense of the word.
Co-emets aren’t necessarily spouses, though. They can be anyone who you trust with your phobia. They can be someone who is a friend, a family member or a co-worker. It could be a pastor, a teacher or your local hair stylist. They just need to be someone who you trust, who has been there to help you through a rough time and that you know will always have your go-to anxiety remedies ready when you need it.
They also play an important role in recovery, as my husband is the rational mind I’ve always needed. Whenever he thinks I’m making a change to my daily life because of this pattern he’ll look at me and say, “Chelsie, don’t let this phobia rule your life. You know you can handle this.” He always is there to push me to do something I’ve never done before, and is there every step of the way to aid the tears, panic and fear.
But they also know your limits. They will be there to make sure you aren’t stepping far beyond your boundaries, which could have catastrophic results to your slow and steady progress. They keep you in check and make sure that you are taking one step at a time, not trying to Evel Knievel the gap between recovery and your current struggles.
Most importantly, though, in a world where emets may feel alone or isolated, a co-emet is someone who helps them feel like they aren’t. Even though they don’t suffer with the panic like you do, when you’re near your co-emet, you no longer feel alone.
You feel like you have an ally, someone who will defend your sudden onset panic attack, or your pacing in the back room during dinner. They are someone who will always seem like they understand to someone who understands less than them, and will always have your back when you need it most.
A co-emet is a friend, an ally, someone who despite not understanding just gets you and your quirks. They are the person who will act crazier than you to help you smile, laugh or simply take the spotlight off you in situations that call for it, and they will always push you to be the best you absolutely can.
But just like how every emetophobia fight is different, every co-emet is different, and that is what makes an co-emet so darn special.
As a co-emet, you wear many hats and you play many roles, but you are always, always, ALWAYS appreciated. Despite the fact we, as the emet, may not always thank you for your constant support and positive assurance, know you are always truly our light in the darkness.
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.