Dear Diary, I Am #Fearless, Mental Illness
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Dear Diary: I’ve Almost Reached The Summit

13581961_10154287703593665_243709922764389925_o.jpgSo, if you take a look at the picture to the right, you’ll probably notice a couple things. One being that my hair is no longer purple, but rather a nice sunset purple-red-orange ombre. It’s pretty amazing.

But secondly, you’ll notice that I look pretty happy, and while that might not seem like a huge deal, for that moment and that picture, it actually was.

To understand why, let’s take a trip back  in time a little bit to this past Saturday.

So Saturday morning I wake up, getting ready to head out with my friend and her daughter to a lavender festival about two hours away. I was feeling pretty confident, considering I was coming off a successful babysitting moment from the day before with the same little girl.

I hop in the car and realize that the little girl, who we’ll call B, was crying a lot and not talking much. Fairly abnormal, especially given how she acted the day before. My irrational brain immediately pipes up with, “SHE FEELS SICK TO HER STOMACH, SHE’LL THROW UP.” To which my rational brain replies with, “That’s insane, she’s just tired, relax.”

So I did. Relax that is. Well, about an hour and a half into our trip the joke was on my rational brain this time because… It happened.

She got sick.

I heard the initial heave and immediately went into the “eyes closed, ears plugged” flight kind of feeling. Looking back, it was hilarious because my friend who was driving tried to assure me: “She’s fine, no worries she’s fine.” B heaved again and I immediately heard my friend go: “Never mind. She’s not fine, definitely not fine, don’t turn around.”

As we were pulling off on the side of the road I was taking deep breaths in, telling myself it was okay, everything was fine, as my friend chimed in again with, “Gosh, this is literally the worst thing that could happen to you right now isn’t it?” Despite my ears being clogged, I managed to let out a small smile because she’s right. It literally was the worst thing that could have happened to me, but I thought it was just hilarious (probably from how, for once, my irrational brain was right).

But the greatest thing happened as we stopped on the side of the road. I got out, walked about 20 feet from the car and just focused on my breathing. That’s when I noticed my anxiety was almost non-existent. There was no serious panic, no bubbling fear just beneath the surface. There wasn’t the usual nausea that accompanied those moments. There was just this strange sense of calm. I was shaky, from the initial rush of adrenaline that came from hearing B get sick, but the usual “shrivel up and die” mentality that is usually associated with those moments wasn’t there.

I was almost starting to panic about my lack of panic. I was like, “Who am I? Who is this person that is rationally observing this situation? How am I so calm? WHAT IS MY LIFE?” But as my friend finished cleaning up B, she walked over and said, “What do you want to do and what can I do to help?” My irrational mind was sending me all kinds of crazy options, none of which I listened to and I basically just said, “Let’s get to where we’re going and we can figure it out there.”

B bounced back fine. She got sick, and then was the happiest little girl in the world. Talking, laughing, dancing, all that. Getting back in the car was hard. The last thing I wanted to do was be back in that car, but we had a 20 minute drive left, and I was determined to make it to the festival. Once we arrived I got out of the car, started to relax again and just had a blast.

I had almost completely forgotten about the throw up incident from that morning, and when I think back on that day all I remember is how much fun the lavender festival was. That was a huge moment for me, but beyond that I didn’t let that moment ruin my day, I didn’t feel any delayed anxiety later in evening, and I ate lunch and dinner following the incident with no issues.

As we were getting back into town, my friend looked at me and said, “I don’t know if you’re religious, but I believe that God tested you today. He used that moment to test you, to see how far you’ve come in your phobia, and I honestly believe you did amazing.”

She was right, and guys, that entire day I felt so freaking amazing. I was on cloud nine. I wanted to shout it to everyone: LOOK WHAT I ACCOMPLISHED TODAY. I have some things I still need to work on, because if I was driving the vehicle when B got sick, we would have wrecked, for sure. That probably shouldn’t happen, and I have to find a way to fix the ear clogging and eye shutting. But overall I’d give myself a 95/100 on how I handled that day. Which is far improved from how I think I would have handled it even 6 months ago.

That’s why that smiling picture up above is such a big deal. To me, I see that photo and I think, that girl up there had a pretty rough morning as far as emetophobia is concerned, but came out alive and anxiety free. I was able to enjoy my day without any fear and that picture is a huge reminder of that.

That’s why it seemed fitting that this week’s inspirational quote involves a message about the struggle being worth it:

climbWhen everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.

I have worked so, so hard on overcoming this phobia. It’s been almost 4 years now of continuous work. It’s been every week counseling appointments, using CBT, EMDR, and constant courage to get to where I am today.

I literally started from rock bottom, and I have slowly climbed my way up. I worked through small steps, like learning how to make friends and actually hang out with them. Learning to not panic over eating food that wasn’t on my safe list. I’ve gone from trying to tuck and roll out of moving vehicles, to basically feeling almost no fear while being in the car with someone who got sick.

I first started counseling to improve my day to day life, which was extremely impaired by this phobia. After two years I was happy with my improvements, but realized if I wanted to start a family I needed to be even more prepared. That’s when I decided to start EMDR, and I could not be more happy with the progress I’ve made. This moment that happened on Saturday has made me realize that my goal for wanting to become a mother is just that much closer to becoming a reality, and that’s literally an amazing feeling.

Y’all, I know sometimes this phobia can suck. I know that anxiety, panic, depression, or other mental illnesses can be a real pain. It’s an uphill climb through all the negative things we never wanted to confront about ourselves, our lives and our view of the world. As you start your climb on the metaphorical mountain, you will make great progress, just to slip down a couple feet and have to make up for lost time. You will likely hit a plateau, and feel stuck there for days, weeks or months, but eventually you will find a way to keep ascending.

The pathway to climbing this mountain is going to be covered with thorns, jagged rocks and landslides, set there to test how far we’ve come, and our courage to keep pushing forward even when our hands are bloodied and our legs are tired. But when you reach the top, the view will be worth it. You will see the lush forest, the blue sky, the birds flying. You will realize that all those bumps, all those struggles, were helping you find the way to appreciate where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.

Keep pushing, y’all, because there is just something to be said about the overwhelming excitement that comes with an extremely wonderful accomplishment and finally seeing that view from the other side.

Until next time, Internet.

If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. 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  FacebookTwitterPinterest 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.

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