On a late night walk with my husband through our neighborhood while searching for Pokemon (Team Mystic!), I opened up to him that I was feeling a little down and frustrated. He asked why and I felt silly just saying it.
I felt like with all the positive progress I had made, that I was somehow stalling and possibly starting to roll down hill. I felt like while I had conquered one major aspect of my phobia (others feeling sick), I was now wading neck deep in a reemergence of personal anxiety towards getting sick.
Okay, so that’s a bit over dramatic, but that’s what it felt like. We had just gotten back from a weekend trip where I spent about 70% of the time anxious. I was having flashbacks from a few weekends before when I was on my way to the lavender festival and the little girl got sick. I was worried about being trapped on a river tube floating down a river and getting sick. I was concerned about eating a taco from a street vendor just 30 minutes before spending 2 hours around a bunch of strangers and completely unable to leave my location.
It was a nightmare.
I had kind of felt this coming, it had been building for a few days, and it culminated itself with a vivid dream of me being back in my childhood home and reliving a noro outbreak, but I actually got sick myself. I spent all of Monday in a funk, paranoid and superstitious that today was the day. I froze up at dinner, I could barely manage one hot dog, and I just felt like I was going backwards.
But I remember saying to myself, I know exactly what I’d tell myself if I was a person posting in my support group. I’d say that healing isn’t linear, and instead of focusing on what “went wrong” I should focus on what went right.
I think it’s so easy for people who are overcoming a phobia to assume that any step in a direction other than forward is backwards progress, or a relapse waiting to happen.
Back when I first started seeing a counselor I was always so concerned of relapsing; making all this progress just for it to be for nothing. I can still hear my counselor telling me that it probably would happen. I would probably take steps forwards, then backwards, then forwards and backwards again. But that this yo-yo was normal.
She’d say: Healing is not linear.
A funny thing happens when we get caught up in the idea that something won’t work. Our minds are powerful and self fulfilling prophecy is a true phenomenon. If we continually feel like we won’t make progress, and we tell ourselves that throughout recovery, you know what happens? We don’t make progress.
We can get so hung up on this one thing we think we did bad, when an outside perspective sees 10 things we did well.
So, for example, this past weekend I felt like I struggled, but you know what else? I tried a STREET TACO from a STREET VENDOR. I ate an entire taco, tomatoes and all, and only hit about a level 2 on the anxiety scale.
I recognized the flashbacks, I recognized the OCD-like behaviors of watching for the exit from a previous issue and was able to rationalize and occupy my mind with positive thoughts. I didn’t let it impact my car ride in any serious way, which was an extremely positive thing.
After panicking at dinner, I managed to not only sit in that anxiety, but work through it and FINISH my hot dog. I recognized the road block my mind was putting up, but I found a way around it.
In the moment it felt like three steps back, and so what if it was? Each “step back” is a chance to learn, to improve, to build upon with positivity. We are only human, after all, and sometimes we are just not as equipped to handle a stressor that we may have previously overcome. It does not mean that we have failed or that we are relapsing. It only means that on this day, we needed a little extra strength that we just couldn’t expend, and there is honestly nothing wrong with that.
Whenever you find yourself feeling down because you’re having a couple rough days, just remind yourself: healing is not linear. Today was a rough day, but it does not mean that all my positive steps were for naught. It only means that today I was tired from the fight, but I can wake up again tomorrow battle ready and with repaired armor and sharpened weapons. You are strong, you are brave, and today? Today you are allowed to rest.
Until next time, Internet.
If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to email@example.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 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.