Archive for Living with emetophobia

Mental Health Awareness Week – some things I’ve found that have helped me with anxiety…

This week, 18 – 24 May is Mental Health Awareness Week on the theme of kindness.  Quite apt during this continuing lockdown period where a lot of us are struggling in one way or another don’t you think?  

Whilst I wouldn’t say I suffer with anxiety, I’m definitely an anxious person.  In my teenage and early adult years I suffered with Emetophobia, which caused me a lot of anxiety and whilst I don’t think I’ll ever be completely over this phobia I’ve certainly learned how to deal with it better over the years. I’ve written a full blog post on this which you can read here if you want to. I cannot believe how many people messaged me after I posted this saying that they felt the same, it took me so long to get the courage to write that post and I’m so glad I did, it just goes to show that you might think you’re the only one who feels someway but you pretty much definitely won’t be.

Anyway, during this period of time and in the years following my worst time with it, I learned a few different coping mechanisms and things that I know now will help me to feel better and I thought I’d share them here just incase they’re helpful to you too.  I think it’s important to note that these are things that have helped me personally – they may not work for everyone but hopefully even one or two of them might.

Yoga / in fact any sort of exercise…

Yoga is something I’ve got into in more recent years.  Focussing on your body and regulating your breathing does wonders for your mind.  I carry a lot of tension in my back when I feel anxious and if I’m feeling panicky I can sometimes feel shaky which in turn gives me awful back ache.  I’m beginning to realise now that if I can feel an anxiety session coming on a quick half hour of Yoga with Adriene will usually sort me out if I catch it early enough.  While I was running I found this had a similar effect on my mental well being but I haven’t run for ages so we won’t go there 😉

Do something with your hands

I cannot talk enough about how knitting helped me during the worst time of my phobia.  It was something therapeutic that I could do with my hands which was mindful enough to calm my anxious mind.  It also gave me something to look forward to and plan for – thinking about which project I’ll make next and what wool I can buy. I do this with fabric now 😉  Some of the benefits recorded with knitting have also been lowered blood pressure and distraction.  It can also be very social, there’s a whole world of knitting Instagrammers out there you know! I know lots of people who would say the same about crochet and gardening too.

Prayer & meditation   

I’m a Christian so I’ll always pray through my worries, sometimes sitting alone for a while listening to a talk or meditation and reading my Bible will be enough to remind me that God is in control and give my worries over to him. However, I’m only human and a bit of a control freak so it’s worth mentioning that sometimes I find this difficult too.

Getting Outside

When you’re gripped with worry and on the verge of panic going out for a walk can be the last thing you feel like doing but when I’m feeling anxious getting outside, usually with the dog now, does me the world of good. Something about the calm and quiet of being in nature helping to calm my mind I guess.

Counting backwards from 100

Sounds madness but I’ve been known on a few occasions during lockdown to have woken up in a state and been calmed back to sleep by doing this over and over accompanied by some deep breathing.

Write it down

Another thing I’ve only recently got into is journaling, I was sceptical at first but actually getting your feelings down on paper does actually help – who knew!  

Get someone who understands to rationalise with you

In my teenage years it was my parents and a couple of close friends, now it’s my husband.  Talking over your anxieties with someone who cares about you, even if they feel silly to you, will always help.

Be kind to yourself

In the midst of my worst struggle with my phobia mental health wasn’t talked about like it is now.  I felt like there was something wrong with me, that I was strange or weak.  If you’re going through a tough time please know that you aren’t alone. 

When I was at my worst with this there were very few people who actually knew what I was going through, I got very good at hiding it and knowing how to avoid situations I couldn’t cope with without looking too weird.  What I mean by saying this is that you never know what someone else is going through even though on the outside they might look fine!

Always be kind and remember…

I hope some of those tips may have been helpful.  I’m always happy to chat if you are suffering from a similar phobia or if you just want to chat in general. 

Take care, stay safe and as always thank you for reading!!

Sally xx



World Mental Health Day – My struggle with Emetophobia…

Hi, I’m Sally and I have a phobia of being sick, or to use the proper, medial term I suffer with Emetophobia.  If you know me you will probably have no idea I struggle so much with this, I’ve got pretty good at hiding it over the years.  If you’re my husband, a close family member or a very close friend you’ll be well aware of how much this has affected me over the years and how it still affects me now – although I’m now much better at dealing with it.   

It started when I was about 14 and in high school, a friend of mine asked me if I was ok because I looked pale.  This triggered something in me which had obviously been there, underlying, waiting to come out.  I panicked, OMG I was pale, I was almost certainly coming down with a sickness bug I needed to get out of there fast.  I went to the school nurse complaining of feeling ill and was sent home.  I spent a lot of that afternoon feeling very sick with anxiety but I wasn’t actually physically sick.  From then on, out of nowhere at my young age of 14, when I was least expecting it, crippling panic would grip me.  I would be out and suddenly panic that I was away from home, away from my comfort zone – what if I was sick in front of everyone – I needed to go!!  At first my parents thought I was actually suffering from a bug – the only way I could describe my feelings to them was to say I felt sick.  I did feel sick but it wasn’t because I was ill it was because I was having a panic attack.  My panic attacks usually involve me feeling sick, weak, feeling breathless and shaking uncontrollably. All this began around Christmas time and it was easy to think that perhaps when Christmas was over things might calm down and I’d start to feel better.  I didn’t…

From then on, I would still have the panic attacks and the fear of being sick began to creep into how I ate.  I would avoid certain foods, worry about best before dates, how things had been cooked and whether I’d eaten something ‘bad’ without realising.  I also began to eat less believing that the less that was in my stomach the less likely I’d be to throw up and I started to wash my hands excessively for fear of germs.  People began to notice that I was eating less and losing weight and given my age tended to assume that it was some kind of teenage body image related eating disorder – in reality body image couldn’t have been further from my mind.

I saw the school nurse for some counselling, it didn’t really help.  Mental health wasn’t so well talked about or understood at the time – I’m so grateful that things have changed now.

Probably reading this you might think I’m crazy.  If ever I have tried to explain this fear to someone I’m usually met with a response along the lines of ‘Oh yes I hate being sick too’ I get that – we all hate it, it’s not nice, but this phobia – any phobia – is more than just a dislike of something it’s completely irrational.  It controls your life in a scary way and that’s what makes it so difficult to explain to people.  The irrational bit is of course that in the grand scheme of things vomiting is nothing.  For crying out loud there are people starving out there, actually seriously ill and of course going through much worse but for me when I’m having an attack, being sick feels like it’s the worst thing in the world which in turn makes me feel pretty rubbish because how can I possibly compare this silly irrational phobia with a ‘REAL’ illness or crisis.

I could ramble on for ages about the next few years and how this phobia affected me on and off but I’m so thankful to say that with a supportive family, my Christian faith and one or two very close friends who knew what I was going through things did get much better over time and I began to live a more ‘normal’ teenage life but I still had awful flare ups of this phobia. 

As I grew up the phobia would come and go and manifest itself in different ways.  I struggle with crowds, I feel claustrophobic if I’m ever confined or feel trapped anywhere (flying is still a difficult one), I avoided to the best of my ability, anyone who had had a bug or going anywhere that bugs might be around.  Hospitals, doctors surgeries etc.

I was terrified that I would never be able to have children even though being a mum was something I’d always wanted so much.  There was the possible morning sickness, sickness in the birth not to mention how much babies and children can be ill– plus all those germy nurseries, soft plays etc I’d have to deal with.

You’ll probably know now that I have two gorgeous children – thankfully I managed not to let the phobia stop me from being a mum.  I didn’t vomit AT ALL through any of it, so it is possible.  I prayed A LOT through both of my pregnancies 🙂

However, I do know of people suffering from this who will go through life wanting kids but not being able to have them and it breaks my heart to think that this phobia could ruin someone’s life like that.

Having my children has actually changed me and my focus on my phobia.  I have had some extremely difficult times but on the whole having my children has somehow put things a bit more into perspective for me.  It’s also made me brave.  I’ve done things I never thought I could have, I’ve pushed myself into situations I never thought I’d be able to be in.  I’ve been to the soft plays, I’ve been there with them when they’ve been ill and I’ve coped.  It was always my fear that I would run if they were ill and not be able to be there for them but I did it and I managed. 

The more I push myself the more I know that I will not let this phobia beat me.  It will always be there niggling at me in the background, I’ll probably always be funny about use by dates and hand washing and will probably keep my distance from you for a while if you or your children have had a bug, I’ll go vegetarian in a restaurant rather than risking how the meat has been cooked but I don’t like a lot of meat anyway so that one’s not too difficult.  I’ll always keep myself ‘safe’ in my own little ways, which is why I think if you know me now you would probably never know that I suffer/suffered so much with this – or maybe reading this makes a few things about me a bit clearer, who knows! It’s true to say though that  I don’t tend to talk about this unless I really have to.

I know a bit more now how to manage it and what I need to do to talk myself down.  Getting outside is a major thing for me, as soon as I’m out in the fresh air and in nature I feel so much better.  Having my dog has helped me a lot with my anxieties in this way too – walking him makes me get out into my happy place and feel a lot calmer. Knitting and sewing have of course been immensely helpful to me too,  knitting particularly brings a sense of mindfulness to me that just brings me calm and I think it’s because my hands are busy and my mind is focussed but I can sit on the sofa and watch TV with it at the same time. I knitted through my teenage years too and it helped me so much!  There’s also prayer of course, I wouldn’t manage without my faith which is probably something else I don’t talk about enough here – I’m pretty reserved without even really realising it half the time.

My husband also knows my triggers and symptoms which is a great help and he won’t pander to me if I need to be told to pull myself together which is actually more helpful than I’d like to admit sometimes.

I’m not completely over this, I probably never will be, but I know that I never want it to have control over me like it once did again and I’ll do everything I can to push myself away from it when it tries to stop me living the life I want to lead.

I would love to hear from you if you suffer or have suffered from something similar.  Writing this all down has felt extremely vulnerable but also extremely empowering because I can look back and see how far I’ve come.

The best thing we can do for our mental health is to talk about it and if my story helps even one person out there to know that you can learn to deal with this then it’ll have been worth it.

Lots of love

Sally xx