Monday, February 25, 2013

A Glimpse Into Emetophobic Anxiety

She mentions it casually as I pour the milk into her morning bowl of Corn Flakes..."Mom, my tummy hurts." My heart immediately leaps in my chest, then begins its ascent into a tremor-inducing race. My hand shakes and some milk spills onto the counter. No. Not now....please, please, not now. My thoughts begin to race in time with my they go...This is it, oh god, this is it, Nolan and Ainsley will catch it, I know they will, we'll all catch it, one drop of vomit from a child with Norovirus is enough to infect 100,000 people, if I send her to school they might call me and tell me she puked and to please come pick her up and I won't want to pick her up because I know she'll be contagious and we'll all get it and the next few weeks will be hell but they'll MAKE me pick her up because I'm her mom and puke isn't supposed to terrify me and I HAVE to take care of her because I love her and I'm her mom but I'm AFRAID of her right now, I'm afraid of my own daughter and that's horrible, that's awful, a good mom isn't afraid to care for her sick kids, what kind of mother am I oh god how am I going to cope the next few days how will I do it?? Maybe he can't help me because he'll be at work he's ALWAYS at work when one of them is puking how dare he leave me alone with my greatest fear I won't get any sleep the next few weeks because all of my kids will catch it and they'll be puking all night and the sound and the smell are so terrifying please god please don't let her have the stomach flu please just let it be gas or constipation or anything but the stomach flu anything but that it's so contagious everything will have to be wiped down and sanitized and the kids will puke on their blankets and pillows and I'll have to wash them and I'll probably be doing it all ALONE because Darin will be at work and I'll accidently inhale the vomit particles on the blankets or I'll touch my face without realizing it and then I'll get it I'll get it and I'll be nauseated and terrified and ALONE when it happens because he might be at work and I don't want to be alone when it happens I'm terrified to be alone when it happens doesn't he understand that but he has to work and I have to be a real mom and deal with this but I can't I can't I can't I can't I'm such a horrible mom for feeling this way oh god I'm so scared please please let it be anything except stomach flu....

This was me this morning. That rambling mess of strung-together sentences is EXACTLY what was going through my head this mind was spinning with these out-of-control thoughts. My heart was racing and pounding so hard I thought it might thump right through my chest. I was shaky and absolutely petrified. And all it took for me to go from semi-awake and calm to full-blown fight-or-flight mode were those four terrifying words from my sweet six year old: "Mom, my tummy hurts."

For those of you without a phobia, it might be difficult to understand how a simple bodily function can produce such terror in a person. Yet it can. I have Emetophobia, an intense, illogical, and irrational fear of vomiting, and this is what goes through my mind when I'm confronted with even the slightest possibility of vomit. I've lived with this enemy inside me for as long as I can remember, and I arrange my life to accomodate it. It's mentally and, yes, physically exhausting...sometimes I wonder just how long a heart can jump and race before giving up the fight. A heart attack is rare but not unheard of at 35 years old. I do sometimes wonder if this phobia, my forever enemy, will eventually kill me. Emetophobia is the 5th most common phobia, but the least studied. This makes it seem even more if vomiting is so horrifying that the phobia is even too taboo to study and research. To add to the awful mix, the guilt associated with Emetophobia is overwhelming. As mothers we are programmed to nurture our children when they're ill. A child deserves to be comforted and nurtured when vomiting or feeling sick. But Emetophobia forces us to wall ourselves off from our kids when they're sick with vomiting. Some of us simply cannot care for our children at all when they're ill. Some of us are able, but the initial panic and ensuing anxiety crushes us for weeks, months, and even years afterward, as many of us can recall every single instance of our children vomiting. We remember "vomiting anniversaries"...the dates that we or our children have vomited that roll around each year. The dread and anxiety preceding the date, and the all-too temporary relief afterwards if we've made it through vomit-free. There's more to this beast, much more, but I have to check on my daughter now...she didn't end up puking today, and she did attend school and reassured me that she no longer felt "pukey". But....she does have a slight fever and will have to stay home from school tomorrow, and the night is young, too young...I thank the universe that my husband is home from work now and will be here through the night...because there's always that's always lurking, always stalking us. I'm so nervous. Sleep will elude me tonight.

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