Calling all people who dig mental health blogs! Welcome to my first ever Guest Post! Chelsie’s blog, You, Me & Emetophobia, introduced me to a mental health struggle I had never heard of. Chelsie is in recovery from emetophobia, “the irrational and intense fear of throwing up.” This phobia “attacks you from all angles,” Chelsie says in her “Open Letter to Emets Everywhere.” She writes about her commitment to healing in an honest and personal voice. I find her willingness to share her experience with others moving, and I have no doubt you will find her writing moving also. Please welcome Chelsie!
In Chelsie’s Words:
“Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating to socialize. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything, then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.” – Unknown
Life is full of oxymorons (and regular morons if we’re being honest). Some of them make complete sense, like organized chaos or being alone together. You know exactly what that looks like and feels like, despite the two words being completely opposite. I think oxymorons are put in place to describe situations that seem indescribable – perhaps another oxymoron? But in some instances, I think the universe just has a unique and occasionally cruel sense of humor.
Case and point? Anxiety and depression.
Anxiety is this constant, 100 mile per hour feeling, whereas depression is this numb, no urge to move at all feeling. Together, those emotions create this painfully taxing mental state that has people worried to fail, but no motivation to achieve their dreams. Many people who have anxiety and depression struggle in a generalized way, meaning that they just feel those emotions without any specific pinpoint trigger; they just feel the way they do all the time.
Then, there are people with emetophobia.
Emetophobia is the irrational fear of throwing up. This fear can be specified towards just the sufferer throwing up, someone else throwing up, or struggling with both. This is not to be confused with just not wanting to get sick or being squeamish. This phobia is typically classified as a panic disorder, because many people who struggle with emetophobia experience severe and sudden panic attacks.
The concept of emetophobia is complex in the way that many people don’t understand it. How can someone be afraid of throwing up? To an emet, throwing up is a crueler fate than death, and the emotions that are stirred up by a panic attack are terrible and range all over the emotional spectrum.
Many emets spend their days in a constant state of anxiety, similar to those who struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). They are worried about going out, their children, their friends, their spouses, whether or not that surface is contaminated with a stomach bug, what their sudden stomach ache is, whether that food has expired and will make them sick… that list goes on.
However, when an episode happens, many emets will start with panic and anxiety, and then fall into symptoms of depression. Why? Well, imagine if every time your loved one got sick you ran from them; you left them there alone. Then, even after they feel better, you struggle to hold them, be near them or even stay at the house with them. You think every stomach growl, every moan or awkward pause is a signal that they are sick and you avoid them like they are a literal plague.
After this happening many, many times, you begin to be down on yourself. Why can’t you handle a little stomach bug? What if your child or other family member thinks you don’t care for me? Or that by them being sick they are making you not like them?
While an emet with depression may not feel like they can’t achieve their dreams, they may become stuck. They may begin to feel they will never conquer this phobia, that they are doomed to struggle forever. That, to any emet, is the worst feeling of hopelessness.
We wouldn’t wish this phobia on our worst enemy, because the amount of ways it impacts daily life is too long to explain. And despite being a very common phobia, there is very little research to help licensed professionals accurately treat a complex panic disorder like emetophobia.
I once read a book that was supposed to let you get inside an emet’s head. I picked it up, hoping that it would give me answers to why I was the way I was. It was the first book I had ever found about emetophobia, so I splurged on it. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to my expectations.
In a sense, it did actually let me know some important things, and that was many emets do struggle with depression. The entire book was stories of women who were battling with depression because they just couldn’t handle the constant panic, anxiety and emotional toll that emetophobia was producing.
I also am active in a lot of support groups, and many of them, even if they may not be serious, are constantly saying that they no longer what to live this life. They are tired of fighting against themselves and the unseen, they wish they could end it all. I am not in a position to tell them that how they are feeling is not justified, because I know how hard it is to fight with your own mind every day. However, there are always solutions to problems if you believe you can find them.
Anxiety and depression are serious battles by themselves, but when you have both of them together and have other issues that amplify it it can be even harder. If you are concerned you could be depressed or are considering harming yourself, please seek help. Counseling and the proper medication can help you overcome your fears, worries and depressed state – or at least manage it so it’s not as difficult.
I believe that with the right mindset, anything is possible. Don’t let your mind have control over you any longer – if you want to make change, you CAN change. You just have to take that first step and believe it’s possible.
Until next time, Internet.