Emetophobia, Motherhood and Me

This is a very personal post that I debated writing but it’s actually helped to get it all down ‘on paper’. Life is hard for me at the moment and here’s why.

Emetophobia is not talked about, despite being one of the top 5 most common phobias in the UK.

Emetophobia is a phobia that causes overwhelming, intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting.

Having suffered from emetophobia to varying degrees of severity at different times of my life since I was a teenager, I always knew being a mum would be tough. I got it under control after following the Thrive programme with a CBT therapist in 2013, but sadly this all-consuming phobia has reared its ugly head again in recent weeks and I am having an incredibly rough time with it.

During the therapy I came to understand that given my having no problem with me being drunk sick, I found that I was at my most anxious when the threat of a tummy bug was imminent. The thought of picking it up somewhere but not knowing for sure, or when or where- was terrifying to me. I was petrified.

It’s ironic because I love food so much. And was a binge drinker in the past. But for some reason aside from over worrying about cooking food the right way and ordering certain things when eating out, it hasn’t affected my passion for food.

After a couple of months following Thrive, I was so much better. I was able to handle these situations more calmly.

Fast forward four years and I have my own human child. And no one to care for him, but me.

Baby sick never bothered me- it wasn’t real sick it was inoffensive regurgitation of my own breastmilk- a mechanical baby thing. I was fine with it. Last winter though, Zac had weaned onto solids and was attending a childminder’s with other children (and their germs and bugs). The anxiety surrounding my emetophobia returned. I remember catching a bug last December (which gave me diarrhoea only) which Zac avoided- but the fear was back. I couldn’t control what he picked up and how the hell would I cope?

By some miracle he stayed well, aside from the regular colds and a bout or two of conjunctivitis and eczema outbreaks which are now under control.

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago, when I lost the plot.

I should probably mention that a lot happened in one go. First baby daddy pulled off his magical disappearing act once again after spending so much time with us, regularly and consistently for months and months. This has been disappointing to my boy who had come to expect his visits and still often points at his picture and says ‘no daddy?’ to me, which breaks my heart a little more every time.

So one Saturday after a morning trip to soft play and a nap, I was carrying him from his cot to the kitchen when he brought up a projectile mouthful. It blindsided me but was small enough for me not to panic. I put him down, cleaned it up and that was it. A minute later, he started to cough but before he was able to really cough he sort of gagged and threw up. Loads. All over my bedroom carpet.

I froze in total panic.

He was choking towards the end, trying to catch his breath, crying and looking at me for assistance but I froze where I was standing.

Staring.

Sheer terror.

I phoned my mum and had a panic attack down the phone asking her what I should do, she told him to comfort him immediately. He ran to me and I bent down to pick him up and he immediately put a sicky hand in my mouth. The thoughts and fears coursing through me were terrifying – I could have quite happily jumped out of the window there and then. Mum calmed me down enough for me to go and stand in the bath with him to see if he needed to be sick again but my reaction had terrified him and he was screaming and clinging to me, frightened. I was appalled at myself but just couldn’t get it together.

Anyway fast forward to a kind friend who came over and helped me clean up and peel me off the ceiling. But from that day on, we entered the darkest few weeks yet. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and the feeling of aloneness, and Zac either picking up on my discomfort or going through a developmental phase completely transformed into a non-sleeping, crying, whinging, tantrumming devil child.

A couple of days later he threw up again – as he tried to cough. I realised that he had a chesty cough but the phlegm was getting caught in his throat and making him throw up. Once I knew what it was- a mechanical fault – I was able to deal with it and comfort him as I should have done that first time.

But then I heard about a sick bug going round which had taken out one of the girls at Zac’s childminders. I couldn’t think of anything else.

For over a week, I walked around like a zombie, hands shaking, unable to smile, constantly obsessing over it, falling to pieces every time he cried, walking away from him mid tantrum and crying on my bed, I didn’t eat for about 4 days and at night I lay awake wide eyed, shaking.

I haven’t heard from baby daddy in 2 weeks now either, which has added to these crushing feelings of aloneness. I can’t call on him now for help of any kind. That weird family structure that had built up over the last few months had crumbled into dust and it felt so so sad.

I knew I had to get some help to get the emetophobia under control or my chances of being a good mum would be shot to shit. He would be ill at some point and I had to be able to handle it like a normal human being rather than unravel and freeze in panic.

Fast forward to the present and I have had my first session with a new CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) therapist and I am hopeful that I will learn strategies to reset my thinking, pull myself out of my anxious thoughts and not let it completely overwhelm my life. It feels like there is this big black cloud hovering over us at the moment; it’s changed how I interact with my son. I can’t relax, day or night. I see him as a ticking time bomb that I’m afraid of.

But he’s not. He’s my little boy. I made his body with my own so how can I be afraid of it? How can I not go to him if he’s unwell and needs me? How did this phobia and anxiety stop my mothering instinct in its tracks?

Phobias are the very devil- and the anxiety that surrounds them and all other mental health disorders are the ominous evil spirits that cloud your consciousness and affect how you live, breathe, think and feel every single moment of every day and night.

I am so grateful to be starting CBT and I really hope that I am able to learn to control the anxiety and start enjoying motherhood again because at the moment I’m not. Every day is a struggle.

I have a long hard road ahead of me but with the right help and as much self-care as I can give myself, I will bloody well beat this fear and be the mother my son needs me to be.

24 Comments

  1. thebeasley October 28, 2017 / 7:39 am

    Oh gosh. You have all my sympathy. Phobias are just all consuming & I think people who don’t have a phobia struggle to really understand them. This is so hard for you at the moment & I’m keeping everything crossed for you that CBT helps you swiftly. I’m sure the guilt you must feel isn’t helping either, but I have every faith that you’re doing a better job at being Mother than what you think you are. You’ve taken the best step & that’s doing something positive to conquer your fear. All the best xx

    • missybijou October 28, 2017 / 7:47 am

      Thank you so much xx

  2. rachaelstray October 28, 2017 / 7:55 am

    Phobias are the worst. Thank you for being so brave and sharing this with us.

    • missybijou October 28, 2017 / 8:18 am

      Thank you Rachael! And thank you for reading ☺️

  3. Anindya October 28, 2017 / 8:12 am

    Very engaging and absorbing read…..I hope with proper treatment through counselling you will be able to feel much better…….here in India, we do give specific importance on yoga and meditation to calm our minds down, and trust me, done rightly, that helps a lot……and makes us enjoy life more….free of anxieties and fears…….be well soon…..

    • missybijou October 28, 2017 / 8:18 am

      Thank you! I appreciate that. Mindfulness and meditation are certainly incredible ways to subdue anxiety and my therapist works in mindfulness to her programme so I hope to learn valuable strategies. Thank for stopping by!

  4. yourvetonline1 October 28, 2017 / 8:16 am

    You’ve got this. I’m sure sharing will help too. Anxieties are tough and I’m glad you have sought professional help.
    Take care x

    • missybijou October 28, 2017 / 8:19 am

      Thank you!

  5. fancypaperblog October 28, 2017 / 9:30 am

    I have never heard of this and it makes so much sense. Awareness to all of these things is key. Blogging is education xx thank you

    • missybijou October 29, 2017 / 5:34 am

      Thank you!

  6. Carol October 28, 2017 / 10:12 am

    I also have never heard of this but any phobia is all consuming and I do hope your theraphy helps…Good Luck you will beat this 🙂 Your first step was writing ot down for all to see 🙂

    • missybijou October 29, 2017 / 5:33 am

      Thanks Carol! You’re right, it’s the all consuming nature of a phobia that’s so hard to deal with, and the anxiety that comes with it!! I appreciate your kind comment, thank you x

      • Carol October 29, 2017 / 3:34 pm

        You are welcome x

  7. Lorna October 28, 2017 / 10:30 am

    Empathy from me here. I have this same phobia. While I was pregnant it helped to name my sick bucket, and swear at ‘him’ before I vomited. CBT works. All the best to you. <3

    • missybijou October 29, 2017 / 5:31 am

      That’s a good one! I was super lucky to not have a sicky pregnancy. Glad to hear you are recovered xx

  8. Forrest Harter October 28, 2017 / 12:18 pm

    Know that you are loved… and prayed for…

    • missybijou October 29, 2017 / 5:29 am

      ❤️

  9. Lisa Orchard October 28, 2017 / 7:24 pm

    Oh gosh. This is so hard. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I know how anxiety and fear can consume you. Sending you prayers and healing vibes!

    • missybijou October 29, 2017 / 5:29 am

      Thank you!!

  10. Daphne DuMariner. October 28, 2017 / 10:41 pm

    Oh darling, I’m not surprised your anxiety is through the roof. It’s easy enough to say, but try to be kind to yourself. You’re not the awful things your brain is telling you you are. Love yourself and take care of yourself the way you would a poorly friend. And try and remember that as it has in the past, this particular will phase will come to an end, and you will have survived it.
    Thank you for being brave enough to share. xx

    • missybijou October 29, 2017 / 5:29 am

      Thank you Daphne. I keep repeating the phrase ‘this too shall pass’ and I hope very much it’s something I will finally be able to put behind me. Thank you for your kind words x

      • Daphne DuMariner. October 29, 2017 / 6:05 am

        This is my Gran’s affirmation that I grew up listening to – this too shall pass. And some days you will feel strong, and other days weak, but that will not be forever. You are worthy of a happy content life. I believe you can do it, whenever that happens.

        • missybijou October 29, 2017 / 6:38 am

          ❤️❤️

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