GUEST POST! Afraid to Breathe – Living with Emetophobia

So I’ve had the wonderful opportunity in the last few months to become friends with, and talk to a super inspirational fellow blogger named Lauren, who’s over at https://imfinestopasking.com/
She contacted & asked me if I’d like to do a guest post swap, wherein she would talk about her experience with emetophobia, and I would write about why I choose to talk about my depression – I like to think we’re helping each other to bring a little awareness to what the other has been through, & that’s blinkin’ amazing.
So if you’d like to read my guest post on Lauren’s blog, please do click that link above & have a gander! Meanwhile, scroll on down & point your peepers at Lauren’s piece on Emetophobia, and help us bring a little more awareness!
Oh & Lauren – it’s been a pleasure! ❤
All the bear hugs,
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Afraid to Breathe
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What is your biggest fear? Heights? Crowds? Spiders? Snakes? Growing up, it’s not uncommon to hear “what is your biggest fear” used as an icebreaker on the first day of school or asked as a question during Truth or Dare. Most people don’t lie about their fears. But I always did.
That’s because my biggest fear is more than just a fear, it’s a phobia. And it’s a weird one (or so I thought). My biggest fear has a name, and it’s called emetophobia – the fear of vomiting. As I got older and began opening up about my emetophobia, I was often met with responses like, “Oh! I understand, I hate that feeling too.”
I doubt anyone enjoys vomiting. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning hoping they’ll get the awesome opportunity to throw up that day. But it normally doesn’t cause most people to panic either. It normally doesn’t completely and utterly change their lives.
When I was almost eight years old, I caught the stomach flu twice in a row. I was sick for over two weeks. I had always been an anxious kid (my earliest memories involve having full-blown panic attacks during preschool), but this stomach flu changed everything.
At just eight years old, I instantly went from an anxious kid to a non-functional child. Soon, my entire life revolved around this fear. I almost completely stopped eating, as I believed eating would make me vomit. I associated the evening with getting sick, because during the stomach flu I felt much worse at night. So I refused to eat dinner.
Doctors appointments became my norm. I went to pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and was forced to talk to children’s helplines. By the time I was 10, I was borderline failure to thrive. Not everyone with emetophobia develops the related eating disorder – but I did.
Even though emetophobia often appears on ‘most common phobias’ lists, it is still a relatively unknown disorder. The related eating disorder doesn’t have a name either, and that was very confusing to me as a child. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what I was going through, aside from my parents. I didn’t even know how to explain it.
I didn’t fit the anorexia nervosa symptoms because my eating disorder had nothing to do with my body image. And I definitely didn’t have bulimia…so what was wrong with me?
It’s not just about food. I missed countless social events like birthday parties, family gatherings, concerts, school events, and more because “what if I get sick there? In front of everyone?” My emetophobia often mimicked the symptoms of social anxiety.
When I was eight years old and first realized that this fear was not going to disappear anytime soon, I remember sitting at the edge of my driveway, crying, wondering if I would still be this way when I was 10…and 15….and 20 years old…Would I still be this way as an adult?
And at 25 years old, the answer is yes. Sort of.
I still struggle with emetophobia and the related eating disorder. I still skip dinner every once in a while and have long panic attacks complete with dry-heaving, shaking, hyperventilating, crying, and even mild self-harm (in an attempt to distract from stomach pain).
Emetophobia is so frustrating because you cannot avoid it. Unlike a fear of flying or heights, which can technically be avoided forever, I can’t avoid my fear. You could never step foot on an airplane again and still live a good life. I can’t stop eating. If I stop eating, I will die.
When I try to explain to people what emetophobia is like, I say it’s like a fear of breathing. Imagine if you were afraid to breathe, but…you have to breathe. So you take a breathe but every time you do, you’re terrified something horrible might happen to you.
Everyone around me eats without taking a second thought, like breathing. But every single bite I take is terrifying. Will this give me food poisoning? What about E. Coli? Will that upset my stomach? Will I have a five-hour long panic attack because of this meal?
Even though emetophobia is a huge part of my life, I am slowly overcoming it. I am making progress. I am finally at a healthy weight, I no longer have daily panic attacks during meals, and I actually look forward eating out (most of the time).
But I think the biggest change is that I am no longer embarrassed. I talk openly about my phobia to anyone who is willing to hear in hopes that my story can both bring awareness and comfort to those suffering like I did. You are not alone.
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Siyana says:

    Thank you for sharing something so personal with us. I didn’t know about this disorder and I’m happy to hear that you are making progress now. Stay strong (both of you 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this terrific post. Emetophobia is a condition that most people don’t know about and I learned a lot from your words.

    Like

  3. Thank you for your transparency, I hadn’t heard of this phobia before. I am so glad that you are actively taking steps to overcome this phobia, Lauren. You are strong and every day you wake up and choose to eat, you are making progress towards dismantling this phobia that has taken over your life.

    Like

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