I wanted to write a blog post on my experiences of mental health whilst Mental Health Awareness Week was running, but with essays and deadlines, life got in the way. It wasn’t something I wanted to rush typing, as it means so much to me. My experience of mental health has had such a huge impact on my life, and so it didn’t seem right to quickly type up a couple of sentences on the subject and then hastily hit publish. But my essay is in, and the deadline has passed, so here I go!…
I have emetophobia. They are words that feel as if they have come to define me, yet I have never said them out loud. I don’t know why I have never mentioned it, I think part of me thinks it is almost my failure, my awful secret that I don’t want to admit. I don’t want to look as though I am not in control or that this fear makes me very scared about my future. I worry people won’t understand, or even try to understand.
But is that is something that is changing (thank goodness.) Apart from my Mum, Dad and Brother, I have never opened up to anyone else about my mental health, but here I am, typing away on my little blog, ready to press publish and send it out into the World Wide Web. It’s a scary thought. What will people think? Will they try and understand what I am going through? But that is the fantastic thing that I have found when I started blogging, there are so many amazing people making fantastic progress into reducing the stigma in mental health and standing together in support of each other. And it is with their courage in speaking out, that has made me feel able to share my story…
Emetophobia is a fear of being sick. This will usually be met with the response of ‘Well, nobody likes being sick.’ But it is so much more than that. It has become something that has taken over my life. It is life absorbing fear that produces anxiety and OCD tendencies.
I won’t eat out, sticking to my ‘safe’ foods at home. These foods have to be rigorously checked over before eating, and my hands scrubbed clean countless times before sitting down to eat. It stops me socialising, as I don’t (rather can’t) make myself be able to sit in a restaurant where I don’t know how the food has been prepared for the fear of it been contaminated and will make me ill. I avoid travelling, I haven’t been further than a 1.5hr drive away (for which I was prepped with my ‘anti-sickness supplies’ and had a stop halfway) for over 12 years. But it not just the present it effects, but also the future. How will I ever be able to have or look after a family, and how will I keep a full time job? It scares me so much, so please don’t ever trivialize this fear.
I would love not to have it, click my fingers and the fear just vanish. In fact, I don’t know what I would do first, I would feel so unstoppable!
But, that hasn’t happened, I still have emetophobia and I have a long and challenging journey ahead to try my best to fight it. And fight, I will! But I also want to celebrate my mental health as the challenges I have faced because of it, have also changed me in some ways for the better.
I can appreciate that a task someone else might take for granted, may be terribly difficult for someone else. So support them, look to understand and celebrate with them. Also patience. Sometimes I feel I am taking one step forward and two steps back with emetophobia. But that’s the thing, it isn’t going to suddenly get better overnight. It will take days, months and years of hard work, but I am ready to try. And finally, strength. Even though having emetophobia can make me feel so weak at times, it does give me glimmers of strength. I have tried so hard and personal achievements that seem nothing to other people, I can feel my cheeks hurt from smiling, because I feel so proud of myself!
So I have said it, I have emetophobia. As I type, I can feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders, free from the burden of my ‘secret.’
Over the next couple of months, I want to use my blog as a way of celebrating mental health, and sharing my personal experience of emetophobia (the highs and the lows!) in more detail.
Until then, thank you for taking the time to read my story.