A Letter to My Six-Year-Old Self: My Battle With Emetophobia
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What is Emetophobia?
Emetophobia is the chronic and persistent fear of vomiting or throwing up, despite the reassurance by others that there is no danger.
There are currently over twenty-nine million websites dedicated to this fear and is is commonly recognized as the fifth most common fear.
Emetophobia can be triggered by a single traumatic event, such as a long bout of stomach flu, accidentally vomiting in public, or having to witness someone else vomit (as in my case). This fear can be triggered at any time and at any age and is not specific to a gender or demographic. Interestingly, most people with emetophobia rarely, if ever, vomit. Some sufferers, including this author, report that they have not thrown up since childhood, yet they constantly worry that it might happen
Sources: wikipedia.org, emetophobia.com
Get help for your emetophobia
- emetophobia - fear of being sick - fear of vomit
emetophobia - fear of being sick - fear of vomit
- International Emetophobia Society | The Web's Largest Meeting Place for People With Emetophobia
International Emetphobia Society | The Web's Largest Home for Those With Emetophobia
I still remember that day, twenty-five years ago, when you were in first grade. You had just returned from recess and your fellow classmates were all in the bathroom, getting ready to return to class. You finished early and made your way back to your desk. You laid your little towhead down and closed your eyes, tired from a hard day of playing and learning. You hated first grade. Mr. Wing had this long, orange table in the back of the classroom. Throughout the day, students from all age levels would come in with pink slips from their teachers or the principal. You would read the note and point at the desk. They would lay their head down for an interminable period of time, on that desk. We’d all watch the humiliation and shame, like the stocks in colonial America, only we were not allowed to throw fruit. You’d always worry that one day you’d be sent to that desk. You could feel the burn in your feet from standing, the Plantar Fascitis that won’t be diagnosed for another twenty years already wreaking havoc on your young, tender soles.
But the worst is yet to come, or at least, you will perceive it as such. Brace yourself. It’s not the worst. Traumatic, certainly, but not the worst. When your grandmother passes away of a sudden heart attack in ten years, that will be worse. When your favorite dog, a sheltie named Cocoa, whom you won’t get for another two years, dies in fifteen years, that will be worse. You’re going to marry the wrong woman in seventeen years and get divorced in twenty, creating disarray and turmoil that me, your thirty-one year self, is still dealing with even though he is now married to an amazing woman. That will be worse. Your favorite uncle Dale is going to pass away from cancer in twenty four years; that will be worse.
What’s about to happen is going to be bad and traumatic. It’s going to lead to a series of irrational fears. I want you to know this is a real legitimate fear. There will someday be 29 million websites dedicated to this fear. You don’t yet know what websites are but someday, you won’t be able to stay away from them. The entire world will be hooked. I highly recommend that you buy some stocks in companies in like Facebook, Twitter and Myspace (though, with MySpace, sell early. It’s going to peak around 2008 and then fizzle and die like a bad fart). You’re going to turn into a night owl as a way to conquer this fear, as the event you fear is more likely to occur at night then it is during the light of day. This fear is the fifth most common fear in the world, though it’s rarely diagnosed because it’s cloaked with fears like the fear of heights (which you also have. I can’t help you there. Still working on that), claustrophobia, the fear of flying, agoraphobia, etc. The fear you’re about to develop is normal, even if it is irrational. People like Matt Lauer, Cameron Diaz, Howie Mandel and Denise Richards—people whom are famous now—share this fear. You’re not alone. Take heart.
In the classroom, you emerged from your sleepy haze to see Ben walk in the room. Ben looks sick. He has a long horse face, round glasses and a crew cut mullet. Mullets will go out of style in a few years, though some folks will refuse to get rid of them, even as their hair begins to recede. He’s wearing a beige sweater and grey slacks. He was always a fine dresser and a total brainiac. He’s probably living on a yacht somewhere with a beautiful woman, and a back account bulging with interest. But those days are a ways away. Right now, let’s focus on that day that you remember with such vividity. That day that’s going to cross your mind fairly regularly, even twenty five years after. Aside from Mr. Wing’s orange desk and male patterned baldness, is the only thing you’ll remember from first grade.
You looked back at Ben and you smiled. This was normal for you. You were a very friendly kid and you weren’t jaded yet. That didn’t start to happen until you change schools two years later and became a constant victim of taunting and ridicule. There, at Clackamas Elementary, you were popular and well liked, even if you did get teased occasionally for befriending “Elizabeth the Retard” and Michelle Tonwshend who, next year on the school bus home, is going to plant her ugly lips on yours on the school bus on the way home. Don’t sweat it. No one is going to see it happen and you’ll never see her again after second grade. Let her have her moment.
Ben didn’t smile back. He just laid his head on his desk, his face contorted in an ugly sneer. You were not yet concerned until, suddenly, he burst from his desk, placed his hands on his stomach and groaned his way to the classroom door. He didn’t make it and a jet of grey, chunky vomit erupted from his mouth and splattered on the checkered tile. Your froze, unsure how to act and huddled deep in your desk, terrified by the retches, abhorred by the odor. You covered your ears tightly with your hands . You tried to hide your face but instead saw a girl named Julie in her blue dress get caught off guard, nearly walk into the vile bile and jump back, screaming and crying. Centuries of time went by before Mr. Wing returned and began to pat Ben on the back and run his fingers through his hair as he finished his awful affair. He began to cry and Mr. Wing gently walked him down the hall and out of sight. You could hear the sobs of your classmates, but you were still alone in the room. His vomit had splattered across the doorway, forming a grotesque fence that no student, least of all you, would dare cross.
You developed emetophobia. It’s most common in women (many emetophobic women will abstain from motherhood in order to avoid the morning sickness of pregnancy) but don’t let that make you feel like less of a man. You take great measures to avoid vomiting. No one likes it, but you, and other emetophobics, hate it. It scares you. The helplessness, the sounds, the smells; you would rather be sick for months then experience even the momentary displeasure of vomiting. This is irrational, but very real.
You keep your fridge stocked with ginger ale, tortillas and bread, because these soothe the nausea. Pepto Bismol will become your constant companion. Vitamin C and multi-vitamins will flood your system, creating very expensive urine. Your immune system is top notch, I must admit. You will actually not even vomit for twelve years, and the only reason that that streak ended was because you unwisely mixed marijuana with whiskey. I would caution you to avoid that mixture, but, you’ll remember, you survived that. It didn’t kill you. You’re afraid of cancer, not because of the mortality rate, but because of the symptoms of nausea and frequent vomiting. This fear at times takes over your life.
You avoid people who are sick. Last Christmas, your best friend Travis, and his wife were visiting from California. They developed a flu that Travis (you know him already, but you’ll get to know him even more. You’ll be the best man in his wedding, he’ll be the best man in your first wedding, and an avid supporter in your second) referred to as “Montezuma’s Revenge.” You avoided seeing them for fear that you would catch this bug and find your face over a toilet bowl. They come up once a year and you avoided seeing them until the last possible day because you were worried you might get sick.
You will develop a fear of staircases and stair wells, for fear that someone may vomit over the edge and splatter you with it. This fear seemed irrational until last night when you saw vomit over the railing of your apartment complex, in the hallway where you walk up the stairs to your apartment with your dogs. You shudder at the thought that you could have been there and witnessed the vile act. You nearly gagged when you thought that you could have been splattered with it, and, again when you nearly stepped in it and caught of a whiff of its acrimonious odor.
No one likes being sick and it’s wise to avoid it at all costs. It’s bad for your teeth, it’s hard on your muscles and it’s an unpleasant, helpless experience; but it’s also an unfortunate part of life. You know it makes you feel better and you know it’s only a temporary thing. I’m not suggesting you go out and vomit. I just want you to not be so scared of it. If it happens, it happens. Keep drinking your ginger ale and eating your tortillas. Keep working to be healthy and keep asking God every night that you won't wake up and need to rush to the bathroom.
I’m sorry you were by yourself when that happened. I’m sorry there was no one to explain to you that vomiting is a perfectly natural thing and is just one of the ways your body purges illness and poison from its body. It may very well one day save your life.
So, avoid it if you can, but don’t fear it. You may never vomit again after the Marijuana and whiskey incident. I hope you won’t, you hope you won’t. But, if you do, just know that you have a loving and supportive wife who will take care of you. Don’t be embarrassed. Everyone does it. It may be disgusting and humiliating, but that passes.
Don’t be afraid anymore, I beg of you.
Your Adult Self
P.S. Don’t waste your money on Spiderman 3 or Patch Adams. Those movies sucked.
P.P.S. Your first two tattoos were stupid. You should have gotten nautical stars, instead.