How do I calm down my emetophobia? (part 2) Coping strategies.

See part 1 here.

This is the part 2 of my mini series about emetophobia. In this part, I want to put together some tips, tricks and ideas that work for me or that I know of for people who also struggle with this phobia. For the sake of people who have a strong fear around the associated words, unlike in the first part, I will be replacing any trigger words with only their first letters. The section dealing with exposure may be more or less triggering for some.

   Mindset

One thing, perhaps not the healthiest out there, that has helped me a lot ever since I’ve become aware of this mechanism is the understanding that, seriously, people with emetophobia are less likely, at least on average, to v* than people who don’t have this fear. Part of this may be all sorts of things we do to prevent it, and that many of us simply aren’t all that prone to it, but what I think plays a greater role is that we’re often too stressed and blocked for v* to occur. I think this is a good thing to keep in mind, and very comforting, even though there’s always some chance of it happening. On a similar note, there are people, emetophobic and not, who only v* once in their lifetime, or maybe never at all. Now, imagine you’re one of these people, that you never v*ed for your entire life since the last time you actually did, and imagine that you’re nearing the end of your life, and you’ve been given some crystal ball or a mind superpower, thanks to which you can, reflecting back on your life, see it from different angles, what would happen if you did X or didn’t do Y. And one thing you learn about your life is that, with or without all your efforts, you weren’t meant to v* anymore in your life anyway. Wouldn’t you feel pity for missing out on all the yummy foods you never ate, all the journeys you didn’t take etc. despite deep down you really wanted to, just to avoid something that would never happen regardless of your actions, and that your efforts were essentially meaningless? Of course, we know that most people do v*, so looking at things this way won’t make anyone with emetophobia stop avoiding v*, but I think it’s an interesting perspective to put it in.

   Coping with crisis

   Evaluating how you’re feeling

Something that helps me not to panic right away when something triggers my emetophobia is to focus on how exactly I am actually feeling, to determine whether what I’m feeling is truly physical, or is it just my anxiety. N* is my primary anxiety symptom so sometimes it’s difficult, but I’m getting better at it every time. Basically, when I start feeling n*, or anything else that I think could potentially lead to v* and feel distressed about it, I try to establish how bad it is. You can try asking yourself questions like the ones below and see if you can answer them at all, which I guess won’t necessarily be easy at every severity stage of emetophobia, and if you can answer them, perhaps the answers will help to reassure you. For me, that’s most often the case.

  • Are you able to function normally the way you’re feeling now, or would you rather just lay in bed?
  • How about things that you normally enjoy, are you able to do them now with the way you’re feeling or are you feeling too s*? I think it’s important to differentiate here between feeling too * and not being focused on anything else than the way you’re feeling and that it might lead to v*, which also can make it difficult to enjoy anything.
  • What exactly makes you think it may end up with v*? For me personally, n* alone, unless it’s really intense, isn’t a valid argument, because like I said I experience it a lot due to anxiety and n* itself never made me v*.
  • Totally hypothetically, would you be able to eat something, and what could it be? By being able I mean physically, not whether your emetophobic brain thinks it’s safe to do it or not, but, like, what’s your reaction when you think about food? If you had it guaranteed that, regardless how bad you’re feeling and what you’ll choose to eat, you will not v* after eating, would there be something you’d actually like to eat right now? Or does thinking about any food make you feel worse and eating is the last thing you want to do? Or maybe you’re actually hungry but your brain doesn’t want you to know? People could have n* when they’re very hungry or have low blood sugar, maybe it’s the case with you?

Distraction

Then the next key thing in my opinion is effective distraction. I know, it’s fiendishly difficult when you’re feeling anxious, so it’s good to have some sort of distraction toolbox prepared beforehand, so that you don’t have to frantically come up with ways to calm yourself down and distract while already in the grip of emetophobia. Read something interesting. Watch your favourite series. Go for a walk if you’re feeling well enough, play a game. Talk to someone, preferably not about your fears as that won’t really distract you, unless you clearly feel that that’s what you need to talk about. Personally I don’t like talking to people about my emetophobia too much at the time when it’s really bad, because it only makes me feel worse and sort of like that if it’s so bad that I need to talk about it to someone, it must be really bad. I only talk to people about it when I absolutely can’t cope. Otherwise, I think it’s a lot better to just chat about something as far from it as possible that will engage your brain or make you laugh, just shift your emotions from hyperfocusing on all things n* and v*. Listen to music. Or engage in any other activity that you find interesting, but also sufficiently emotionally involving, so that there’s no space left for the anxiety. I find that what works best for me specifically is some intellectual activity that requires focusing a lot, or sometimes listening to other people and whatever problems they might be having, unless things are too rubbish and I just can’t focus. Lite and rather passive activities like reading hardly ever work.

Breathing

That’s quite crucially important imo. I’m shitty with it, it’s really difficult, but breathing properly really makes a difference with anxiety, it’s not just a cliche. Breathing also comes in very handy when things totally spiral out of control and you’re about to v*. When you breathe deeply through your nose, chances are you can make the feeling go away. It’s also definitely a good thing to find some relaxation technique that you like and that works for you. I find mindfulness not very helpful with this specific kind of fear because, really, focusing on your sensations is the last thing you want to do when your emetophobia gets triggered. 😀 What I like a lot is some kind of imageries, visualisations, and, even more so, grounding exercises. I don’t know if grounding can work for everyone, probably part of why it works for me is because it can sometimes help me more or less with dizziness, and dizziness triggers my emetophobia. Have something, or someone, that you find comforting close to you, like your pet or your favourite fluffy blanket, or your safe person, or some object you have a strong connection to, whatever works. I like to have Misha around in such situations, listen to his breath and heartbeat, feel his fur, it’s really calming.

Exposure and trying to overcome your fear

When you have managed to get through the crisis safely and are no longer triggered, you might think about how to reduce or completely get rid of this fear. I think this is very comforting news that it so often seems to diminish over time as people age. That does seem to be the case with me, although other things have come into play. Exposure therapy can be a great thing, if you’re brave enough. I know a couple people who have managed to overcome emetophobia with great success largely thanks to it. I perfectly realise though that it sounds very scary to many people and it takes guts (hehe) to make such a decision, and many of us don’t have enough of them for that. I, for one, did not. I had some experience with it with my first therapist, who was mostly CBT but also used other modalities a lot, and she encouraged me that we could try it with one of my anxieties, not emetophobia-related). After some initial fears and hesitation and with a lot of reassurance on her part I courageously decided I’ll give it a go, as I was actually very curious what’s at the core of it and why that thing scared me as badly as it did, and still does. But unfortunately we didn’t even go through it fully because there was just one mini thing that didn’t go quite the way it was supposed to, which resulted in my fear getting worse and me not wanting to hear about exposure therapy ever again, and I still feel the same way about it.

Still, even those of us who don’t like the idea of exposure therapy can do some mini exposure by ourselves as much as it’s possible, and slowly, gradually go out of our comfort zone. Can you think of something that you CAN handle about v*? It may be still scary and/or uncomfortable, but doesn’t scare you quite as badly as other aspects of v*. For example such thing for me is the words relating to the v*. Yes, they ARE scary, they are gross, and when I’m feeling very unwell mentally they can trigger me, but usually I can handle hearing them quite well with minor or sometimes no distress at all, unlike v*ing myself or hearing someone do it or reading some graphic descriptions or eating something that is very very risky.

So, if you’re like me, you could try and expose yourself at least to these words a bit more, so that they feel even less scary. Say them out loud, think about them, or write them on a piece of paper, or read in a book, as long as they don’t appear in any graphic scene, unless you feel brave enough for this then sure, why not. I remember once reading an article somewhere about emetophobia and there was a suggestion, mostly geared at children, I think, that I really liked, about how you can try to deal with fear of the words. Take some well-known song, or even just its title, or a book title, or a film title, a nursery rhyme, a saying, whatever simple thing like that, and replace one word in it with v*, so that it’ll sound funny or weird or just silly and meaningless, or gross. Like: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of v*”. I believe this technique is called reciprocal inhibition, where you try to replace one feeling with another. And so while it might still scare you at first, at some point humour will likely win and you’ll be less scared. Also it’s just meant to show you that these are just words and can’t harm you as such, and it’s a way of familiarising yourself with them and desensitising your brain to them. I have done things like that and, while I still consider these words grosser and more unpleasant than an average person, and still they can mess things up if I’m not feeling well, but generally they are nowhere near such a big deal as they used to be.

Or if you are scared of v*ing yourself, but less so of other people doing so, you could watch a movie where someone does it. Or if human v* is too scary, do what I did and get yourself a cat, they have such sensitive digestive systems that most of them v* very regularly and at this point I don’t find it as extremely disturbing as I did at the beginning, especially that Misha takes great care to always do it in my room and makes sure that I get my dose of exposure.

When you’re feeling relatively stable overall, you could try and eat something that you particularly liked and miss from your unsafe food items list, even just a very small amount. And then, if you feel okay afterwards, try to eat more of it. And then another product. And so on and so forth. It’s an extremely gratifying feeling whenever you manage to succeed at that and realise this product no longer needs to be considered unsafe. Especially that a lot of things that we cross out, we actually like to eat. My most recent achievement in this field is from about half a year ago when I started to eat waffles again. I don’t even remember now how they ended up on my no-no list. You could also try eating out if you struggle with this, even just a very small meal at first.

Daily life coping strategies

But exposing ourselves to things won’t always eliminate the fear entirely, therefore I feel it’s important to have your strategies as for how to deal with things on a daily basis, to make life easier and less scary.

I recently had a thought that it’s a bit of a pity that we have all those no-no foods, but not many emetophobics put quite as much thought in making something like a mental oh-yeah food list, so basically a list of things that we consider safe and like to eat. Maybe that doesn’t make sense since you usually know what you like and what you can eat pretty automatically, but I feel like it’s still good to acknowledge this somehow, because having all those unsafe foods it’s easy to subconsciously jump to the conclusion that food in general is unsafe, when I think most of us do have some food items that are safe, even if for some people they are rather few.

And speaking of safe foods, I believe it’s also a good idea to have some kind of edible things that you find to be helpful for you with things like n*, for when you actually feel bad and like you may v*, whether it’s caused by anxiety or a tummy bug or illness. My best friend in this department is ginger, I really really really love it, just plain because of its taste as well as for its antiemetic properties. I like to suck on it when I’m feeling n* or add it to my tea. Speaking of teas, I think chamomile is the most trustworthy when it comes to emetophobia, although It also has loads of other properties. Another one I drink when I’m worried I might v* is… sheesh, I don’t even know the English name for this plant! 😀 We literally call it wild rose in Polish and apparently it’s rosa canina in Latin. But chamomile is always my first choice. Peppermint is a good substitute for ginger. I know people who find sucking on ice cubes helpful. I think this idea probably comes from that it’s often recommended for people who actually DO v*, like after chemo, and ice is given to them to help with hydration, but I don’t really see how it could help with preventing potential v*. Still, since a lot of what we experience is psychosomatic, there’s nothing wrong with having your own little strategies that work even if they aren’t proven or anything, because they work for you and that’s what matters, as long as your entire quality of life isn’t dependent on it, regardless whether it’s a placebo or not. As some of you may know, I have a weird affinity with ice so I like sucking on it sometimes regardless. 😀 Eating more protein-rich meals (as opposed to more rich in carbs or fats) also may potentially help with n* or queasiness a bit.

Also, find scents that help you, if you haven’t already. Scents that help you both with n* and feeling s* as well as scents that you find generally relaxing. Can’t say much more on this as I myself can’t really feel most scents.

Have some strategy for a crisis situation like when someone in your family is s*. This will be different for everyone, what things you want to use to keep yourself healthy and how you will want to deal with the situation and make it bearable. My safe bet is apple cider vinegar, although it’s not wise to go over the top with it or use it long-term, as then it can actually make your gut worse, and different people have different opinions on its effectiveness. While it’s not a very healthy way to cope, if you really have no other way of coping at the moment and you’re very scared, there are antiemetic drugs that you can get over the counter for the time being like Hydroxyzine which is also anxiolytic. Probiotics may also be helpful, or foods/drinks that have such properties, my fav here is kefir.

And last, but not least, whether you do decide to go the exposure therapy route, I think it’s important, or at least really beneficial to have someone who understands those things. Find a talk therapist who has some experience with this, some fellow human being with this phobia, or tell your friend about it if you feel they will be able to empathise, so that you aren’t alone with this. As I said earlier, talking and analysing it all through isn’t always the best way to go, at least not for me, but there are times when you just need to put it all off your chest and in such case of course it’s important that the other person understands what you’re talking about. Having someone like this is also helpful for making progress, as they can motivate you and be there for you while you’re trying to overcome your v* fears.

That’s all I’ve come up with. Do you have any other ways in which you calm down your emetophobia? Or if you have any other kind of phobia, how do you cope with it? 🙂

How do I calm down my emetophobia? (part 1) My story.

 

If you’ve been around on my blog for some time, you know that I like being possibly engaging with my readers. Part of what that means for me personally is ensuring, as much as I can, and as much as that actually goes in line with what I want my blog to be, that people can find here what has brought them to my blog. So I like to go through the search terms that bring people to my blog, either on WordPress or on Google Console, about once a month. And lately, I’ve noticed a surprising amount of my visitors and people whom Google has displayed my blog in the results have been asking it “how to calm down emetophobia?” and similar things.

While I am emetophobic and have written a bit about this, I don’t think they were able to find the direct answer to this question, hence I thought I would write about what I do, or what helps me specifically, to deal with *my* emetophobia, and maybe that will also help some other people who are dealing with this.

This post is going to be divided into two separate parts – one talking in detail but not overly graphically about my experience with emetophobia, so that perhaps if this is something you’re struggling with you might relate to it to some extend, and for those who don’t have the condition I hope I’ll be able to show people a bit of what it’s like, at least from one person’s perspective. The other one will be all about things that have helped me, or still do, or that I know help other people effectively, in dealing with this phobia.

This first part will be a rather rambly and free-flowing post, so if you’re in a full-blown panic attack or crisis caused by emetophobia and need some concrete tips on how to deal with the thing here and now, you might want to skip this part. If you are emetophobic, I want to put a little trigger warning first, just in case, mostly for those who are in a particularly bad place with their phobia. I’ll try my best to keep this post as minimally graphic as possible, but if words relating to the topic are very highly triggering for you, please note that they will be present here. I’ll also be discussing my triggers and telling my emetophobia story overall, mentioning various specific situations from my life or contexts in which it occurred, so some things may potentially feel uncomfortable. Even if you start reading this and feel distressed or triggered at some point, of course there’s no obligation to continue. Just be gentle with yourself.

*****

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, emetophobia is a specific phobia, which causes intense fear of vomiting. What I mean by intense here is, I guess no one likes to vomit or see someone vomit or have anything to do with vomiting, and I guess a lot of people may have some degree of fear around it, but the degree to which it is present in emetophobia is a lot higher and affecting, more or less strongly, the quality of life of an affected person, so that in some cases it might impact their daily life functioning. The experience of this phobia may vary a lot from person to person, and so one individual with it might be anxious about vomiting themself, whereas for another it’s about other people in their surroundings or in movies or animals etc. doing so, or it may be even more specific like only pertain to vomiting in public. For me, and most people with this disorder I’ve heard about, it’s a combination of more than one thing. The weird thing is, most people who know something about emetophobia or learn what it is, seem to assume that emetophobic people must be somehow very prone to vomiting. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite for a lot of us, including myself. From what I’ve noticed, most of us tend to have pretty resilient digestive systems to begin with, and a lot has to be going on for them to give up and make us vomit, and on top of that I’ve heard that people with emetophobia are just too blocked emotionally for vomiting to occur, which makes sense and is comforting in a way. 😀 A lot of emetophobics also have their own strategies, like a special way of breathing, which help them prevent vomiting when it’s about to happen. Yet, typically, we tend to remember when was the last time we vomitted, and the last time before that, how long ago it was and why exactly (in our opinion, at least) it happened, along with such details like what was in the news that day or what we were wearing, depending on a specific case of course, not to mention what food we ate beforehand. It’s a bit strange the way it works. I’ve also come across people thinking that emetophobics are afraid of vomiting because they’re afraid they will die while it’s happening to them. Maybe some do, I don’t know. I only know that I don’t. I mean, it would be a horrible kind of death, probably the worst I could wish for myself, but it’s not what I fear the most. Like my Mum still seems to think that I must be afraid of choking on it or something, which I have no idea where she got it from. I mean, sure, this is just another valid reason for why vomit is evil, but it’s not a primary one, not for me anyway, and I don’t think for most emetophobics either. It’s just scary because it’s vomit.

I am scared of vomiting myself, as well as of other people – both because it’s scary in itself and because they may be sick with something contagious and I might get it too, or we may have been food poisoned with the same thing. – I hate the sound of vomiting, gagging, choking etc. and the feeling I get when either I or someone else is vomiting, that everything is out of control. I hate things whose texture reminds me of vomit. I’m afraid when Misha is vomiting, even though he always does it very quietly and it’s very much unlike it sounds in people. It happens to him quite often though so over time it has become a lot less of a deal but it still is a big deal, even though it never is for him. While like I mentioned above, the possibility of vomiting in public seems to be particularly scary for many people, and I do think it is terrifying, I don’t think I’m a lot more scared of it than vomiting anywhere else, whether alone or in company. Sometimes when I have really difficult days emet-wise and am just absolutely sure that I’ll vomit I can’t decide whether it’s better to be alone when it’s happening, so that you can do it discreetly and no one sees it, or with someone around so that you are – well – not all alone with it. I can just never decide on that, either is equally horrid. Also like a lot of emetophobics, I have that weird fear even of the words relating to vomit. These days, my emetophobia is a lot better most of the time than it used to be (or else I wouldn’t be writing this post) but on my worse days, just hearing or thinking about one of these words makes me feel sick-ish. But seriously, what’s up with all languages that their words for vomit, throw up and puke are so creepy? The English vomit is by far the best, although a lot of people seem to prefer throw up. Throw up is WAY too picturesque for my liking! It’s not just all about vomit. The words for gag are scary too. When I was learning about various British dialects and accents, I remember being absolutely mortified at the fact that gaggin’ means thirsty in Mancunian. Who would even still be thirsty after talking about gagging? Also nausea, even though I don’t have a fear of nausea directly. The English word isn’t so bad, I mean it sounds awful but it’s not so triggery. The Polish word is though. My radars always go off more or less whenever I hear someone say in Polish that they’re nauseated, or their tummy is hurting, even before I know if it’s a sick kind of hurting or more a period kind of hurting or maybe something else entirely. Even the word faint in Polish is kind of scary too because for some people it seems to mean the same as nauseated.

When you have a look around emetophobic communities and stuff, people talk about v* (for vomit), n* (for nausea) or d* (for diarrhoea) and, if it helps someone, that’s okay, but I feel like for me personally, such tiptoeing only contributes to creating the tension around the topic. What I prefer to do myself, when writing in my journal or something like that, is, I use a totally different, unrelated word to replace the scary v* with, when I actually feel the need to do so. Same as with my sleep paralysis “friend” whose name I’m too scared to say or even write so I always call him “Ian”. When I write in English, this word for vomit is Moomin. And no, so far this hasn’t given me a Moomin phobia. 😀

I don’t know how this whole thing has started for me. It feels like I’ve been more or less emetophobic ever since. A theory I have though is that it could have started when I was at around preschool age. I don’t know if I was already going to nursery or not. There was some kind of ball organised for young children somewhere near where I lived, and I was supposed to go there and was really happy for it. Yes, there were such times when Bibiel was happy to go to a ball. As a little kid,I was fairly shy but mostly like “normal” shy, and a lot more outgoing, if not more extroverted, and then at some point things just magically changed. 😀 That’s what people tell me anyway. My grandma, who really liked to sew at the time, made a special Little Red Riding Hood costume for me, just for that occasion, as that was my favourite fairytale back then. However, on the day of the ball, I was feeling quite funny. I remember that I came downstairs and was about to have breakfast but just as I went into the kitchen, the floor started moving very ominously, I suddenly started feeling utterly terrified, I guess that’s literally what people call a feeling of impending doom, and then I was sick. I felt a bit better afterwards I guess and I think I didn’t want to miss out on the ball, so we did end up going there but, from what I remember, I was still feeling rather miserable and was clinging to my Dad all the time. I don’t remember that, but my Mum says that I also got sick there. Since I can’t even remember that, and generally don’t have any particular feelings around the whole event, you’d think that it would be rather insignificant, but what makes me think that it might be that incident which caused my emetophobia is that I also have an absolutely weird, inexplicable fear of all things like proms, balls, discos, dancing parties, wedding receptions etc. Yes, I’m a socially anxious introvert with AVPD who doesn’t love dancing and has some feet issues, though I don’t particularly hate dancing either as such, but there’s something a lot more to my fear of things like these than any other people gatherings and I always avoid these more desperately and can’t even explain what scares me about them so much. So maybe there’s some link here on a subconscious level or something.

Whether it was that event which started my emetophobia or not, I certainly had some emetophobic tendencies as a kid, though for the first 8 years or so of my life they were quite easily manageable for me. I only remember feeling stressed about it whenever I was seriously feeling sick or about to vomit or when someone was vomiting I would feel as if I were about to faint, but I never actually did, even though I think I wanted to ’cause then I wouldn’t have to witness it. When I was 8 things started to change and gradually I was feeling worse and worse mentally, with both depression and a lot of anxieties, including health anxiety.

At the age of 10 I had a lot of stress to deal with due to various life situations but mostly having an Achilles tendons lengthening surgery, about which I wrote on here many times before, that I found the long recovery process extremely difficult emotionally. I was normally confined to my room during my recovery period most of the time out of necessity as I couldn’t move about easily, but there was one day when I went to school – I was at the so called integration school at the time – because they were doing some kind of theatrical performance. I can’t remember whether I was playing in it too, or just watching it. Anyway, this was the only day during the whole six weeks that I went somewhere for longer and mingled with people, so my autoimmune system probably wasn’t ready for it to happen all of a sudden, and I got some respiratory infection soon after that. I had to take an antibiotic, but it definitely didn’t agree with me, as it always made me feel super sick and weak whenever I would take it, and one beautiful day… Moomin! That was on Halloween! And it is then, I think, that my emetophobia started properly.

I knew that it was probably the antibiotic, but my small Bibiel brain at the time was thinking that if it seriously was the antibiotic, it would make me vomit right away, after taking it for the first time, rather than after a couple days. So clearly it must have been the orange juice that I drank ann hour or so before the Moomins came, because it made me feel very queasy straight after I drank it. So, with all my love for the orange juice, I decided to throw it out of my life permanently. And that’s how I started building my ever-growing no-no foods (and activities) list. Actually I already had some things on it – scrambled eggs (which had made me vomit at the gym in the nursery), bigos (a Polish stew made of chopped meat and sauerkraut), liver, and blood sausage), but that was different, because I didn’t like any of these dishes to begin with, so I was actually quite happy having an excuse that they make me feel awful so I didn’t have to eat them and no one would make me. But after that Halloween, things started evolving a lot more dynamically. After the orange juice, loads of items quickly followed, so that I think theoretically everything was soon included on it, because – let’s be honest and accept the brutal truth – everything CAN make you Moomin! Practically, I did have to eat something, so I broke my own rules, even if I ate very little and only when I really had to, and then felt sick and was convinced that I’m going to Moomin, the matter was only when that was going to happen. Then I learned that you can also kinda Moomin on an empty stomach, so I did start to eat a bit more ’cause I figured that if either way is bad I may just as well eat a little bit more, but it was still just a little bit more, and my no-no list didn’t get any shorter. Back then, things were also complicated by the fact that I had more general health anxiety and a lot of other anxieties, I was just a bundle of nerves. I kept washing my hands all the time, but on the other hand had a problem cleaning my teeth because I was afraid it would make me gag, regardless whether it would make me vomit too. I still have a problem with having things in my mouth that aren’t edible. If someone was sick, no matter how I loved them, I wouldn’t go near them. Which made me feel super selfish. Medications were of course a problem too. If I ever was prescribed something at that time, I would look up side effects and see if Moomin was a possibility. If it was (which it was typically), I would be stalking my poor therapist (whom I started seeing shortly after recovering from that surgery as my Mum concluded that she doesn’t know how to help me anymore) telling her that it makes people Moomin, I’m afraid it will make me Moomin, I know it will make me Moomin, asking her what to do so I don’t Moomin, and hoping that she’ll tell me “No, of course you won’t Moomin, you will never, ever Moomin, it’s impossible!”, but even then I’d still lose my sleep over the fact that there is 0,0005% chance that I will.

I’ve also always had some issues with balance and it’s easy for me to feel dizzy, and of course dizziness was something I’d avoid as much as possible too. Same about unnecessary travelling, especially on roads I weren’t familiar with, as I had motion sickness. I still have motion sickness but I never Moomined due to it so I don’t care about it now really. Forget things like amusement parks, which I despised anyway because of the balance problem but to which I still was forced to go from time to time with schools ’cause all children like it and people like to make children happy because it feels good. Even stress itself was a trigger, and still is to an extend, because my main symptom when I’m really stressed or anxious is nausea. So it’s a bit of a vicious circle as you can imagine and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between anxiety nausea vs sickness nausea.

Soon after my 11th birthday, something weird happened to me, probably to my brain, that I started feeling really, really ill physically. Mostly, it was just very bad nausea, but I also had a coming and going sore throat and other aches and pains, was very tired, weak and lethargic, and I don’t remember what else, I guess a lot of coming and going stuff, but mostly just overwhelming nausea, so bad that I wasn’t able to get out of bed or even eat anything, let alone things like go to school. Then after a day or a few I would have a break from that, or feel at least good enough to be able to do everything as normal, whatever normal was for me back then, and then again the nausea & co. would come back, and so on and so forth. At the beginning of this mysterious illness, obviously my family couldn’t accept the state of things and that I almost wasn’t eating at all, and that wasn’t even because I was scared of Moomin but I just felt it was physically impossible. I guess my grandma was particularly worried so one day she decided to make Silesian dumplings especially for me. Silesian dumplings are one of my favourite dishes, so, I think if it would be just about my fear, I’d eat at least some anyway, but as it was, I could only take a little bite after which my nausea got a lot worse, so I felt like a proper bitch for not eating them even though she made them especially for me. But it was just physically not doable, no way. My Mum in turn kept going with me from one doctor to another, doing blood tests (which all came back normal) and what not, which I remember I found quite exhausting as I was so tired all the time I could sometimes barely sit upright. Finally I ended up dehydrated so then I was seriously freaked out about Moomin because I could remember being dehydrated once as a small child and then I moomined so I was sure that now I would too. We found a paediatrician about whom my Mum already knew that he was extremely thorough any time he examined a child. Never mind that he said that Sofi was probably going to have psychomotor delay because she still had some neurological reflex that according to the textbooks she shouldn’t have at her age, and scared my aunt in some other way about my cousin not developing quite right. Well turned out that he probably had a knack for finding rare, dramatic diagnoses for children, because when we came to him and he examined me, thoroughly as always, he decided that what I have must be LCHAD (don’t ask me what it is, some genetic illness that apparently is noticeably prevalent among Kashubians, which is where we live and my Dad is Kashubian). That got everyone properly scared, including myself. Having health anxiety, I was already wondering what I may be ill with to feel so awful, and was rather stoically thinking that I’m probably going to die, which didn’t scare me as that was a lot better than the dreaded Moomin, of course, or some illness that would involve Moomin or even a treatment which would have such a side effect. As long as it was just nausea, or even death, I thought I could deal with it. But now with this LCHAD thing, I had no clue what that was, and his explanation was rather enigmatic as well, at least to me as a child, but my Mum didn’t seem to understand a lot more than I did. For the time being, he sent me to the emergency where another doctor started laughing heartily as soon as my shocked Mum told him about my newly acquired diagnosis, said that I of course do not have LCHAD but just need a drip, and probably I was just having a tummy bug, in which case a light diet for the next few days should surely help. As I was sitting there with that drip, thinking what’s better, LCHAD or a tummy bug, a mum with a baby came into the room, the baby had a high fever and was given paracetamol, which it moomined right away.

After the drip I felt a lot better, also emotionally despite that baby incident, because I wanted to believe this drip doctor was right, and so did my Mum, so we went back home. The next day my Mum called the endocrinologist who was treating me at the time for the hypopituitarism, and told her about the LCHAD doctor, but she also reassured her that I surely can’t have it because if it went undiagnosed for so long I wouldn’t be alive anymore. My Mum was immensely relieved. The day after that I felt awful all over again, and so the cycle continued, I honestly have no idea until when. People tried to give my Mum good advice, of course, my class teacher kept calling and asking how I’m feeling, saying that, if I can’t eat, it must be something gastric so I should have a gastroscopy, my grandma was saying that it must be anaemia and I need more drips or something if I can’t eat anything, while my therapist was saying that it’s a psychological thing, which my Mum found offensive. My Mum herself tried her best to force Nutridrinks into me at least and constantly asked me how I was feeling, and if I said that I wasn’t feeling well, she would pause whatever she was doing and be like: “Hmmm…” as if she was deeply thinking about something. I grew to hate it so much when she did it with that specific intonation, it still makes me feel weird when people say “Hmm” like that, ’cause it immediately makes me feel a bit stressed. 😀

About a month after that LCHAD scare, my worst dream came true and I actually did Moomin. I don’t even know why. My best guess is it must have been somehow stressogenic. It happened exactly at 3 AM and scared the heebiejeebies out of me, of course. I felt dreadful the whole day but it didn’t happen anymore. Neither on that same day, nor the day later, nor any time in the 13 years since then, yay! I associated the incident with cocoa that I drank for supper the day before, and so cocoa was promptly added on the no-no list, and spent a loooong time there. I had become even more crazy with regards to all things food and Moomin after that. And I still kept having these coming and going times when I felt ill.

At some point things got back to normal in that I no longer felt so ill, although I had another bout of it some time in the summer of that same year which was all the worse that we were away on holidays. When I went back to the boarding school after the integration school experiment didn’t work out, I no longer had these bouts of sickness but my emetophobia was still just as bad. However, my school had a bit of a different take on eating than my Mum, who claims that there’s nothing worse than forcing a child to eat, because no child has ever died of hunger when there is free access to food. At school, we were at the very least strongly encouraged to eat all we got without fussing or anything. So I had to start eating more, as it just wouldn’t work out any other way, which then made me endlessly ruminate about Moomin. Still, I tried to eat as little as possible at the same time, and avoid the products that were especially high on my no-no list. At some point, one of the group staff came into my room when I happened to be alone in there and was like: “We need to talk… I know you have a problem… with food. Don’t you?” “Ummmm, why’d you think so?” – I asked, feeling a bit scared and a bit genuinely surprised because I was sure no one would figure that out. – “Well, I once had such a girl in my group. She would also eat very little at meals and then would sometimes eat by herself and only certain foods, I wasn’t born yesterday, I know what anorexia looks like…” Phew! I was so relieved I could have laughed. She wanted me to talk to her or something, I can’t remember, I also don’t really remember what I told her actually, I think I must have made up some story that wouldn’t make her too alarmed but that also wouldn’t deny her assumption, but somehow no one ever talked about that anorexia thing with me again and when I was telling my Mum the story years later she had no idea that anyone had such suspicions.

Over the next few years, my more general health anxiety had quietened down a lot naturally, so that the only health-related fears I would have were either emet-related, or something to do with the brain, ’cause you regular people here know I’m freaked out by even the idea of neurodegenerative diseases and other such things to this day. It has also become less irrational and easier to function with. Having to live in such a fairly structured institution like a boarding school meant that I had to adapt somehow with things like eating, and while I still had my no-no list and my fear was very strong, I somehow managed to eat almost like normal and do other things as normally as I could, even if they caused me a lot of stress. Fortunately, this way, I was also quietly forced to tick off some of the less “dangerous” things from my no-no list. Sometimes for some reason, like a tummy bug being spread around, my anxiety would get insanely high again to the point where, again, I would eat as little as possible and avoid everything I could that I thought had something to do with Moomin, and then over time managed to go back to the apparently near-normal but constantly scared lifestyle, and so on and so forth. Because my way of eating was very irregular as you can imagine, I would often feel a bit queasy after every single thing I ate, I guess kind of as if my body wasn’t used to dealing with food. I would feel very full after even a very small meal, and that would instantly make me panic that surely I’m going to be sick and that something is wrong if I can’t even eat a small meal without feeling off.

I believe that part of why things were changing, even though very slowly, for the better, was simply that I was growing older and from what I know this phobia has a tendency to get better with age.

Things got a chance to gradually improve even more when I got to leave the blind school. By that time my Mum knew a little bit more aboutmy emetophobia, even if she didn’t understand it and still doesn’t really. I think in a way just the fact that I didn’t have to hide with it so much helped me to let go of it a little bit. Since then, I still have times when the only thing I’m able to think about is vomit because someone was sick at night and I heard it because my room is next to the toilet, and I still have times when I eat very little or nothing and restrict very severely what I eat but they are less and less often, and less and less intense. I am less freaked now whenever I just happen to have nausea that is anxiety-related or just not serious, whatever was its cause, and I can differentiate better between serious and not serious nausea. I could gradually and very carefully start to eat some of my more difficult no-no foods that really scared me but at the same time I liked them, and actually enjoy their taste, and then ruminate less and less about what’s going to happen afterwards. I was able to eat out again with less difficulty. It’s still a problem for multiple reasons, not just emetophobia, and I still prefer to stick to safe meals at restaurants, but there were times when eating out was a lot more anxiety-provoking. I’ve become less sensitive to all the vomit words. Of course I still have very bad days sometimes, but things are improving. I also worked a bit on my emetophobia and my thinking processes around it with my therapist, which helped a little.

And by now, I can say that my emetophobia is a lot less severe than like five years ago. It’s still a challenge, sometimes a huge one, but it doesn’t affect my life quite as strongly. I can function with it normally most of the time. There are still foods that I have very mixed feelings about and I still freak out at the thought of eating something expired and have no way of knowing whether it’s expired, I still hate the sound of vomit and can’t stand the thought of vomiting myself or hear someone doing so or be close to them when I know they are sick. But I can sort of deal with a sick Misha in the same room as me. It will always give me a bit of a scare but not bad enough that I’d freak out completely.

Tummy bugs are the worst. They can still really freak me out. When I know that someone in my surroundings is contagiously sick and is vomiting, I still tend to regress and stop eating for the time being until things calm down or will be eating very little and only the safest things in my opinion, and wash my hands and everything around me as often as I can.

I’ve had a tummy bug several times ever since my emetophobia has properly begun, and, while it never made me vomit, the experience was absolutely horrifying each time and recovering from it emotionally always takes me ages.

While like I said before, most of the time I’m now pretty immune to the words related to this fear, I still find them extremely descriptive in a gross way, and when I’m having a worse time anxiety-wise, even not specifically in terms of emetophobia but generally am not doing well, I can still sometimes feel affected by such words.

I absolutely cannot stand hearing the sound of people vomiting in things like movies or anywhere. It still makes me freak out very much. But I’m happy to say that I hardly ever struggle with books anymore, unless they have really graphic descriptions of the thing and very frequent, and at the time I’m also not doing the best, then I may need to give up on the book or at least skip a few pages. The last book I needed to stop reading altogether because of too much vomit scenes was “Tim” by Colleen McCullough, can’t even remember how long ago. I also can’t remember much of the plot line, except that my impression was that someone – usually Tim – vomited in it every few pages and it was really exhausting. I wonder if I would have the same impression now too, or was it just something that I focused on very much then, but I don’t feel courageous enough to try.

There are still foods I’d rather not eat and some that I won’t eat at all because of the emetophobia, but most of them I don’t regret because I don’t care for them very much. I still have problems with meds like antibiotics. I have a very hard time starting on a new antibiotic that I’ve never ever tried before, and I would never ever take the one that made me vomit when my emetophobia started out. And I have no freakin’ idea what I would do if, for example, it turned out one day that I had cancer and the only treatment available is chemo or something else vomit-inducing. Dizziness is also something I struggle with a lot in regards to emetophobia, and it sucks because dizziness or some other kind of floaty feelings and the like are very much my daily reality. There’s still always a strong niggling feeling somewhere in the background of my mind whenever I feel unsteady or dizzy or floaty: “Gosh, what if I’ll Moomin?!”

Going to the dentist is a huge trigger for me ’cause I’m scared of gagging.

I used to drink some alcohol quite regularly, but I stopped because it often made me very nauseous, even small amount. I don’t smoke either, because I’ve known someone since early childhood who claims that smoking causes her to vomit, so I never even wanted to try cigs, but also for other reasons.

I really don’t like public toilets because of the amount of germs and, like… how do you know if someone hasn’t Moomined in there? Maybe the person before you had a norovirus?

Panic attacks is not the most common type of anxiety I experience – my anxiety is more of the chronic and constantly present variety rather than sudden and gripping – but when I do have a panic attack, while most people are scared they’re gonna have a heart attack or can’t breathe, I’m sure you can figure out what Bibiel is most scared of in a panic without me telling you. 😀

My relationship with food still isn’t the healthiest. I’ve only recently been forced by circumstances to look at this topic more closely and it’s not just emetophobia which is responsible for this, but this is definitely the main thing. My way of eating can still be quite dysregulated and stress definitely plays a big role in how much/little I eat. I’ve been slightly underweight or bordering on underweight for many years, and while I suppose it’s mostly a genetic and hormonal thing, I guess my erratic way of eating/not eating contributes to it too.

So, there you have it. This is my emetophobia story.

If you have emetophobia, what does it look like for you? If you don’t have it, do you have any other specific phobia(s)? What has your experience been with them.

See part 2.

My inner phobias…

When I started this blog over a year ago, and wondered what it should be like, also what I should be like in relation to my readers, one of the things I thought should be particularly important to me was responsiveness. And it still is very important to me. I appreciate it a lot in others too and I think it’s an important part of communication, and also if you want to have a natural-looking blog that will appeal to people, I think it’s good to be in touch with them. Take an interest in them, who they are, what they are like, what is interesting to them, etc. and be possibly approachable. One of the purposes of my blogging is that I want to express myself – I have a diary for this, because I feel I can express myself so much better in writing than speaking, and I can be far more open in my diary, but I felt the need to connect with people as well. – So another big reason for my blogging was to find some people that I could relate to, or who could relate to me, with whom we’d think similarly or like similar things, just be like-minded in any way. So I thought that although my blog would be primarily for me, my readers’ opinions and suggestions should also be important to me. And I stick to it, or think so anyway. I try to engage with people and also help when and if I can in any way.

Last month I was going through my stats, including the often very quirky phrases that people search for and come across my blog as a result. While as most of you probably know most of those search terms are unknown, sometimes you can make interesting conclusions out of them and see what people are looking for on your blog, and some time ago I’ve got an idea that to be more accomodating for my visitors, I can look at those things they look for, and if I think they weren’t able to find the answer on my blog, but I could help with it, I could write a post about it, so that in case they search for it again and stumble upon my blog, they can find something relevant. So far I haven’t checked that very regularly , but from what I’ve seen so far I think in most cases people could find on my blog what they were looking for. Last month though, one of the searches that led someone to my blog was “my inner phobia”. Very interesting, don’t you think?

At first it got me rather amused and thinking what other kind of phobia you can have, other than inner. Are there any outer/external phobias? ANd if so, what could be the difference between them? Or is an inner phobia something you simply don’t share with others, don’t expres verbally? Or something that doesn’t manifest outside of a person’s brain and no one can see it? Well I guess my Mum must be right that I philosophise too much. 😀

I don’t know what that person meant, other than that probably they’ve been struggling with some kind of a phobia themselves, but it inspired me to write a post about my (inner or not) phobias. Don’t know what kind of help it can be to anyone but maybe at least you can realise that you’re not alone if you’re going through something similar. And I’ve been thinking about it earlier too, to write the list of all my anxieties, fears and phobias, or anything that triggers anxiety of any kind for me. Anxiety of different kinds has been a very present part of my life as long as I can remember, and has many forms, as you’ll be able to see. This post was quite challenging for me to write, because I had to open up if I wanted you to understand it a bit, I wanted to be honest but also not too negative and overwhelming, as much as you can be not negative talking about anxiety. 😀 and hopefully it might be of some help for someone, or you can just see how freaky I am. 😀

The list is extensive, but written spontaneously, mostly in no specific order, so probably not fully complete. It’s not just a plain list but I want to also clarify it somehow for you what it’s like for me so you can have an idea. I included both the more general and specific ones, more and less intense, some are very bothering, some just more like quirks or something.

  •    People. By fear of people I mean mostly social anxiety. Socialising, small talking, all the social dynamics, crowds, interacting with a large group of people, initiating contacts with people, strangers. My social anxiety is very weird and sometimes it can even show up when I’m with people I know well, while on other times I may not be too anxious with a person I barely know. It’s usually humming somewhere in the background whenever I’m interacting with anyone though, just with very variable intensity.
  • Vomit. Anything to do with vomiting. Emetophobia is my most crippling specific phobia even though I’ve made huge progress with it over the last couple of years. I remember always being very sensitive and fearful about that but it got particularly bad very suddenly some 8-9 years ago, where just eating anything was dreadful and scary for me, or seeing people eating. I was quite good at hiding it but one of the staff at the boarding school was actually very suspicious that I had an eating disorder like anorexia or something, though I’ve never had problems of that nature with food, it just probably looked very much like that. Now food is not so much of a problem for me anymore, but is still to some degree, and there are things that i won’t ever eat, even if I like them in theory, because something bad happened either to me or someone in my surroundings after eating it. I am afraid of vomiting, feeling like it, other people doing it or feeling like it, people being sick, doesn’t matter contagiously or not, poisonous/expired food, graphic descriptions of people throwing up, the sounds, even similar sounds like choking, substances that are of a similar consistence, travelling, medicines, alcohol, migraines (even though it has NEVER happened to me that I’d vomit during a migraine), other conditions that might involve vomiting, even having things other than food in my mouth, like when I was going to the orthodontist on a regular basis as a kid it used to be very triggering, and I can’t stand even the simple medical throat examination with a spatula, I have to have it without it, otherwise it’s no go. It was even hard for me as a kid with brushing my teeth and while now it’s not as dreadful I still really dislike it. It’s not really because I am afraid that I can vomit while I have something in my mouth, or that it happens to me so easily, but it just makes me feel sick and anxious and I hate the sensation of having something in my mouth. Hell! even the words describing vomit sound scary! English vomit is probably the lightest, I don’t know why they have to sound so graphic or is it just me perceiving them this way. I particularly hate Swedish kräkas, so disgusting. Lots of things can trigger it. It really depends on how I am feeling overall I guess what and when will trigger this fear for me, sometimes it can be just a brief not graphic mention of it and sometimes I can cope with it much better and even read a book with someone vomiting in it if it’s not too detailed. As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, whether it is because of my extreme cautiousness, sheer luck or that my anxiety is so extreme, it actually happens to me extremely rarely that I vomit.
  • Feeling dizzy. A closely related one, it’s a sort of fear that makes a vicious cycle for me. I have balance issues so it happens to me that I’m dizzy probably more often than to an average person, usually have low blood pressure and other such, and I believe in some circumstances blindness can also make you feel dizzy more easily than when you can see. It always makes me feel very insecure and out of control because my spatial orientation gets even worse than normally which makes me feel disoriented, as dizziness always does, also I’m afraid of falling or something dangerous happening as a result of my dizziness. Then also dizziness brings a risk of vomiting too. And the vicious circle is that dizziness is actually one of my physical symptom of anxiety, like when it gets very intense I’m usually feeling dizzy. And the more dizzy I am, the more anxious I am, and vice versa, which makes me freak out. Also heights and very big, open spaces make me feel dizzy so I’m afraid of them. I can be very anxious of travelling because of that, especially if the roads are bumpy or someone is driving very fast, amusement parks and such make me freak out, even seeing people swinging, on carousels, even just sliding, or rather hearing them doing it, especially if they’re talking at the same time so I know that their location is changing all the time, it also makes me dizzy.
  • Future. A less tangible thing. I’m anxious and worried about my own future, as well as more generally, just what will happen to the world, particular people… It’s not something that I think about like all the time but I have times when I really can’t stop overthinking on it and it’s crazy. I guess I take it after my grandma. 😀
  • Old age. I’m simply anxious about becoming old and what it will be like, I think it must be scary. Ideally I wouldn’t like to live longer than 45-50 years. Usually people freak out when they hear me say this and suppose that I am suicidal and going to kill myself by then, no, I’m not, and I doubt I will, that’s just how I feel, I simply don’t share the enthusiasm/desperation for longevity that is so common now. Maybe my way of seeing this will change with time though, who knows.
  • My brain not functioning properly. That’s a bit of my obsession. I’ve heard even from my last therapist that my intellect is my strongest weapon and defensivee mechanism which I use to protect myself and my vulnerability. And yes I think it’s very true. My intelligence is one of few good things that I don’t doubt I have and that I usually do like about myself somewhat, I guess I might be a little bit vain about it sometimes despite that overall my self-esteem is low. And my intelligence has helped me to cope with lots of different things and survive different circumstances, well it’s always more useful to be intelligent than not to be right? Also most of my passions are of more or less intellectual nature and often require at least some learning, so I really really want my brain to be as fit as possible. And I can do a lot to ensure that will never change. I think I can say I have a sort of phobia for all those neurodegenerative diseases, they scare the shit out of me, even though rationally I don’t think I need to worry a lot about that, if not because of my languages and all the food that is good for the brain that I eat then because there haven’t been anyone in my family that we’d know of so far struggling with stuff like that. I tend to be very scatterbrained in some circumstances though, and my memory seems to work a bit differently from most people I know because I tend to remember things they usually don’t or easily forget things that they do remember, sometimes such that are actually quite important, which sometimes make me seriously wonder what’s wrong with my brain, though I suppose I just have to have different ways of doing things, apparently I have some minor difficulties with some of the executive functions or so said some of the people more or less knowledgeable in psychology/education  that I’ve met. And there are also my almost non existent math skills hahaha, though I don’t really care about those now as I don’t have to care.
  • Being vulnerable and showing it to others, talking about feelings. Sooo awkward.
  • Being a burden for others. There is one side of me that is very dependent on other people, mainly because I have to and need to because of my disability and various other difficulties however they should be called, which simply make me need a lot of help or at least support from other people with a lot of things. THe other side of me though is very individualistic and doesn’t like to ask people for help or needing it, and generally needing anything from others and making them focused on myself. That can cause quite a lot of chaos, for me, but also in a way to my family too.
  • Anything that reminds me of the time when I was recovering from my Achilles tendons surgery as a kid. It was a very sudden and unexpected experience for me, despite I knew it would happen, but when it did I wasn’t at all prepared to what it would be like, and it was generally incredibly hard for me and I still haven’t fully recovered from how scary that experience was for me, or processed it well. My legs were all in plasters for six weeks then and I was bed-bound and mostly alone, and then had to learn to walk all over again and such, which together with other circumstances was rather devastating on my mental wellbeing. Our Zofijka has very fragile bones and she had broken a few of them, and that was always very unsettling for me, I couldn’t even touch her plaster without feeling dread.
  • Institutions like schools or hospitals and such, that are aimed to help people and often do, but can make things worse for people as well. Can’t say that I have a full blown phobia around that, but I’ve been through a fair bit with different institutions, not always good things, and it has surely impacted my brain and the way I look at them, so I avoid them now if only I can.
  • Authoritarian, overly self-assured, egocentrical, obstinate and meddlesome kind of people who know best what’s best for everyone and always tell them what they should do, and have an aggressive way of being, sometimes unintentionally I guess. Well I doubt anyone could like such individuals, but I know a couple of such people and they are all terrifying!
  • Clinginess. I mean, I hate it when people cling to me like want constant attention, constantly being with them, helping them or doing something for them, invading my privacy, you know, I don’t know how to deal with it and feel disoriented, and because of this, I avoid being clingy myself and I often feel like I am in some way that might be annoying for someone. So I’d rather prefer to seem detached or uninterested than clingy, as it’s one of the traits in people that I dislike the most. I can’t judge it objectively if I am clingy or not, but I know that sometimes I can strongly attach to people, like them a lot, think about them a lot, want to be a lot with them, and if that happens, to me with someone, it can be a dilemma.
  • Rejection. Well I have the diagnosis of AVPD so that would be easy to deduce. I think my fear of being clingy is related to it. It’s not like I really desperately want everyone to accept me like for all means, like that I would be afraid to for example say my opinion on something in fear that someone might think differently and thus they will dislike me, or I don’t go frantically in search for people who will like me and then do everything to keep them, and I think I can hide well my AVPD issues in everyday life, to some extent of course. It’s more like that I often don’t let myself to be close enough to them so that they can’t reject me, or I don’t let them close enough to me even though I would like to, but am too scared. When I am close with someone, friends or something, and they are important to me, I tend to test people subtly, so that they wouldn’t be aware of it, or so I hope, well OK even I wasn’t fully aware of it before I started to explore that whole AVPD thing and the way my close relationships look like, I must say I feel very weird with this since I know it, testing people sounds scary, doesn’t it? 😀 I guess sometimes I do it almost involuntarily, though I don’t know if it justifies me. I just feel I have to do it though, to find out if they are able to accept me, what’s their opinion about me and relation to me really like, even if it means that I’ll make them reject me sooner because of that than if it happened later on, as it makes me feel more in control of things. Otherwise I’m afraid that they will reject me suddenly before I either manage to escape or make them do it myself. Ugh it’s hard to describe and sounds freaky, I don’t really know how to talk about it.
  • Criticism. I think I generally have distance to myself, often use autoirony and self-deprecating humour. I can take constructive criticism now, or so I think, I often een ask people for it to see some things from someone else’s point of view, especially if something is important to me, and I value honest opinions, and I at least try to appreciate it, but even constructive criticism can be very very hard for me to deal with. I actually hate to admit it.
  • Losing Misha or anything bad happening to Misha. Sometimes even small things can set me off, like when he gets badly stuck somewhere or closed somewhere for hours. I guess sometimes I care about it more than he does hahaha. And about losing Misha, well I guess I don’t have to say more.
  • Losing my Mum. My Mum is a very important person to me emotionally, but also helps me a lot with lots of things which otherwise would be impossible/very difficult for me to do.
  • Tech issues. My devices help me with things that other people can do without technology, everyday stuff like reading, shopping, learning etc. They also help me with communication with other people and expressing myself, and being less dependent on other people. It usually upsets me then to some extent when something’s not working as it should. Although I have an impression that those things started to worry me much more since last year when I had that long monthly hiatus from blogging in September, when my computer crashed so badly. I’d suppose it would make me deal better with it, but guess it worked the opposite way.
  • Change. Usually negative of course, but even positive but major changes can set me off for a while.
  • Silence, and speciffic sounds, or as I call it collectively my “sensory anxiety”. I don’t really know how to explain this, because it’s very complicated and hard to describe. I’m also not sure I want and should, I haven’t talked to anyone about this in detail and usually people just can’t get it, I don’t either. But basically, just about the silence and the sounds, it’s that when I’m in silence, on my own, it doesn’t even always have to be complete silence, my brain feels sort of understimulated or so I explain it to myself, since hearing is the sense that provides me the most information, so it would be probably some form of sensory deprivation, and when there are not many auditory stimuli, my brain  tries to fill it in with something, and that’s when weird things can start. That’s how I’ve been told it apparently might work, though I don’t know anyone else with this type of thing other than a few blind people who had something slightly similar as little children and then grew out of it. Why it has to cause me so much anxiety, I don’t know. Maybe my brain is an adrenaline junkie. Well I am certainly not.I guess it could be compared a bit to how sighted people are afraid of darkness, and imagination starts working at night especially for kids. With sounds, it’s that some sounds, harmonies, just auditory stuff is scary for me. Not only the things most people would find scary, so loud noises or other intrusive, objectively aggressive sounds that we associate with something bad, not necessarily them, just things that I subjectively find frightening to some degree. Some could be just slightly disturbing, some very unsettling and feel like they’re seething with aggression towards me.
  • Sleep paralysis. Especially my sleep paralysis “friends”. I mean those people or creatures or whatever they are that regularly appear in my dreams. Therefore I’m generally anxious about sleep a lot of the time because I never know when it will happen for sure, and I have no way of freeing myself from them.
  • Releasing strong feelings, especially around other people, especially anger, or not being in control of my feelings.
  • Horse riding. yes, you read it right! I’m afraid of horse riding. I guess I’ve shared my story with horse riding somewhere on my blog before, and that there was a time in my life when I was deadly scared of it. Now I’m not deadly scared of it and I don’t hate it, quite the opposite, I love horse riding, as my loyal readers know. But at the same time I still do have some anxiety around it. I’m always anxious and tense before horse riding and it takes me a while to relax. I know it’s going to be great in the end, yet I can’t shake off the anxiety. Sometimes it’s stronger than normal and I once had a bad panic attack when riding. I hate it because it makes horse riding so much harder for me. I don’t even know what’s the source of it, I guess it could be my balance problems in part, sometimes I feel dizzy and out of control while riding, but I guess that’s just a part of it. My previous horse, Czardasz a.k.a. Łoś, was very good at detecting my anxiety, he was generally good at adjusting to the way the rider was feeling at any moment apparently, and I always felt like we had almost telepathic relationship haha. He was also so calm and phlegmatic and always making me feel safe that it helped me a lot with the anxiety to just be around him and feel him. But unfortunately Łoś died last year, so I no longer have him. I now ride another horse, when I have chance, whose name is Tarzan, aka. Rudy, and I love him to pieces as well, but we don’t have the connection like that, actually I feel that when I’m anxious, he becomes too, so it’s not helping.
  • That when people say something to me, they actually make allusions and mean something different, or when they say good things to me I’m afraid they say it ironically or sarcastically. Paranoid I know. 😀 Happens to me very regularly, but I try not to let it affect my relationships with people as much as I can, and pretend that I ignore it, until I’m alone and can think through their motives and my brain explodes with thousands of “what if’s”.
  • Eating around other people. First because of emetophobia, that someone or me might feel suddenly sick, but I managed to deal quite well with this now as my emetophobia is milder and I know it’s unlikely for people to get sick suddenly like that, Second social anxiety and that when I’m anxious I don’t feel like eating, while I feel that I should, when there is for example a family gathering it looks weird that I’m not eating, so I try to eat but it can be a nightmare when I’m really stressed. And third is that I am so self-conscious and just afraid I’ll do something wrong or inappropriate, for example because I can’t see what others are doing. Or that I might do something accidentally like knock over or spill something, not a frequent occurence, as even though I’m rather clumsy I try to be careful in such circumstances, but you never know. As a little kid I once had a situation at my gran’s that I was eating something that was hard to eat for me and I ended up being a bit messy, not very badly but my Dad saw it, and was very concerned and sort of told me off rather loudly, so that had to turn all the others’ attention. Now I don’t even remember the episode very clearly and I don’t think it was that important, but my Mum says I took it very badly at that time and as if  he offended me in front of others. So I guess that might be why I’m so self-conscious with eating.
  • People staring at me. Yes if someone is staring at me long and persistently enough I can feel it. I hate it. I guess I more hate it than am anxious of it, but am anxious too. I also really dislike the consciousness of a lot of people looking at me at once. I am afraid of people looking me in the eyes and seeing something I don’t want them to see (though rationally it’s highly unlikely), so when I don’t feel confident I like to use that luxury that I can keep my eyes closed whenever I want. 😀 I am a characteristic person overall, don’t like to turn to much attention to myself but on the other hand I like being different, I also wouldn’t have much choice even if I wouldn’t like it because I am disabled and it’s usually visible in this or that way, so it happens that people are staring at me when I’m out somewhere and if there is some bigger distance between them and me I can’t always feel it. But I have Zofijka on whom I can rely with this as she often informs me that someone is staring at me. And, quite to the contrast with my social anxiety and all, sometimes I like to let them know that I see them – stick my tongue at them, show them my middle finger or wave at them, depending on the severity of their stare, my mood and additional circumstances.
  • Singing. I used to love singing as a little child, or maybe I just believed I did, don’t know really, but I guess I was quite a good singer, some people were moved, said I sing very well and liked it. When I was in the nursery and early school years I was singing publicly on different occasions. But something just changed with time. One thing was that I started to see, or maybe it was just my perception, that people only see me through my singing, some people were very kind to me and showing me lots of their attention but as it seemed only because they liked my singing. I didn’t want to be perceived like that. At the same time my anxiety which was always a part of my life started going higher, things in my life were changing making it gradually worse and finally I realised I hated singing for other people and making music. i then had two years break while being in the integration school, from where I had to go back to the boarding school, but never came back to singing. I’ve heard lots of people complaining about that and asking me why I don’t sing anymore, what a pity and such, one teacher even said that she wanted to be my class teacher because she loved my singing. Maybe I was hypersensitive but I felt relief that she wasn’t, if she liked my singing more than me. And I still feel this way. Maybe I was hypersensitive because when people made comments about that and what a pity it was I felt like if they can’t get over it so much they probably didn’t like anything else about me or didn’t think that I can do anything else well. I was forcing myself to stay in the music school for a couple years and play piano, and sang together with others in a sort of church choir, I also once sang solo which was incredibly difficult for me, and in the meantime I tried a bit guitar at home, but finally I realised creating music probably just isn’t for me, even if I have a talent. I was relieved to free myself of it all finally, and concentrate on listening to music more. I am terribly blocked from singing in front of other people, after I stopped doing it at school and left the school, I did it only once, singing with my friend Jacek from Helsinki, who loved music and always wanted to hear me singing, and, well, he could persuade the moon to shine in the middle of the day if he wanted, I suppose. 😀 Other than that, I never sing in front of others, unless fooling around or something, although I do like to sing when I’m on my own or for Misha to sleep hahaha or in the shower. I’ve heard it from someone that it’s very bad, a sin, to neglect a talent that you’ve been given and that you know of. But honestly I don’t care. And I suppose in a way I use it with my languages, as languages are also a form of music. A bit surprisingly, I could deal reasonably well when I had to read something publicly, or even say if I knew exactly what, or act in a play though I was horribly stiff with the last. No I didn’t like it and it was challenging, but manageable if necessary and I think still would be if I had to speak in public, although I’m happy that I hadn’t have to be on the stage for years now and have no desire for it anymore.
  • Travelling, getting out of the house. In a way I like it, in a way I hate it. I hate travelling because it correlates with my other anxieties a lot, and getting out of the house because it often involves being around people and sometimes just feels unsafe. But on the other hand I do like travelling, and appreciate it very much that sometimes going out of the house and being out in nature, or even with other human beings, can actually alleviate your anxiety. Just depends I guess.
  • Being touched. Sometimes it can be comforting and I actually want it, but at the same time it’s scary. Same as any other kind of closeness.
  • Wasps. I had three bad encounters with them and I hate them. I’m not so scared of bees though, i’ve never had to do with them personally, maybe that’s why. And they are useful hahahaha maybe that makes a difference.
  • Some tastes. It’s not that I just dislike them but they are somewhat disturbing for me. can’t say I’m anxious because of them, but just very uneasy. Guess it’s more of a sensory sensitivity stuff than anxiety though in fact.
  • That people will use things I say against me. Just have happened to me quite a few times in my life in important situations.
  • Public transport. It’s simply scary and overwhelming. How can you not see it? Well OK trains are bearable, but the rest is real scary.
  • Parties, especially proms, balls, discos, dancings. No, I’m not really scared of dancing. I dislike it and don’t feel it like some people do that it’s so cool and fun, but am not afraid of it. I don’t know why I hate dancing parties so much and dread them so much. It was always the case. Apparently when I was a little girl my parents took me for a ball organised for children and I felt sick and threw up there but I don’t even remember it. Maybe it was that. I just know that whenever there was some disco or prom or ball at school when I was a child I would do everything to avoid going there. i feel very lost at such places. Crowds and loud music are overwhelming, and so is socialising, but it’s something else that must be so dreadful for me. I do a bit better at such parties and can even have some fun if I am with someone safe to whom I can stick to and always know where they are and have them close to me, so maybe it’s just disorienting.
  • Flying on the plane or travelling on the sea. That’s ridiculous in a way because I’ve never been on a plane. But considering all my travelling issues, it must be scary, and I always dread it. Travelling on the sea is very challenging for my balance though I haven’t had much to do with it either, only to and from Sweden.
  • Splinters. Seeing someone removing it, having it removed, having it removed myself. I’m normally not very afraid of pain but for some reason it’s different here and it really scares me.
  • Children, other than Zofijka. Not always am I afraid of children, though I usually don’t know how to get on with them, which often results in feeling anxious if I have to or feel I should.

OK, that’s enough hahaha. All that I can think of at the moment. Do you struggle with anything similar? What are your “inner phobias”? 😀

Question of the day.

When was the last time you did something you were afraid to do?

My answer:

Hm, I’m afraid of quite a few things, and also such things that are quite common to do so you sometimes just have to do them and it’s hard to avoid doing them. Don’t remember when exactly was the last such situation but what first came to my mind when I think about it happened about a week or so ago. As you may recall, despite all my desperate trials of avoiding it earlier this season, I finally got struck with a stomach flu, out of the blue. Now if you don’t know it yet, I’m emetophobic (fear of vomiting and pretty much everything to do with vomit), so it’s a drama in itself, even though the chance of me vomiting was rationally probably really slim considering how extremely rarely it happens to me, these days. I’ve once read an article on a website about emetophobia and I’m not perfectly sure if I understood it right, but the way I understood it, it said that many people with emetophobia are actually so anxious of vomiting that they are sort of blocked and often just can’t do it. If so then it’s possible I’m one of such individuals, though as you may imagine when emetophobia really strikes me, it’s only a little help to know it. So usually if despite all my efforts I do get some tummy bug or anything like that, it seems to be milder for me, like less violent, with no throwing up, but often lingers for a bit longer than for normal people. ANyway, the first day I got that flippin bug, was of course the scariest for me and I felt completely out of control and just overwhelmed by anxiety as much as I rarely am these days, I almost couldn’t think properly, and add all the physical symptoms to it like nausea and fatigue and stomach cramps, it was a nightmare I tell you. And finally Mum told me that whatever is the case of my sickness, I should drink apple cider vinegar – she believes it’s an almost perfect cure for almost all kinds of gastric problems. – And yes practically I do agree with her, apple cider vinegar is my good friend and helped me through many threatening situations where I had to be around sick people or feeling like I might be sick. But this time it was a bit different. A week before I got sick, my brother came home one evening and it turned out he ate something that was poisonous. He also drank apple cider vinegar and straight after that, he threw up. Never mind that it of course helped him to speedily get better, what’s important for me is that he threw up. I’d rather feel sick for days than throw up once. So I was sitting for what felt like eternity with that glass of apple cider vinegar, with my rational mind and anxiety having an incredibly dynamic battle while my brain felt like it’s going to go crazy any minute of all that. Finally, my logical mind won, because I was feeling really bad and because it had Mum on its side , so I drank it but man was it scary. I didn’t throw up, I didn’t feel much better either, until much later the next day after drinking a few more glasses of apple cider vinegar, but hey I do now, and I didn’t throw up yaaaay! That’s what counts. 😀 Some people are adrenalin junkies and overcome their fears of bungee jumping or skydiving, while I get over a stomach bug and feel like a superhero. 🙃

How about you? 🙂

Question of the day.

Again, I got inspired by BTN message board and decided to have a little series of questions regarding various people we may have known. If you’ve ever known someone who’s ever done the thing I ask about, but don’t feel comfortable revealing much info, just reveal as much as you feel is appropriate. You can also write about yourself, if you can relate to the question. The question for today is:
Have you ever known anyone who has an irrational fear of something unexpected, like an object or a sound? My answer:
Yeah, I myself am such kind of person, I have tons of irrational fears, I’ve overcome many of them, partly or completely, but I still have a lot. I won’t go into details about each of them for various reasons, but I’ll tell you I do have a fear of certain sounds since early childhood, it’s I guess one of the weirdest kinds of anxiety I have because it’s just so not typical, and so very weird. I also may have fears regarding certain objects.
Another such person is my Mum, who is afraid of spiders, but also of anything similar to spiders, so lots of other interesting creatures, some toys, I dunno, whatever can be similar, she also once told me she feels somewhat distressed even if she sees a spider on a picture, however it got better recently so I think it’s not as severe now.
Other than that I know quite a few people afraid of lots of really weird stuff, including bright orange objects, crying babies, escalators/elevators, public toilets, cats, mice, etc. Also when I was going to the school for the blind there were a lot of children anywhere on the autism spectrum, – there is some sort of link or higher risk or something between congenital blindness and autism spectrum disorder – and many of them had fears that were pretty out there.
How about you? 🙂


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Question of the day.

It really upsets me when I hear people…

My answer:

…vomiting. 😀 That was the first what came to my mind. I’m laughing while writing this, but the problem is real and serious. Anything about vomiting scares me and it is this way since as long as I can remember, although it wasn’t always to such an extent that you could call it phobic. Even the word vomit in all the languages in which I know how to say it sounds quite… not scary, but… don’t know, disgusting and… and maybe yes, maybe a bit scary. I can’t define a specific situation though that has caused this fear in me, however when I was in my early teens, lots of fears that I had before started to exacerbate and I got a bunch of speciffic phobias during relatively short time. At that time I was very neurotic and had lots of weird psychosomatic issues, well now we know they were psychosomatic but they were rather enigmatic then. I’ve never struggled with any serious digestive issues at all, but then I had overwhelming nausea most of the time and had just a single episode during that time when I vomited simply because of emotional overlload, as I know now. And as I can remember that was the moment when my fear really exacerbated.

I couldn’t hear people vomiting without feeling like my knees weere of jelly, nauseated, dizzy and about to faint, even people who were about to vomit scared me and it was very hard for me to hide. I could love you to pieces, but if you were sick, I wouldn’t come closer than a metre to you if I had the choice, and most willingly wouldn’t even be in the same room as you, even for a very short while. If I had to be with you, I’d then wash my hands for 5 minutes afterwards. It was just way stronger than me. I couldn’t watch movies where people vomited, gagged or even choked, it freaked me out immediately. Even books were hard to get through without making me shaky. And I think I don’t have to mention that I was scared of the possibility that I could vomit or even be close to it. At that time I had a whole lot of restrictions and if I had to break them, I was freaking out, oh, I was freaking out even not doing it, ’cause everything is possible. It was developing very quickly to the point that one of the staff at the boarding school was convinced I’m anorectic. My list of forbidden foods quickly evolved from a few speciffic dishes to most foods and I was very ingenious in making up ways to not alarm anyone with the fact I’m barely eating anything nutritious. It was scary. So many things were scary. Eating, drinking, travelling, tummybugs – which are often guests when so many people live together, periods, meds – well they could also be helpful at times – various scary diseases…………………

And it lasted for quite long, but I got somewhat better gradually after I left the boarding school. I am still emetophobic and it is a significant issue for me – I’m eaten up by anxiety whenever someone in my surroundings gets sick, no matter whether it’s contagious or not – I still have some foods I’ll NEVER EVER eat, even some which I actually liked, and theoretically still like, but, ugh, nooo. I still have times when it becomes worse out of nowhere and I can barely function like a normal human being. I still can’t watch movies with people vomiting, but talking about the topic as you can see isn’t so very scary now for me as it used to be, unless we don’t go too much in details. I can read books with people vomiting with almost no problem, or I just skip it and go on, although there were some books which I had to stop reading, like I remember there was one book by Colleen MCCullough I wanted to read, I started and enjoyed it, but there were people vomiting at least three times and I just couldn’t move on. Hearing people around me vomiting is hell.

But you know what’s most ridiculous about it? Since that time in my teens when I vomited, it has NEVER EVER happened to me again. I’ve read on the forum for emetophobics something that if I got it right, said that people who suffer from emetophobia are so blocked from vomiting that they can’t do it physically. Don’t know whether it’s true, and whether it changes anything, but it makes some sense. I’ve had one or two norovirus infection during all those years, I got also rather severely dehydrated once, and although I did feel like I’m just about to vomit then and my fear was indescribable, I just didn’t and it felt like I had some sort of blockade inside. People say vomiting it’s not pleasant, but it’s good because then you feel better, but I’d rather live with extreme nausea and other stuff all the time than vomit once.

OK, over. Yuck, what a fascinating topic.

How would you end this sentence and why? 🙂