July 7 11

When my emetophobia was at its worst, it was incredibly crippling. Crowded public places were almost an impossibility. You would never find me at the circus or at an amusement park or on public transportation; the risks of a vomit situation were just far too likely for my liking. In movie theaters, I had to sit on the end, just in case I needed to make a quick exit. I existed on the BRAT diet, Tums and Ginger Ale almost exclusively.

I can honestly say that these days, I am mostly in control of this disease, at least as much as I have ever been. Thanks to some crazy pills (Xanax), some calming breathing exercises, a daily dose of Prevacid, keeping myself fully hydrated, and some wonderful people who care very deeply about me and my mental health, I only very rarely allow the disease to own me. I ride a crowded subway to work, I can sit in the middle of a movie theater, I am no longer afraid of foods, and I can visit amusement parks. I can even be convinced to ride some roller coasters with my 4th grader (as long as she holds my hand, of course).

I still don’t go to the circus, but that’s mostly because of my crippling fear of  clowns.

(And this is when Metalia would chime in with a “You know what you really need right now, Ali, is a vomiting clown…”)

So, my fears are mostly manageable, unless, of course, someone in the house gets sick. And then, well, I can’t take care of my sick child; I can’t even take care of myself.

And then there are the episodes. Years ago, when I spent the year living in Jerusalem, when I was in college, and when I was first married, these episodes were a scarily regular occurrence. Luckily, I began to see the signs coming on…the chills, the sweating, the shaking, the panic, the nausea, the fear. My mind would run a million and half important questions – Did I eat anything suspicious? Have I had enough to drink today? Have I been around anyone who could have potentially exposed me to some gastro virus? I spent hours hovered over toilets praying to just make it one more hour, two, three, through the night. Everything was always better in the morning.

These days, the episodes are fairly infrequent (knock wood, poo poo poo, all that jazz) and I am way better at dealing with them…and realizing that they are 99.9% MENTAL and I have control over them. I have my routines of course – Tums, Xanax, deep beaths, water, more Tums, more water, a bath, teeth brushing, deep breaths, more water, more Tums. It’s all very high-tech and fancy, really. And it usually works.

Until I find myself downtown at work having a stomach that hates me and a body full of panic-attack. Tums aren’t working, Xanax is doing nothing, and three bottles of water are not curing what ails me. My only option, really, is to take my panicky self and GET ON THE SUBWAY and take super deep breaths while counting each stop until I can get off.

Like today.

Here’s the thing, though.

Today wasn’t the first time.

And it most certainly won’t be the last.

But I made it home in one piece, my panic attacks have stopped, and I’m totally okay.

And it may not seem like a lot to you, but this is huge progress.

I CONTROLLED THE DISEASE; I didn’t allow it to control me.


  1. THAT…is awesome!!! Congratulations!! :-)


    Comment by Jen S on July 8, 2011
  2. The bravery required just for taking deep breaths on the Subway is a pretty big deal! :P I have panic attacks too – and it’s so freaking easy to let it control your life. A much harder thing by far to go about your business; good for you!


    ali replied on

    the crowded rush-hour subway is kind of the very worst place to have to deal with a panic attack. heh.


    Comment by Jessica on July 8, 2011
  3. This very situation makes the train so tough for me. Especially since there’s a shuttle to get to the train involved and at certain times of the day it doesn’t come for like an hour. And being stuck, while feeling sick, before an hour and a half train ride is paralyzing some days.

    For me it’s zofran. Zofran, no food, no water, deep breathing and if needed, Klonopin. I hope someday to have mines as well controlled as yours, especially when I have kids. Until then, expect a lot of crazy lady emails from me when I feel sick. :)


    Comment by Overflowing Brain on July 8, 2011
  4. Good for you! That must be very difficult to be on the subway when you are feeling that way.


    Comment by Heather on July 8, 2011
  5. That’s huge. I don’t know what that fear and anxiety is like, but I can imagine that the subway is not good for it! Hell, the subway is the worst place for most anything to take place.

    I can kind of relate to when I had the Kristin Johnsons and I ended up staying at home so many days because of the commute into work. Once you’re in a place with a bathroom close, it’s reassuring. But when you’re at the whim of which street has the most gas stations/restaurants on the way home, it’s paralyzing.

    “Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Better go and get your armor….”

    (I couldn’t resist) :)


    Comment by Kristabella on July 8, 2011
  6. Good for you for controlling it today. I wish you many more days of being in control.


    Comment by mommabird2345 on July 8, 2011
  7. When I was younger, my phobia of vomit centered around the fear of me getting sick, but now it is the fear of other people throwing up while I am there. Although mine has never been as bad as yours has seemed to be, I go through times when I obsess about it every day, and times when I can go a whole week without thinking about it. Over the past year, the fear has extended to include an anxiety of my kids getting any sickness in general (because that might mean that they can throw up)- I check their foreheads virtually every night for fever. I am about to go away with my kids sans husband- and my biggest fear is that they will throw up at night, and I will be alone. I have never had a panic attack before, but while I was worrying about it yesterday, I suddenly found it difficult to breathe. Good for you for getting help- I have been feeling more and more that that is the avenue I must take in order to control my thoughts and fear.


    Comment by es on July 10, 2011

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