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, IÂ onlyÂ very rarely allow theÂ diseaseÂ 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 Â 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 regularÂ 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 haveÂ potentiallyÂ 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.
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.