I used to be really, super, insanely embarrassed of my emetophobia. I didn’t tell anyone. One friend knew. My family knew. But I didn’t talk about it to anyone other than parents. For some reason, this phobia seemed worse than my other anxieties. I think it was because I didn’t know how to explain it.
Imagine you live in a house. (Well, I hope you don’t have to imagine that part). Stay with me. You see, you can’t leave the house. You have to live in it for the rest of your life. So far, you’ve lived in this house for eight years.
One year, out of nowhere, you have a mold problem. The mold is so bad, you get sick for two weeks. Some guy comes in and removes your mold but tells you there’s a chance it will come back eventually.
You’re terrified now, because your mold-inhalation sickness was pretty horrible. You have no choice but to live in this house, because, well, that’s the rules of this imaginary world.
Now, you do everything you can to prevent the mold from coming back. You spend hours and hours cleaning your shower. You never leave any damp towels around. You check for leaks and cracks in the windows. But one day, two years later, the mold returns. You get sick again. This time, it’s only for a few days.
But now you know the mold could come back no matter what you do.
Now, not only are you compulsively cleaning your house, now you’re afraid to breathe. But, you can’t hold your breathe forever because…well…you need to breathe. You can’t live without breathing.
But now every time you go to take a breath, you remember what could happen. You remember those times the mold made you sick. Even though you know you’d get better. Even though you know you’d move on with your life. But the sickness was so horrible you now have an irrational fear of breathing because breathing could equal sickness.
That’s what it’s like having emetophobia.
Replace the permanent house with your body.
Replace the mold with a stomach bug or food poisoning.
Replace the mold-induced sickness with vomiting.
Replace being afraid to breathe with being afraid to eat.
And that’s what it’s like.