If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I’ve started a new chat for people who have experience with emetophobia. #ChatEmet takes place on Tuesdays at 7pm (GMT) and is a safe space for sufferers to share their story and discuss ‘Cure your Emetophobia and Thrive’ by Rob Kelly.

In the first chat we discussed our recent ‘wins’. A win is a breakthrough, no matter how small. It’s something you might have thought your emetophobia would never let you do. I would like to hear your wins – tell me what you’re proud of. Because you should feel ridiculously proud of yourself. Emetophobia is a terrible, debilitating phobia that had me starving myself and washing my hands until they cracked and bled. I want you to know that I understand and I’m so proud of you, even in those times when you think you’ve failed. Most importantly, I want you to know that you’re not alone. 

To get us started, here are some of my recent emetophobia wins. There will be a few OCD ones in there too, as for me the two issues overlap.

Eating chicken

Cooking chicken at home became a huge no-no for me and I would only eat it in restaurants on very rare occasions. I’m still a little bit nervous about eating it, but I’ve let friends cook it for me and am very partial to a cheeky Nando’s.

Washing my hands less

I still wash my hands more than the average bear but nowhere near to the extent I was before. Emetophobia Help was such a useful resource for me, especially for putting things into perspective when it came to norovirus.

Understanding the ways the virus can and can’t be transmitted, and that some of my safety behaviours were actually completely useless really helped me feel calmer. I quickly found it easier to ignore irrational thoughts.

Using the word ‘norovirus’

One of the strange things about emetophobia is how superstitious it can make you. Even though logically I knew it wasn’t possible, I had this strange belief that writing or saying the word norovirus would make me sick. I had little ‘knock on wood’ rituals and was very particular about the language I used when discussing anything to do with illness. Now though, when my brain tells me I’m being irrational, I listen to it. No more censoring myself!

I did the deed!

Yes, that’s right – I vomited. Three times in the last six months to be exact. And do you know what? I just got on with it. I stayed calm, cleaned up after myself and dealt with it how I think most people would. The first time it happened, that little bit of exposure helped me see that it’s actually not so bad, and gave me confidence in myself again. So when it happened again the next morning, I handled it just fine. SO. BLOODY. PROUD.

Have you experienced emetophobia? I am starting a new chat for people with emetophobia to share their experiences and discuss the book ‘Cure Your Emetophobia and Thrive‘ by Rob Kelly.

The first one will be taking place on Tuesday 5th September and will be a chance to introduce yourself and talk about how the chats are going to go.

I’m not planning on asking set questions, so it won’t be quite like other Twitter chats. Instead, I’ll get the conversation started and then help to keep it flowing.

A couple of things to bear in mind:

  • #ChatEmet is not a substitute for counselling or any other medical treatment. We’re not experts; we’re just here to share our experiences and discuss the book.
  • Please be mindful of the language you use. Some sufferers are triggered by words relating to vomiting. At the start of each chat I’d like everyone to say what they’re comfortable with so we can all work together to make it a safe space.
  • Please don’t be embarrassed. This is a safe, supportive space. We are all in the same boat and we’re here to help each other. At no point will anyone make you feel silly.
  • That said, there are always trolls online, so you have my promise that I will do all I can to deflect any negative comments.
  • I want your feedback! If you want to do anything differently, please let me know. This is all for you – I’m just here to get the ball rolling and act as a moderator of sorts.

I look forward to chatting to you on 5th September. Let’s tackle emetophobia together!

Just a quick post to check in as it’s been a little while and I’ve got something very exciting to share…

I’ve just had my last ever CBT session!

It’s been a long old journey, with two separate therapists and many, many issues to work through. But I DID IT!

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I’ve not been very well over the last couple of weeks and that just after my birthday something happened that once would have been my worst nightmare: I threw up.

If you don’t know, I have HAD emetophobia, a fear of vomiting. At my worst, this phobia controlled my life, made me starve myself and turned simple things like eating in public into a massive source of anxiety. As is common with emetophobes, I am very rarely ever sick. But for some reason, that night I was.

And you know what? I was completely fine. I mean, I didn’t enjoy the experience, obviously, but I stayed calm throughout, cleaned up after myself and took it in my stride. That might seem small to you, but to me it was a huge achievement.

Since then my confidence has grown and grown. I now eat things with my hands at work, eat chicken on a regular basis, and a few days ago did something I honestly never thought I would be able to do – I ate a sweet without washing my hands first. I didn’t try to tip it in my mouth, or pick it up with the wrapper. I just plunged my hand in the bag and went for it.

The list of small victories like this goes on and on and I’m ridiculously proud of myself.

This time last year I was at my absolute lowest point. I honestly felt hopeless. It’s been a long, difficult road, with almost 40 sessions of counselling and a prescription for Sertraline, an SSRI. Now, I feel like a new person.

No, that’s not quite right. I feel like the old me is back. The version of myself that finds joy in things, smiles for no reason and has goals, dreams and drives.

I was almost bursting with happiness when I reeled off this list of achievements to my counsellor and she looked so damn proud of me.

I went in knowing it was likely to be my last session. I felt ready. I’ve learned what I need to be kind to myself, to support myself during difficult times and to listen to my rational thoughts rather than my obsessive ones. I’m still recovering, but I feel confident enough to go it alone now.

Right before I said goodbye to my counsellor she said

You did this’

‘It’s not easy, but you did this.’ I can’t tell you how proud that made me feel. Finally I believe in myself again. All that trust in myself I’d lost over the years (for one reason or another), is coming back.

I feel invincible.

Afterwards I walked to work in the sunshine and treated myself to a milkshake.

Elliot drinking Starbucks

I reminded myself of this scene!

I’ve got this. I’ve bloody well got this.

Recovery is possible. There is hope. I hope that I’m proof of that.

If you think CBT could help you, speak to your GP, who may be able to refer you to local NHS services. Or, check out the BABCP website, to find a private therapist in your area.

I came to you because I’d become scared of the world around me.

Working from home, I’d started to isolate myself, closing off from friends and family.  I was crippled by OCD and an overwhelming fear of vomiting that had me going to new and increasingly extreme lengths to ‘protect myself.’

Sometimes I would go a week at a time without leaving the house.  I would wash myself compulsively because I never felt clean.  I never felt at ease.  Simple, everyday decisions reduced me to tears, or led to a panic attack, and I had moments so low that I simply couldn’t see how I’d ever be happy again.

My family was going through a difficult time, and I knew things would get much worse before they got better.  For the first time in my life I was faced with a loss I didn’t know how to prepare myself for.  Things are still hard, but they are getting better each day.

Issues from my past were resurfacing, and my relationships with those close to me were suffering.  I remember confessing to you that I was afraid I was ‘unfixable.’  I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I used to be afraid of everything, and I hated how weak that made me feel.

Once spontaneous, adventurous and full of energy, I was now a shell of my former self.  Thanks to you I know now that I’m not weak.  Thanks to you I’m starting to feel positive about my future again.

CBT trains you to approach things differently and become your own counsellor, but you’ve taught me so much more than that.  I’ve learned to value and look after myself, and make my needs known to others.  You’ve given me a voice again.

You’ve made me braver than I ever thought possible, and given me the courage to tackle things I never thought I could.  You’ve given me the insight to understand myself, question my thought processes, and challenge my own negative thoughts.  I still have my problems, but you’ve equipped me with the tools to tackle them better myself.  I’m a million miles away from the person I was eight months ago.

Before, I couldn’t wait to see you because I desperately needed an outlet.

I needed to vent, I needed you to help me organise my muddled thoughts.  I needed to cry freely, without judgement.

Now I can’t wait to see you because I want to tell you about a fear I conquered, or a new personal milestone I’ve achieved.  No matter how tiny, you are always proud of me.

I couldn’t stop smiling during my last session because I started to feel like the pieces of my life are finally coming together.  What we have worked through together has brought me a sense of direction again.  It’s brought me closure, vindication.  It’s shown me how to feel joy again.

I’ve never been suicidal, but there have been times when I’ve wished I could simply stop existing, just for a little while.  Because no matter how much I shut myself away, turned off my phone, or ignored others, there would always come a point where I’d have to face it all again.  I switched wildly between shaking with nervous energy and feeling so drained I couldn’t move.  I didn’t care about sleeping, eating, or looking after myself.  Nothing excited me anymore; I felt numb.  That was the worst part; in the moments I didn’t feel overwhelmed by fear or sadness, I longed to feel something but couldn’t.

But there was a moment when it was like you helped me flick a switch.

Suddenly I felt alive again.  Suddenly I felt fired up.  I had goals, things to look forward to.  I left that session full of hope and on my way home stopped to look out at the sea.  I felt an incredible sense of calm and clarity.

BEACH

I don’t quite know how you do it, but you help me make sense of things.  Sometimes the answer might be so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it myself.  You help me realise that my needs and feelings are valid.  You give me the confidence to ask for what I want, and the strength to make things happen for myself.

There’s so much more I want to say, but no words can adequately sum up just how much you mean to me, or the impact you’ve had on my life in such a short space of time.  You’ve helped me in more ways than I can count.

You’ve helped me to be me again.

We’ve laughed together, cried together, and I will never look at a bag of Mini Cheddars in the same way again.  It’s my last session with you soon, and I find it hard to think about my life without you in it.  It’s going to be a difficult goodbye, but I finally feel ready for it.

I hope you feel proud of the work you do, because you’re amazing at it.  It takes a truly special person to show someone the level of kindness, understanding and compassion that you’ve shown me.  I will never stop being thankful for everything you’ve done for me.

I will miss you, but I will never forget what you’ve taught me, or all the incredible things you’ve helped me to achieve.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you.

X

Talking about depression and anxiety might seem overwhelming, but if you’re struggling, please reach out to someone.

Talk to your friends, GP, partner or family.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re feeling alone and like you can’t carry on, The Samaritans are reachable 24/7 and offer free, confidential support.  Contact them on 116 123 (UK), or 116 123 (ROI), or visit their website.

There are many different types of therapy, so it’s worth doing some research to find out what’s right for you.  If you’re interested in CBT, visit the BABCP website to learn more, and find an accredited CBT practitioner in your area.