Hi everyone! I hope you all are doing well and had a great week! Today I want to talk about a subject I have been holding off on since the beginning because it is so personal to me, but I think it is time for me to speak out and share my journey. I think the thing holding me back was I do not like to be pitied and I was scared to share my story, but this is me and I am posting this to raise awareness. I try to keep my posts real, and this is as real as it can get. In honor of mental health awareness week, I want to talk about my struggle with anxiety.
Anxiety is a funny thing. Some people have an explanation for theirs, and some people don’t, like me. My anxiety has always been around, but I never really realized it until I got older.
I have always had a sensitivity to vomiting and germs, even as a very young kid. I used hand sanitizer before I ate and would get upset when people would throw up, but who doesn’t is what I thought? Some of my earliest memories are of people throwing up near me and I remember having this wave of dread and fear come over me, but I had never thought too much about it. It was not until middle school that I realized I had a problem.
I was not in the best place mentally in middle school, but I brushed it off because I knew these were going to be hard, awkward years. I began to be very aware of germs and my cleanliness, began to obsessively use hand sanitizer and wash my hands, and began to go into a panic state when Cate would get sick. I was struggling, so my parents decided to send me to a therapist.
I was diagnosed with anxiety created by severe emetophobia (the fear of throwing up). Most people do not like throwing up or seeing throw up, so what I struggle with has been pushed aside because to most it is not a big deal. What people do not understand is that it is a big deal to me, huge deal in fact. This is not an “oh it just really grosses me out” or “I just don’t like it” situation, it is a crippling fear. It is washing and using hand sanitizer so much during a stomach bug outbreak that my hands were so dry and cracked that they bled anytime I tried to move them, it is being scared to eat without washing my hands, it is being terrified to share a drink with someone, it is waking up in a panic from nightmares of people getting sick. It is being nervous around my own sister.
Cate has severe migraines that cause cyclic vomiting, but for a very long time we did not know what was causing her to get sick and how to stop it. She was getting these migraines and throwing up every other month and would be in the hospital for days for it. I would and still get really upset when these episodes occur and if I was there when she first threw up, I would panic. I would bolt, lock myself in my room, and cry, and not come out until the episode was over or Cate was not in the house. Cate has thrown up multiple times in front of me and each is as traumatizing as the last one, and even her coughing makes me nervous. I have struggled with putting blame on Cate for making me traumatized by people getting sick, and I know this is and was unfair, but I did not know where to put my anger. I love Cate more than I can say, but this is one feeling I am still working out.
I went through 2 therapists until I found my current one and our treatment plan is working. I am in exposure therapy that challenges me to face my anxiety driven thoughts and challenge my hand washing by touching different surfaces and then eat without washing my hands. Everyday I fight to conquer my fears and anxiety, and it is an everyday battle. This is one aspect of my life I have found it hard to find a positive spin on. I love myself and my life, just not this one aspect. The best thing I can say is you are not alone. Your feelings are valid. Reach out for help and support when you need it, it will change your whole life for the better. Therapy has changed my life and has made me more in tune with my feelings and how to express them. I am a very open person and as I have gotten older I have been able to express my deep emotions like these for everyone to see.
Before I end, I would also like to share my friend, Stella’s, Instagram page, @_reasonstostay_. She is doing amazing work by advocating for mental health resources for everyone. This is so important because I was so lucky to get what I need, and others everywhere should have that opportunity too.
As hard as anxiety is, it has made me stronger and emotionally resilient. I will not let my emetophobia hold me back. I will overcome it. I will become a doctor, and nothing can stop me. Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great week and weekend.