Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Life as an Emetophobic

It seems today that so many of us suffer with some type of health anxiety.  Some of this is believed to be because of 'Cyberchondria' (Googling every little health issue and reading way too much into it) but I think much of it is also down to the horror stories we read in the papers and see on the news about people dying because of simple health problems.  And this is especially worse for parents with small children.

We fear that our little loved one's cough could turn into a fatal case of Pneumonia.  Or that a small viral rash could be deadly Meningitis.  So it becomes critical that we have these things checked out by our doctors as soon as possible.  But then there are the horror stories of misdiagnosis and so we spend hours of unrelenting Google researching trying to look up every single detail of the suspected illness because we are already at the brink of panic and we just don't know what else to do with ourselves. 

But it doesn't stop there.

Soon, we are reading and posting in health forums about a million different concerns that have nothing to do with the original complaint - because it could be anything now - and suddenly you are a victim of health anxiety and you sit at your computer feeling damned if you do and damned if you don't when it comes to making the choice of visiting emergency services at the hospital or waiting it out and possibly facing devastating results.

Health anxiety usually involves a broad range of disease and illness fears but for me there's only one thing that causes me such dire anxiety - to a point where I completely shut down in panic - and that's the stomach virus.

The stomach virus is well tolerated and considered 'good news' for so many seeking answers for their's or their child's symptoms.  It's not dangerous, usually passes quickly and involves duvets, movies and taking it easy.  But for an Emetophobic, it's far from a good result.

My husband became ill in January of 2012.  He was in bed all day feeling queasy and uneasy and I was a wreck.  I quarantined him to the bedroom with it's own bathroom and closed the door.  And I kept it closed all day because I couldn't possibly risk becoming infected and I had to keep the children safe too.

Living in a 3 storey house, you'd think I felt safe enough to move around but I was paralysed with fear.  I didn't dare set foot in the kitchen in case he had already contaminated it.  I couldn't sit on the sofa, because he'd laid there earlier on.  So I sat at my desk and did the only thing I could do to take my mind off of the fact I was going into meltdown over my husband possibly having Norovirus.

During my research - which i've done a thousand times before - I quickly realised that he should have at least been sick by now.  It had been hours since it started and he wasn't getting worse, but he wasn't feeling better either.  Then I read about Appendicitis and it all seemed to make sense.

I dared to enter 'The Room' - which by this point had became the equivalent to walking through a minefield - and asked him about his pain.  I suggested it could be Appendicitis and called for an out of hours doctors appointment.

With child care covered, I was able to bravely share a car with my hubby to get to the doctor, whom within 10 minutes had called an ambulance for my husband to be taken to hospital with a suspected perforated ulcer.

Don't get me wrong, I was CRYING with worries about my husband's health and the possibility of him having to have surgery.  But Norovirus had been ruled out and the relief was like no other.  It wasn't a contagious stomach bug.  It wasn't going to make me sick.

It turned out by the time we got to the hospital that he did in fact have Appendicitis and he had his appendix removed the following morning.

The point here, is that an Emetophobe doesn't rationalise.  I should have hoped it was just a virus.  But that in the eyes of somebody who suffers with my phobia is a bad news diagnosis.

So what's it like living a normal day in my shoes?

First, I am scared of toilets.  I would sooner pee in my pants than use a public restroom.  I will not touch door handles or trolley bars.  I wash my hands so often that they bleed.  I cringe when shoes are worn in the house because of the risk of brining a stomach virus into the house.

I was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and I will allow this disease to cripple me before I ever take the chemotherapy drug, Methotrexate, which is used to treat it.  I suffer with daily migraine (thankfully with no sickness) and refuse to take any preventive drugs if the side effects include vomiting.

If somebody I know has been sick in the last week, I will avoid them like the plague for at least 2 weeks.  I can no longer face going on a plane.  I can't enjoy a night out in case people are sick from alcohol.  If somebody has an iffy tummy ache at home I ask a thousand questions, keeping distance and being unable to move around the house until 3 days have passed with no other symptoms.

It got so bad over Christmas last year after my son was sick that I was nearly admitted.  I was put on a valium type drug but it made me worse and I spent 3 weeks unable to eat, unable to move, unable to breath and had to rely on my husband and mum taking time from work to take care of the children.  I can't go anywhere without my anti-emetics and long car journeys are a no-no now because there's no way to escape.

Every waking moment is preparing myself that someone may be sick and this has damaged my life beyond belief and so far, therapy hasn't helped.

But it wasn't always like this.  I've had stomach virus' dozens of times and it never scared me as a child or young teen. I never used to be afraid of roller coasters or flying abroad or eating at BBQs.  I have never been able to trace it back to any particular point in my life where this phobia could have been triggered.  I've had it for around 5 years now and I go through bad times and sometimes, I forget about it entirely.

Winter is the worse because of the Norovirus hype in the news.  By the time summer comes around, I'm usually less OCD around the home and the hand-washing routines relax.

But this summer, I'm not getting away with being anxiety free.

Last week my 8 year old daughter started complaining of tummy aches, but it's okay because she gets them frequently and they are mild and they NEVER turn into anything that involves the stomach virus.

I have been able to take care of her and cuddle her and hold her and on Monday I took her to the doctor.

They said to see how she goes and to come back in the morning for the results of a urine sample.  However in the night, she was slightly sick.  I say 'slightly', because it wasn't normal sick.  More like coughed up liquid.  And I handled it really well given my history of dealing with anything close to a tummy bug.

By the morning, she was having diarrhoea and after our planned trip back to the doctor, she was diagnosed with Tonsillitis.  But her throat doesn't hurt!

They said her tonsils were badly infected and so I was relieved it wasn't a bug but i was still concerned about the poops.

By mid afternoon, to my horror, she was sick in the toilet.  The cramps continued and Mummy-Meltdown had begun.

My husband has taken care of her as has my mum.  I've spent the remaining hours doing what I always do.  Googling things like 'Tonsillitis causing sickness' and trying to reassure myself that it's not gastroenteritis.

Today, she feels better but still has mild cramping.  No sore throat but her tonsils are blistered.  She has antibiotics but when I called the doctor back after she was sick they told me it was in fact likely to be a bug and to hold off on the antibiotics.

So today I am somewhat of a dizzy wreck.  I'm handling this better than I usually do and I am able to rationalise that being sick isn't a big deal.  But as soon as I start to relax, I feel the panic settling in and it really is no way to live.

People don't 'get it'.  Not unless they too suffer with emetophobia.  People will say, "well, nobody likes being sick," but that's not the same.  It's not a case of disliking it.  It's a case of being scared to death of it.  But I think what us Emeophobes really have an issue with is the lack of control over the situation.  

Ironically, being imprisoned with a fear of vomiting has the symptoms of a tummy bug.  Head pain, uneasy stomach; abdominal cramps, the runs; needing to expel something, like a need to actually be sick.  And so the circle begins and there's no escape and you end up becoming the Queen of Bleach which makes you nauseous as well because of the chemicals.

Today the countdown begins.  Incubation periods for stomach bugs are between 1 and 3 days.  I will not be able to leave the house or eat until this time passes and then there will be two weeks of guided hand-washing with the children, bleaching the bathroom and kitchen religiously and not being able to catch a break just in case a single particle has been missed.

Life as an Emetophobe is exhausting.  Living with a fear of sickness is never-ending and it is surprisingly one of the most common phobias in the UK.

We don't talk about it with people because we are ashamed of it.  Admitting to another parent that you are unable to hold your child whilst they are sick is not an option.  Because we are good parents who love our children so much, yet in their time of need, we are unable to comfort them in the way we normally would.

I will continue to try to find a way to cope and manage this debilitating fear, but in the mean time, I will be a victim of one form of health anxiety.  Of a phobia that has at times made me and many other Agoraphobic.  There's no let up and this laughable fear can destroy people's lives.

If you too suffer with Emetophobia or suspect that you do, you can read more here.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Sister Photo Shoots, Books & Etsy Sales

It's been a busy few weeks in the Williamson household and I've not updated in ages so this post is a 'quick' catch up...

Firstly, the kids are now off school for the summer holidays and we've had lot's of fun already.  My little sister, Saskia came down to stay from York and this year we simply didn't have long enough.

 It's tradition that when Sas comes to stay, we have at least one photo shoot during that time.  So here's some piccies from yesterday, her last day with us *sulks*.  (By the way, she's the pretty blonde girl and she's only 16!)

P.S. I look mean in some of the photos but it was the sun in my eyes, I swear!

P.P.S.  Isn't my puppy, Arthur, SUPER CUTE? (You'll see him further down)

Secondly, I released my first book... Yes, that's right!  I self published my young adult dystopian novel, Units.


What a cool thing to experience.  I don't expect it to be a best seller or anything.  They say we all have at least one book in all of us so here's my first.

You can buy it here in Kindle format if it's your sort of thing.

I had my first review which was awesome!  5 STARS!  Although since going through the book I have noticed a few errors that were missed during the proof read.  Oops!

Also, I'm starting on my SECOND novel, Release Me, which is a contemporary young adult fiction about a girl called Imogen, who on and off wakes up in the body of Anabelle - a girl bullied at the same school Imogen goes to.  

Do you like my book cover design?  I used this girl's pretty picture from

Lastly, my Etsy store Blog Me Beautiful reached over 30 sales!!! 
Ok, so 30 is not a big milestone, but I remember posting in the Etsy forums that I wasn't convinced I'd get any sales so this is a huge accomplishment for me!

People all over cyberspace are blogging using my templates, logos and others are using my printables for their wall decor and that's a really nice feeling.

I have since closed my photography business because of health issues (as some of you know) so it's a relief that I still have some projects to work on and my store keeps me motivated without all of the stress my previous business came with.

I hope all of you are enjoying the summer!  I know I sure am...

Happy Friday!