If you read my recent blog post all about my gluten and dairy free eating journey, you will know that for years, I struggled with horrible anxiety and emetophobia that impacted every part of my life. I had so many lovely messages from people after I posted along with messages of people that are still suffering with similar issues. So today I thought I’d post a little update as well as how I have personally managed to overcome it, to try and help out some of you that may be suffering. I’d say I’m about 90% there, I still have days where I struggle, but compared to how I used to be, I feel like a different person. As you all know from my previous blog post, it took me years to figure out that I wasn’t able to eat gluten and dairy, and the constant sick feeling I had for years from eating them was definitely a big cause of my emetophobia starting in the first place. Feeling sick every day due to what I was eating at the same time as having a phobia of being sick, wasn’t the best combination! Emetophobia really does impact every part of your life, and unless you have suffered from it too, it’s very difficult to explain.
Although I changed my diet (cutting out gluten and dairy) and felt a LOT better, my anxiety and emetophobia didn’t just completely disappear and still continued to impact my life in certain ways. It wasn’t until recently that I realised how far I have come and how much happier I feel. So I thought I’d put together a few little tips of things that have helped me. Obviously I’m not saying any of this is right or wrong, it’s just how I’ve personally dealt with it and hopefully I’m able to help at least one person out if you are struggling with something similar. Here are some of the ways I have and am learning to overcome anxiety and emetophobia:
Speak to someone
It’s so important to speak to someone if you are struggling. You never know, they may be going through something similar and will be able to help. I kept quiet for years and didn’t tell any of my friends, which meant I probably just looked like I was being rude when I came up with the millionth excuse as to why I had to leave early or why I couldn’t make a social event. So many people struggle with mental health issues, and by speaking out you will realise that you certainly aren’t alone. It could be a family member, friend, councillor, doctor or even someone online. I’ve made some great friends in similar situations from creating my gluten and dairy free Instagram account, and they have really made me realise that I’m not alone!
What’s the worst that can happen?
For years emetophobia ruined absolutely everything for me. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t feel sick. If you have emetophobia you will know that it takes over, I always used to plan my ‘escape’ from everywhere just incase I was going to be sick. I’d panic about what people would think if I was sick, and somehow I had in my mind that it would be the worst thing ever. I’ve now changed my mindset to ‘What’s the worst that can happen if I was to be sick?’, the world will not end. In a few weeks time, no one will even remember. I realise this is much easier said than done and it did take a long time for me to start thinking like this.
Take time out for yourself
Sometimes you just need to take some time out for yourself to chill out, if you are constantly saying ‘yes’ to people you are never going to get the chance to recover and rest. Say no to a night out if you don’t want to go, take the evening off social media, read a book, get an early night, chill out with friends or family, go for a walk, do whatever makes you feel happy. Resetting your body and mind can really help with anxiety and emetophobia.I know that having a really busy schedule can be a trigger for anxiety and sometimes, a busy schedule cannot be helped, however there are certain things that you don’t have to do.
Just because someone else is sick, DOESN’T mean you will be too
I used to have in my mind that if anyone around me was sick, I would be too. I’d spend the next week or so washing my hands every 5 minutes, staying as far away as possible, and panicking every time my stomach felt slightly funny. I’d even call in sick to work if I knew there was a bug going around, just in case. There are so many reasons that someone could be sick and just because someone else has been, does not mean you will be too.
Build up to doing things
I used to panic if I was on any form of public transport, in someone else’s house, in a restaurant, a cinema, a meeting, in fact, anywhere that wasn’t my own home. It’s important to build up and take things slowly. Try a short flight or train ride first, go on a night out but drive instead so you can leave when you like. Do what you need to do to feel comfortable in the situation.
I can’t recommend getting a good nights sleep enough! When I have a late night or get a bad nights sleep I can always tell the next day and don’t feel right which again, can lead to anxiety and panic. Having a good night’s sleep can help reset your mind and make you feel 100 times better!
Exercise and eat well
It’s amazing how much better you can feel if you go to the gym (or exercise) a few times weekly and eat well. I’m definitely guilty of not eating well and not going to the gym enough but on those weeks that I manage to, I feel so much better and my stomach feels 100 times happier. Don’t give allow yourself to feel rubbish through eating rubbish food all the time (obviously still treat yourself!). A happy stomach really does contribute to a happy mind.
Eliminate safety measures
If you are unsure what a ‘safety measure’ is, they are basically a way in which you try and make an anxious situation slightly more comfortable however, they can be one of those things that continue to hold you back. With my emetophobia I used to carry around a plastic bag in my handbag incase I was sick, I ALWAYS had mints on me incase I felt sick, as well as a bottle of water, antacids and various other things that might make me feel better. Those safety measures can feel like they are helping you at the time, but they are never going to eliminate the problem and by getting rid of them, I realised I can do this on my own.
Distracting yourself when you are feeling anxious or sick is so important to helping you feel better, if not, your mind can wonder so much and you can end up feeling so much worse. Do something that you enjoy to take your mind off how you are feeling. I personally would do some baking, read a book, watch a film or go to sleep if I was feeling anxious or sick.
Having Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. It can really help to overcome your fear and teaches you to eliminate safety behaviours and really makes you think, ‘Whats the worst that can happen?’. It’s important to get the help you need in order to be able to live your life again!
My final tip is probably the hardest one but it’s the one that helped me the most. I hadn’t been sick for so many years, because I’d often stopped myself, so had built up in my head that it would be the worst thing in the world. This changed when I came down with food poisoning so was sick a lot. It sounds horrible but by being sick, I learnt that it’s really not as bad as I had built it up to be so now when I feel sick I know that it really isn’t the ‘end of the world’ like I used to make out it was.
So there you have it, some of my ways in which I’ve managed to improve my anxiety and emetophobia. I feel like I have come so far from the girl that used to text her boyfriend every single day without fail saying how sick I felt and how I just wanted to go home. I know how hard it can be, so I just wanted to help anyone that may be in a similar situation. If you are struggling and have any questions, feel free to drop me a comment or message. I hope this has been helpful.