My life with panic attacks and emetophobia
I would like to start off by saying I no longer let panic attacks ruin my life.I have found my own ways in coping with them and dealing with anxiety. I hope this article helps others.
I've had anxiety problems for as long as I can remember. I am unsure what came first, the anxiety or my big phobia. It's hard to pinpoint it. All I know is I have emetophobia, which causes extreme panic attacks. But, did the panic attacks come first, or after I started developing that phobia? I may never know.
It was hard for me to go to school, stay in school all day, and to finish school. I remember in grade 4 I would go to the office nearly daily for them to call my mom to come pick me up because I was "sick". In truth, I was just suffering from panic attacks. I thought I was sick and going to throw up because the panic attacks make you feel very sick, and it's easy to become confused as to if you really are or not! If a kid coughed in class I was convinced he would throw up, and also convinced that if HE threw up *I* would also throw up! I would constantly leave class to go to the bathroom to have my panic attack in there, in private. I had it in my head that if someone was going to be sick around me, I would also get sick. How did that start? To this day I have no idea.
Unfortunately, I never told my family what was really going on, and it continued to be my secret until I was in my twenties!! School just got harder and harder for me as I grew up. I started developing agoraphobia and was deathly afraid to get on a bus. So I started making my mom drive me into school because her car was "safe". I struggled, oh did I struggle.. Just the thought of having to go to school put me into full blown panic mode.
At some point during my teen years I developed anorexia. I felt my life was out of control and just needed to have SOME control over it. I never realized at the time though that my anorexia was just a part of my emetophobia, and that I felt much better if I didn't have any food in my stomach, in case I got sick. If I happened to come down with a stomach virus, I wouldn't throw up because my stomach would be empty, that's how I thought.
I barely ate for many many years once this started. I was under 100 pounds and barely had any energy to walk. I cannot remember how it came to be that my mom was taking me to doctors, but eventually I was seeing dietitian's, a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I think I started off first by telling my mom that my stomach always felt sick. So I had stomach x-rays done in the 10th grade. Strangely enough we found out I had a hiatal hernia, meaning a part of my stomach was above my diaphragm when it was supposed to be under it. Well let me tell you, that just made my problems a million times worse!!! Knowing my stomach was not "in place", and thinking about that every day was NOT good for me.
The dieticians tried to help me with my anorexia but had no idea WHY I was witholding food. I never told anyone about my phobia. So I did not get help there.
The psychologist was good for some things, for helping with my panic attacks but still, they did not know the true reasons behind my panic attacks and so they couldn't help out 100% either..
The psychiatrist tried a lot of drugs with me, and I ended up being put on Paxil and I'm STILL on that today and I'm 33 at the time of writing this. I was also given xanax, and I finally had a way to stop the panic attacks when they started.. I would just pop a xanax!
Eventually I moved out and started a life on my own. I was still struggling with eating and panic attacks but I just kept taking my xanax. One day I realized something, I wasn't really anorexic when I was a teen because I wanted to be super skinny, I was just afraid to eat.. I had to start trying to force myself to eat every day.
It wasn't until I was beginning to start a family when I really realized things, and that I had to change things. Pregnancy was very good for me as it is one of the riskiest things you can do when you have emetophobia. I started to really let go. Yes I panicked like crazy when the nausea would hit, but it was making me stronger. I was doing something I was so scared of my whole life, going through morning sickness!! And I had made it very clear in my head that I was going to survive, no matter what happened.
I think at the time I was pregnant with my first baby I was really starting to realize that I cannot waste my life panicking, and I NEEDED to eat or else my baby would suffer, and that helped me so much. I really let go and concentrated on making a big healthy baby!! That's all I thought about.
When my baby was 1, my biggest fears came true. Keep in mind I had kept myself from vomiting for about 20 years by now!!! TWENTY YEARS. And I truly felt like I could go the rest of my life without getting sick! But.........no... :( One night I found myself extremely hungry, so we went out to the food court at the mall and I chowed down on many different things. Bought some raw veggies and some ranch dip for home, and continued to chow down at home. I was STARVING! There was no reason for me to worry at this time. Until not too long after I had my veggies and dip, I began to have really bad reflux. With my stomach problems, I get reflux a lot, so I thought I had just ate too much and just needed to lay down. I turned the TV on in my room, after I got a bucket and put it beside my bed, unsure of what was going to happen. I told my husband to leave me alone and not come in no matter what! I got my spray bottle and started to spray myself silly trying to shock myself out of panic mode. Usually when I went into panic mode I'd take a xanax and try to distract myself, so I took some xanax, took some stomach medication to try to calm it down, and also took some gravol. Nothing was working and my stomach was getting worse. The dread that was coming over me!! THE DREAD! THE FEAR! It was UNBELIEVABLE. I was having the most MASSIVE panic attack that I've ever had. I just needed to run away, just go outside and run. I often feel like that during a bad attack, in all honesty your trying to run away from YOURSELF! Which is impossible lol. I lasted a good 2 and a half hours that night holding it in, and suffering in my dark bedroom freaking out alone. I finally got up, bent over the bucket and it just came out. My jaw dropped to the floor..I could NOT believe what I had just done! I was in so much shock I went right on my phone and called my brother, who also suffers from this, and my sister too! I was nearly screaming at my brother on the phone explaining how sick I just was, and how scared I was. He was great with it and made me feel better, until I realized I was going to do it again.. I thought maybe I just needed to do it once and I'd feel better. The veggies must have been bad.. But unfortunately, I was sick for the next 8 hours straight that night.
8 hours straight!
I had lost complete control over myself, and at 3 in the morning with no sleep yet it's easy to give up.. I still tried taking gravol and xanax and such, but my belly wanted nothing in it! By 6 the next morning I was so thirsty I couldn't believe it.. and once that hit I knew it was over. Up until this point I didn't feel good AT ALL after each time I got sick. I still felt horrible. I thought you were suppose to get some relief? lol. It wasn't happening. So once the thirst hit I celebrated inside and finally started to sip some Gatorade, being very careful though..because even though I had just been so sick for so long, I still had that fear of throwing up.
The next day, my husband, started throwing up as well, so we had gotten some really bad virus. But I was SO hungry beforehand, I would have never guessed I would have been so sick.
Since that night, I realized something very important. I may have some control over my body, but I do not and will never have 100% control over it. No matter what, I will just never know what is going to happen and I HAVE TO LET GO. Since then I've been eating more, and feeling more free. Mind you I still have the FEAR! But I will not let it take over my entire life. Once you do let go, and stop worrying, you feel free. But getting to that way of thinking can be tough. But I had that floaty light bulb above my head finally and just had so much realization.
The day after I got sick I did something gross. Remember it had been 20 years since I got sick, so I was in shock. I couldn't believe I had actually vomited. So I kept my barf bucket next to me for the entire next day, and I would look into it from time to time and be like WOA!! I DID THAT? Eventually I emptied it lol. But couldn't believe it...
I am 33 now, and think a whole different way than I did when I was growing up. I was able to survive two pregnancies, two labors and deliveries, a few car accidents, and surgery recently. These things make you so much stronger!
MY ADVICE! - Do NOT let anxiety, phobias, fears, panic attacks RULE YOUR LIFE. This is your ONLY life your going to get, work on making it awesome! TELL people you can trust about your problems, do not keep it all in, it will only make things worse! Having support and people you can relate with is the best thing! Joke! Laugh! Poke fun at it! Once you can start making jokes about your emetophobia you KNOW your on your way to recovery. Examine your life, and your goals, and how you want to live to the fullest. If your not doing much during the day, your going to have more time to find reasons to panic, keep your days busy and find lots of distractions. If your home and start to panic, start cleaning your house, do the dishes, do the laundry, do something physical to distract your mind and body from the attack. And some advice to myself, learn to barf if your body needs to! HAHA yea right lol. I have no idea if I'll ever get to that point, but I know that I'm done convincing myself that I'm sick every day, and can deal with a lot more now and can have a sense of humor about it all. And I'm much much happier!