Thursday, 23 November 2017

Sick vs Thriving

Sick. Vomit. Barf. Whatever you want to call it. 

These words filled my brain for 4 months as my fear of vomiting, Emetophobia, grew significantly worse. 4 months of my stomach twisting and turning. 4 months of a brain constantly looking for danger, looking for people who could be sick, looking for signs that my body may be ill. 4 months of pacing around rooms for hours on end despite my exhaustion because if I sat down the nausea would be so much worse. 4 months of plates full of food being a source of fear. 4 months of not being able to have long hugs because the thought of being touched meant I couldn't escape if I needed to be sick. 4 months of desperately trying to control something that is uncontrollable. 4 months of losing hope, with some evenings ending in permanent scars that trail my body, other evenings ending in sobs and wishing for death because if you're dead you can't vomit.

Emetophobia has been a part of my life for a long time, but it only ever impacted me when I felt ill or when others were ill, otherwise I had a normal day to day life. However, after doing a trial of antidepressants and having a tough time with side effects, which meant I stopped taking them after 2 days, my Emetophobia became uncontrollable. I stopped living, engulfed in a bubble of fear, a fear of my own body. I've spent the last 4 months battling something that I had no hope of getting over. After sending out some tweets about how my Emetophobia was ruining my life and how it was becoming extremely difficult to live with, a member of the Thrive Programme emailed me on behalf of Rob Kelly, the founder of the company and the writer of the book Cure Your Emetophobia and Thrive. (Check the website out here.) This email was inviting me to the Emetophobia Boot-camp in Cambridge and it couldn't have come at a better moment, it was a source of hope as the night before I had phoned my mum in tears, sobbing that I didn't want to live anymore. 

I attended the boot-camp and have been following the Thrive Programme for the last 9 weeks. I am not Emetophobia free yet but to me the key word there is 'yet', because I know I will get over this. I would, however, say I am 87% over it. Do I want to be sick? Erm no, but who does? Could I be sick with no panic? Not yet no. But my day to day life is not ruled by this fear, my decisions are not based on whether myself or someone else could be ill, my eyes are not always checking people and I am not constantly body scanning. In fact I feel rather relaxed and as a sufferer of generalised anxiety as well as Emetophobia this is a lovely feeling. 

The past week has been the best week I have had in months. I think I could say I almost feel happiness. My every thought isn't related to sickness. I have started to eat much more food. I talk more, I am more confident, I am grateful and I am feeling an excitement and energy about being alive, something that I haven't felt in ages. The Thrive Programme isn't only about my Emetophobia, it is about thriving in all aspects of my life. I've failed exams and not beat myself up over it, I've started wearing clothes that before I wouldn't wear as I didn't believe they were my style, I have started to believe in myself so much more and it is really paying off. 

Yes I have wobbles. The idea of being sick does still fill me with anxiety but equally I know I won't die. I know there is nothing dangerous about being sick, in fact it is a very helpful bodily function. I know I would cope with being sick, that as unpleasant is it would be, it will pass. It's strange, some days I even find myself slightly hoping to be ill so that I can finally realise how little of a deal it is. But then the fearful side kicks in and I take those words back immediately. 

The Thrive Programme has given me my life back. I've started laughing again and feeling blessed. I've started to want to really make the most of life, I want to try new experiences. My 2018 bucket list is to try speed dating, go paragliding, to travel on my own alongside many other things. These are all things that before I was to fearful to even think of.  The Thrive Programme has given me a new way of thinking. How can this fear possibly be real? Most people would have Emetophobia if being sick was genuinely scary. This entire fear is actually a fear of my emotional reaction and not a fear of being sick. 

Everything seemed to change in a moment for me. It was the moment I realised how much of my life I am wasting for a fear that won't even happen that often in my lifetime. I worked out how many days I've been alive (7630) and on 8 of those days (that I remember) I have been sick. That's a lot of time wasted worrying about something that has happened 8 times out of 7630. I thought about all the things I am giving up to try to stay 'safe', and at the end of the day I can never be 100% sure that I won't encounter a vomit related situation or catch ill unless I lock myself in my room and never come out again. Even then I could cook something dodgy and get food poisoning. So I have chosen the thrive route, the route where I can be alive and grow. The route where there is possibility and adventure. The route where there is risk and fear. The route that in 70 years time i'll look back and smile in my hospital bed and whisper my stories to my grandchildren of a life well lived, not one that was paralysed with fear. 

There are still steps left to be taken but a much better, happier, stronger Angela is in the making.

Thank you Thrive. 

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