Emetophobia – Emma D’s Story

I always struggled with vomit, however, I didn’t notice how much of a problem it was or how much I struggled until I had children of my own. One day 10-year-old son caught a sickness bug, so I sent him to bed with a bucket. I heard him shouting from upstairs and when I arrived he was struggling to breathe, he had sweaty hands and was crying and panicking. He told me he was terrified of being sick. Where had this come from? He hadn’t had any bad experiences involving vomit so I couldn’t quite understand. On reflection, I realised he had learnt and copied my behaviour from whenever I felt unwell. This is when I knew something had to change.
Vomit had caused me problems for a very long time. I was terrified of being sick or even feeling sick. I would avoid any situation where vomit might be present, some examples of these being, car journeys, pubs or theme parks. Anywhere that involved food, alcohol, lots of people or germs would cause me severe anxiety.

As you can imagine this phobia took over my life and stopped me from doing many things with my children. I couldn’t even comfort them when they vomited. Whenever they were ill my brain would play tricks on me and tell me I was unwell too (I never was). This resulted in me being in bed for days at a time thinking I was going to vomit. I felt there was no way out of this terrible phobia, but I also felt alone! After numerous attempts of trying to conquer this phobia myself, I decided to attend a workshop hosted by Nik and Eva Speakman.
After the workshop, I decided I needed further support which was when I entered into a recovery programme with Trauma Research UK. My mentor guided me week by week as we addressed different scenarios as to why this phobia had become so aggressive. We spoke about my traumatic experiences regarding vomit and how I’d always had a poor relationship with food but we just couldn’t work out what the installation point was. However, on week three of the recovery programme me and my mentor had a light bulb moment. My poor relationship with food began when I witnessed a dinner lady at school force-feeding my friend until she threw up on her plate. We also discussed another Trauma when I witnessed a young boy choke on bacon in a cafe and he vomited on the floor. My mentor mentioned how the boy vomiting probably saved his life! WOW!!! I felt instant relief from this terrible trap I had been living in. In the following weeks, the mentor and I worked through every anxiety-provoking experience on my timeline and by week 8 I felt a complete change in my perception of vomit.

It has now been months since completing the recovery programme and I have completely transformed my life. I can now comfort my children whilst vomiting. I don’t have to take travel sickness tablets for a 10-minute journey (I never actually had travel sickness) and I can eat in a restaurant without feeling crippling anxiety. Within this last week I even cleaned up vomit within my employment and there was no anxiety at all! I can’t thank my mentor enough as I can now live a normal life and my relationship with food has transformed. I’ve put on weight, which was well-needed and can actually enjoy a McDonald’s burger without thinking I’m going to throw up.

I would just like to say thank you so much to Trauma Research UK and my amazing mentor, also to Nik and Eva Speakman and their fantastic schema conditioning therapy which is what this amazing charity’s services and recovery programme are modelled on.