Saturday, 1 April 2017

Fears and phobias.

I feel I should warn you before we go on that this is going to be a very blunt and to the point post, so please if you find mental health related content triggering then proceed with caution.

I've recently been struck by just how different fears and phobias are, and how many people assume a phobia is the same as a fear. For me they are on the same spectrum, but a phobia is a whole different level. Mostly we avoid things we fear in a general sense, like death, a lot of people fear death, we would avoid death in a general way, like avoiding poisons or adhering to safety instructions, but it doesn't dictate your life. A phobia takes over everything, every waking moment, every decision made has to take the phobia into consideration.

My phobia is called emetophobia, and it's a fear of sick, of being sick, feeling sick, seeing sick, other people feeling sick, other people being sick, basically anything sick related. It effects so much of my life, although I try to keep it hidden I feel it's something that needs talking about so people can understand.

When I think about my life, it is limited and controlled by rules my brain inflicts on me to avoid sick. Public transport used to be a complete no, couldn't do it, couldn't get on it, what if someone feels sick or is sick? Travelling with children is a no the majority of the time, children are unpredictable when it comes to sick and travel sickness. This can exclude me from so so many social events.

Travel is just one aspect, what about careers? (Exclude the fact that there are other conditions affecting this)! Want to be a teacher? Nope children get sick. Want to be a nurse? Nope. Want to b work in transport? Nope (as mentioned above). Want to work in a cafe? Nope, people still get sick there. What about a supermarket? Nope people get sick there too. I love working with children but it also completely terrifies me.

My fear doesn't just involve seeing it. Someone sniffing, coughing, groaning, anything that could indicate they are not 100% and I will freak out. Going on nights out is another nightmare. Any mention of sick at all is enough to spin me into a panic.

It effects everything. One example is not long ago I went to a time to change training event, which meant staying in a hotel in London and then attending training the following day, nothing scary about that right? No obvious sick producing activities. Seems safe. Late in the evening we returned to the hotel, I'd had a bad day but that's a whole different story, and when we went to get in the lift someone had been sick in it. Queue panic. I shut down. No words. No eye contact. Thankfully there was two lifts (can't use stairs, wheelchair problems). We got in the other one. I got back to room asap. Locked myself in the toilet with the lights off (so I couldn't see anything bad). My brain spirals, it triggers other aspects of my mental health, including my psychosis. I'm confronted by a voice telling me 2 things, "this will keep happening and things will keep getting worse unless you severely self harm and set yourself on fire to cleanse the bad". Thankfully I wasn't alone in the hotel, I had amazing support from those who I told what was happening and I didn't hurt myself at all, but i did only get 2 hours sleep that night, from anxiety. Woke up the next morning (2 hours later) and felt slightly better, got someone to do the "sick check" to ensure I would not come into contact with any. Safe. Panic attacks ensuing still I get in the lift (although not the one the sick was in, thats too hard even though it's now clean). Get out of the hotel and go to training, phew thank goodness that's over hey! NOPE! Amongst other occurrences through out the day of my body throwing a wobbly (dislocations, fainting ect), someone was sick, I didn't see it, but I don't have to see it, heck they don't even need to be sick for me to freak out. I shut down. It's not the first time, in fact it's happened a lot, I can't speak, can't look at people, can't reply to people, can't move, sometimes I can't even open my eyes in case something bad happens. Then the voices pipe up again. "If you'd self harmed and set yourself on fire yesterday this wouldn't have happened. This is your fault. And its going to keep getting worse until you do it." Communication had to be done through questions and blinking, it was all I could manage.

I hope this goes some way to explaining what it's like to have a phobia. Please, if your unwell don't let me come to yours without pre warning me. If you are sick or feeling sick around me, please know I do not blame you for my illness and difficulty, it's not something you have control of or have chosen to do. Please know that I do care, and I want you to be ok, but staying to make sure you are puts me at extreme risk from my mind and its reactions (I will do everything I can to get someone else to help you though). Please don't tell me that everyone hates sick, because this is a whole different level.

Feel free to ask me any questions. I hope I've explained this well enough for people to understand. Thank you to those that have supported me through the many many times that it's all gone wrong, I really appreciate it.

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