12 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Emetophobia

The chances are, unless you have it or someone close to you does, you won’t know that emetophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of vomit. Let’s be clear, it’s not just an ‘aversion’ to throwing up, its far worse than that. A phobia has the ability to take over your life, to tinge nearly every thought you have with fear and anxiety. Sufferers often feel a lot of embarrassment about their illness and go to great lengths to conceal it. Over the years I’ve learned that actually, the more people who know about my problem, the safer, happier and calmer I am. The more I openly acknowledge and express that side of me, the more I am able to reconcile it with the funny, smart, outgoing and warm person that I am, instead of feeling like I’m just a ‘neurotic nutjob’ with a humiliating secret. I am a person with a mental illness, and there’s no shame in that.

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Anyway, I thought I would share a list of thoughts, experiences and behaviours that are typical for emetophobic people. Every emetophobic person is different, so please don’t assume that this is all true for all of us. I have experience with some, but not all of these examples, and have chosen not to specify which ones I have direct experience with, and which ones I have learned about through other sufferers. If you’re looking to understand this illness better, for a friend, partner or family member, I hope this list will help you. However, please be aware that I am a sufferer, not a professional, and this is a personal account. For information from a qualified professional, click here.

Content note to my emetophobic pals: For the sake of clear communication, I have used nearly every trigger word there is in this post, and obviously I am discussing our phobia in depth, which could also be triggering. There are images in this post, but none of them relate to illness. 

12 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Emetophobia

1. We probably had a traumatic event involving vomit at some point in our lives. This will be the trigger for the phobia, and it can influence exactly what it is about vomit that we fear.

2. Some people are made phenomenally anxious by hearing words and phrases like ‘vomit’, ‘puke’, ‘food poisoning’, ‘nausea’. This creates an added stress that makes social interactions even more anxiety inducing.

3. Different emetophobics fear different things. Some fear themselves throwing up, some fear other people throwing up. Some people are fine with other people being sick as long as they know they can’t catch it. Some people have an extraordinary amount of anxiety about vomit but when they’re exposed to it, they cope perfectly well (and many others do not react this way at all).

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4. We often restrict and closely control what, when and how we eat. This can range from starving ourselves when we fear being sick, to obsessively eating healthy foods to avoid it, and never eating out or at other people’s houses. Eating disorders or disordered eating are common misdiagnoses of emetophobia as the behaviours are so similar. Whether or not it’s helpful to be diagnosed with both has not been established.

5. We are also rarely heavy drinkers, and many emetophobic people are completely teetotal as well. Pressuring an emetophobic person to drink or do drugs can result in them experiencing a massive amount of anxiety too – yet another example of the evils of peer pressure.

6. During winter in particular, we can show symptoms similar to agoraphobia (the fear of leaving one’s safe space) because we are worried about catching bugs. The reason it’s worse in winter? Norovirus. For many emetophobes, the winter months are plagued by the relentless stories of vomiting outbreaks in schools, hospitals and local communities. It can be utterly unbearable.

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7. Rashes, dryness and even nerve damage are par for the course if you’re the skin on an emetophobic’s hands. Most emetophobes engage in excessive hand washing, overuse of hand gels, using too-hot water to wash with and even going so far as to pour surface cleaners over our skin in a bid to eliminate germs. This, combined with washing utensils, surfaces, door handles, phones, everything, is why emetophobics are also often misdiagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

7. Our anxiety can get pretty amazingly bad, and it goes from 0-60 in no time at all. Often, all you need to say is ‘I don’t feel good’ or ‘I think that milk I used in your tea was sour’ and we’re off. It’s a horrible feeling that frequently comes out of absolutely nowhere, and it’s really, really hard to come back from. Self-soothing techniques are incredibly hard to learn, especially since it’s a poorly understood illness, so it’ll often go on for a day or more, particularly if we aren’t lucky enough to have someone in our lives who knows what not to say, or how to comfort us.

8. Because of this and the lack of medical knowledge (and therefore poor access to help) about emetophobia, many people end up developing unhelpful coping techniques. I’ve already mentioned a lot of them above (food restrictions, hand washing etc) but other ones include drinking grape juice or taking activated charcoal when they feel they’ve been exposed to a sickness bug, or drinking alcoholic or extremely hot drinks to try and kill germs in our stomachs.

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9. We are also aware of the absurdity of many of the things we do – believe me, it never needs to be pointed out, unless you’re extremely close to the emetophobic person, you have a good understanding of mental health in general and you know what their triggers are.

10. Close encounters with vomit can actually leave emetophobics severely traumatised, so it’s important never to assume that we’ll be ‘cured’ if we throw up, or watch someone else throw up. Life happens of course, and most of us do accept that it’ll feature in our lives at some point. We just prefer not to talk, or think about it.

11. Some emetophobics are unable to live the life they want, be it not travelling, not having kids (for women especially due to the amount of vomit that tends to be involved in a typical pregnancy) or not having the social life they may have enjoyed otherwise.

12. This all being said, many of us do manage to develop amazing control over our panic attacks, tortuous anxiety and obsessive behaviours. Personally, I know that I am still very unwell, but I’ve overcome a lot of the things on this list through years of constant hard work. I know I have definitely not suffered as much as many other people with the disorder, but I have been through periods where I was really, really struggling to cope.

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I hope this list has been informative for you, and that you are able to understand how someone can live with this and still be a worthwhile, valued member of society, who is worthy of your patience, kindness and love.

If you want to learn more about emetophobia from a professional, click here, and if you need urgent help, click here to visit mind.org.uk.

 

 

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A Feminist Engagement

A quick note: In this blog post I will talk about how my partner and I got engaged. This is in no way intended to criticise any one else’s proposal – ESPECIALLY LGBTQ+ couples who have had to fight for their right to just to have access to the traditional, patriarchal symbolism of marriage and engagement. The story is in essence heteronormative because we are a middle class cis man and woman, but the actual message is intended to be highly inclusive. I am not going to compromise when sharing my opinions on engagement traditions, because if I can’t share them here, where can I? But I don’t mean for you to feel hurt or judged if these formed part of your (or your dream) proposal. I believe that we have a responsibility as feminists to challenge the way things are done. It’s not a personal attack on you or your relationship, I know that there are many factors to take into account when considering how to get engaged and married, and I respect your right to choose your own path. Just as I don’t know your backstory, you do not know ours. 

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A year and a half ago, walking down Tottenham Court Road at the weekend, my partner James and I were talking about the future. We’d spoken about it many, many times before, about love, marriage, relationships, children. But this time, the conversation bent a little and we drew ourselves into a discussion about when. We stopped outside Boots, with half of London pushing past us unnoticed, and hesitantly, emotionally landed on 2017 as the year we wanted to get married. A consensual agreement, whatever form it takes, is essential to any feminist engagement. Springing a marriage proposal on someone out of nowhere has been widely misrepresented as romantic because of the misogynistic, heteronormative assumption that women are always ready to get married. These surprise proposals can range anywhere from a bit misguided to emotionally manipulative, and there’s just no need for it.

Over the next few months we frequently discussed the idea of a ‘proposal’, and whether or not we wanted it to be a part of our love story. James asked me about rings, saying he didn’t want to get me a diamond because not only are they horrifically unethical, their value came purely from a marketing campaign by De Beers in the early 20th Century (and also, as a geologist he has serious opinions about rocks). But I was adamant that I didn’t want a ring, and his response was relief. We both think that ethically sourced wedding rings are a beautiful way to symbolise your dedication to your partner. But engagement rings are yet another example of imbalanced, gendered expectations between women and men. ‘Marking’ a woman as yours when you have no such mark yourself. ‘Buying’ her. I’m not saying I think they’re inherently bad, especially since it’s becoming more mainstream for non-heteronormative couples to have them too, but for us it just seemed like pointless consumerism. There was absolutely no way that one of us was wearing an engagement ring while the other wasn’t, but we also didn’t see the appeal in both of us wearing one.

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However, the idea of proposing just seemed so lovely. A declaration of love, a statement of intent and a memory that we could share. Plus, neither of us had cried over the sheer weight of our feelings for each other since we first said ‘I love you’, and it’s nice to do that occasionally. We were immediately in mutual agreement that I would be the one to do it. Much of this was from a desire to challenge the status quo of course – engagements have a very sexist history, there’s no denying it. But also, I am bisexual, so until I met James I never knew who I’d end up with. I never really imagined being proposed to, but often thought about myself doing it, because that’s just who I am – it’s the kind of gesture I live for.

If you’re wondering how James, ‘as a man’ felt about the subject – he simply didn’t. As a feminist the idea of anything being a ‘threat to his masculinity’ is laughable to him. I’m not sure what else to say on the subject, other than by him being strong enough to free himself from oppressive, fragile ideas about how to ‘be a man’, he was able to experience the joy and excitement that comes with the person he loves making a grandly romantic gesture of love towards him.

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So with that decided, the task fell to me to decide how and when I was going to do it.  I had a vague idea in mind but it didn’t fully form until we decided to go on holiday to Paris. James’ birthday fell in the week we planned to go away and I thought to myself that it would be the perfect opportunity to ask him. But Paris didn’t seem like a particularly personal choice, so I suggested we spend a few days there and then travel south to explore the Calanques National Park on his birthday (a beautiful national pack on the coast near Marseille that consists of incredible rocky cliffs leading into little beaches, the perfect holiday spot for a geologist). He enthusiastically agreed to this, because one of our favourite things to do as a couple is hike. I think it must have been pretty obvious what I was planning at this point, and he tells me he was pretty sure after I suggested a ‘birthday hike through a beautiful outcrop of rocky cliffs’, haha.

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Location decided, my plan for how to actually go about it came to me almost immediately. We briefly discussed the idea of gifts like watches and bracelets instead of a ring, but we were both totally disinterested and a bit uncomfortable with the whole ‘here is a gift, will you marry me’ thing. We definitely felt like there was something missing from the whole thing, and I realised that it was the idea that our love should benefit only us. I decided to spend the money I would have spent on a ring on charity donations. I worked out that if I were to save up to buy a ring in my current financial situation, I could afford to spend £500 on it (another thing that we really need to stop doing? Selling the idea that a proposal has to be extravagant. Not everyone has disposable income and people shouldn’t feel the need to empty their bank account for love) so I set that as my donation budget, and that’s when the full idea came to me:

I chose five charities that reminded me of something I love about James. They were things that are external to our relationship, aspects of his personality that I deeply admire but have nothing to do with me. I donated £100 to each charity, and asked them if they would be able to send me a ‘thank you’ letter (all but one said they do this anyway so I wasn’t putting them out, the other emailed it to me so I printed it and put it in an envelope). On the back of each of the envelopes, I wrote the reason why I’d donated to that particular charity.

5 reasons2.jpgThe charities chose were WaterAid, Women’s Aid, Woman Kind, Amnesty International and Mind.

After spending a magical few days in Paris, we travelled down on the TGV to Marseilles, and the next day was his birthday. I packed us a picnic in our backpack, hid the five letters in different places in there and put a note on the top saying ‘five reasons’. I wouldn’t let him go in the backpack until we had hiked to our picnic spot – one of the hundreds of secluded beaches dotted along the Calanques coastline.

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After we had settled on the beautiful stony beach, I told James he could finally look in the backpack. He drew each letter out and read the notes on the backs (I told him not to open them until he found them all) and was completely confused, but touched by whatever I was doing. After he had found them all and had opened a couple, I took his hands and said that these charities all worked on areas that are related to things I admire about who he is as a person, and then started telling him all of the things I love about the way he is with me. The way I love how safe he makes me feel, how patient he is with me, how he makes me laugh so much and how he is so open, so kind, so affectionate. Obviously we were both crying at this point, and through my tears I managed to say ‘I want to marry you’, to which he responded ‘Of course’ and kissed me. Then we both realised I hadn’t actually said what I meant to say, so I pulled away and said ‘Will you marry me’ to which he again responded ‘Of course’, and we kissed. So yeah, I messed that part up lmao.

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We cried a bit more as he read all the letters. We had our lunch (brie and tomatoes on still-warm bread from the patisserie next to our AirBnB), and splashed in the freezing water for a bit. It was absolutely perfect, and I was so happy and proud that I was able to make my partner feel so loved and wanted.

Everything about our proposal was intensely unique to both of us, but at the same time it also helped other people. Me being the one to do it ended up being the least important part. Our proposal’s unique, personal nature, combined with a concerted effort to help make other people’s lives better is what made it feminist. And we will always be proud of that. I hope that weddings and engagements don’t go away, because they are a wonderful way to express dedication and love. But they are steeped in years of oppression, negativity, consumerism and selfishness. I’m absolutely not saying people should do what we did and I’m definitely not saying that I created the perfect proposal. Rather, I just want to share this and use it to communicate the idea that we all need to work hard emotionally, creatively and intelligently to make these gestures as beautiful and inclusive as they have the potential to be.

Tips for a happier period

Like anyone with a uterus, I’ve had my fair share of period disasters, stresses and excruciating pain. From clenching my thighs on the Victoria Line because I’ve been caught out, to panicking wildly about an early (or worse: late) period, it’s easy to have a pretty negative feelings about that time of the month. And that’s without even broaching the subject of dysphoria – I cannot imagine how hard it must be to experience gender dysphoria and still get your period. You guys are badasses. I don’t know if any of these tips will be helpful for trans/agender people but they have been written with the intention of being inclusive! Of course these tips also aren’t intended for people who have health problems – endo, pcos etc. I’m not a stranger to these illnesses but I would never presume to be able to help another person with them, I’m not a healthcare professional.

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How to go anti-perspirant free!

I stopped using anti-perspirant about three years ago now, and I will NEVER go back. I made the choice because I didn’t like the idea that I was blocking a natural process. I can see that it might seem like the kind of thing only inconsiderate ‘hippies’ might go in for. Well, I am a bit of a hippy, but that doesn’t mean I’m inconsiderate, because the thing is, going perspirant free does not increase the number of times I get body odour! Read on to find out how I keep myself smelling nice without stopping my body doing what it needs to do.

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How to keep body odour at bay without anti-perspirant

  1. Use a good deodorant. Of course, going anti-perspirant free doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a good, natural deo. I’ve tried them all, and for my everyday, morning application I love PitRok and Salt of the Earth. I use PitRok if I’m not showering, but if I do shower I use Salt of the Earth which needs to be used on wet skin (or wetted before use). These both do an amazing job and I often find they last all day. 
  2. Keep underarm hair sweet. If you’ve decided to dump the razor as well as the anti-persp, I have one great tip for how to help yourself feel more confident with your newfound armpit hair, and that’s to look after it. Apply a scented oil or balm like Lush’s Elbow Grease and your armpit hair will be smelling like a fresh bouquet all day. You can’t beat it.
  3. Re-deodorise at your desk. Whatever your job, you will find that occasionally you have some odour to cover up. This can easily be sorted out with Weleda Sage Deodorant, which eliminates odour in seconds, and lasts for ages. If your job is less sedentary than mine, you may have to do it more often, but to be honest I walk (briskly) two hours a day and my boyfriend cycles to work and works on his feet and neither of us have ever had a problem that Sage Deo couldn’t fix.
  4. Nighttime protection. This is an important one for the summer. If you start to smell at night because you’re entwined in sweaty sheets (or a sweaty significant other) it’s very likely that some BO will set in overnight and be really difficult to shift come morning. You can prevent this with a sprinkling of dusting powder before bed – Lush’s Silky Underwear is my all time fave though they have others, some of which I think are actually designed to combat odour!

So, there are my tips! As I mentioned, I don’t have a hugely active lifestyle (I don’t work on a building site) but I do exercise and I do walk a lot to and from work, and this routine works perfectly for me.

Are you thinking of going anti-perspirant free? Or have you already done it and have your own fave products? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Thinx: Period Underwear

ARFIpadsTwo months ago, I discovered my holy grail. Not skincare, not hair care, not make-up. My holy grail? Five pairs of period underwear that make me feel sexy, comfortable and confident. These pant(ie)s have changed the way I feel about my period, and I honestly believe they are the best investment I could ever have made for myself.

Also…I would never in a million years have expected to be posting a picture of me in my underwear on this blog, but that just goes to show how amazing Thinx underwear make me feel. Read on to find out why!

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I’ve always been very forward about periods – I don’t find them disgusting and have never felt embarrassed by them. When I started my dad was the first person I told, and he reacted with pride. I cannot express how important that was, his joyously positive response to something that women are shamed for and silenced about. It taught me not to accept men’s immaturity in the face of a bleeding vagina, and to question phrases like ‘oh my god don’t make period jokes that’s disgusting’. I think this is one of the reasons I’m so annoyed by the lack of options when it comes to sanitary products, and allow myself to loathe both pads and tampons.

For a long time, I used a Mooncup, which I loved. However I’ve had an IUD for a year and was told by both my doctors and the Mooncup team that using a cup in conjunction with an IUD is a bit squiffy – so the cup went back into its box, and I went back to using pads. I never use tampons because my flow isn’t heavy enough and it’s like lighting a match EVERY SINGLE TIME I take one out… but after a while I got sick of pads, especially since discovering that the only brand I actually liked now puts perfume in all their products (really, Always?) So I started looking for an alternative.

And that’s when I discovered Thinx. Made of four ingenious layers of absorbent, antimicrobial, leak-resistant and moisture-wicking fabrics as well as an incredible design that just fits PERFECTLY, Thinx underwear come in six styles that can hold up to TWO tampons worth of blood! The level of absorbency varies depending on the style. As you can imagine, the hiphugger holds a lot more than the thong, so you can choose your pants based on your own flow. I bought five pairs of hiphuggers because I decided to use them without anything else, and I thought the style looked really comfy. Thinx recommend that you use them with tampons or a cup, but also stress that you know your own flow, and if you think it’s light enough to go it alone, that’s up to you.

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I went with the large size, which is bigger than I would usually buy in the UK (I’m a 12, sometimes even a 10) but about right for American undies – genuinely I think they make them differently as I’ve bought medium size underwear in Peru, New York and Toronto and they’ve ALL been to small! Anyway, large fits PERFECTLY. Despite being thicker than normal underwear, it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in a knicker-sized sanitary pad. It does feel different, but not uncomfortable, or even noticeable after a few minutes.

It’s amazing to just be able to get up in the morning and simply pull on some underwear, without having to worry about packing enough pads for the day. To be able to wear my skinniest jeans, and to be wearing underwear that I actually like! Washing them is so easy too. You rinse the top layer of blood off at the end of the day in cold water, and then pop them in a cold delicates wash with natural detergent (I use Ecover’s Delicate Laundry Detergent) along with all your other underwear and delicates.

Thinx are more than just an amazing underwear company though. Their factory in Sri Lanka is a family run company that is committed to training and educating their female employees so that that they can become empowered leaders in the community. Thinx ALSO contribute some of their profits to ARFIpads, an organisation that trains women in developing countries to sew reusable sanitary pads. They sell these pads to girls in their communities who are then able to attend school whilst menstruating, something that they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

In total my pants took me to about £100, which I was completely happy with to be honest. Yeah they’re not cheap, but the technology, ethics, the comfort, confidence and convenience make them more than worth the investment. Take a look at their amazing range here.

Stress, eczema and Eau Thermale Avène

I’m not going to go into much detail about why I abandoned this blog (a blog that I was really quite proud of to be honest) for six months. What I will say however, is that about two months ago I woke up to an itchy rash all over my torso. Having never seen anything like it before, I was horrified. Apart from dry hands I haven’t had any issues with the skin on my body at all. I ran off to my doctor immediately, and was diagnosed with eczema. When I told the doctor that this was the first time I’d had it, he seemed confused. Was I under any particular stress, he asked.

After I described to him exactly what kind of stress I was under, he sent me off with a steroid cream prescription, an IAPT appointment and instructions to come back if it got any worse. Suffice to say, I am coming out of this experience MUCH stronger, and FAR wiser.

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As I walked from the GP’s to get the prescription, my skin was on fire. I sent my boyfriend a text screaming for help, and he suggested a bath. What on earth was I supposed to put in a bath when I had this all over me? Everything I use is natural and gentle, but full of essential oils. Lucky for me, my lovely local pharmacist knew exactly what I needed. Eau Thermale Avène Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil.

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I put about five pumps of this into a mildly warm bath, and my skin was so, so soothed. The irritation went right down, and I actually didn’t need to use very much steroid cream at all. I used the Cleansing Oil for about two weeks in the shower after that, by squeezing it onto a sponge and using it like soap. It foams up really nicely, and leaves the skin feeling clean and soft.

If you’re struggling with your skin I can’t recommend it highly enough. The soothing nature is incredible, I found that my skin felt calmer as soon as I rubbed it on. I’m so happy I had it.

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Since my skin healed quite quickly, I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of the bottle (you get a LOT for your money). Then one night I ran out of the makeup wipes I’d been using. I thought this stuff, being so gentle, must be ok for use on the face, and boy was I right! My waterproof mascara melted away after I lathered up twice. So if you decide to try the Cleansing Oil for a pesky skin condition, (which it then ends up curing) I highly recommend using the rest as a makeup remover.

I was having a rough time, and I would like to take a end by saying that IAPT stands for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, and is the NHS’s attempt to make sure people can get help when they first need it. If you’re struggling with something in your life, and haven’t gone to a doctor about it, you CAN now. This initiative is designed to prevent irreparable damage being done to your mental health, and no matter how mild you think your problem is, they have something in place for you.

Bringing the beauty – a Travel Post!

I’m super excited. Tomorrow I’ll be going to New York for the first time! And then up to Canada, to stay with a friend. I can’t wait, and I thought that before I go I’d share how I roll when it comes to travelling.

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These are my essentials for hand luggage. A good book. Palmer’s lipbalm. Weleda Skin Food (for my face). Weleda Rhinodoron spray for my nose (the dry air doesn’t like my sinuses). A mini Jurlique Rose Hand Cream (luxurious and nourishing, because I’ll be using a tonne of antibac hand wipes too). Pacifica Coconut Milk Wipes (for freshening up). Urbanears Headphones (the best, and prettiest). Gin Gin ginger sweets (for ear popping purposes). Benefit’s They’re Real! (because my eyelashes are more or less see through so I need mascara at all times). Buddha Nose Girl Balm (the smell is calming and refreshing at the same time).

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I’m so glad I invested in a few new mini bottles to decant all this in. Because it went from all that…

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To just these! So satisfying. I’m going to need to wash my hair while I’m away which is annoying, because I need to use so much shampoo and conditioner I have no choice but to bring whole bottles. But being able to shink the rest of the products down to just this has helped SO MUCH. Most of these bottles came from Muji, with the exception of the Travalo perfume bottle, and the oil bottle, which actually came from a Weleda Body Oil set.

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I’ve kept it super simple with make up. To be fair, my make up routine is very simple all the time anyway, as I rarely experiment. I just decanted a couple of broken eyeshadows into my tiniest travel pots to save a little space.

So that’s it! I’m really pleased with how much space I’ve saved with those Muji bottles. Happy travels, touch wood! And if you’re going away yourself this summer, I hope you have a great time 🙂