I’m not really a phobic person.
Heights? I’m fine. Spiders? I’ll pick them up and carry them outside to preserve their fragile little lives because I have a tender heart for all living creatures (minus mosquitos and ticks because anything willing to steal my bodily fluids in front of my face deserves to die in retaliation. But if they left me alone, they too would be cared for and coddled by my
girly gentle soul.)
There is one thing that I really have a true, real phobia of however. And that thing is vomit. Most especially me vomiting.
I can’t really explain it in a way that makes sense to you unless I describe the lengths to which I will go to avoid this thing.
1. I am the least anxiety-ridden person on earth. I’m as laid back as Garfield. I am chill like an ice-tray. In a nuclear invasion, you might find me curled up in a corner playing online Scrabble. Yet many who know me would swear I have OCD because of the number of times a day I wash or sanitize my hands. Do I care about germs? Not particularly. Is the issue cleanliness? No. It is all directly a defense against any type of infection that might cause me to do the thing that I don’t even want to write again because it terrifies me that much and I’m a little worried that this much talk about it will jinx me into doing it. (Not joking.)
2. If my food even approaches an expiration date: DONE. If it looks like there might be something on it resembling mold. DONE. If I think a bug has touched it, or concentrate on the fact that most people ingest 7 spiders a year, or most plants including fruits and veggies have had bugs walk on them, or I’m probably eating something really repulsive in this hot dog like ground chicken testicles which if I think too hard about might get me nauseous… DONE. If I hear the word “vomit”. DONE. If someone says the letter V in my presence. DONE. If I merely start.. DONE. If…DONE. DONEDONEDONEDONEDONESTOPIT!
Evidently, a rotten tomato = the nastiest thing in the world.
(There is a distinct possibility that I will develop an entire food-repulsion diet franchise based solely on this photo. And that it will make me very wealthy.)
3. Don’t even get me started on actually seeing or hearing vomit. Well, yes, actually. Do get me started.
Remember how in my last post I mentioned that somebody had a grand mal seizure? And that that someone (who was totally healthy in class on Saturday and worked really hard, incidentally) had vomited everywhere because of it?
Well, you can guess how this went.
Guy falls on the floor, and I’m like “okay, he’s having a seizure.” Guy convulses dramatically. I’m cool as a spring morning. “Don’t put your hand near his mouth,” I say, trying to protect fingers from being bitten off. “Don’t restrain him.” I’m there, by his side, helping him not hit walls. I am not phased. In fact, I start to think I’m a bit of a hero. And then? The guy makes a noise that sounds like it might lead to vomit. I’m out of there in no time flat. Gone. Left the room. No consideration of what was happening, no checking with the other people there to see if they “got this.” I just disappear.
THEN he actually starts heaving. Needless to say, I’m toast. (DON’T TALK ABOUT TOAST AND VOMIT IN THE SAME SENTENCE BECAUSE IT MAKES ME WANT TO YOU KNOW WHAT.) I go back into the classroom and someone else is like “Are you okay? You look like you’re going into shock…”
Yes. I’m going into shock. Not because a guy is convulsing violently on the floor during a class I’m leading. Not because someone’s health is on the line and the paramedics are coming because the seizure has lasted longer than his girlfriend has ever seen one of his seizure’s last. It’s because he was throwing up and I could hear it. That’s why I look like I’ve seen a ghost to the point that people are asking if I’m okay.
So, yeah, I’m a regular hero. I will save the freaking day until you vomit near me, at which point I curl into the fetal position and start rocking back and forth and sucking my thumb and humming lullabies to myself to self-soothe.
I think it’s obvious that vomit is my kryptonite. Hear that robbers and gangsters? You now know the secret to my demise. Samson had his hair, Achilles had his heel, and I have partially digested food mixed with stomach acid that’s expelled through the mouth (and sometimes nose (squiiiiiiiiiiick!!!)).
This wouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is for me if I didn’t have kids.
Some kids are like vomit factories. My cousins used to throw up as a matter of course–it was almost like it was part of their bedtime routine. Brush teeth, say prayers, go puke everywhere, go to bed.
(Aside that is nearly irrelevant but I’m sharing anyway because I’m thinking about it: I will never forget the day one of my seventh graders threw up in class when I was a teacher and I was so taken off guard that I made him clean it up. Um, Mr. Weed, did you not know that there are these people schools hire that are paid to clean up such things? They’re called janitors.)
My girls, thank heavens for huge favors, aren’t big vomiters. However, anytime the words “my tummy hurts” are mentioned (which, tragically, because kids have difficulty localizing pain and discomfort at a young age happens A LOT) I go into a full-fledged, 100%, complete psychological melt-down. I am terror stricken. I can’t sleep. All I can think over and over is “Please don’t let her throw up, please don’t let her throw up, please don’t let her throw up…” which sounds all altruistic and noble and fatherly, and indeed, part of it is that I cannot comprehend the horror of a 4-year-old having to suffer through something so vile and it makes me very sad, but underlying it all is a very selfish thing: if they get sick and throw up, there is a high probability that I will get sick as well and that is UNACCEPTABLE! So then I start chanting it faster: “Please don’t let her throw up, please don’t let her throw up…” Ad nauseam. (What a disgusting Latin phrase.)
The last time this happened I got fed up. I was like, “this is STUPID.” So I went downstairs, got online, and looked it up. I wanted to know more about it.
Turns out, it’s an actual disorder called emetophobia. And apparently it’s one of the most common phobias out there. There are people who literally starve themselves because of this. (I am obviously not one of these people.)
By this point, it was way into the middle of the night. I was going to be very tired the next day if I wasn’t sick myself, and I was not happy about it, but I was thankful to know that I wasn’t alone in my terror.
And what happened?
Nothing at all. She wasn’t even sick.
But, BUT, and this is the kind of thing that drives phobias, there was one time when my oldest said she felt sick, and I kept poo pooing it, and she said it for several hours, and then she threw up lots of times and I had to stay up with her all night and lay with her in the bathroom while she moaned and it was really sad and it seriously felt like one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I got all existential and weird and jaded and was like “WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO WE LIVE IN WHERE LITTLE CHILDREN HAVE TO VOMIT? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? IS THIS EVEN WORTH IT?” and I wasn’t even kidding, and it was really horrible and very melodramatic.
So, clearly, I have to be on guard for that.
Also I went for 18 years without throwing up and then that record was broken two years ago but it wasn’t a bad one and I almost think it shouldn’t count.
Also, this post is really rambling but it’s kind of how my brain works when the “V” word is mentioned. I might edit the crap out of it (go Ritalin!) tomorrow. Might not. We’ll see. (Update: I won’t.)
Also, do you realize how often people talk about vomit on Facebook and Twitter (and blogs? Touche!)? It is utterly ridiculous and I view it as an act of status terrorism.
Also one of the most terrifying stories I’ve ever heard was of this type of flu that made my friend Lindsey Lawson throw up every 20 minutes or so for 48 HOURS STRAIGHT. That is some serious stamina. I think she deserves a medal. And if I ever get that I will seriously consider euthanasia.
In conclusion: I am a neurotic freak and why do people even like me?
Wait. Don’t answer that.
There is a bona fide emetephobia counselor who saw this post and commented here. First, that is hilarious. Second, this is a real disorder, and while I was being somewhat hyperbolic for comedic effect, there are those for whom this disorder is a very debilitating thing. I understand how that could be the case–I certainly feel some of the symptoms (obviously). Anyway, if you are someone who genuinely has emetophobia, check out emetophobiahelp.org to find out more information and get help.