Emetophobia is the proper name for what I have.
It is the unreasonable, irrational, and intense fear of vomiting. This fear includes watching someone else vomit, or feeling afraid someone might vomit. It doesn't get the attention other phobias do. The fear of heights or fear of dogs are fairly common phobias. Those of us with emetophobia, we are a smaller group.
My mother had it. My grandmother had it.
I would rather die than throw-up. Apparently this was my grandmother's motto. My mother, having vomited once as a child, decided it was so horrific, she'd never do it again. And she didn't. But she passed the fear onto me.
I am in elementary school. The phobia is already intense. I am horrified when I see the custodian coming down the hall with his dustpan and broom and sawdust. My body starts to shake. I am afraid the vomit is in one of the classrooms I need to enter. I am the attendance collector, and it is my job to go into every single classroom to retrieve the folder and bring it to the office. I am in trouble later that day for skipping some of the rooms in the fourth grade corridor. I am too afraid to enter a room where someone has vomited.
A few years later, I learned what a stomach bug was. I learned that a small person could vomit all night. I learned that a mother with the same phobia was not going to get out of bed to help clean up the mess, or soothe her daughter's panic attack.
My brother walks in at one in the morning. He has been out with friends. He sees me huddled on the couch, rips down my hand-written sign from the bathroom door, and tells me to clean it up now.
I am sick and weak from vomiting all night. The few places I missed cleaning, I thought I could clean up in the morning. So I put up a sign saying just that: Sorry, will clean up in the morning.
When I was eighteen, I found a clinic at the local hospital that dealt with phobias. I was wise enough to know that my fear held me back from doing things. I was afraid to fly, but I was more afraid of being next to someone vomiting into one of those little white bags. There were a million places people might vomit, and I was afraid to go to any of them. My mother had instilled in me a fear of eating anything that might make me vomit. She ate nothing that she didn't cook herself. I started thinking all food was spoiled.
I arrived at my appointment at the phobia clinic. Since it was a teaching hospital, many people were in the room with me. The doctor began by telling me how this was going to work.
We give you some Ipecac. You will vomit. We will clap for you.
I'm assuming treatment for phobias has advanced greatly since then. I had never heard anything so absurd in my life.
They were going to induce vomiting and then applaud?
I left the clinic thinking they were crazier than I was.
Over the years, my phobia has gotten better. I knew that I was not going to close my bedroom door if and when my own daughter had a stomach bug. And as fate would have it, I got a real puker. I had to deal with it.
The best part was seeing that she hadn't inherited the fear. As a child, stomach bugs didn't really phase her. Later, as a college freshman, a one time vomiting bout with Everclear and Kool-aid was likely a godsend.
Part of the reason I never drank alcohol was the fear of vomiting. The fear kept me away from illegal drugs, too. No coke for me, thanks. Friends vomiting after the first line kept me from wanting to try it.
But it kept me away from life. From eating interesting food, and traveling to interesting places. The plane, the boat, the spoiled food, the exotic places. All potential vomit producers.
Emetophobia made my life small as all phobias do.
I still have traces of it.
But it's not like it was. And I want to travel, and eat strange food and unlike my mother, and her mother, not be afraid.
Because I learned on my own what the group of experts at the vomiting clinic couldn't teach me.
I was afraid of vomiting.
But I was also afraid of life.
Today I raise my glass of non-alcoholic beverage and say: