In my last post I vented my frustration at the process that lies before me. I was already coming around in my view of the situation, but I still needed an outlet for my disappointment. Now it is time to get to work. My plan is to make sense of this by writing out the problem on paper, and I will post the results of that writing here. Be patient as these posts may ramble a bit.There is no obvious path ahead of me and the problem is a large and complex web of interrelated fears. There is only one way to deal with large complicated problems, and that is too break them down into smaller manageable pieces. The actual problem needs a clear and specific definition. The first question that needs to be answered is simply what it the problem? The problem is clearly emetophobia, but that is not specific enough for this purpose. Emetophobia references fear of vomit and/or vomiting that my actually mean a variety of different things depending upon the individual. So what specifically am I afraid off?
I have been wrestling with this question, what is the specific problem, since Sunday and I think I have an answer. Actually there are four answers:
1) I am afraid of the physical act of being sick.
2) I am afraid of becoming sick in a public space
3) I am afraid of being in contact with a person who is vomiting
4) I cannot properly interpret my bodies physical cues.
These four items constitute my working definition of the actual problem. These are the specific things that disrupt my life on a daily basis.In order to fashion some system by which each of these problems can be addressed they each need to dive into each a little deeper.
The first and largest fear is of the actual act of vomiting. I believe this to be the root of the entire problem. The best I can tell is that it stems from two childhood experiences that involved painful and scary experiences surrounding the act of being sick. I have only actually thrown up twice as an adult, and interestingly enough I actually recall thinking “that wasn’t so bad” after each incident, but those experiences have not been enough to quiet the fear. I believe that this is not only the biggest, but it will also be the hardest to conquer.
Fear of becoming sick in a public space. I am reasonable certain this stems from a specific incident in my youth when I became ill in a fast food restaurant. I was already terrified of actually vomiting by this time, and I was forced to do it alone in a dirty and public space, the men’s room. Throughout my life I have forced myself to go out despite this fear, but that exposure has not really lessened the anxiety. I think the real question to ask here may be why do I find this scary? Is it embarrassment? I am not really sure what else it could be. When I am in public spaces I will often look for a receptacle should I become sick. I want to know where the bathrooms are, or at least is there a garbage can handy. I have even identified a random plastic bag as an item to use should I need too. If I am unable to locate something my anxiety is greatly increased, likewise if I prefer to sit on the outside of restaurant booths or the aisles at theaters to be sure I can get to these places without delay. Why am I so preoccupied with having a space to do it? Does it really matter if it goes in a trash can or right on your plate? Is there security in having a plan?
My inability to properly read my bodies cues is like adding a slow burning fuel to the fire. Every twang or gurgle in my stomach is read as a sign of impending illness. I have never burped because I cannot distinguish between the sensation of gas rising and the feeling of illness. This makes it pretty much impossible to diminish any regularly occurring discomfort which also prolongs the mental anguish of feeling sick. I will often confuse hunger pain with feeling like I want to be sick until my stomach will actually growl which seems to cue me in to the actual signal my body is sending. Simple hunger is probably the most common source of stomach discomfort I face. People get hungry everyday after all. My awareness of this problem feeds into my concern of being ill in public. I know I have difficulty telling the real thing from random discomfort so if I keep telling myself that I need to go out because I am not really going to be sick, eventually I will be wrong because eventually everybody gets sick.
The last piece, fear of being around those that are ill, is simply a fear of catching whatever bug is floating around which will lead to the first two fears. If I am certain that the vomiting is not related to illness but rather something nontransmittable such as motion sickness or alcohol consumption I am markedly less concerned. I still do not do well with the sounds associated with the act, but Who really does right? Thinking about this problem further it occurs to me that if I can effectively tackle the first three this one might take care of itself.
These are the problems clearly identified and explained. I will think on these a little more and deicde if I want to add anything, but they seem pretty complete. Now that I have the actual problem laid out it is time to figure out what to do about it. This was definitely the easy part.