Stomach Confusion

It has been a very long couple weeks since I last posted here. Regular readers know that I struggle with almost daily stomach pain. The source of this problem has been sought after by more than one doctor to no avail. When they can’t find the source they invariably fall back on the “its stress” diagnosis and tell me to get more exercise. In recent months I have discovered a direct relationship between my digestive misery and the quality and quantity of the food I put in my mouth. This discovery led a therapist I have recently begun talking with to question if I have some sort of actual food sensitivity to something like dairy or gluten. I am suspicious of this position. It just doesn’t reconcile in my head. I will have weeks or months where I continually feel nauseated and experience discomfort then I will have a shorter stretch of a few days or a week where I feel remarkably well. Nothing about what I eat has ever affected this except my recent discovery of what should have been the obvious impact of too much junk food. I have been under some pressure the last few weeks to try an elimination diet and see what happens. This past week I inadvertently did the opposite, and have had a better week for stomach pain than the two preceding. Continue reading

It Has A Name

Emetophobia – an intense, irrational fear or anxiety pertaining to vomiting. This specific phobia can also include subcategories of what causes the anxiety, including a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of watching the action of vomiting or fear of being nauseated.

In one of my very first posts on this blog I spent a lot of time describing my experience with anxiety. In that post I mentioned a deep seeded fear of vomiting that I attributed to two traumatic experiences I had as a child. I alluded to this fear entering my everyday decision making process, but I didn’t elaborate a great deal. Some of the impacts of this fear I have barely admitted to myself let alone put into print or said aloud. Here is a partial list of the things I have or haven’t done as a result of this fear:

  • When in High School I used to tell my girlfriend that I wanted to get take-out and go eat down by the river rather than eat inside a restaurant. I used the river as “romantic” alternative to eating in a dining room, when the truth was I was afraid of getting sick in the restaurant.
  • I avoid places with large crowds because bathrooms are either hard to get to or filthy dirty should one have to hang their head over a toilet. When I do go to a concert or show I want to sit on the aisles so I can make a quick and subtle exit if I have to.
  • The biggest reason I don’t drink alcohol is fearing of being made sick
  • When I enter a new building I am sure to identify the locations of the restrooms and any trash cans in case I need a quick place to puke.
  • I adhere strictly to expiration or use by dates on food.  l also will not eat leftovers or cold cuts that have been in my refrigerator for more than a few days.
  • I never burp. I can’t distinguish between the sensation of burping and nausea. It all feels the same to me. Of course the inability to expel the gas from my body adds to and prolongs my discomfort. I have memories as a kid of leaning over the toilet thinking I was going to be sick. I could feel it coming and when I opened my mouth nothing came out except the noise and gas.
  • Periodically I will awake from a deep sleep and leap to my feet convinced I am about to vomit and rush to the bathroom. I will often fall back asleep on the bathroom floor or if I return to bed I will put an empty trash can near my bed.
  • My wife is a school teacher and when she has sick students in her class I am in full on freak out mode at home. Likewise with my 3 year old son I am paranoid of being around him when he is sick. We have been lucky thus far that he has not had a real stomach virus, but I know the days is coming and I dread it.
  • Feelings of nausea will often leave me sweating and shaking. Sometimes my mouth with salivate heavily as if the act were about to happen though it never does.
  • It has without question directly affected my professional life. I really don’t want to get into details here as it is the most painful truth, but I have worked on airplanes and boats so it shouldn’t take much imagination to see the magnitude of that problem.

Much of this list has been spoken to therapists and various shrinks, but I have never presented the entire list together. In my last experience with talk therapy a couple years ago it was brought up in the more detail than ever before, but still this word, emetophobia, was never mentioned. For years, decades actually, I have been suffering with this, living with coping mechanisms in place and I didn’t even know it had a name. I always thought it was just a personal oddness. There was no way a significant number of other people had a similar problem. If I had a nickel for every time somebody looked at me trying to be helpful, but sounding condescending, and said “Nobody likes to get sick” I would be a wealthy man.

The discovery of this word, emetophobia, came as a result of some recent personal realizations about the level of anxiety in my life, and wondering at the source of my true problems. Am I depressed which causes anxiety or am I anxious which makes me feel depressed. It feels like the classic chicken or egg scenario, but having spent some time with little to no medication in my system, and being benzo free for seven full months I am beginning to wonder if there may actually be an answer. Maybe the docs have just never asked to right questions. I want to write more about this, but it feels like a different post. For now I am just going to consider what it means to have a name for nearly thirty years of torment. Emetophobia. There is power in a name.

The Battle Is Lost… The War Rages On

I have had a shitty week. No other way to say it really. I am more and more a creature of habit, and this week I have been thrown out of my routine. I have more of the same to look forward to next week so I better get used to the idea. I have been holding up pretty well, but today I lost the battle. In the four days so far this week I have had diarrhea or nausea or both every day. I work in sales and spend the majority of my day driving about visiting people with very limited access to restrooms. Do you have any idea how hard it is to stand in front of people feeling that you are going to puke or fill your shorts at any second and keep a smile painted on your face. The nausea is unsettling and makes me a little panicky and the cramping is flat painful only adding to my worry. My boss would never know if I just didn’t bother with it making it take every ounce of my mental strength to get through the day.  It is exhausting and I am not going to lie about it some customers get skipped because I just cant stand that thought of getting out of my vehicle.

I am not proud of the impact this issue has on my job and I could pretty much make it stop if I just started taking those stupid pills again, but for reasons posted yesterday I am in no hurry to get back on medication. What really has me upset this evening is that I was supposed to go to a meeting tonight and I am not going. I am tired of being in front of the public all day feeling sick, and I don’t want to voluntarily subject myself to it any more today. The problem is I am already feeling awful about not attending. I feel like I have let myself down. I feel empty, hollow even, like a failure because I am letting my stomach make decisions for me. Like everything else it seems I am faced with a choice I am tired of making. I can go to the meeting and maybe feel like shit or maybe not it’s really a roll of the dice, or I can stay home and mope and feel sad, tired and useless which is pretty much a guaranteed result of staying home. The anxiety and uncertainty of leaving the house or the known misery of staying home and I pick the known misery. Seriously… Why the fuck would I do that? I have to find a way to get a handle on this.