Category Archives: Emetophobia

I’ve been shot! In the butt!

So there I was, minding my own business, walking in the park when all of a sudden I hear a loud POP and feel this excruciating pain in my right buttock.  Incidentally, I love the word buttock.  I think I’ll just say it again, because it’s so full of awesome: buttock.

So anyway, things got pretty hazy after that.  I came to some time later surrounded by paramedics and a very sheepish-looking park ranger.

Here’s what apparently happened: A bear came down out of the hills and was ambling around the park.  This is California, folks.  This kind of thing does happen.  Unfortunately for me, just as the ranger was taking aim with his tranq gun, I moseyed into his line of fire and took the dart right in my buttock. 

Despite my (inadvertent) interference with Ranger Duties, they won’t charge me with any sort of misdemeanor, and yes, the bear was captured and is even now being transported back to some happy home in the mountains.

And that folks, is why I’m walking a little funny and not wanting to sit down much today.

No not really.

But that makes a better story than what actually happened.

What actually happened is that one of my Zofran infusion sites on my leg became infected.  It was hurting like the dickens even after I pulled the plug and let it rest.  So I asked my Alere nurse about it, and her response was, “Get thee to a doctor.”

Dr. Awesome confirmed this morning that it is, indeed, infected.  This means I got to get a shot of antibiotics in my ass, and a sparkly new prescription for antibiotics.  Kefflex, 4x per day for 7 days.  As a bonus, a side effect of the antibiotic is… wait for it… Nausea!  Yay for me!  The emetophobe in me just adores that idea!  Just when I think I’m about to kick this monster to the curb it finds a way to bring me back in.  HG is a bastard.

The good news is, I can always bump up my pump dosage if I want.  The bad news is that might potentially mean that I might be stuck with my little beeping friend for a little longer.

One good thing that came out of it was that I got to talk to her a bit about the pump-weaning strategy Alere is trying to push me in to.  Alere won’t let me wean to zero.  Which is stupid.  But it’s their policy.  They’ll only let me wean down to the equivalent of 20 mg/day, which, while not the massive doses HGers usually take but is still pretty respectable. 

I think that’s bogus.  I want to wean down to zero.  I don’t want to wean off the pump to go onto the oral tabs.  Those produce much worse side effects (constipation) for me than the subcutaneous infusion.  I mentioned this to my doctor, and she said, “Well, do you pretty much know how to work the pump by now?  Why don’t you just do it yourself?”  Heck, yeah!  See why I like her so much?

So on Friday, they’ll bump me down to the equivalent of 20 mg/day.  Then I’ll just manage the rest of it on my own through the weekend.  I’m hoping to be done with the little bastard by my next doctor’s appointment on Wednesday!  Cool, huh?

Hooray for Therapy!

I mentioned previously, in my Travelling with Emetophobia post, that my emetophobia has been getting worse.  This played out again in church on Sunday when the child in the row behind me started coughing and my first thought was, “Oh, my God.  I hope he doesn’t puke!   EEEK!”  Yeah, so it seems like the emetophobia has started to spread out a little and make me uncomfortable about other people getting sick too.  Kind of like with the retching baby on the plane.

Good thing for me, though!  Last week I called the therapist my husband and I saw last year.  He didn’t seem completely sure what he could do to help, but he said he wanted to meet with me to find out more and see if we could come up with a plan.  I appreciate how candid he was in that respect.

We met yesterday at lunchtime, and I had to explain what I went through with the HG and how it affects me day-to-day.  He listened carefully and took notes in that disconcerting way that therapists do.  Ultimately, he came up with a few coping ideas for dealing with my anxiety:

  • Live in the moment.  Remember that it’s the Fear of the Fear that causes the panic.  Live in the moment by reminding yourself that you aren’t sick right now, so there’s nothing to be afraid of right now. 
  • Shift your focus.  The panic comes from your brain working itself into circles.  Don’t start down that path to begin with.  If you feel yourself starting to go down that hole, breathe and consciously shift your focus to something unrelated to the fear.  A dinner table example might be the good conversation with the family.
  • Say a mantra. Come up with a mantra to keep from going down the hole of panic if you start getting scared.  Not something to say over and over until you freak (“I’m gonna be ok. I’m gonna be ok. I’m gonna be okay. OMG I’M SO NOT OKAY!!!”), but something calm to say once to trigger yourself to calm down.  You might have two mantras: one if you hear someone else coughing or retching (“Thank goodness that’s not my problem!”) and one to keep from going into panic about germs and being sick (“You were good yesterday, you’re good today.”)
  • Keep a talisman. Get a few anti-anxiety pills from your doctor in case you do start having a panic attack.  Head it off at the pass.  Like the zofran you keep from last year, you probably won’t need it, but just having it there will bring a sense of comfort and control.  If you start feeling scared, remind yourself that you have this if you need it, and you don’t need to fear the fear.  Stop thinking of this as a “crutch.”  It’s not a crutch.  It’s a positive tool to help bring control to an otherwise out of control situation.  It’s a talisman.

He said that learning to use those little techniques takes practice, but he complimented in saying that I’ve actually got a pretty good handle on it already with the way I was able to talk myself down from panic on the plane.  I told him about some of my fear and reservations going into an HG pregnancy, and he drew me back to the points he made that I listed above.  I can use those to deal with the anticipatory fear of HG just like with the emetophobia.

He reminded me of my own words:  I’ve been through this before.  I know what to expect.  I know that I will be getting the best medical care available.  Some days will be good.  Some days will be bad.  Live in the moment.

It actually didn’t take that long to talk about.  I still had half an hour left!

Like a good blogger, I took the opportunity to plug my site!  Okay, well, I didn’t really “plug” it, but I did talk about how I’m channelling my anxiety and energy into something positive: helping other women who have had, do have, and will have again HG.  He seemed pretty pleased with that, and he talked about the positives that this whole thing will bring:

  • I will have the ability to give back to the community through writing and the ability to receive support through sharing my experience, something that appeals to my activist mindset.
  • In a morbid sense, odd things make for good blog posts.  Hang onto that on crappy days and remember to watch for the weird.  This plays right into my somewhat sarcastic and slightly twisted sense of humor.  Yeah, if I have to go to the hospital, I’m so making Juan take the camera.

The biggest thing he focused on was that I wouldn’t be suffering for nothing.  Interestingly enough, he didn’t talk about that “something” as being the baby.  In a weird sense, that’s okay.  When I was pregnant with Gabi, I reached the point where I was so detached that I didn’t really care that much about that.  I just wanted to get through the damn pregnancy and get her out. 

He focused on the “something” as being my contribution to the community, my contribution to other women and families in sharing my experience.  In that sense he helped me find a way to bring value to the HG itself.  It’s certainly a means to an end, but in approaching the journey in this way, it makes the horrible means a whole lot easier to get my head around.

Another thing that appealed to me was when he pointed out that this will be like a science project.  What does a really aggressively managed case of HG look like?  What does HG look like when a woman does have the proper support of doctor, family, community, and friends?

I really like science.  The idea of thinking of this whole thing as an experiment really appeals to me.

Ultimately, I left the session feeling empowered and uplifted.  We both agreed that I probably wouldn’t need a follow-up any time soon.  The tools he gave me are ones that I need to practice, and, as another positive, the chances to practice those really do come few and far between. 

He said if I do start struggling with depression as a result of having HG, he’s absolutely willing to see me to talk things over.  Talking out loud, and saying the words can be healing.

Ultimately, we parted with smiles all around and a hearty, “See you later!”  “Hope not!”

Yesterday was a good day.  I can do this.

Travel with a Baby Part 3 – Travelling with Emetophobia

 Since we have recently returned from a trip to Ecuador, I thought it would be fun to do a series on travelling.  Specifically, I’d like to share with you how we travel with Gabi.  She’s been travelling with us since she was six months old, and she’s an old pro at this point.  I’m going to break this up into a 3 part series.  Part 1 deals with how attachment parenting practices make travel easy.  Part 2 deals with how we deal with the daily challenges of life away from home with a little one.  Part 3 (this one) is more of a me centered post on how emetophobia impacts my ability to travel.

Travelling with emetophobia can be brutal.  When we travel in the US, it’s not so bad.  You don’t have to worry so much about drinking the water or not having the right enzymes to digest the cheese.  Stuff like that.  Japan was not an issue at all.  Japan is so clean you could probably eat off the street and not get sick.  It was so clean that we could do stuff like eat food from street vendors outside the temples without much concern.

Latin America, not so much.  You can’t drink the tap water, and they don’t have the same health regulations for food vendors.  I managed okay in Nicaragua.  That was before the emetophobia really settled in and got comfortable in my head.  Ecuador was pretty rough.

I started having major food aversions in Ecuador.  I think I would have been okay, had I not gone to the grocery store with my mother-in-law and seen the crate of frozen turkeys just sitting out by the big double-doors leading to the outside.  Having just given a presentation at work on food safety, I was horrified.  I could practically see the bacteria crawling across it.  I imagined puddles of turkey juice settling onto the floor.  I didn’t eat much that day.

I spent a lot of the trip fighting off panic.  It was pretty rough.  I was not able to enjoy several of my favorite foods.  I had to force down my mother-in-law’s phenomenal ceviche, which is ridiculous because the shrimp are grown and harvested by my father-in-law so I know exactly where these shrimp come from and I know that they’re unbelievably fresh and packaged and handled safely.  Safer even than the US.  It’s also ridiculous because they’re the cleanest people I know.  My mother-in-law’s nickname is Mrs. Clean.  She mops her floors daily.  She keeps the cleanest house I’ve ever been in. 

I generally will eat just about anything.  I love trying new foods, as evidenced by my willingness to eat octopus balls outside Asakusa temple in Tokyo.

Savory little pastries with octopus legs inside. NOM.

This emetophobia, though, has put the kibosh on that.  Now, I see restaurants or food vendors and all I can imagine is warm refrigerators and putting cooked meat back on plates that held raw meat and chopping veggies on the raw chicken cutting board.  All I can imagine is salmonella hell.

The plane rides were rough too, particularly coming back.  I always get a little woozy on airplanes.  The air is stuffy, they move around a little.  No big deal though.  These days, when the smell of the plane hits my nostrils, I immediately have to start fighting the panic. 

On the way back–Guayaquil to Miami–there was a baby a few seats in front of us who kept having coughing fits.  I kept imagining I was hearing retching noises.  That’s a new one on me.  Usually it’s just me throwing up that’s a problem.  I kept imagining that I felt nauseated.  When we were landing in LAX, I actually had to talk myself down from an actual panic attack.  You know, you start breathing fast and your brain starts going around in circles.  I felt like I would be sick.  I felt trapped.  I felt like I couldn’t breath or get out.  I had to close my eyes, clamp my mouth shut, consciously slow my breathing, and talk myself down.

I think the emetophobia is getting worse.  Maybe it is time to start dealing with it.  Frankly, though we don’t have any travel planned, the thought of getting onto an airplane makes me feel extraordinarily uncomfortable.

This is the place where I usually start giving tips and pointers on dealing with things.  I don’t have any tips for dealing with this.  I’m at the point where I need to suck it up, make some time, and call my doctor to get a recommendation on a good therapist to help me deal with this.  From what I gather, emetophobia is pretty difficult to deal with.  I am absolutely not interested in doing any kind of exposure therapy.  Hopefully my doctor will have some good information for me.

Anyone know how to deal with this kind of thing when you travel?  I mean aside from travelling with a whole bunch of Zofran.

Emetophobia, How I love thee. Not really.

You know, I managed to survive my last bout of HG with almost no long-term effects.  Considering some of the things other HGers have to deal with in the aftermath, I’d say that’s pretty lucky.  The only thing I really came away with is emetophobia.

Ah, emetophobia.

For those of you who don’t know, emetophobia is a fear of vomiting.  It can manifest in people in different ways.  For some just reading the v-word is enough to trigger panic.  Other people have trouble with seeing, hearing other people puking.  For me, it’s just if I throw up or get nauseated.

I first realized emetophobia was a part of my life when my daughter was a baby, she picked up a stomach bug, and, of course, gave it to me.  I expected discomfort.  I expected misery.  What I did not expect were the flashbacks and the panic attacks.  My husband tried to console me and remind me that it wasn’t HG.  The rational part of my brain knew this and agreed with him, but that part in the back, that lizard part, went into total fight or flight mode. 

When I had HG, normal “sick foods” were triggers.  Water was a trigger.  Because of this, when the stomach bug hit, I stopped eating and drinking.  It was bad enough, that in retrospect, I really should have gone into the ER.  I wound up not eating much of anything for close to a week.  I got below my HG weight.  It was bad.  Really bad.  It took me a month to get back to normal, plus close to six months to get the weight back.

Emetophobia isn’t a discomfort with throwing up.  It’s not that it’s simply unpleasant and I don’t like doing it.  Hell, does anyone find it pleasant to puke?  It’s an intense fear.  The intensity is akin to fearing impending death.  It’s as if vomiting will kill me.  I know it’s not rational.  I mean, duh.  That’s why it’s a phobia right?  If it were rational we’d call it self-preservation. 

I’m not sure if what I have is actually technically emetophobia or more like PTSD from the HG.  Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  All I know is that when I catch wind that a stomach bug is going around I freak the hell out.

My GP has been kind enough to write me a prescription for 15 tablets of 8 mg ODT Zofran.  I’ve got 13 left.  How sad is it that I know exactly how much Zofran I have at all times?  Maybe Dr. K is enabling my fear by writing the prescription, but honestly, I felt a lot safer once I knew it was there.  I haven’t gone into emetophobic panic since I had it filled.  It’s my safety net.

Today, though, I overheard my next door cubicle neighbor talking about her niece puking.

Dammit.

Honestly, though, with all the HG prep I’ve been doing, the fear isn’t as bad as it used to be.  I’m still freaking out, but I’m not panicking.  I’m not sure how I will react if I actually catch the stomach bug.  I’ve managed to avoid one since that first one I got a few years ago.

The bigger question is this: How will I react when the HG hits?  Will it be different because it’s HG and my doctor’s willing to basically drop a nuclear bomb on it to treat it?  Will I panic?  Will I have flashbacks?  Will I have the dreaded anticipatory fear kick in when I find out I’m pregnant?

Why can’t I just have a normal pregnancy?