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The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety and Emetophobia

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I never knew mental illness could wreak havoc on my physical health. It’s called a “mental” illness after all. No one and nothing could have prepared me for the heart palpitations, the raging migraines, the dizzy spells, the night-long battles with nausea and chills and waking up in a puddle of sweat.

In my particular situation, I also happen to suffer from emetophobia, or intense fear of vomiting. This means that when I start to feel nauseous, I feel anxious. When I get anxious, I get nauseous — and thus begins a vicious, miserable cycle that I am all too familiar with. It builds and builds and builds until I am shaking and sobbing and all sense of calm has gone out the window.

It feels so helpless at times. Anxiety-fueled nights are spent clutching a bowl to my chest, running back and forth between my room and the bathroom, eating Tums like candy, feeling like I might die, but always coming to the conclusion that I created this all in my head and that I am just a dysfunctional basket-case.

I have never felt more defeated by my mental illness than the night before I started a new job, when I was sick to my stomach and nothing could soothe the acid reflux, the stomach pain or the nausea. Nothing could slow my racing heart or wave the overwhelming feeling of misery and helplessness. But I knew I wasn’t really sick… at least not physically.

I am just so tired. Exhausted actually. Physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I am tired of feeling sick all the time and never knowing whether it’s just anxiety again, or if I should actually be concerned. Is this something my brain has created or is there really something wrong?

But even if I think something physically ailing may be cause for concern, I won’t go to the doctor for fear of looking like a fool when they tell me it’s all in my head.

I just want to be OK. I just want to feel normal and healthy and happy.

By the way, I still went to my orientation for that new job, because although I am ridden with anxiety, I am a warrior, no matter how small the battle.

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Unsplash photo via Becca Tapert

Originally published: October 30, 2017
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