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Guilty Memories of Emetophobia

William, October 7th 2022

I have had emetophobia for as long as I could remember, but I didn't know what it was for a long time. Instead of knowing I had emetophobia, I thought I was sensitive, weak, I thought maybe I was a hypochondriac. I didn't understand why things were so easy for everyone around me while I struggled to go to movie theaters, sit through class, or go out to dinner.

During my time in therapy and recovery from emetophobia, I realized how much emetophobia was really behind my decisions for the past 20 years. For example, I left my high school prom after a short 15 minutes, I thought it was because I had to take an elevator, but the only reason I was afraid of the elevator was again because of emetophobia. I quit soccer at 14 because I was afraid my coach would run me until I was sick, but at the time I convinced myself I wasn't cut out for it. I loved soccer and I wish I had kept playing. In college, I never went out to bars with my friends, I convinced myself it just wasn't my thing.

As I worked through exposure therapy my life got bigger from all the new experiences I could enjoy. But I felt guilty and disappointed in myself for all the decisions I had already made with emetophobia at the controls. My therapist asked me to think about my past self as someone else. How would I feel for them? Would I think they were weak? I thought about it, and I pictured my young cousin who has driving anxiety and my friend who also struggles with emetophobia, and my perspective on my past self shifted.

I had 20 years of memories categorized as 'I messed this up' and I finally recategorized them to 'I was suffering and did the best I could'. A mountain of guilt was lifted from my shoulders. I have since spent hours thinking of times in my life; prom, soccer, missed concerts, time missed with friends and family, food I never tried, remembering each one and how mean I have been to myself over the years. With this new perspective and understanding of OCD, I could see those decisions with more context, and I finally understood and forgave myself. I am happier, sleeping better, and importantly, being nicer to myself as I continue on my journey with emetophobia.